Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. TESLA! Cathy Wood ARK Funds Bubble BURSTS! - 12th May 21
2.Stock Market Entering Early Summer Correction Trend Forecast - 10th May 21
3.GOLD GDX, HUI Stocks - Will Paradise Turn into a Dystopia? - 11th May 21
4.Crypto Bubble Bursts! Nicehash Suspends Coinbase Withdrawals, Bitcoin, Ethereum Bear Market Begins - 16th May 21
5.Crypto Bubble BURSTS! BTC, ETH, XRP CRASH! NiceHash Seizes Funds on Account Halting ALL Withdrawals! - 19th May 21
6.Cathy Wood Ark Invest Funds Bubble BURSTS! ARKK, ARKG, Tesla Entering Severe Bear Market - 13th May 21
7.Stock Market - Should You Be In Cash Right Now? - 17th May 21
8.Gold to Benefit from Mounting US Debt Pile - 14th May 21
9.Coronavius Covid-19 in Italy in August 2019! - 13th May 21
10.How to Invest in HIGH RISK Tech Stocks for 2021 and Beyond - Part 2 of 2 - 18th May 21
Last 7 days
Life Sciences Biotech Smaller Cap High Risk Stocks Investing Binge - 24th Jun 21
Central Banks to Keep Buying Gold - 24th Jun 21
Will Gold Survive Hawkish Fed? - 24th Jun 21
The Clean Energy Compound That Could Change The World - 24th Jun 21
Everybody's Getting Rich (and Having Fun) Except Me - 24th Jun 21
WESTERN DIGITAL WDC Stock Trend Analysis - CHIA! - Risk 1 - 23rd Jun 21
AMC Is the Best-Performing Stock in America: Don’t Buy It - 23rd Jun 21
Stock Market Calling the Fed‘s Bluff - 23rd Jun 21
Could Bitcoin Price CRASH Target A Bottom Below $7500? - 23rd Jun 21
Bitcoin and cryptos: Your 'long-term investment'? - 23rd Jun 21
Unlocking The Next Stage Of The Hydrogen Boom - 23rd Jun 21
USDT Ponzi Scheme FINAL WARNING To EXIT Before Tether Collapses Crypto Exchange Markets - 22nd Jun 21
Stock Market Correction Starting - 22nd Jun 21
This Green SuperFuel Could Change Everything For the $14 Trillion Shipping Industry - 22nd Jun 21
Virgin Media Fibre Broadband Installation - What to Expect, Quality of Wiring, Service etc. - 21st Jun 21
Feel the Inflationary Heartbeat - 21st Jun 21
The Green Superfuel That Could Disrupt Global Energy Markers - 21st Jun 21
How Binance SCAMs Crypto Traders with UP DOWN Coins, Futures, Options and Leverage - Don't Get Bogdanoffed! - 20th Jun 21
Smart Money Accumulating Physical Silver Ahead Of New Basel III Regulations And Price Explosion To $44 - 20th Jun 21
Rambling Fed Triggers Gold/Silver Correction: Are Investors Being Duped? - 20th Jun 21
Gold: The Fed Wreaked Havoc on the Precious Metals - 20th Jun 21
Investing in the Tulip Crypto Mania 2021 - 19th Jun 21
Here’s Why Historic US Housing Market Boom Can Continue - 19th Jun 21
Cryptos: What the "Bizarre" World of Non-Fungible Tokens May Be Signaling - 19th Jun 21
Hyperinflationary Expectations: Reflections on Cryptocurrency and the Markets - 19th Jun 21
Gold Prices Investors beat Central Banks and Jewelry, as having the most Impact - 18th Jun 21
Has the Dust Settled After Fed Day? Not Just Yet - 18th Jun 21
Gold Asks: Will the Economic Boom Continue? - 18th Jun 21
STABLE COINS PONZI Crypto SCAM WARNING! Iron Titan CRASH to ZERO! Exit USDT While You Can! - 18th Jun 21
FOMC Surprise Takeaways - 18th Jun 21
Youtube Upload Stuck at 0% QUICK FIXES Solutions Tutorial - 18th Jun 21
AI Stock Buying Levels, Ratings, Valuations Video - 18th Jun 21
AI Stock Buying Levels, Ratings, Valuations and Trend Analysis into Market Correction - 17th Jun 21
Stocks, Gold, Silver Markets Inflation Tipping Point - 17th Jun 21
Letting Yourself Relax with Activities That You Might Not Have Considered - 17th Jun 21
RAMPANT MONEY PRINTING INFLATION BIG PICTURE! - 16th Jun 21
The Federal Reserve and Inflation - 16th Jun 21
Inflation Soars 5%! Will Gold Skyrocket? - 16th Jun 21
Stock Market Sentiment Speaks: Inflation Is For Fools - 16th Jun 21
Four News Events That Could Drive Gold Bullion Demand - 16th Jun 21
5 ways that crypto is changing the face of online casinos - 16th Jun 21
Transitory Inflation Debate - 15th Jun 21
USDX: The Cleanest Shirt Among the Dirty Laundry - 15th Jun 21
Inflation and Stock Market SPX Record Highs. PPI, FOMC Meeting in Focus - 15th Jun 21
Stock Market SPX 4310 Right Around the Corner! - 15th Jun 21

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Protect your Wealth by Investing in AI Tech Stocks

The Great Recession Grinds On - Measuring Misery around the World

Politics / Social Issues Apr 24, 2014 - 03:35 PM GMT

By: Steve_H_Hanke

Politics

The Great Recession grinds on. And as it does, politicians of all stripes ask, usually behind closed doors, "Just how miserable are our citizens?" The chattering classes offer a variety of opinions. As it turns out, there is a straightforward way to measure what is termed the misery index.

The late Arthur Okun, a distinguished economist who served as chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers during President Johnson’s administration, developed the original misery index for the United States. Okun’s index is equal to the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates.


The misery index pours cold water on the current critique of free markets and fiscal austerity. ”

Harvard Professor Robert Barro amended the misery index by also including the 30-year government bond yield and the output gap for real GDP. Barro used his index to measure the change in misery during a president’s term.

From these metrics, we would anticipate that if there were a high level of misery in a country, and the current politicians increased the level of misery, then this increase would be borne out by looking at the polls. In other words, we expect citizens to be aware of misery, and approve or disapprove accordingly.

The data in the misery index chart speak loudly. Contrary to left-wing dogma, the Reagan "free-market years, " were very good ones. And the Clinton years of Victorian fiscal virtues– when President Clinton proclaimed in his January 1996 State of the Union address: "the era of big government is over" — were also very good ones.

The misery index pours cold water on the current critique of free markets and fiscal austerity — a critique that has taken on the characteristics of a religion embraced without investigation. Indeed, it makes one bothered to subject their ideas to a reality check.

But does the misery index accurately measure misery? Well, when looking at the relationship between a president’s approval ratings and the misery index, the truth comes into sharp relief. If the economy is doing poorly during a president’s term, the likelihood for this president to have a low approval rate is high, and vice versa (correlation of -0. 54). By examining the misery index ranking in the United States and the poll ratings of U. S. Presidents (compare the first two charts), the correlation becomes apparent.

For most people, their quality of life is important. Constituents prefer lower inflation rates, lower unemployment rates, lower lending rates, and higher GDP per capita. By combining the poll rankings and the misery index, we calculate a standardized ranking from one president to another (see chart on the right). This type of analysis is not limited to the United States. The misery index concept can be applied to any country where suitable data exist. A misery index — a simple sum of inflation, lending rates, and unemployment rates, minus year-on-year per capita GDP growth — is used to construct a ranking for 90 countries (see the PHOTO misery index scores, page 24).

When measured by the misery index, Venezuela holds the ignominious top spot, with an index value of 79. 4. But, that index value, as of 31 December 2013, under states the level of misery because it uses the official annual inflation rate of 56. 2%. In fact, I estimate that Venezuela’s annual implied inflation rate at the end of last year was 278%. That rate is almost five times higher than the official inflation rate. If the annual implied inflation rate of 278% is used to calculate Venezuela’s misery index, the index jumps from 79. 4 to 301, indicating that Venezuela is in much worse shape than suggested by the official data.

Why is there such a huge gap between the official inflation rate and my estimate of the true inflation rate? Venezuela imposes a complex web of government price controls. In consequence, when one observes prices for the items that comprise Venezuela’s price index, many of the prices will be those mandated by the government, not the market. So, the inflation rates for the basket will be artificially low. The official inflation reading will be for what is termed "suppressed" inflation.

And that’s not the end of the story. Indeed, with binding price controls, many goods in the official price index basket are nowhere to be found. And when it comes to price-control induced shortages, there is no better authority than Milton Friedman:

"We economists don’t know much, but we do know how to create a shortage. If you want to create a shortage of tomatoes, for example, just pass a law that retailers can’t sell tomatoes for more than two cents perpound. Instantly you’ll have a tomato shortage. It’s the same with oil or gas."

The accompanying chart (page 25) confirms Friedman’s observation. In Venezuela, 28% of basic products are not available.

When price controls and shortages prevail, how do we measure the true rate of inflation — "open" inflation?

Binding price controls spawn black markets. Many of the goods and services subject to controls migrate to black markets. For example, in German-occupied Poland during World War II, price controls prevailed and the black market flourished. Everything from basic food and industrial goods to foreign exchange traded on black markets. There was even an illegal stock market. The scale of the black markets was impressive, with 80% of all food being supplied via illegal markets.

One way to estimate the rate of true, open inflation, in cases such as Venezuela’s, would be to track down the free-market prices — including the black-market prices — for all goods in the official basket. But such a procedure would be very difficult, if not virtually impossible, to implement. That is why no country has ever accomplished such a herculean task.

As an alternative, I have developed a procedure for estimating the true, open inflation rate for an economy in the grip of high inflation and price controls. While it is impractical to determine the free-market (read: black-market) prices for all items in an official basket, it is often quite easy to observe the free, black-market exchange rate. Since this is the most important price in the economy, changes in the free, black-market exchange rate can be used to estimate the true, open inflation rate for an economy.

By using the most important free-market price in Venezuela — the black — market bolivar / U. S. dollar rate — we can accurately estimate Venezuela’s annual open inflation rate (see the accompanying chart). At the end of 2013, this true, open inflation rate was five times higher than the official rate. And the associated true misery index was 301, not 79. 4.

It’s not surprising that President Maduro’s popularity has plunged 16 percentage points since he took office in April 2013. And if that wasn’t bad enough, politically-motivated street violence has claimed 39 lives since mid-February 2014.

By Steve H. Hanke

www.cato.org/people/hanke.html

Twitter: @Steve_Hanke

Steve H. Hanke is a Professor of Applied Economics and Co-Director of the Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Prof. Hanke is also a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.; a Distinguished Professor at the Universitas Pelita Harapan in Jakarta, Indonesia; a Senior Advisor at the Renmin University of China’s International Monetary Research Institute in Beijing; a Special Counselor to the Center for Financial Stability in New York; a member of the National Bank of Kuwait’s International Advisory Board (chaired by Sir John Major); a member of the Financial Advisory Council of the United Arab Emirates; and a contributing editor at Globe Asia Magazine.

Copyright © 2014 Steve H. Hanke - 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.

Steve H. Hanke Archive

© 2005-2019 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