Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.Putin’s World: Why Russia’s Showdown with the West Will Worsen - John_Mauldin
2. Stocks Bull Market Grinds Bears into Dust, Is Santa Rally Sustainable? - Nadeem_Walayat
3. Gold and Silver 2015 Trend Forecasts, Prices to Go BOOM - Austin_Galt
4.Gold Price Golden Bottom? - Toby_Connor
5.Gold Price and Miners Soar on Huge Volume - P_Radomski_CFA
6.Stock Market and the Jaws of Life or Death? - Rambus_Chartology
7.Gold Price 2015 - EWI
8.Manipulated Stock Market Short Squeezes to Another All Time High - The China Syndrome - Nadeem_Walayat
9.Gold, Silver, Crude and S&P Ending Wedge Patterns - DeviantInvestor
10.Is the Gold And Silver Golden Rule Broken? - Michael_Noonan
Last 5 days
Gold Price Spikes to $1,467.50/oz on Computer Glitch? - 26th Nov 14
Gold - So Bad It's Good: Surviving 2014 - 26th Nov 14
TrueShopping.co.uk Real Customer Experience Review - Online Shopping Lessons - 26th Nov 14
Is There A New Global Consensus About Cheating Investors To Reboot Employment? - 26th Nov 14
EUR/USD – Currency Bulls Don’t Give Up - 26th Nov 14
Swiss Gold Referendum A Golden Opportunity for Switzerland - 25th Nov 14
Silver: What COT Analysis Tells Us - 25th Nov 14
Stock Market Big, Bold and Ugly - 25th Nov 14
U.S. Dollar Near Top? Gold and Silver Trading, Platinum Breakout Invalidation - 25th Nov 14
Buy Fear - Easily Pick Up Profits on Stock Market Dips - 25th Nov 14
The Islamic State Reshapes the Middle East - 25th Nov 14
Gold Price Forecast 2015 - 25th Nov 14
The Swiss Referendum On Gold: What’s Missing From The Debate - 25th Nov 14
Clash of Generations - Why Millennials Still Live at Home; Not Jobs, Student Debt, or Housing - 25th Nov 14
Stock Market Reminiscent of Pompeii - 25th Nov 14
Once Upon A Time There Were Philosopher Kings - 24th Nov 14
The 2014 Crude Oil Price Crash Explained - 24th Nov 14
China Stock Investing - Follow the Money! - 24th Nov 14
122 Tonnes of Gold Secretly Repatriated to Netherlands - 24th Nov 14
What Causes the U.S. Dollar to Move? - 24th Nov 14
Stock Market Indexes New Highs - Will Uptrend Extend Even Further? - 24th Nov 14
All Hail the King U.S. Dollar - Trend Forecast - 24th Nov 14
Where Is China Economy On The Map Exactly? - 24th Nov 14
Most of The World Economies Panic - Is The US Next? - 24th Nov 14
Stock Market Exhaustion Gap? - 24th Nov 14
Gold Golden Gains Come After The Pain - 24th Nov 14
Crude Oil and Stock Market Setting The Stage For The Next Recession - 23rd Nov 14
This Publicly-Owned Bank Is Outperforming Wall Street - 23rd Nov 14
Who’s Ready For $30 Crude Oil Price? - 23rd Nov 14
Strategic, Methodological and Developmental Importance of Knowledge Consumption - 23rd Nov 14
Manipulated Stock Market Short Squeezes to Another All Time High - The China Syndrome - 23rd Nov 14
Gold Price 2015 - 22nd Nov 14
Stock Market Medium Term Top? - 22nd Nov 14
Is the Gold And Silver Golden Rule Broken? - 22nd Nov 14
Malaysia's Subsidy and Budget Deficit Conundrum - 22nd Nov 14
Investors Hated Gold at Precisely the Wrong Time: What About Now? - 22nd Nov 14
Gold and GLD ETF Selloff - 22nd Nov 14
Currency Wars, the Ruble and Keynes - 21st Nov 14
Stock Market Investor Sentiment in The Balance - 21st Nov 14
Two Biotech Stocks Set to Double on One Powerful Catalyst - 21st Nov 14
Swiss Gold Poll Likely Tighter Than Polls Suggest - 21st Nov 14
Gold's Volatility and Other Things to Watch - 21st Nov 14
Australia Stock Market and AUD Dollar Analysis (ASX200 and AUDUSD) - 21st Nov 14
New Algae Research May Have Uncovered an “Energy Forest” Under the Sea - 21st Nov 14
The Cultural and Political Consequences of Fiat Money - 20th Nov 14
United States Social Crisis - No One Told You When to Run, You Missed the Starting Gun! - 20th Nov 14
Euro-Zone Tooth Fairy Economics, Spain Needs to leave the Euro - 20th Nov 14
Ebola Threat Remains a Risk - New Deaths in Nebraska and New York - 20th Nov 14
Stock Market and the Jaws of Life or Death? - 20th Nov 14
Putin’s World: Why Russia’s Showdown with the West Will Worsen - 20th Nov 14
Making Money While The World Burns - 20th Nov 14
Why This "Quiet Zone" Is Now Tech Stocks Biggest Profit Sector - 20th Nov 14

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Gold Report 2015

GOTTERDÄMMERUNG- The Twilight of Irredeemable Debt

Economics / US Debt Apr 27, 2008 - 02:20 PM GMT

By: Professor_Emeritus

Economics Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleWagner's opera Gotterdämmerung is about the twighlight of pagan gods. The most powerful of the latter-day pagan gods that has been guiding the destinies of humanity for the past two-score of years is Irredeemable Debt. Before August 14, 1971 , debts were obligations, and the word “bond” was to mean literally what it said: the opposite of freedom. The privilege of issuing debt had a countervailing responsibility: that of repayment.


On that fateful day all that was changed by a stroke of the pen. President Nixon embraced the woolly theory of Milton Friedman and declared the irredeemable dollar a Monad, that is, a thing that exists in and of itself. According to this theory the government has the power to create irredeemable debt ― debt that never needs to be repaid yet will not lose its value ― subject only to a “quantity rule”, e.g., it must not be increased by more than 3 percent annually. This idea is so preposterously silly that “only very learned men could have thought of it”. If the thief is thieving modestly, then he will not be detected. It never occurred to the professors of economics and financial journalists that a modest thief is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. How did they get to believing in irredeemable debt? The explanation is most likely found in Schiller's dictum: “Anyone taken as an individual is tolerably sensible and reasonable. But taken as a member of a crowd ― he at once becomes a blockhead”. Economics professors and financial journalists are no exception.

For a time it appeared that Milton Friedman was right. The world has become dedicated to the proposition that it is possible, even desirable, to expand irredeemable debt in order to make the economy prosper. Never mind the default of the U.S. government on its bonded debt held by foreigners. Never mind people victimized by theft. Thanks to the quantity rule, they will never notice the difference.

For all its seductive attractiveness Friedmanite economics is ignoring the effect of irredeemable debt on productivity. It watches debt per GDP and is happy as long as this ratio stays below 100 percent by a fair amount. However, what should be watched is the ratio of additional debt to additional GDP . By that indicator the patient's condition could be diagnosed as that of pernicious anemia. It set in immediately after the dollar debt in the world was converted into irredeemable debt. The increase in GDP brought about by the addition of $1 of new debt to the economy is called the marginal productivity of debt. That ratio is the only one that matters in judging the quality of debt. After all, the purpose of contracting debt is to increase productivity. If debt volume rises faster than national income, there is big trouble is brewing, but only the marginal productivity of debt is capable of revealing it.

Before 1971 the introduction of $1 new debt used to increase the GDP by as much as $3 or more. Since 1971 this ratio started its precipitous decline that has continued to this day without interruption. It went negative in 2006, forecasting the financial crisis that broke a year later. The reason for the decline is that irredeemable debt causes capital destruction. It adds nothing to the per capita quota of capital invested in aid of production. Indeed, it may take away from it. As it displaces real capital which represents the deployment of more and better tools, productivity declines. The laws of physics, unlike human beings, cannot be conned. Irredeemable debt may only create make-belief capital.

By confusing capital and credit, Friedmanite economics obliterates truth. It makes the cost of running the merry-go-round of debt-breeding disappear. It makes capital destruction invisible. The stock of accumulated capital supporting world production, large as it may be, is not inexhaustible. When it is exhausted, the music stops and the merry-go-round comes to a screechy halt. It does not happen everywhere all at the same time, but it will happen everywhere sooner or later. When it does, Swissair falls out of the sky, Enron goes belly-up, and Bear-Sterns caves in.

The marginal productivity of debt is an unimaginative taskmaster. It insists that new debt be justified by a minimum increase in the GDP. Otherwise capital destruction follows ― a most vicious process. At first, there are no signs of trouble. If anything the picture looks rosier than ever. But the seeds of destruction inevitably, if invisibly, have sprouted and will at one point paralyze further growth and production. To deny this is tantamount to denying the most fundamental law of the universe: the Law of Conservation of Energy and Matter.

The captains of the banking system in effect deny and defy that basic law. They are leading a blind crowd of mesmerized people to the brink where momentum may sweep most of them into the abyss to their financial destruction. Yet not one university in the world has issued a warning, and not one court of justice allowed indictments to be heard from individuals and institutions charging that the issuance of irredeemable debt is a crude form of fraud, calling for the punishment of the swindlers issuing it, whether they are in the Treasury or in the central bank. The behavior of universities and courts in this regard could not be more reprehensible. Rather than acting to protect the weak, they act to cover up plundering by the mighty.

The inconspicuous beginnings of irredeemable debt have blossomed into a colossal edifice, a fantastic debt tower that is bound to topple upon the prevailing complacency and apathy. Actually ‘tower' is a misnomer. Rather, what we have is an inverted pyramid, a vast and expanding superstructure precariously balanced on a tiny and ever-shrinking gold foundation ― the only asset in existence with power to reduce gross debt. The construction has no precedent in history, and no place in theory, whether Ricardian, Walrasian, Marxian, Keynesian or Austrian. As a matter of fact, no one is analyzing the process. Research has been placed under taboo by the powers that be, lest diagnosis reveal the presence of cancer caused by irredeemability. There is no known pattern or model that would apply to its mechanism in terms of equilibrium analysis. Two negative conclusions emerge. One is that the edifice of irredeemable debt must grow at an accelerating pace as markets for derivatives providing ‘insurance' to holders of debt proliferate. The insurer of debt must also be insured, as must the insurer of the insurers, and so on, ad infinitum . This is due to the fact that the risk of collapsing bond values has been created by man. In contrast, the risk of price changes of agricultural commodities are created by nature, and the futures market provide insurance, with no need to re-insure. The other conclusion is that the unwieldy size of the debt structure excludes the possibility of a normal correction: a major liquidation would dwarf the calamities of the Great Depression.

It is a delusion to think that the government can splatter debt all over the economic landscape to cover up its warts, and reap everlasting prosperity as a result. The stimulation and leverage of debt has always caused stock markets to boom, so that the impact of debt was aided and magnified by the added paper wealth which, in turn, increased the propensity to spend and borrow still more. Businessmen are supposed to be more realistic in contracting debt. Yet the pattern of increase in corporate debt has also changed tremendously. Whereas traditionally corporations used to finance their capital needs in a ratio of $3 in debt for every $1 in stock, in the years leading up to 1971 they issued $20 in debt for every $1 in stock, with the ratio sky-rocketing thereafter.

We hear arguments that economists have by now learned how to control the economy with the so-called built-in stabilizers. Debt has largely lost its sting as a consequence, we are told. For example, bank deposits can now be insured. They couldn't in the 1930's. But when the government itself is loaded with debt, and runs boom-time deficits, the built-in stabilizers may backfire and destabilize the economy further. The government has commitments so great that its endeavor to offset a depression in our vast economy can only result in a loss of confidence. Anxious withholding of purchasing power in the private sector could far outweigh anything the government can add. To make matters worse, government income is highly dependent on a prosperous economy. The magnitude of the problem of offsetting a depression is grossly disproportionate to resources available.

One of the marks of great delusions is that nearly everyone tends to share them. It is a sorry tale ― any delusion gives rise to a rude awakening in due course. Public attitudes to debt have changed so radically since 1971 that today indebtedness is practically a status symbol, instead of a shameful condition it used to be in a by-gone era. The most striking reversal in traditional American attitudes towards debt is the widespread acceptance of perpetual national indebtedness, copied by perpetual personal indebtedness ― a never-ending lien on future income.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the regime of irredeemable debt is the lowest level of morals followed by governments in modern history. It is epitomized by an elaborate check-kiting conspiracy between the U.S: Treasury and the Federal Reserve. Treasury bonds, contrary to appearances, are no more redeemable than Federal Reserve notes. It's all very neat: the notes are backed by the bonds, and the bonds are redeemable by the notes. Therefore each is valued in terms of itself, rather than by an independent outside asset. Each is an irredeemable liability of the U.S: government. The whole scheme boils down to a farce. It is check-kiting at the highest level. At maturity the bonds are replaced by another with a more distant maturity date, or they are ostensibly paid in the form of irredeemable currency. The issuer of either type of debt is usurping a privilege without accepting the countervailing duty. They issue obligations without taking any further responsibility for their fate or for the effect they have on the economy. Moreover, a double standard of justice is involved. Check-kiting is a crime under the Criminal Code. That is, provided that it is perpetrated by private individuals. Practiced at the highest level, check-kiting is the corner-stone of the monetary system.

But our world is still one of crime and punishment, tolerating no double standard. The twilight of irredeemable debt is upon us. The sign is that banks are reluctant to take the promissory notes of one another. Significantly, this also includes overnight drafts. The banks know there is bad debt at large, and they don't want to be victimized by taking in some inadvertently. What the banks don't yet know, but will soon learn, is that all irredeemable debt is bad debt, and there is no way to rid the system of poison through administering more.

Redeemability of debt is not a superfluous embellishment. It has a function of fundamental importance: the proper allocation of resources to the different channels of their utilization. The obligation to redeem debt hangs as the sword of Damocles over the government, just as it does over the head of every economic participant. It compels economy and foresight. It forces balancing of income and expenditures. It adjusts claims and commitments. It limits expansion by shifting resources away from the incompetent, and away from unhealthy projects. The regime of irredeemable debt creates an escape route from commitments by the promise of eliminating the pressure of solvency. Whether it promises eternal prosperity, or it promises eternal subsidies, it does not matter. The results are the same. They consist in misleading people, enticing them to skate on thin ice, and luring them into financial adventures, private or public, which are not warranted by the ability to pay. The logical consequence is wholesale bankruptcy of individuals as well as that of the political setup. Losses breed more losses, until they become an avalanche. The present crisis is just the first sign of that denouement. More is on the way.

It is still possible to escape the catastrophe which this process would entail. The way out is to open the U.S. Mint to gold and silver, as advocated by presidential candidate Dr. Ron Paul. The logic of this remedy is that it would mobilize potentially unlimited resources, presently tied up in idled gold, and re-introduce the indispensable means of debt-retirement into the economy.

Failing to bring gold back, where are we heading? The short answer is: we are marching into the death-valley of collectivism. The alternative to re-introducing redeemable currency is that the debt-behemoth will force the imposition of a capital-levy type of taxation ― à la Solon, 594 B.C.

GOLD STANDARD UNIVERSITY LIVE

Session Four is to take place in Szombathely , Hungary (at Martineum Academy where the first two sessions were held). The subject of the 13-lecture course is The Bond Market and the Market Process Determining the Rate of Interest (Monetary Economics 201). The date is: July 3-6. For more information please see www.professorfekete.com/gsul.asp or contact GSUL@t-online.hu .

By Professor Antal E. Fekete,
Intermountain Institute for Science and Applied Mathematics

"GOLD STANDARD UNIVERSITY" - Antal E. Fekete aefekete@iisam.com

For further information please check www.professorfekete.com or inquire at GSUL@t-online.hu .

We are pleased to announce that a new website www.professorfekete.com is now available. It contains e-books, archives, news about GSUL, and material of current interest

Copyright © 2008 Professor Antal E. Fekete
Professor Antal E. Fekete was born and educated in Hungary. He immigrated to Canada in 1956. In addition to teaching in Canada, he worked in the Washington DC office of Congressman W. E. Dannemeyer for five years on monetary and fiscal reform till 1990. He taught as visiting professor of economics at the Francisco Marroquin University in Guatemala City in 1996. Since 2001 he has been consulting professor at Sapientia University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania. In 1996 Professor Fekete won the first prize in the International Currency Essay contest sponsored by Bank Lips Ltd. of Switzerland. He also runs the Gold Standard University on this website.

Antal E. Fekete / Professor_Emeritus Archive

© 2005-2014 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

Free Report - Financial Markets 2014