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Monday, February 25, 2013

How Government “Works”

By Bill Bonner

There are many theories to explain government. Most are nothing but scams, justifications, and puffery. One tries to put something over on the common man…the other claims it was for his own good…and the third pretends that he’d be lost without it. Most are not really ‘theories’ at all…but prescriptions, blueprints for creating the kind of government the ‘theorist’ would like to have. Not surprisingly, the blueprints flatter his intellect and engage his imagination.

The “social contract,” for example, is a fraud. You can’t have a contract unless you have two willing and able parties. They must come together in a meeting of the minds — a real agreement about what they are going to do together.

Gold & the Developed World in the Face of Massive Change in the Next Two Decades

by Julian D. W. Phillips

In the last five years, we have seen the start of the decline of the developed world and the real impact of the economic rise of China on that world. What lies ahead? James Wolfensohn, the ex-president of the World Bank gave a short lecture in which he forecasts what the world’s cash flows would be like in 2030:

·For the last century and far more, 80% of the cash flow of the world flowed to what we know as the developed world where 20% of the people lived. Twenty percent of the cash flow went to the underdeveloped world where 80% of the world’s population lived.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Market and the Distribution of Wealth


Everywhere today in the free world we find the opponents of the market economy at a loss for plausible arguments. Of late the "case for central planning" has shed much of its erstwhile luster. We have had too much experience of it. The facts of the last 40 years are too eloquent.
Who can now doubt that, as Professor Mises pointed out 30 years ago, every intervention by a political authority entails a further intervention to prevent the inevitable economic repercussions of the first step from taking place? Who will deny that a command economy requires an atmosphere of inflation to operate at all, and who today does not know the baneful effects of "controlled inflation?" Even though some economists have now invented the eulogistic term "secular inflation" in order to describe the permanent inflation we all know so well, it is unlikely that anyone is deceived. It did not really require the recent German example to demonstrate to us that a market economy will create order out of "administratively controlled" chaos even in the most unfavorable circumstances.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Outlook for 2013

By Alasdair Macleod

I have not faced the prospect of a new year with so much trepidation as when I contemplate what is in store for 2013. Systemic risks abound, which of themselves are not the main story, only milestones on the road to final currency destruction, unless governments somehow regain their senses.
To help understand the perils of 2013 I shall give them their background context first before listing them individually. No such list can be exhaustive or temporally sequenced, but all on it have the same root: the long-term accumulation of a burden of unsupportable debt.
This is a story that started with the end of the First World War, and involves a world which replaced laissez-faire with political motivation in economic and monetary affairs, moving away from wealth-creation into wealth-destruction in the cause of the common good.

The continued wealth divide

By David Howden

Luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce’s 2012 financial results must have brought new worries to those concerned with the growing wealth divide.

Rolls-Royce reported a third consecutive annual sales record, the best results in its 108-year history. Priced at £170,000 for its cheapest model, it is safe to say that these sales were reserved for a small subsection of the wealthiest, perhaps the 0.01 percent. While the ongoing recession has left the masses paying off their debts and enjoying less consumption than before, the so-called one percent continue reaching for new heights and excesses.

What explains this growing divide, especially concentrated in the hands of a very few?

The final countdown

By Alasdair Macleod

Governments have refused to accept the necessity of a period of economic re-adjustment following the credit-bubble. The bubble burst about five years ago and economic progress has been effectively suspended ever since. The consequences of this refusal to accept reality are at a minimum to make this adjustment unnecessarily drawn out and needlessly painful, without offering a better eventual outcome.
Reduced to its bare bones, the choice has been either to accept that unviable businesses and over-extended banks must go bust, or to ignore the problem and hope it goes away. We are familiar with this dilemma as investors: a business that refuses to adapt to new realities will eventually fail. Before it does, its investors have the chance either to sell their shares and perhaps reinvest their money more profitably, or to refuse to accept an early loss on their investment. Most of us, being human, take the latter course and usually regret it.

Research Shows ALL Fiat Paper Money Systems Eventually Fail

By GoldSilverWorlds

We often read or hear quotes like “paper money eventually fail” and “paper money always returns to its intrinsic value which is zero.” In this article, we provide evidence why these statements are true, backed by research in which 599 different forms of paper money have been analyzed. We explain in an easy to understand way what money fundamentally is, how monetary policies of governments are affecting everyone of us and how gold is first and foremost an alternative form of money (for each and every one of us, not only for an elite). Courtesy of Vince Cate for the incredibly valuable research and David Morgan who referred us to the research materials.

Gold analysts argue that gold is the only form of real money, as it is the only tangible form of money that has survived 5,000 years of monetary history. Against that background, a critical event has taken place on August 15th 1971: former US President Nixon “closed the gold window.” He announced the decision to give up the Bretton Woods agreement (click to see the original version of his speech). What seems to most people a political decision is in reality affecting everyone of us in a way only a minority of people can understand. In fact, it’s touching our lives today more than ever.

The paradox of choice

By Alasdair Macleod

Here is a puzzle for Keynesian and other neo-classical economists.
When a consumer buys something, he must choose; and if he increases his purchase of one product, he must reduce his purchases of other products by the same amount. In other words he cannot buy both. This must be true for whole communities as well. How then can you have economic growth?
It is of course impossible without monetary inflation. This is because any statistical average, in this context GDP, can only grow if people are not forced to choose between alternatives, a condition that can only occur if they are given extra money. Not even a draw-down on savings to spend on consumption creates extra spending, because it is merely reallocates spending on capital goods to consumption goods. This simple point has been ignored by all neo-classical economists. The result is that in their pursuit of so-called economic growth, they have committed themselves to monetary inflation. Their concept of growth is to make that extra money available to consumers, so that they are not limited to what they earn and forced to choose. It has also become the basis for economic modelling, which takes known demand for products and services and from it extrapolates growth for an average of all of them.

Australia: Running Out of Luck (Unless you own gold?)


In 1964 the Australian Donald Horne, social critic, wrote a book titled ‘The Lucky Country’ a statement of irony about his beloved home – Australia. He felt that where other countries had earned their prosperity through ingenuity and productivity advancements, Australia’s was largely derived from its abundance of rich natural resources and was run by a second-rate people who were lucky to have a society derived from the British. However, with time Australians have taken on the more optimistic interpretation that their luck has been earned.

The RBA Governor, Glenn Stevens, recently addressed an audience of business leaders with this same title to Horne’s book – The Lucky Country. In his speech he tackles head on the concerns of a minority of observers who harbour concerns about the foundations of recent economic performance and question the basis for confidence about Australia’s future.

The Central Bank Revolution I (Well ‘Nominally’ So)


“The Checklist Manifesto – How to get things right”, is a masterful book for its narrative and practical application. Written by Atul Gawande, an acclaimed surgeon based in the US, he takes us on a journey of how the simple checklist helps individuals deal with immensely complex situations, where risks can be calculated and often lives protected – skyscraper construction, medicine and investment banking.

First introduced into the US Air Force to assist pilots, the humble checklist in all its simplicity has helped generations of pilots navigate the complexity of flying modern aeroplanes. Gawande himself has introduced the concept into operating theatres and hospitals around the world with astounding success.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Euro-Land Banks In Trouble

by Tyler Durden

A Record Amount of Bad Loans

A recent study by Ernst & Young has revealed that euro-land banks in the aggregate now hold € 918 billion ($1.23 trn.) in non-performing loans (7.6% of all loans outstanding). E&Y sees about 15.5% of all loans in Spain and 10.2% of all loans in Italy as likely to be in NPL status (this exceeds the most recent official numbers somewhat).
In light of such staggering numbers, the idea to use the ESM for direct bank recapitalization seems somewhat ambitious. This is especially so as the idea to employ the ESM to take over the costs of already bailed out banks is being pushed by a number of euro area members. No doubt Ireland and Spain would be happy to see that (in fact, Spain is already the 'exception' as the ESM is potentially on the hook for € 100 billion for its banks – but this is structured as a loan to Spain's government, not a direct bank bailout).
The problem is that if the ESM wants to retain its AAA rating, it will have to back any financing it obtains from the markets with far higher guarantees if it rescues banks rather than governments. Given that what has been pumped into ailing euro-zone banks to date already amounts to €300 billion,  its official capacity could be quickly exceeded if these existing bailout commitments were taken over by it.

bank rescue
Taxpayer-funded bank rescues in the euro area so far – the total already amounts to €300 billion, and that is not counting what might be used to bail out Cypriot banks and what may still be required in Italy and Spain (chart via Die Welt).

Friday, February 15, 2013

Russia Flips Petrodollar On Its Head By Exporting Crude, Buying Record Gold

China has been a very active purchaser of gold for its reserves in the last few years, as we extensively covered here and here, but another nation has taken over the 'biggest buyer' role (for the same reasons as China).

Central banks around the world have printed money to escape the global financial crisis, and as Bloomberg reports, IMF data shows Russia added 570 metric tons in the past decade. Putin's fears that "the U.S. is endangering the global economy by abusing its dollar monopoly," are clearly being taken seriously as the world's largest oil producer turns black gold into hard assets. A lawmaker in Putin's party noted, "the more gold a country has, the more sovereignty it will have if there’s a cataclysm with the dollar, the euro, the pound or any other reserve currency."
Putin’s gold strategy fits in with his resource nationalism, statist agenda, as Bloomberg notes when Russia defaulted in 1998 it took 28 barrels of oil to buy one ounce of gold, was 11.5 barrels when Putin came to power and when in 2005 it had fallen to 6.5 barrels (less than half what it is now), he went all in, telling the central bank to buy.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Jim Rickards: Currency Wars Simulation

The Coxeyites, the Bankers, and the Political Class

In 1894, a scraggly band of misfits made their way from Ohio to Washington, D.C. They had a plan to present to the political class, one that they said would bring an end to the economic depression that had been sparked by the Panic of 1893 and guarantee a future of endless prosperity for all. Their plan was for the politicians and the government to print unlimited amounts of money.
Surely, that would solve everything! After all, most of these people knew exactly what was wrong with their lives. Their once booming farmland had collapsed in price. Their land was now underwater, just like millions of houses since 2008. They would be stupid to pay what they owed, and they didn’t have the money to do so anyway.

Europe: The Last Great Potemkin Village Where "The Rich Get Richer, And Poor Get Poorer"

From Charles Gave of GKResearch
On the surface, it would seem that the euro crisis has calmed. Markets have rallied since the summer and, to borrow a phrase from Herbert Hoover, “prosperity is just around the corner.” But outward appearances in Europe are like a Potemkin village. Behind the well-scrubbed facades, Southern Europe is in a death spiral. Anyone convinced that the European monetary union has come through the crisis stronger is a victim of the slickest PR campaign in history.
Let’s be very clear here: this is what the euro has wrought. This destruction of the non-German industrial bases has taken place with the active complicity of the European technocrats. They did not even realize that France, the EMU’s second largest economy, for example was becoming hopelessly uncompetitive.

Let's go one step further. According to the official GDP statistics the French economy since the beginning of the euro experiment has done as well as the German economy:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Is gold in a bubble?

To answer this question is not straightforward. As the gold-sceptics keep reminding us, gold pays no coupon and no dividend, it does not offer a running yield, so traditional measures of ‘fair value’ do not apply. But gold is money, and just as the paper ticket in your wallet does not pay interest, neither does gold. Gold is a monetary asset that has functioned as a medium of exchange and a store of value for thousands of years, around the world and in almost all societies and cultures. Many modern economists believe that gold has now been successfully replaced with state paper money, such as paper dollars, paper euros, paper yen, and so forth. Holding gold is therefore redundant. The present crisis is a stark reminder that this faith in fiat money is misplaced.
Gold is still a superior monetary asset. It is not under the control of any political institution. It cannot be printed to artificially lower interest rates and to ‘stimulate’ the economy, to create fake booms in financial assets and in real estate, to fund credit growth with printed money rather than true savings, to subsidize the banking sector and then bail it out when the banks overreached, to allow the government to run never-ending budget deficits, to make unfunded promises to voters and fund wars. Gold is hard, inelastic, apolitical and truly international money. It does not bow to anybody. Paper money is a political tool.

What gives money value, and is fractional-reserve banking fraud?

By Detlev Schlichter

I thought I should address a couple of points that I consider to be misconceptions and that frequently come up in discussions with the audience or other speakers when I present my views on the fundamental problems with fiat money. I am not always in a position to correct these misconceptions right then. They are often woven into questions on other points and I have to leave them uncommented so as not to disrupt the flow of the debate. My book is, I believe, quite clear on these points, so I could simply refer people to Paper Money Collapse. But, for whatever reason, it is still the case that many in my audience make inferences from similar arguments to my own, and I fear that some of the differences between these positions might get overlooked. These differences are not unimportant, and I think it is worthwhile to highlight and clarify them.
The first point is related to the question what gives money its value? The second point is the question of whether fractional-reserve banking is fraudulent, and should be banned on the basis of property rights.
Let’s first restate the central premise of Paper Money Collapse. The main message is that today’s mainstream views on money are flawed. The most important difference between commodity money, such as a proper gold standard, and ‘paper money’,

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lessons From The 1930s Currency Wars

With Abe picking his new dovish playmate, and Draghi doing his best to jawbone the EUR down without actually saying anything, it is becoming very clear that no matter what level of bullshit histrionics is used by the politicians and bankers in public, the currency wars have begun to gather pace. Japan's more open aggressive policy intervention is the game-changer (and increasingly fascinating how they will talk around it at the upcoming G-20), as if a weaker JPY is an important pillar of the strategy to make this export-oriented economy more competitive again, it brings into the picture something that was missing from earlier interactions among central banks of the advanced economies – competitive depreciation. The last time the world saw a fully fledged currency war was in the early 1930s. Morgan Stanley's Joachim Fels looks at what it was like and what lessons can be drawn for the sequence of events - there are definite winners and losers and a clear first-mover advantage.

Via Morgan Stanley, Back to the 1930s? What Would a Currency War Look Like?
What did the currency war of the 1930s look like?
The backdrop for the currency war of the 1930s was the Gold Standard and the Great Depression (many economists blame the former for the latter). By fixing the value of the currency to the price of gold, the Gold Standard prevented a country from printing too much money. If it did, people would simply exchange it for gold (or for other currencies pegged to gold).

Friday, February 8, 2013

Jim Rogers 'Don't Sell your Gold and Silver Coins'

James Rickards: Global Monetary System Headed for Collapse

The world currency system is riding down the road to catastrophe, says James Rickards, senior managing director of Tangent Capital Partners.

The world already has entered a currency war that began in 2010 on the heels of the Federal Reserve’s massive easing program, he tells Wall Street Journal Digital Network. Since then, plenty of nations have joined in, including Brazil, Switzerland and Japan, says Rickards, author of “Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crises.”

“All major central banks are easing,” he says. “Eventually so much money will be printed that this will lead to inflation. The endgame is collapse of the international monetary system — sometime sooner than later.”

Labor Minister Says France Is "Totally Bankrupt"

Things in France must not be very serious, because the French labor minister accidentally let the truth come out a little earlier today. As the Telegraph reports, France's labour minister sent the country into a state of shock on Monday after he described the nation as “totally bankrupt."

Remember: France is one of the supposedly stable countries in Europe.

"Michel Sapin made the gaffe in a radio interview, which left French President Francois Hollande battling to undo the potential reputational damage. "There is a state but it is a totally bankrupt state,” Mr Sapin said. “That is why we had to put a deficit reduction plan in place, and nothing should make us turn away from that objective." It appears that once one wipes out the propaganda and the smooth politico talk, things are bad and getting worse at Europe's core. "Data from Banque de France showed earlier this month that a flight of capital has already left the country amid concerns that France’s Socialist leader intends to soak the rich and businesses. The actor Gérard Depardieu has renounced his French citizenship and decamped to Russia in protest, while David Cameron said Britain will “roll out the red carpet” to attract wealthy individuals. Pierre Moscovici, the finance minister, said the comments by Mr Sapin were “inappropriate”." 

Morgan Stanley On Europe: "We're Getting Worried"

by Tyler Durden

We have noted the similarities between the current risk rally and previous years but Morgan Stanley's Laurence Mutkin is "getting worried" that investors expect the second half of this year to be different (and consistently bullish). Much of the current risk-on rally around the world was sparked by Draghi's "whatever it takes" moment theoretically reducing the downside tail-risk in Europe. Well, systemic risk in Europe is now at recent lows...

and just as in 1H12 and 1H 11, core yields are rising notably, peripheral spreads compressing, money-market curves are steepening, and 2s5s10s cheapening.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Oslo Housing Bubble Syndrome

by Mark Thornton

The Stockholm syndrome is a psychological phenomenon whereby hostages develop irrational sympathy toward their captors even to the point of defending their captors in subsequent investigations and criminal trials. While this applies to individuals or small groups, the Oslo syndrome applies to whole national populations.

In The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People under Siege (Smith and Kraus Global, 2005),Kenneth Levin describes a “psychological response common among chronically besieged populations, whether minorities subjected to defamation, discrimination and assault or small nations under persistent attack by their neighbors. People living under such stressful conditions often choose to accept at face value the indictments of their accusers in the hope of thereby escaping their predicament.”

The Loss of Trust in Political Leaders

by Gary North

When Ron Paul left the House of Representatives, this created a vacuum. Libertarians only had two representatives over the last 60 years: Howard Buffett and Ron Paul. That is not a lot of representatives. These days, the conservative movement seems as bereft of leaders in Congress as the libertarians are. We hear soundbites from Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul is also quoted from time to time, but there is no one who has the conservatives' ear in the way that Jesse Helms did a generation ago.