Monday, 11 December 2017

The Results of Financialization: A Fiat Currency Failure


Since the US lifted anchor on the Gold Standard in August 1971 making the US Dollar a Fiat Reserve Currency, the US economy has been propelled forward, no-longer tethered to the principles of Sound Money. Unfortunately, the reality is that this sort of political expediency is the equivalent of building a house on a foundation of sand versus solid bedrock, dooming it to be unable to withstand the economic storms and turmoil that inevitably lie ahead.

- Source, Gordon T Long

Friday, 8 December 2017

Gold is Building a Base, Is Something Big Coming?


Jeff Clark, a globally recognized authority on precious metals, talks about the consequences of the increase in demand for physical gold while mine production decreases.

- Source, Jay Taylor Media

Thursday, 7 December 2017

The U.S. and Monetary Imperialism


In theory, the global financial system is supposed to help every country gain. Mainstream teaching of international finance, trade and “foreign aid” (defined simply as any government credit) depicts an almost utopian system uplifting all countries, not stripping their assets and imposing austerity. The reality since World War I is that the United States has taken the lead in shaping the international financial system to promote gains for its own bankers, farm exporters, its oil and gas sector, and buyers of foreign resources – and most of all, to collect on debts owed to it.

Each time this global system has broken down over the past century, the major destabilizing force has been American over-reach and the drive by its bankers and bondholders for short-term gains. The dollar-centered financial system is leaving more industrial as well as Third World countries debt-strapped. Its three institutional pillars – the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and World Trade Organization – have imposed monetary, fiscal and financial dependency, most recently by the post-Soviet Baltics, Greece and the rest of southern Europe. The resulting strains are now reaching the point where they are breaking apart the arrangements put in place after World War II.

The most destructive fiction of international finance is that all debts can be paid, and indeed should be paid, even when this tears economies apart by forcing them into austerity – to save bondholders, not labor and industry. Yet European countries, and especially Germany, have shied from pressing for a more balanced global economy that would foster growth for all countries and avoid the current economic slowdown and debt deflation.

Imposing Austerity on Germany After World War I

After World War I the U.S. Government deviated from what had been traditional European policy – forgiving military support costs among the victors. U.S. officials demanded payment for the arms shipped to its Allies in the years before America entered the Great War in 1917. The Allies turned to Germany for reparations to pay these debts. Headed by John Maynard Keynes, British diplomats sought to clean their hands of responsibility for the consequences by promising that all the money they received from Germany would simply be forwarded to the U.S. Treasury.

The sums were so unpayably high that Germany was driven into austerity and collapse. The nation suffered hyperinflation as the Reichsbank printed marks to throw onto the foreign exchange market. The currency declined, import prices soared, raising domestic prices as well. The debt deflation was much like that of Third World debtors a generation ago, and today’s southern European PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain).

In a pretense that the reparations and Inter-Ally debt tangle could be made solvent, a triangular flow of payments was facilitated by a convoluted U.S. easy-money policy. American investors sought high returns by buying German local bonds; German municipalities turned over the dollars they received to the Reichsbank for domestic currency; and the Reichsbank used this foreign exchange to pay reparations to Britain and other Allies, enabling these countries to pay the United States what it demanded.

But solutions based on attempts to keep debts of such magnitude in place by lending debtors the money to pay can only be temporary. The U.S. Federal Reserve sustained this triangular flow by holding down U.S. interest rates. This made it attractive for American investors to buy German municipal bonds and other high-yielding debts. It also deterred Wall Street from drawing funds away from Britain, which would have driven its economy deeper into austerity after the General Strike of 1926. But domestically, low U.S. interest rates and easy credit spurred a real estate bubble, followed by a stock market bubble that burst in 1929. The triangular flow of payments broke down in 1931, leaving a legacy of debt deflation burdening the U.S. and European economies. The Great Depression lasted until outbreak of World War II in 1939.

Planning for the postwar period took shape as the war neared its end. U.S. diplomats had learned an important lesson. This time there would be no arms shipped or reparations. The global financial system would be stabilized – on the basis of gold, and on creditor-oriented rules. By the end of the 1940s the Untied States held some 75 percent of the world’s monetary gold stock. That established the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency, freely convertible into gold at the 1933 parity of $35 an ounce.

It also implied that once again, as in the 1920s, European balance-of-payments deficits would have to be financed mainly by the United States. Recycling of official government credit was to be filtered via the IMF and World Bank, in which U.S. diplomats alone had veto power to reject policies they found not to be in their national interest. International financial “stability” thus became a global control mechanism – to maintain creditor-oriented rules centered in the United States.

To obtain gold or dollars as backing for their own domestic monetary systems, other countries had to follow the trade and investment rules laid down by the United States. These rules called for relinquishing control over capital movements or restrictions on foreign takeovers of natural resources and the public domain as well as local industry and banking systems.

By 1950 the dollar-based global economic system had become increasingly untenable. Gold continued flowing to the United States, strengthening the dollar – until the Korean War reversed matters. From 1951 through 1971 the United States ran a deepening balance-of-payments deficit, which stemmed entirely from overseas military spending. (Private-sector trade and investment was steadily in balance.)

U.S. Treasury Debt Replaces the Gold Exchange Standard

The foreign military spending that helped return American gold to Europe became a flood as the Vietnam War spread across Asia after 1962. The Treasury kept the dollar’s exchange rate stable by selling gold via the London Gold Pool at $35 an ounce. Finally, in August 1971, President Nixon stopped the drain by closing the Gold Pool and halting gold convertibility of the dollar.

There was no plan for what would happen next. Most observers viewed cutting the dollar’s link to gold as a defeat for the United States. It certainly ended the postwar financial order as designed in 1944. But what happened next was just the reverse of a defeat. No longer able to buy gold after 1971 (without inciting strong U.S. disapproval), central banks found only one asset in which to hold their balance-of-payments surpluses: U.S. Treasury debt. These securities no longer were “as good as gold.” The United States issued them at will to finance soaring domestic budget deficits.

By shifting from gold to the dollars thrown off by the U.S. balance-of-payments deficit, the foundation of global monetary reserves came to be dominated by the U.S. military spending that continued to flood foreign central banks with surplus dollars. America’s balance-of-payments deficit thus supplied the dollars that financed its domestic budget deficits and bank credit creation – via foreign central banks recycling U.S. foreign spending back to the U.S. Treasury.

In effect, foreign countries have been taxed without representation over how their loans to the U.S. Government are employed. European central banks were not yet prepared to create their own sovereign wealth funds to invest their dollar inflows in foreign stocks or direct ownership of businesses. They simply used their trade and payments surpluses to finance the U.S. budget deficit. This enabled the Treasury to cut domestic tax rates, above all on the highest income brackets.

U.S. monetary imperialism confronted European and Asian central banks with a dilemma that remains today: If they do not turn around and buy dollar assets, their currencies will rise against the dollar. Buying U.S. Treasury securities is the only practical way to stabilize their exchange rates – and in so doing, to prevent their exports from rising in dollar terms and being priced out of dollar-area markets.

The system may have developed without foresight, but quickly became deliberate. My book Super Imperialism sold best in the Washington DC area, and I was given a large contract through the Hudson Institute to explain to the Defense Department exactly how this extractive financial system worked. I was brought to the White House to explain it, and U.S. geostrategists used my book as a how-to-do-it manual (not my original intention).

Attention soon focused on the oil-exporting countries. After the U.S. quadrupled its grain export prices shortly after the 1971 gold suspension, the oil-exporting countries quadrupled their oil prices. I was informed at a White House meeting that U.S. diplomats had let Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries know that they could charge as much as they wanted for their oil, but that the United States would treat it as an act of war not to keep their oil proceeds in U.S. dollar assets.

This was the point at which the international financial system became explicitly extractive. But it took until 2009, for the first attempt to withdraw from this system to occur. A conference was convened at Yekaterinburg, Russia, by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The alliance comprised Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kirghizstan and Uzbekistan, with observer status for Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia. U.S. officials asked to attend as observers, but their request was rejected.

The U.S. response has been to extend the new Cold War into the financial sector, rewriting the rules of international finance to benefit the United States and its satellites – and to deter countries from seeking to break free from America’s financial free ride.

The IMF Changes Its Rules to Isolate Russia and China

Aiming to isolate Russia and China, the Obama Administration’s confrontational diplomacy has drawn the Bretton Woods institutions more tightly under US/NATO control. In so doing, it is disrupting the linkages put in place after World War II.

The U.S. plan was to hurt Russia’s economy so much that it would be ripe for regime change (“color revolution”). But the effect was to drive it eastward, away from Western Europe to consolidate its long-term relations with China and Central Asia. Pressing Europe to shift its oil and gas purchases to U.S. allies, U.S. sanctions have disrupted German and other European trade and investment with Russia and China. It also has meant lost opportunities for European farmers, other exporters and investors – and a flood of refugees from failed post-Soviet states drawn into the NATO orbit, most recently Ukraine.

To U.S. strategists, what made changing IMF rules urgent was Ukraine’s $3 billion debt falling due to Russia’s National Wealth Fund in December 2015. The IMF had long withheld credit to countries refusing to pay other governments. This policy aimed primarily at protecting the financial claims of the U.S. Government, which usually played a lead role in consortia with other governments and U.S. banks. But under American pressure the IMF changed its rules in January 2015. Henceforth, it announced, it would indeed be willing to provide credit to countries in arrears other governments – implicitly headed by China (which U.S. geostrategists consider to be their main long-term adversary), Russia and others that U.S. financial warriors might want to isolate in order to force neoliberal privatization policies.[1]

Article I of the IMF’s 1944-45 founding charter prohibits it from lending to a member engaged in civil war or at war with another member state, or for military purposes generally. An obvious reason for this rule is that such a country is unlikely to earn the foreign exchange to pay its debt. Bombing Ukraine’s own Donbass region in the East after its February 2014 coup d’état destroyed its export industry, mainly to Russia.

Withholding IMF credit could have been a lever to force adherence to the Minsk peace agreements, but U.S. diplomacy rejected that opportunity. When IMF head Christine Lagarde made a new loan to Ukraine in spring 2015, she merely expressed a verbal hope for peace. Ukrainian President Porochenko announced the next day that he would step up his civil war against the Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine. One and a half-billion dollars of the IMF loan were given to banker Ihor Kolomoiski and disappeared offshore, while the oligarch used his domestic money to finance an anti-Donbass army. A million refugees were driven east into Russia; others fled west via Poland as the economy and Ukraine’s currency plunged.

The IMF broke four of its rules by lending to Ukraine: (1) Not to lend to a country that has no visible means to pay back the loan (the “No More Argentinas” rule, adopted after the IMF’s disastrous 2001 loan to that country). (2) Not to lend to a country that repudiates its debt to official creditors (the rule originally intended to enforce payment to U.S.-based institutions). (3) Not to lend to a country at war – and indeed, destroying its export capacity and hence its balance-of-payments ability to pay back the loan. Finally (4), not to lend to a country unlikely to impose the IMF’s austerity “conditionalities.” Ukraine did agree to override democratic opposition and cut back pensions, but its junta proved too unstable to impose the austerity terms on which the IMF insisted.

U.S. Neoliberalism Promotes Privatization Carve-Ups of Debtor Countries

Since World War II the United States has used the Dollar Standard and its dominant role in the IMF and World Bank to steer trade and investment along lines benefiting its own economy. But now that the growth of China’s mixed economy has outstripped all others while Russia finally is beginning to recover, countries have the option of borrowing from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and other non-U.S. consortia.

At stake is much more than just which nations will get the contracting and banking business. At issue is whether the philosophy of development will follow the classical path based on public infrastructure investment, or whether public sectors will be privatized and planning turned over to rent-seeking corporations.

What made the United States and Germany the leading industrial nations of the 20th century – and more recently, China – has been public investment in economic infrastructure. The aim was to lower the price of living and doing business by providing basic services on a subsidized basis or freely. By contrast, U.S. privatizers have brought debt leverage to bear on Third World countries, post-Soviet economies and most recently on southern Europe to force selloffs. Current plans to cap neoliberal policy with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) go so far as to disable government planning power to the financial and corporate sector.

American strategists evidently hoped that the threat of isolating Russia, China and other countries would bring them to heel if they tried to denominate trade and investment in their own national currencies. Their choice would be either to suffer sanctions like those imposed on Cuba and Iran, or to avoid exclusion by acquiescing in the dollarized financial and trade system and its drives to financialize their economies under U.S. control.

The problem with surrendering is that this Washington Consensus is extractive and lives in the short run, laying the seeds of financial dependency, debt-leveraged bubbles and subsequent debt deflation and austerity. The financial business plan is to carve out opportunities for price gouging and corporate profits. Today’s U.S.-sponsored trade and investment treaties would make governments pay fines equal to the amount that environmental and price regulations, laws protecting consumers and other social policies might reduce corporate profits. “Companies would be able to demand compensation from countries whose health, financial, environmental and other public interest policies they thought to be undermining their interests, and take governments before extrajudicial tribunals. These tribunals, organised under World Bank and UN rules, would have the power to order taxpayers to pay extensive compensation over legislation seen as undermining a company’s ‘expected future profits.’”[2]

This policy threat is splitting the world into pro-U.S. satellites and economies maintaining public infrastructure investment and what used to be viewed as progressive capitalism. U.S.-sponsored neoliberalism supporting its own financial and corporate interests has driven Russia, China and other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization into an alliance to protect their economic self-sufficiency rather than becoming dependent on dollarized credit enmeshing them in foreign-currency debt.

At the center of today’s global split are the last few centuries of Western social and democratic reform. Seeking to follow the classical Western development path by retaining a mixed public/private economy, China, Russia and other nations find it easier to create new institutions such as the AIIB than to reform the dollar standard IMF and World Bank. Their choice is between short-term gains by dependency leading to austerity, or long-term development with independence and ultimate prosperity.

The price of resistance involves risking military or covert overthrow. Long before the Ukraine crisis, the United States has dropped the pretense of backing democracies. The die was cast in 1953 with the coup against Iran’s secular government, and the 1954 coup in Guatemala to oppose land reform. Support for client oligarchies and dictatorships in Latin America in the 1960 and ‘70s was highlighted by the overthrow of Allende in Chile and Operation Condor’s assassination program throughout the continent. Under President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the United States has claimed that America’s status as the world’s “indispensible nation” entitled it back the recent coups in Honduras and Ukraine, and to sponsor the NATO attack on Libya and Syria, leaving Europe to absorb the refugees.

Germany’s Choice

This is not how the Enlightenment was supposed to evolve. The industrial takeoff of Germany and other European nations involved a long fight to free markets from the land rents and financial charges siphoned off by their landed aristocracies and bankers. That was the essence of classical 19th-century political economy and 20th-century social democracy. Most economists a century ago expected industrial capitalism to produce an economy of abundance, and democratic reforms to endorse public infrastructure investment and regulation to hold down the cost of living and doing business. But U.S. economic diplomacy now threatens to radically reverse this economic ideology by aiming to dismantle public regulatory power and impose a radical privatization agenda under the TTIP and TAFTA.

Textbook trade theory depicts trade and investment as helping poorer countries catch up, compelling them to survive by becoming more democratic to overcome their vested interests and oligarchies along the lines pioneered by European and North American industrial economies. Instead, the world is polarizing, not converging. The trans-Atlantic financial bubble has left a legacy of austerity since 2008. Debt-ridden economies are being told to cope with their downturns by privatizing their public domain.

The immediate question facing Germany and the rest of Western Europe is how long they will sacrifice their trade and investment opportunities with Russia, Iran and other economies by adhering to U.S.-sponsored sanctions. American intransigence threatens to force an either/or choice in what looms as a seismic geopolitical shift over the proper role of governments: Should their public sectors provide basic services and protect populations from predatory monopolies, rent extraction and financial polarization?

Today’s global financial crisis can be traced back to World War I and its aftermath. The principle that needed to be voiced was the right of sovereign nations not to be forced to sacrifice their economic survival on the altar of inter-government and private debt demands. The concept of nationhood embodied in the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia based international law on the principle of parity of sovereign states and non-interference. Without a global alternative to letting debt dynamics polarize societies and tear economies apart, monetary imperialism by creditor nations is inevitable.

The past century’s global fracture between creditor and debtor economies has interrupted what seemed to be Europe’s democratic destiny to empower governments to override financial and other rentier interests. Instead, the West is following U.S. diplomatic leadership back into the age when these interests ruled governments. This conflict between creditors and democracy, between oligarchy and economic growth (and indeed, survival) will remain the defining issue of our epoch over the next generation, and probably for the remainder of the 21st century.

- Source, Counter Punch

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Central Banks Forcing Pension Funds into a Dangerous Situation


Real Vision’s brand new ‘Jim Grant Series’ kicks off with a rare opportunity to meet Alan Fournier, the founder of multi-billion-dollar hedge fund Pennant Capital. In this clip, Alan reveals the blind spots institutional investors have with volatility.

- Source, Real Vision

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Ron Paul: Is Bitcoin Money?


Money arose via market transactions, and precious metals have served as money for thousands of years. Then government, for its own reasons, monopolized the creation of money. It has been a disaster ever since. Competing currencies, without government intrusion, will clean up this mess. Is Bitcoin a step in the right direction?

- Source, Dr Ron Paul

Saturday, 2 December 2017

The Central Banks Just Signalled The Collapse Is Right Around The Corner


American's spent all their money on healthcare, hard to believe, remember healthcare spending is included in the GDP numbers. Pending home sales jump. As Yellen is about to leave office she just used the "c" word, the next financial crisis is right around the corner. Russia is worried that the US might try to seize their gold.

- Source, X22 Report

Friday, 1 December 2017

Economic Collapse is a Real Risk, This is 2008 All Over Again


Surrounding the Lehmans Brothers collapse of 2008, the managers of our financial world were, in their own words, "standing on the precipice and staring into the abyss," and narrowly evaded a total economic collapse. After almost a decade of unprecedented stop-gaps: zero and negative interest rates, exchange stabilization, and plunge protection, how does today's risk stack up? 

Are your retirement accounts any safer now than during the largest bank bailout of all time, or is your nest-egg truly in much greater peril? Kerry Lutz, Founder and host of The Financial Survival Network, returns to Reluctant Preppers to offer his perspectives on the direction and major upcoming triggers we need to prepare for in the financial world that WILL impact our economic lives!


Thursday, 30 November 2017

Are Russia and China Better Off Financially than the United States?


Dr. Laurence Kotlikoff believes that the total U.S. national dept and obligations of $200 trillion puts the country in worse financial condition then Russia or China.

- Source, Jay Taylor Media

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Get a Grip on Reality: Something Nasty is Coming


Are you bombarded by daily reports of the stock market hitting record highs, and the Fed promising to stop propping up stocks, real estate, and bonds? Ever wonder if now is finally the time to throw caution to the wind, get off the sidelines, and jump onto the profit wave to reap some those tempting and seemingly unstoppable gains you may have been missing out on? 

Or maybe you sense it’s almost the end of the party, and are concerned that the skyrocketing debt and teetering banks mean it’s really time to not be the last one to the exits!


Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Russia Warns Of Possible Apocalyptic Scenario With North Korea


Russian deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov said on Monday that "an apocalyptic scenario of developments" on the Korean Peninsula is possible, but Russia hopes that a common sense would prevail among the involved parties.

"A scenario of the apocalyptic development of the situation on the Korean Peninsula exists and we cannot turn our blind eye to it," Morgulov said speaking at the opening of the eighth annual Asian Conference of the Valdai discussion club in Seoul. "I hope that a common sense, pragmatism and an instinct of self-preservation would prevail among our partners to exclude such negative scenario," the Russian diplomat said, quoted by Russia's Tass.

Fire and brimstone aside, Morgulov noted that a phase of calm appeared to be returning as North Korea’s current pause in provocations - the longest since last winter - indicates a step toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. “I think North Korea’s restraint for the past two months is within the simultaneous freeze road map” suggested by China and Russia, Morgulov told reporters in Seoul on Monday according to Bloomberg. North Korea’s last provocation was on Sept. 15, when it fired its second missile over Japan in as many months. The 73-day pause is the longest since a 116-day break between October 2016 and February.

Russian and Chinese foreign ministers proposed in July a “double freezing” initiative, under which North Korea refrains from missile and nuclear tests, and the U.S. and South Korea halt large-scale military exercises, however the U.S. has rejected this proposal, arguing that its drills are defensive in nature. Earlier this month, it carried out its first exercise in a decade using three aircraft carriers in the region, and plans to conduct drills with South Korea’s air force in early December.

Morgulov, Russia’s deputy minister responsible for relations with East and South Asia, said that following a “freeze for freeze” the next step would be to hold exchanges with Pyongyang. Once North Korea agrees to a moratorium on testing and talks are taking place, the process can move to discussion of denuclearization, he said. “We will have to see a certain change of attitude of the U.S., especially on freezing or reducing” its military drills, Morgulov said. “It’ll be difficult for us to play the role of persuading North Korea” not to provoke anymore without a change in the U.S. position.

Despite the impasse, and underscoring Russia's argument, the diplomat said that "we have told North Korea many times that for us [its] nuclear status is unacceptable," adding that "we continue this work with the North Korean counterparts presenting to them our position."

Moscow negatively assess joint military drills of the United States with its allies in the region of the Korean Peninsula, while North Korea keeps a two-month pause in missile and nuclear tests, he went on.

"Considering the two-month long period of silence, the United States is not planning to reduce the scale of its regular military exercises, but also plan holding sudden drills as well," Morgulov said. "Unfortunately, this is the answer, which North Korea gets in response to its two-month silence," the Russian diplomat said adding that Moscow "assesses it negatively." "I believe that both the North Korean nuclear tests and joint military drills of the United States with its allies are definitely of a negative nature," Morgulov said.

"Russia has presented the roadmap’s contents both to the U.S. and to the DPRK," the diplomat said. "I would like to say that "at the very entrance" the plan has not been rejected either by Washington or by Pyongyang, though still no answer."

"Besides, we have spoken for discussing certain elements of this plan separately with the U.S. and with North Korea," he continued. "We have begun the work, but I have to say regretfully that the actions, which Washington undertook in October-November, I mean the unplanned drills, affect greatly our dialogue on settlement on the basis of the roadmap."

"Is it possible for someone to cherish illusions that threats from US President Donald Trump to strike with ‘fire and fury’ will be able to cut the knot, which has been tight on the Korean Peninsula for many decades?" Morgulov said. "I believe it would be naive to hope that any of the sides would give in to the pressure," the Russian diplomat said.

"We must understand that the pressure borders with the deliberate push of North Korea to the humanitarian catastrophe," Morgulov said. "This will not result in the North Korean authorities giving up missile and nuclear programs, but on the contrary, will only strengthen its intentions to stay until the very end."

"I believe that the path of pressure has no perspectives and there is no other alternative to the dialogue," the Russian diplomat said.

"The resumption of inter-Korean dialogue could have a positive effect (on the conflict settlement)," Morgulov said. "These two countries have issues to discuss and I know that our South Korean partners are ready for such dialogue and repeatedly expressed interest in its initiation," the Russian diplomat said.

"If Pyeongyang’s demonstrated restraint over the past two months was met with similar reciprocal steps on behalf of the United States and its allies then we could have moved to the start of direct talks between the United States and North Korea," Morgulov said.

"Will it be possible? I am absolutely sure that it is possible," the Russian diplomat said. "The key agenda of such talks can be very simple, which is the principles of peaceful coexistence. I believe that the lack of such concord gives roots to hostility and mutual mistrust among the involved parties."

"The United States and its allies should at least reduce the scale of their regular military exercises they are holding in the region of the Korean Peninsula," Morgulov said.

- Source, Zero Hedge

Monday, 27 November 2017

Bankers Will Send Gold and Silver Prices to the Moon


Gold and silver expert Rob Kirby says the price suppression of gold and silver is in the process of ending. Kirby says, “In the very near future... we are going to experience precious metals to be cryptoized and put on the blockchain. These are going to be superior alternatives to GLD and SLV, and this will bring transparency to the price discovery process for both gold and silver. 

What this means is GLD, SLV and COMEX are going to be made irrelevant by the cryptoizing of physical metal.” Kirby predicts, at some point, the price of physical gold and silver will skyrocket, and the same bankers who suppressed the price will turn around and send it to the moon. Kirby contends, “When the banks feel this is a foregone conclusion, that the price of gold and silver are going up, they are going to try to front run it. Banks try to front run everything.”

- Source, USA Watchdog

Friday, 24 November 2017

We're Living in the Age of Out of Control Capital Consumption


When capital is mentioned in the present-day political debate, the term is usually subject to a rather one-dimensional interpretation: Whether capital saved by citizens, the question of capital reserves held by pension funds, the start-up capital of young entrepreneurs or capital gains taxes on investments are discussed – in all these cases capital is equivalent to “money.” Yet capital is distinct from money, it is a largely irreversible, definite structure, composed of heterogeneous elements which can be (loosely) described as goods, knowledge, context, human beings, talents and experience. Money is “only” the simplifying aid that enables us to record the incredibly complex heterogeneous capital structure in a uniform manner. It serves as a basis for assessing the value of these diverse forms of capital.

Modern economics textbooks usually refer to capital with the letter “C”. This conceptual approach blurs the important fact that capital is not merely a single magnitude, an economic variable representing a magically self-replicating homogenous blob but a heterogeneous structure. Among the various economic schools of thought it is first and foremost the Austrian School of Economics, which stresses the heterogeneity of capital. Furthermore, Austrians have correctly recognized, that capital does not automatically grow or perpetuate itself. Capital must be actively created and maintained, through production, saving, and sensible investment.

Moreover, Austrians emphasize that one has to differentiate between two types of goods in the production process: consumer goods and capital goods. Consumer goods are used in immediate consumption – such as food. Consumer goods are a means to achieve an end directly. Thus, food helps to directly achieve the end of satisfying the basic need for nutrition. Capital goods differ from consumer goods in that they are way-stations toward the production of consumer goods which can be used to achieve ultimate ends. Capital goods therefore are means to achieve ends indirectly. A commercial oven (used for commercial purposes) is a capital good, which enables the baker to produce bread for consumers.

Through capital formation, one creates the potential means to boost productivity. The logical precondition for this is that the production of consumer goods must be temporarily decreased or even stopped, as scarce resources are redeployed toward the production of capital goods. If current production processes generate only fewer or no consumer goods, it follows that consumption will have to be reduced by the quantity of consumer goods no longer produced. Every deepening of the production structure therefore involves taking detours.

Capital formation is therefore always an attempt to generate larger returns in the long term by adopting more roundabout methods of production. Such higher returns are by no means guaranteed though, as the roundabout methods chosen may turn out to be misguided. In the best case only those roundabout methods will ultimately be continued, which do result in greater productivity. It is therefore fair to assume that a more capital-intensive production structure will generate more output than a less capital-intensive one. The more prosperous an economic region, the more capital-intensive its production structure is. The fact that the generations currently living in our society are able to enjoy such a high standard of living is the result of decades or even centuries of both cultural and economic capital accumulation by our forebears.

Once a stock of capital has been accumulated, it is not destined to be eternal. Capital is thoroughly transitory, it wears out, it is used up in the production process, or becomes entirely obsolete. Existing capital requires regularly recurring reinvestment, which can usually be funded directly out of the return capital generates. If reinvestment is neglected because the entire output or more is consumed, the result is capital consumption.

It is not only the dwindling understanding of the nature of capital that leads us to consume it without being aware of it. It is also the framework of the real economy which unwittingly drives us to do so. In 1971 money was finally cut loose entirely from the gold anchor and we entered the “paper money era.” In retrospect, it has to be stated that cutting the last tie to gold was a fatal mistake. Among other things, it has triggered unprecedented instability in interest rates. While interest rates displayed relatively little volatility as long as money was still tied to gold, they surged dramatically after 1971, reaching a peak of approximately 16 percent in 1981 (10-year treasury yield), before beginning a nosedive that continues until today. This massive decline in interest rates over the past 35 years has gradually eroded the capital stock.

An immediately obvious effect is the decline in so-called “yield purchasing power”. The concept describes what the income from savings, or more precisely the interest return on savings, will purchase in terms of goods. The opportunity to generate interest income from savings has of course decreased quite drastically. Once zero or even negative interest rate territory is reached, the return on saved capital is obviously no longer large enough to enable one to live from it, let alone finance a reasonable standard of living. Consequently, saved capital has to be consumed in order to secure one's survival. Capital consumption is glaringly obvious in this case.

It is beyond question that massive capital consumption is taking place nowadays, yet not all people are affected by it to the same extent. On the one hand, the policy of artificially reducing the interest as orchestrated by the central banks does negatively influence the entrepreneurs’ tasks. Investments, especially capital-intensive investments seem to be more profitable as compared to a realistic, i. e. non-interventionist level, profits are thus higher and reserves lower. These and other inflation-induced errors promote capital consumption.

On the other hand, counteracting capital consumption are technological progress and the rapid expansion of our areas of economic activity into Eastern Europe and Asia in recent decades, due to the collapse of communism and the fact that many countries belatedly caught up with the monetary and industrial revolution in its wake. Without this catching-up process it would have been necessary to restrict consumption in Western countries a long time ago already.

At the same time, the all-encompassing redistributive welfare state, which either directly through taxes or indirectly through the monetary system continually shifts and reallocates large amounts of capital, manages to paper over the effects of capital consumption to some extent. It remains to be seen how much longer this can continue. Once the stock of capital is depleted, the awakening will be rude. We are certain, that gold is an essential part of any portfolio in this stage of the economic cycle.

- Source, Mises Institute