Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.UK General Election Exit Polls Forecast Accuracy - Nadeem_Walayat
2.What's Next for the Gold Price? - Axel_Merk
3.UK House Prices Correctly Forecast / Predicted Conservative Election Win 2015 - Nadeem_Walayat
4.15 Hours to Save England from SNP Scottish Nationalist Dictatorship - Election 2015 - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Exit Poll Forecasts Conservative UK Election 2015 Win - Nadeem_Walayat
6.Gold And Silver China’s Pivotal Role: More Questions Than Answers. Not So For Charts - Michael_Noonan
7.Conservative Win 2015 UK General Election, BBC Forecast of 329 Seats - Nadeem_Walayat
8.Investing and the Lollapalooza Effect - Niels C. Jensen
9.Gold Price Target - Rambus_Chartology
10.Gold Price Nearing An Important Pivot Point - GoldSilverWorlds
Last 5 days
Time To Get Real About China - 22nd May 15
Gold Lifeboat to Global Economies “Titanic Problem” Warn HSBC - 22nd May 15
One Investment Could Save Two Generations' Retirements - 22nd May 15
Investing is About Identifying Gifted and Talented Camps - 22nd May 15
One of Europe's Latest Debt Nightmares - 22nd May 15
UK Immigration Crisis Could Prompt BREXIT, Propelling Britain Out of EU Despite German Factor - 22nd May 15
America Superpower 2016 - 21st May 15
Stock Market Secular Versus Cyclical Investing - 21st May 15
Banking Stocks Break Out with Higher Bond Yields - 21st May 15
The Tech Portfolio Built to Beat the Market - 21st May 15
Gold “Less Sexy” Than Bitcoin … For Now - GoldCore on CNBC - 21st May 15
The Russia-West Rivalry in the Balkans - 21st May 15
The US Dollar and the Precious Metals Complex - 21st May 15
Gold GLD ETF Drawdown Continues Unabated - 21st May 15
Who’s Killing the Stock Market? - 21st May 15
Your Best Way to Profit from the Narrowest Market in 20 Years - 21st May 15
Government Regulation and Economic Stagnation - 20th May 15
It’s Time to Hold More Cash and Buy Gold - 20th May 15
Choppy Asian Stock Markets - 20th May 15
Countdown to Global Financial Collapse - 20th May 15
Will Interest Rates Ever Rise? - 20th May 15
How to Cash in on Amazon Stock’s Amazing Cloud Success - 20th May 15
Three Hidden Forces Pushing Crude Oil Price Back Up - 20th May 15
U.S. Housing Market Strong Numbers in Perspective - 20th May 15
Greece Debt Crisis - Obama Has A Big Fat Greek Finger - 20th May 15
Now Is the Time to Own the Oil & Gas Leaders - 20th May 15
UK Deflation Warning - Bank of England Economic Propaganda to Print and Inflate Debt - 20th May 15
Trading Gold and Silver along with the Pros - 19th May 15
Gold Ticks Higher as London Housing Market Crash Looms? - 19th May 15
Global Stock Market, Commodities Group Analysis - 19th May 15
How Stock Investors Could Profit from the Dark Net Pattern That Few Others See - 19th May 15
The Patriot Act is now USA Freedom Act - 19th May 15
Investing in Europe? 5 Critical Insights to Boost Your Portfolio Now - 19th May 15
Gold Price Trend Forecast - 19th May 15
Stock Market Continues Defying Gravity, Dow New All Time High - 19th May 15
Are Gold and Interest Rates About To Take Off Higher? - 18th May 15
Nikkei Japanese Stock Index Set To Get Smashed - 18th May 15
Silver Price Projections For 2020 - 18th May 15
The IMF Leaks Greece, Institutions Forcing a Debt Default - 18th May 15
Europe's Stocks Bull Market Continues After Correction - 18th May 15
European Banks Vulnerable Today As 2008 Financial Crisis - 18th May 15
Payments, Currencies, and Broken Money - 18th May 15
Learning to Trade Markets - Dealing with Losing Trades - 18th May 15
Stock Market Sell in May and Go Away - Last Hurrah - Take2 - 18th May 15
The No. 1 Reason Stocks Will Climb Higher - 17th May 15
Gold, Silver Distorted Markets, Financial Sophistry, and Moral Hazard - 17th May 15
Stock Market CAC40 Trend Forecast - 17th May 15
Stock Market Diagonal Pattern Nearly Complete - 16th May 15
Gold And Silver - Elite's Game Of Jenga In Place. Your Move - 16th May 15
You’ll Never See a Better Moment to Invest in China - 16th May 15
Are Gold and Silver Stocks Breaking Out? - 16th May 15
War On Cash - Why the IRS Seized All the Money from a Country Store - 16th May 15
Is China Economy a Fire-Breathing Dragon or a Dragon on Fire? - 16th May 15
Silver Buying Only Starting - 16th May 15
Why Opinion Pollsters Got UK Election 2015 Badly Wrong - 15th May 15
Double Black Diamond - What a Bond Bear Market Looks Like - 15th May 15
This “Bubble” Is Set to Kick Off New Energy Profits - 15th May 15
German Gold Demand "Spikes"- Investment Demand Surges 63% - 15th May 15
How GDP Metrics Distort Our View of the Economy - 15th May 15
McDonald's Future Is Hard to Digest (NYSE: MCD) - 15th May 15
Dry Bulk Shipping Index Chart Analysis Update 2015 - 15th May 15
Economic Expansion Ahead? World Stock Markets Analysis - 15th May 15
Why Not Tell Greece How To Run A Democracy? - 15th May 15

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Biggest Debt Bomb in History

Ignore the Keynesian Axis of Evil

Economics / Economic Theory Feb 26, 2013 - 11:49 AM GMT

By: William_Anderson

Economics

Your points in the November 29 column on Paul Krugman and the Austrians makes good points, and I would like to make a few comments of my own.

I do believe that when one makes apocalyptic comments, one gets what he deserves if the predictions don't pan out. As you said, that does not mean the Austrians are wrong regarding money and inflation, but expansions of money, especially in the way that the Fed has gone about doing so, are going to have a number of effects, rising consumer prices being only one of them.


I also believe that some of the Austrians, when they predicted near-instant hyperinflation, should have known better. An expansion in the monetary base can lead to what Milton Friedman called the "pushing on a string" effect, as an expansion of bank reserves will not increase the amount of money in circulation (at least not significantly) if businesses and individuals are not borrowing.

This is not to say that the Law of Marginal Utility, as applied to money, is somehow invalidated. An expansion of money in circulation will mean that the value of the marginal unit – in this case, the dollar – will fall, which means more money will be necessary to complete monetary transactions. That is the straight Law of Marginal Utility, and it applies to money as much as it would to anything else that is scarce.

As Murray Rothbard points out in his book, America's Great Depression, the amount of money in circulation during the 1920s grew, and he terms that as "inflation." However, according to the Consumer Price Index of that time, consumer prices fell by roughly one percent a year, which the late Jude Wanniski used as "proof" that Rothbard was wrong when he claimed that the 20s was an inflationary period. What we witnessed was an apples-and-oranges kind of comparison, as most people (including most economists) generally are used to defining inflation as an increase in the government's CPI, but the Austrians would say that changes in the CPI would be the result of inflation and in our case, the result of the monetary policies of the Fed.

While both Austrians and the Monetarists would see inflation as a monetary phenomenon where changes in relative prices of goods and services occur because the value of money, which is used to denote those relative price relationships, changes as the supply expands and contracts. The Austrians take one step further, however, as they go beyond the quantity effects of increases in the amount of money and look at how these monetary increases change the relative prices of real goods. In other words, the significant effect of changing the amount of money in circulation is not necessarily the changes in consumer prices (although they will change over time relative to the money in circulation), but rather the effect that monetary changes will have upon the relationships of the value of real goods to each other.

This point is vital, for the Austrians hold in their business cycle theory that when the central bank manipulates the banking system to increase the amount of money in circulation, the larger effect is not in consumer price changes but rather the fact that relative values of real goods are changed in a way that directs longer-term investment into lines of production that would seem to be profitable but over time turn out not to be. We certainly saw that in the housing boom and in the tech boom a decade earlier. Investments were directed into production lines that could not be sustained, given the preferences of consumers and their own financial constraints.

In the meantime, the actions of the central bank, when added to various policy initiatives by government, can create these booms that are unsustainable within a market setting and sooner or later are exposed by the markets themselves. When the meltdown became absolutely apparent in September 2008, we were seeing a situation where the market was declaring the mortgage securities held by Wall Street firms to be near-worthless.

(I would like to add a separate point here. Why is it that when a firm tries to manipulate the market to make an asset look more valuable than the market would say it is, authorities view that as being illegal, but when the Fed does it, as it is doing with its QE policies, that is considered "good for the economy"? After all, by purchasing billions of dollars of mortgage securities, the Fed is manipulating their values, given that the sheer purpose of Ben Bernanke's actions is to artificially raise security prices, which is deemed criminal behavior if a private firm does it.)

Krugman has explained that these bubbles were due to nothing more than the failures of private markets, and that unless government regulators intervene, markets always will go over the cliff because, well, because markets are just like that. Yet, if one holds that price signals really do matter, then one would ask why all markets do not behave in the manner we saw. Why not an automobile bubble or a bubble gum bubble or a firewood bubble? Instead, Krugman wants to absolve the Fed, Freddie and Fannie, and the various government agencies that were pushing home ownership and refinancing through policies of having played any part whatsoever in the housing bubble, as he wants us to believe that the problems were due solely to what he and other Keynesians believe to be the inherent failures that automatically accompany market transactions.

Austrians, on the other hand, look for the cause-and-effect. Carl Menger, the original Austrian Economist, begins his classic 1871 Principles of Economics with: "ALL THINGS ARE SUBJECT to the law of cause and effect. This great principle knows no exception, and we would search in vain in the realm of experience for an example to the contrary." Why the "irrational exuberance?" Krugman holds to the Keynesian line of "animal spirits" of investors, but that is no cause at all. Why shouldn't "animal spirits" bid down the values? Do they believe that investors are irrational when bidding up asset prices, but are rational when bidding them down? The Austrians would say that Fed policies of driving down interest rates where they would greatly affect mortgage markets, along with the drive-people-into-home-ownership policies of the Federal government created huge incentives for the creation of the housing boom, which ultimately turned into a bubble, and then a huge bust.

Regarding the consumer price effects of the Fed's policy of spreading dollars around the world, we can see some price increases in various commodities, i.e. food and fuel. Those of us who purchase gasoline or go to the grocery story can attest to some very large price increases over the past five years, and farmers where I live tell me they are having to absorb large increases in the price of animal feed, fertilizer, and diesel fuel. While Krugman wants to explain away these changes as being driven purely by inherent "volatility" and economic growth in places like China, it would seem to me that large increases in the money prices of those things denominated worldwide in dollars just might be due to large increases in the amount of money being poured into these assets and lines of production.

There is one more point. The Fed has vastly increased its balance sheet and has been spreading dollars around the world, mostly to purchase "assets" that essentially have little or no value so that the holders of those assets do not have to take the necessary financial bath. Such actions would not necessarily result in a huge increases of consumer prices overall, but they would have the effect of directing real investment away from those lines of production that would be both profitable and sustainable. Whether it is protecting the banks or the "green investors" or governments that have spent themselves into financial oblivion, the Fed has stymied the recovery by forcing assets into production areas that are doomed to failure. The result is what we see around is in the anemic economic growth.

Where some of the Austrians went wrong was in assuming that all of the Fed's new money pumping would be channeled into the purchase of consumer goods, thus driving up their prices. We have to look at where the new money is going, not where we might think it is going.

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit his blog.

    http://www.lewrockwell.com

    © 2013 Copyright LewRockwell.com - All Rights Reserved
    Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2015 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Biggest Debt Bomb in History