For most commentators lending is associated with money. However, is this the case? When a saver lends money, what he/she in fact lends to a borrower is final consumer goods that he/she did not consume. Therefore, what a lender lends to a borrower is savings and not money as such.
The presumption of venality, as it is inscribed in new measures against the pandemic, is extremely interesting, at least from an anthropological point of view. The measures implemented over large parts of Europe include, most notably, covid certificates. Elsewhere, in addition to covid certificates there has even been an incentive for games of chance among those who are vaccinated. The purpose of covid certificates is to make the life of the unvaccinated more difficult and hence to exert additional pressure toward vaccination. The main assumption is that if people feel their quality of life is impaired (through an inability to go to restaurants, theaters, to attend or take part in sporting activities, and so on) then this response would be the easiest way out. Surely, they will act as expected and get the vaccine.
I was a young lad of thirteen when the first Transformers film directed by Michael Bay premiered in theaters. I do not recall much about it other than Megan Fox working on Shia Labeouf’s car, but apparently, this sultry façade was hiding a darker secret: the film was actually government-supported propaganda produced with extensive involvement from the military. This is just one of the many surprising and sometimes shocking things I learned from Christopher J. Coyne and Abigail R. Hall’s new book, Manufacturing Militarism: U.S. Government Propaganda in the War on Terror, which should be read by everyone who seeks to more fully understand the extent to which militaristic propaganda has pervaded seemingly every aspect of our society.
The official line on vaccines is that they are extremely effective at protecting against serious illness. And yet, these same people are also claiming that the unvaccinated are a major threat to the vaccinated.
Perhaps more than anything else, the rationale given for the necessity of the state—and the necessity of supporting the regime at any given time—is that it “keeps us safe.” This permeates thinking about government institutions at all levels, from “thin blue line” sloganeering at the local level, all the way up to jingoism surrounding the Pentagon.
The Biden administration on Thursday announced sweeping new mandates. The new mandates require that all employers with more than one hundred workers require workers to be vaccinated or to test for the virus weekly. The mandates also require covid vaccinations for the 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid. Moreover, vaccines are mandated for all employees of the federal government’s executive branch, and for all contractors who do business with the federal government. There is no option to test out in these cases.
Our healthcare system is broken, a fact nobody would have disputed in precovid days. Regulatory capture is a reality, and the pharmaceutical industry is fraught with examples. Yet we trusted private-public partnerships to find an optimal solution to a global pandemic, assuming a crisis would bring out the best in historically corrupt institutions.
Speaking at the Jackson Hole meeting on August 27, 2021, Federal Reserve (Fed) chairman Jerome J. Powell indicated that he supported “tapering” toward the end of this year and hastened to add that interest rate hikes are still a long way off. The term “tapering” means that the central bank reduces its monthly purchases of bonds and slows down the monthly increase in the quantity of money accordingly. In other words, even with tapering, the Fed will still churn out newly printed US dollar balances, but to a lesser extent than before; that is, it will still cause monetary inflation, but less than before.
The philosopher Michael Huemer is usually favorable to the free market, and he is also a strong defender of anarchism. Although I disagree with some of the arguments in his defense of anarchism, The Problem of Political Authority, it is an excellent book.
It struck me recently just how frequently we use the word “law” in our conversations. I read or hear, “That’s against the law” when someone wants someone else not to do something, and “There ought to be a law” when someone wants to further restrict others. I read arguments about what it really means to say that the Constitution is the highest law of the land. But few people seem to be thinking more than a millimeter deep about law—is there any law beyond civil law? What do we mean when we say “law” in a particular context? What are the current limitations on law? What should the limits on law be?
Since the 1800s, surly Americans have derided politicians for spending tax dollars “like drunken sailors.” Until recently, that was considered a grave character fault. But Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act shows that inebriated spending is now the path to national salvation.
The term “the state” is a term that gets thrown around a lot with various meanings. Even excluding the confusing American terminology in which the United States is composed of “states,” we’re still left with many other meanings. For example, in the international relations literature, most independent countries are generally referred to as states. Historically, governments and polities of all types have been referred to as states.
A recent article on this page highlighted a stunning situation in which a surgery clinic in Oklahoma City was able to offer outpatient procedures at less than one-tenth of what local hospitals were charging to third-party payment systems such as insurance companies and Medicare. This was a significant article in many ways, in that it presented what truly is a shocking picture of what really happens in the medical care systems in this country.
Central banks should know by now that you cannot have negative interest rates with low bond yields and strong growth. One or the other.
Central banks have chosen low bond yields at any cost, despite all the evidence of stagnation ahead. This creates enormous problems
It is not a surprise that markets have bounced aggressively, driven by the tech sector, after a slump based on concerns about the pace of economic growth. Stimulus package effects are increasingly short, and this was pretty evident in the poor figures of industrial production and the ZEW survey gauge of expectations. The same can be said about a weakening ISM index in the United States. United States ISM Services PMI came in at 60.1, below expectations (63.5) in June, precisely in the sector where the recovery should be strongest.
Interestingly, European markets declined sharply after the European Central Bank sent the ultimate dovish message, a change in its inflation target that would allow the central bank to exceed its 2 percent limit without change of policy. What does it all tell us?
First, that the placebo effect of stimulus packages shows a shorter impact. Trillions of dollars spent create a small positive effect that lasts for less than three months but leaves a massive trail of debt behind.
Second, central banks are increasingly hostage to governments that simply will not curb deficit spending and will not implement structural reforms. The independence of the monetary authorities has long been questioned, but now it has become clear that governments are using loose policies as a tool to abandon structural reforms, not to buy time. No developed economy can tolerate a slight increase in government bond yields, and with sticky inflation in nonreplicable goods and services, this means stagnation with higher prices ahead, a bad omen for the overall economy.
Third, and more concerning, market participants know this and take incremental levels of risk knowing that central banks will not taper, which leads to a more fragile environment and extreme levels of complacency.
So-called value sectors have retraced in equity markets, which shows that the recovery has been priced and that the risk ahead is weakening margins and poor growth, while the traditional beneficiaries of “low rates forever” have soared to new highs.
Despite rating agencies’ concerns about the rising figure of fallen angel debt, there is extreme complacency among investors looking for yield, and they are buying junk bonds at the fastest pace in years despite a rising number of bankruptcies.
Central banks justify these actions based on the view that inflation is transitory but ignore the risks of elevated prices even if the pace of increase in those prices slows down. If food and energy prices rise 30 percent, then fall 5 percent, that is not “transitory” to consumers who are suffering the above-headline increase in the prices of the things they purchase every day, a problem that occurred already in 2020 and 2019. The most negatively affected are the middle-low and poor classes, as they do not see a wealth effect from the rise in asset prices.
Sticky inflation and misguided loose fiscal and monetary policies are not tools for growth, but for stagnation and debt.
So far, central banks believe their policies are working, because equity and bond markets remain strong. That is like giving more vodka to an alcoholic because he has not died of cirrhosis yet. Low bond yields and high levels of negative-yielding debt are not signaling monetary success but are evidence of a deep disconnection between markets and the real economy.
Central banks have already stated that they will continue with ultraloose policies no matter what happens to inflation in at least a year and a half. For consumers that is a lot of time for weakening purchasing power of salaries and savings. Markets may continue to reward excess and high risk, but that is not something that should be ignored, let alone celebrated. Extreme risk will be blamed for the next crisis, as always, but the cause of that extreme risk -perennial loose monetary policy- will not stop. In fact, it will be used as the solution if there is a market collapse.
Central banks should be tapering already, and if they believe that low sovereign yields are justified by fundamentals, let markets prove it. If negative nominal and real yields are justified by the issuers’ solvency, why is there any need for monetary authorities to purchase 100 percent of net issuances? Reality is much scarier. If central banks started tapering, sovereign yields would soar to levels that would make many deficit-spending governments quake. Therefore, by keeping yields artificially low, central banks are also sowing the seeds of higher debt, lower productivity, and weaker growth—the recipe for crowding out, overcapacity, and stagnation.
Author: Daniel Lacalle
Daniel Lacalle, PhD, economist and fund manager, is the author of the bestselling books Freedom or Equality (2020), Escape from the Central Bank Trap (2017), The Energy World Is Flat (2015), and Life in the Financial Markets (2014).
He is a professor of global economy at IE Business School in Madrid.
Plato, in his Republic, tells us that tyranny arises, as a rule, from democracy. Historically, this process has occurred in three quite different ways. Before describing these several patterns of social change, let us state precisely what we mean by “democracy.”
In a speech to the nation just ahead of Bastille Day on July 14 celebrating the French Revolution, President Emmanuel Macron delivered a paradoxical blow to the Republic’s famous slogan: Liberté, égalité, fraternité. He announced a series of measures to speed up the pace of covid-19 vaccinations which undermine individual liberties and threaten a strong political and economic backlash. Already during the covid-19 pandemic, the French had to cope with some of the most severe lockdowns in the world, which curtailed both economic freedom and important civil liberties.
In the “German Democratic Republic” they tell the story about a weary old man who tries to gain entrance into the Red Paradise. A Communist Archangel holds him up at the gate and severely cross-questions him:
In order to gain insight into the current and future state of an economy, many economists hold that it is helpful to get the view on this from consumers and businesspersons. Randomly selected consumers and businesspersons are asked to provide their views about the current and the future state of the economy.
Now and then, it pays to take a step back to get a broader perspective on things, to look beyond the daily financial news, to see through the short-term ups and downs in the market to find out what is really at the heart of the matter. If we do that, we will not miss the fact that we are living in the age of fiat currencies, a world in which basically everything bears their fingerprints: the economic and financial system, politics—even people’s cultural norms, values, and morals will not escape the broader consequences of fiat currencies.
In many minds, “capitalism” has come to be a bad word, nor does “free enterprise” sound much better. I remember seeing posters in Russia in the early nineteen-thirties depicting capitalists as Frankenstein monsters, as men with yellow-green faces, crocodile teeth, dressed in cutaways and adorned by top hats. What is the reason for this widespread hatred for capitalists and capitalism despite the overwhelming evidence that the system has truly “delivered the goods”? In its mature stage it indeed is providing, not just for a select few but for the masses, a standard of living cordially envied by those bound under other politico-economic arrangements. There are historic, psychological and moral reasons for this state of affairs. Once we recognize them, we might come to better understanding the largely irrational resentment and desire to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.