US federal reserve governor is part of the problem

The Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave a speech entitled – Economic Challenges: Past, Present, and Future – on April 7, 2010 in Texas. It emphatically demonstrated why he should never have been appointed to the position he is in and why his reappointment just compounds that initial mistake. While he has been largely quiet on fiscal matters over the last few years this speech outlines without doubt that he doesn’t really understand the monetary system he supervises and has an understanding that is seemingly limited to that found in any erroneous mainstream macroeconomics text book. The only other interpretation is that he does understand the system yet chooses to deliberately deceive the wider public so as he can support ideological attacks on government activity. Either way, he is part of the problem we face.

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I just found out – state kleptocracy is the problem

Today’s blog is a little different to most, although don’t worry, I will get onto familiar themes soon enough. Today I am considering the latest broadside from controversial German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, who Jurgen Habermas referred to as a fascist. Sloterdijk responded to that criticism by labelling Habermas, in turn, a fascist. That debate was about bi-genetics and Sloterdijk’s implicit support for a “master race”. It was an interesting debate in itself and goes to the fundamental discomfort that exists in Germany about their past. But today I am considering his views on freedom and governments who he labels fiscal thieves and suggests that modern democracies have conspired to allow ever increasing numbers to live of the toil of others courtesy of state intervention.

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Saturday Quiz – April 3, 2010 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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Operation twist – then and now

A number of readers have asked me to clarify what I mean when I say that the central bank can control the yield curve at all maturities. This came up again when Marshall Auerback commented that the 1961 Operation Twist exercise in the US provides a model for central bank policy options. In 1961, the US Federal Reserve attempted to flatten the yield curve to bring down long-term rates for an economy that was mired in recession, yet at the same time, push short-term rates up to deal with a balance of payments crisis. The fixed exchange rate system meant they were losing gold reserves and desired to stop that drain. It is an interesting story though as to what happened and whether it has implications for the present. As you will see, the fact is that the central bank can control the yield curve and eliminate the influence of the bond markets if it chooses. The only reason it doesn’t do this is ideological.

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Another economics department to close

Today I decided that there is another macroeconomics research unit that needs to be closed down. My decision was reached after I read the latest paper from the Bank of International Settlements – The future of public debt: prospects and implications – which confirms that the Monetary and Economic Department of that organisation is publishing deficit terrorist literature. The paper is so bad that I am sorry I read it. I may avoid BIS publications altogether in the future. But if I apply that reasoning I am going to be back to reading Stieg Larsson novels and there are only three of them and I have already read them!

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EMU posturing provides no durable solution

Today I have been looking over documents from the EMU which emerged from last week’s summit in Brussels. Within the plush environs of their meeting halls and probably over very sumptuous dinners the best they could come up with was a half-baked plan to stop the daily headlines which have been indicating impending Greek default. Such a default would damage the Eurozone monetary system and probably show the way for other nations, which are being similarly bullied by the EU bosses into impoverishing their nations. Given some reporting today they may have succeeded … in stopping the headlines … for the moment. But the approach of the EMU leaders will do nothing to address the fundamental structural flaws in the their whole system. With the prospect of an extended period of austerity throughout the zone, they are really just making it more certain that the next major global downturn sinks them for good. That is, if social instability doesn’t do it beforehand.

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Saturday Quiz – March 27, 2010 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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Ladies and gentleman, civilisation is ending

Today I wasted 20 minutes reading about the end of the World. But before I did that I read some so-called progressive literature that was calling on the UK government in tomorrow night’s budget to seek a balanced budget. You say what? That’s right, what goes for progressive thought these days is what used to be the exemplar of fiscal conservativism not so long ago. While the current crisis exposed most of the myths that mainstream economists have promoted for years it seems that progressives are not seizing the day but trying to sound more reasonable (read: right-wing conservative) than the conservatives. The crisis has also pushed all these opinionated loonies like Niall Ferguson into prominence. Its getting pretty lonely out here …. wherever I am (and don’t say the left word)! (<= joke).

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Saturday Quiz – March 20, 2010 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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Oh no … Bernanke is loose and those greenbacks are everywhere

My RSS feed and E-mails have brought some shockers in the last few days from the financial markets – official bulletins from banks that don’t make any sense at all (US about to default-type arguments); hysterical Austrian school logic (from a large player in the Asian markets) and news commentary from a so-called business insider magazine. The latter should immediately close its doors and declare they are not competent to comment on matters relating to banking. Coincidentally, I also received several E-mails in the last few days asking me to comment on the particular Austrian document noted above that has been circulating within financial markets recently. I deal with that later in the post. Anyway, apart from my main research and other writing activities this blog stuff is “all in a day’s work” – Friday March 19, 2010.

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China is not the problem

There is currently an international cacophony being created by economists, politicians, political commentators and any-one else that thinks they have something to say which goes like this: China’s export orientation and its “manipulation” of the renminbi to stop it appreciating is damaging World demand and plunging the Western world into unsustainable debt levels and persistent unemployment. The simple retort is: the commentators have it all backwards and are ignoring the policy options that the Western world has but which policy makers will not fully utilise. But it is an interesting debate and the institutional attachment to the debate is not necessarily predictable as you will see.

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Today started out well but then went downhill

Today started out well – early good waves at nearby Nobby’s Reef which kept things interesting. After that things progressively went down hill at least in terms of the things I read from the popular press. We had the EMU-rest of the world conflation to deal with. Then the public and private debt conflation. Then the austerity is good for us hypothesis. And by then I decided to read other things that were more interesting – like mysql technical manuals. Anyway, here is a report of my descent into gloom today.

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Not the EMF … anything but the EMF!

What is it about Europeans? Historically, they seem to want to invade each other with regularity with mass carnage the result and sometimes some border re-alignments. They are happy when there is a freezing cold white-out (or do they just say that to avoid acknowledging it is better in the sun by the beach). When they do get to the beach – it is always at some tacky crowded place and they end up looking like cooked lobsters. They love Eurovision pop and … soccer. Need I go on? And then they decide to lumber themselves with a poorly conceived and shockingly designed common currency arrangement that hasn’t a hope of delivering sustained prosperity to all member states and continually requires damaging deflations and reductions in living standards when external crises hit. But then ….

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Extending unemployment benefits … an omen

As the danger of a global depression recedes, the themes I am picking up regularly now from commentators, politicians etc are all pointing back to the mainstream status quo version of the way the economy works, in particular, for the purposes of this blog the labour market. I expect to increasingly hear and read the rhetoric that dominated the public debates prior to the crisis – that unemployment is essentially a supply-side phenomenon reflecting choices made by individuals in the context of government welfare policy that distorts these choices in favour of not working. In this context, the simple act of extending unemployment benefits in the US has been controversial. This takes us back to the dominant debates over the last 20 years which saw governments all around the World pursuing policies that were antithetical to full employment and pernicious in their impact on the victims of their policy failures. Stay tuned – 2011 – the mainstream will be in full attack mode again – conveniently forgetting where we have been over the last 3 or so years.

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Would someone please put something in the water supply

When I read the financial and economic news every day I sense a global madness has emerged. Global political processes are becoming distorted by the types of debates that the conservative media companies and the mainstream economists are driving. Every day a new whacko proposition is suggested or entertained by governments. Old hatreds are also resurfacing as our economies labour on (or not labour to be more accurate!) in the face of a major private spending collapse accompanied by inadequate government fiscal responses. The collateral damage of the deficit terrorism is increasing and spreading and still the major political parties in most countries slug it out as to which one will deliver the most fiscal austerity. Would someone please put something in the water supply so that we can refocus this debate onto what is important. That was the plan in the late 1960s to chill everyone out and distinguish the meaningful from the nonsense. Something has to restore our sense of priorities. The longer this madness goes on the worse it is going to get. There is no sensible solution that will come from following the present path.

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Interest rates up – but its messy

Today’s blog comes to you from beautiful Boomerang Beach, on the mid-North Coast of NSW and within the Booti Booti National Park. I am experimenting with the concept of a mobile office – well a cabin by the beach. Armed with my USB turbo mobile broadband and my portable computer, some files and books (not to mention a guitar and a couple of surfboards) I decided I can work nearly anywhere these days. Connectivity is no longer a problem. So I decided to head north for a couple of days to see how the concept works. Maybe it will begin a gypsy research life although I know one person who won’t allow that to happen! Anyway, it is a lovely setting and I can walk about 200 metres to the surf through the sand dunes. The perfect antidote to the sort of hysteria I covered in yesterday’s blog. Today I am considering corporate welfare among other topics and you definitely need a peaceful and soothing location to delve into that topic in any depth.

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Hyperbole and outright lies

Its been a big weekend for hyperbole which in this context is a polite term for outright hysterical lies. Today’s blog reviews a few of the choice selections from a weekend’s reading. It amazes me how people can even mis-represent their own research when they know the audience hasn’t even read it in detail. It also is interesting to follow the way the media commentators are trying to out-do each other in use of superlatives – how much catastrophic can a catastrophy get – sort of thing. The analogies, the adjectives … are all designed to transport uninformed readers into a particular ideological space where the conservative forces can garner more of the national pie than otherwise might be the case. Anyway, that is what today’s blog is about.

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Saturday Quiz – February 27, 2010 – answers and discussion

Many people have written to me asking me to post answers to the Saturday Quiz. I am sympathetic to these requests but on the other hand the Quiz (which takes a few minutes to compile) is my “day off” the blog and so building in extra work would sort of defeat the purpose. But as it happens I was about to announce that from soon I was going to stop posting a regular Sunday blog. I play in a band which takes time and in a few weeks will have regular new commitments on Sunday evenings. If there is something happening that warrants comment I will but in general I was going to extend my “day off” to the whole weekend. But then I thought – I can write the answers up with some discussion on Sundays and so the weekends can become The Quiz Weekend, which should satisfy both the requests for more quiz feedback and my desire to grab some extra free (well non-blog) time. So that is the plan from now on. If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking.

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Chill out time: better get used to budget deficits

The latest economic news from the UK and the US is hardly inspiring. Further, detailed examination of the sectoral balances in the OECD nations reveals a massive drop in private demand since 2007. The mirror image of that spending collapse has been the increase in public deficits via the automatic stabilisers (discretionary stimulus packages aside). These swings are just signs that economies are adjusting back to more normal relations (private saving, public deficits). The sharpness of the swings reflects the atypical period that preceded the crisis where growth was fuelled by private debt in the face of fiscal contraction. It will take some years for the adjustment to be completed and the danger is that ideological attacks on the fiscal deficits will derail the process. But when the sectoral balances return to more normal levels in relation to GDP then guess what? We will still have budget deficits and we all better get used to it.

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Some movement at the station

Today I reflect on my weekend of media reading. Within the never ending media assault on budget deficits which is now being regularly elevated to “the fiscal crisis of the state” I read a few stories which actually took a different tack. One said that several national leaders were going to prioritise jobs over the wishes of the financial markets while the other said that the so-called “debt moralists” (aka deficit terrorists) are not on sound economic grounds. Amidst the continual conservative onslaught at present, both articles reflect some movement at the station!

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