10 January 2013

It's Official. Krugman Does Not Understand the Value of Money

Well I did say that Mr. Krugman should proceed, and like Mitt Romney, he did, and doubled down.

I am not quite sure I have the words.  Chris Hedges was right.

Like other progressives and independents, I have been discouraged that many old school liberal economists have had so little to say about financial reform, and the frauds in the banking system, even as they blindly pressed their case for more stimulus to be distributed without repairing a broken financial system that taxes the real economy with fraud.   It is 'whatever works' as they define and measure it. Justice and equity have no part in their calculations. They learned part of the lesson from FDR, but not the part that really matters, and that made him memorable.

They make themselves and their models willfully blind to the crony capitalism that exists between the Fed and Wall Street, and the manipulation in the markets, and the lack of any credible prosecutions for some of the most egregious financial crimes since the 1920's.  How many more scandals will have to be revealed before they end their denial?

But in grabbing this whacko platinum gimmick of overt monetization which typifies almost everything that is wrong about modern economics, and in stubbornly claiming that it can do no harm, while dismissing anyone who expresses concern as some economic Luddite, Krugman and too many others have shown the purblind ignorance of the ideologue who does not understand what is wrong, and why the people are becoming restless. 

And they answer them with sophistry and derisive baby talk.  No wonder that economics is a disgraced profession. 

The greatest irony is when we become what we hate.

This is another example of the credibility trap, and a failure in leadership.  The Emperor is naked, and the people do not quite know what to do about it except to mill about in restless and embarrassed silence.

...For many people on the right, value is something handed down from on high It should be measured in terms of eternal standards, mainly gold; [Because something is not purely arbitrary does not require that it be divine - Jesse] I have, for example, often seen people claiming that stocks are actually down, not up, over the past couple of generations because the Dow hasn’t kept up with the gold price, never mind what it buys in terms of the goods and services people actually consume. 

And given that the laws of value are basically divine, not human, any human meddling in the process is not just foolish but immoral. Printing money that isn’t tied to gold is a kind of theft, not to mention blasphemy.  [Again, the intolerance of the ideologue, who is so far over on the continuum that they can only look across and see their other extreme, entirely overlooking the middle - Jesse]

For people like me, on the other hand, the economy is a social system, created by and for people. Money is a social contrivance and convenience that makes this social system work better — and should be adjusted, both in quantity and in characteristics, whenever there is compelling evidence that this would lead to better outcomes.  [Money is just another tool, a cool toy, to the financial engineers who govern the economy like a benevolent elite.  They do not understand value and consequences as they tinker and experiment, hoping for better luck next time.  And amongst financial engineers, Greenspan was Dr. Frankenstein. - Jesse]

It often makes sense to put constraints on our actions, e.g. by pegging to another currency or granting the central bank a high degree of independence, but these are things done for operational convenience or to improve policy credibility, not moral commitments — and they are always up for reconsideration when circumstances change.  [The ruling übermenschen are above conventional morality in their arcane knowledge. And how does one measure 'better outcomes?' For at the end of the day, economics is no pure science, but a social science of a certain class of policies, and policy has its roots in 'justice.' This is why the financiers must operate in secret, like the great Wizard of Oz. Because they have no science, but do not wish to be encumbered by anything, and especially something as inconvenient as justice, as they conduct their experiments. - Jesse]

Now, the money morality types try to have it both ways; they want us to believe that monetary blasphemy will produce disastrous results in practical terms too. But events have proved them wrong. [Yes that's right. The credit bubble, tech bubble, and housing bubbles have been benign and not based on policy errors. All of them were facilitated by economic quackery from both sides.  But the would be elite can admit no error. - Jesse]

And I do find myself thinking a lot about Keynes’s description of the gold standard as a “barbarous relic”; it applies perfectly to this discussion. The money morality people are basically adopting a pre-Enlightenment attitude toward monetary and fiscal policy — and why not? After all, they hate the Enlightenment on all fronts.  [As he cries for more leeches to bleed the patient... - Jesse]

The bottom line is that we aren’t really having a rational argument here. Nor can we: rationality has a well-known liberal bias. [The hubris of an ideology or a professional class in failure knows no bounds. - Jesse]

Paul Krugman, Barbarous Relics