17 August 2011

US Monetary Aggregates Update - Failure to Reform - At the Edges of the Policy Continuum

Dude, where's my deflation?

It may seem a little counter-intuitive, that the money supply measurements are growing strongly, at the same time that the growth of consumer credit and spending remains sluggish, with GDP lagging.

Well, perhaps not so sluggish as some might wish to portray, as show in the last chart, but certainly not with enough force to bring back jobs.  The Fed can create money but not real growth.

As a reminder, the changes in money supply are not independent, and must be judged in relation to other things in the real economy to determine their nature and its effects. Growth must match growth, and decline, decline, over some reasonable period of time and trend, in relation to population, real transactions ex-financial, or some other measure of genuine economic activity.

That is one of the better arguments, by the way, against the use of a gold standard.  To say that there is not enough gold is ludicrous, since it is just a relative thing, a matter of valuation.  The drawback is that the supply of gold seems to grow stubbornly slow, and may not keep pace with the growth of the economy in response to some event like the industrial revolution.  This could be handled by the revaluation of the gold and the currencies, so again one wonders how real the objection is.  Its greatest opposition is from those who wish to exercise a more flexible and stealthy monetary control.  

As I said I am not in favor of such a standard now, as the economies of the west are too weak to support their rigor, and they would be quickly corrupted.  A bi-metallic standard holds more promise, but that too is a discussion for another time.  These are remedies best used before the fact, and not ex post facto in response to long years of monetary abuse and distortions.

Increasing the money supply in response to a credit crisis, which the Fed is doing with historic vigor, is a blunt instrument. And despite all the so-called proofs and theories to the contrary, they said they would do it, they could do it, and so they are doing it.

There is certainly no lack of people who remain obstinate in their errors and illusions. I have a little more respect for those who try to maintain their theories while at least accepting the obvious. But unless they can create a whole of it, their theory is found to be lacking.

Money is a little esoteric I admit, but the mindsets of those who have been wrong for so long is even more mysterious to me, unless one assumes some misinformed, cultish adherence. And as forecast, their rationales and arguments are becoming increasingly hysterical, in every sense of the word. They are even reluctant and resistant to accepting any 'existence proofs.'

"...we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it -- I refute it thus."

Boswell, Life of Johnson
Deflation and Inflation in an otherwise unconstrained fiat currency regime is a policy choice. The restraints come from any external standards including the acceptance at value of the currency by those outside the system. This is what the proponents of Modern Monetary Theory, those sons of Zimbabwe, fail to understand. At the end of the day, money printing at will must always resort to continual expansion and the threat of force to maintain its value. And when that force fails, the money fails.

The Fed certainly can do more to curtail speculation and incent real money into productive activity rather than speculation in a web of financial instruments. The Fed as bankers have rarely done well with their regulatory functions. And it would be denounced as 'political' and interfering with the [rampant fraud and looting in the] markets.

Rather it is to the governance of the nation, and fiscal and legislative policy, that the nation must turn. Unfortunately that segment of governance is caught in the same credibility trap as the rest of the country's fortunate ones who profited abundantly from the status quo and the financial bubble, and are feeling very smug about it, rationalizing self-proclaimed genius in their delusions, and 'winning.'

Make no mistake, as a policy choice deflation is possible. And for debtor nations to voluntarily choose deflation, in the artificial constraint of money and debt in pursuit of a stronger currency, without systemic reforms to address what specifically caused the recent credit crisis, is an act of national suicide. Minds fixed to extremes either can not or will not see or find the via media, the middle ground. They pass from extreme to extreme without ever finding a balance.

If one considers the Political and Economic Continuum I have constructed before, it is easier to understand this, and how the neo-liberals can become neo-conservatives, seemingly overnight.  The energy to cross the boundary from one extreme to another is less than the required energy and effort of returning to the center.  

At that end of the scale one sees only their extreme counterparts, and loses the ability to view the more distant middle ground, the vast center of society.  It is more than a willful blindness; it is a pathological disconnect from reality and the particular, an implosion of the self into a dissolute abstraction of slogans, symbols, and ideas.

And the extremes will tend towards distortion and delusion, as life does not flourish naturally on the tails of probability.  The far Left is as noxious and rarefied as the far Right.  At the end of the day, there is relatively little distance between them in terms of what it means to be specifically human.  The others, the great mass of humanity clustered at the center, becomes fully objectified, stereotyped, and statistical.  The far ends of the continuum are the well springs of the cults of death.

From a practical standpoint, central planning, whether it is performed by faceless bureaucrats or the monoplies of oligarchs, will tend to corruption and failure.
The path being pursued by some Western nations today seems to be untenable and lacking balance, and so the bleeding begins.  Crony capitalism has the momentum to create ever bigger losers and winners.  They are unwilling, and seemingly incapable of, discussing and investigating the frauds, much less correcting them. They fear to implicate themselves, and to disturb their 'good thing.'   And so they keep pressing forward to the hard stop, and the precipice.

The governance of old has tolerated the occasional bloodbath, so long as the few might personally benefit, as corrupt governments, mad rulers, and empires are wont to do. I pray not for that tragedy there, or anywhere.

Reform is the hard medicine that the governance of the country refuses to take. The failure is with the establishment as they once quaintly called it, the monied interests in a former age, and as always, the venality, blind ambition, and vanity of the privileged.