Monday, August 5, 2013

Perspective and Time-Frames

When I have read other claims of coming doom in the past I have always rejected them. They seemed to me to regard the economy much like a mechanical clock, with certain elements of the economy as having overwhelming power. Those claims that our economy was going to collapse within a certain time-frame never came true. Some of these claims were made by rank amateurs, but some weren’t. A certain historian has recently argued again for a coming collapse, and I have the same regard for him. The great economist Henry Hazlitt wrote in 1983 (The Inflation Crisis, and How to Resolve it) that the U.S. economy would drive itself into hyperinflation, but again, didn’t happen.

It is obviously possible to foresee limited crises in the near future as Ludwig von Mises did in the 1920s and famously Peter Schiff did preceding the recent financial crisis. But here I am talking about even a larger failure than the mortgage-backed securities mess.

So, why am I willing to now put myself out on this limb after I have shown such good sense before? Two reasons: The first is our current situation.

Remember the tech-stock bust of 2002? Do you realize that the next bust was about five years later, beginning in 2007? Remember that 2004 through 2006 were decent years. If the bottom was in 2008, then we are now five years in and there is not actually a recovery. We have rehired very few of the people who lost their job in the crash, and most of them are not in jobs with the same level of productivity. Businesses are profitable still because of cost cutting, and are doing little new investment. We are stagnating.

We aren’t stagnating because of government spending but because of the continued, increasing attack on business and banking through rapidly expanding regulation. After about a century of increasing and improving regulation which limited our growth but didn’t seem to have a visible result, the government is finally beginning to make an obvious mark on our economy.

Reason two: the numbers regarding our future problems are too large. They are large enough to be killing. And, as I explained in my last post, large enough that our economy cannot possibly meet the requirement, with or without the entitlements, with or without a reduction in spending.

One additional reason, which I do not see mentioned anywhere, is that our economy is very dependent upon its technology. No country of our size or complexity has ever faced major problems. The most advanced economy that has faced extreme issues is Greece, and it was not particularly industrialized, and is not at all dependent upon technology. Today, it has massive unemployment and is now considered a “developing” country. It is a good thing that it has a relative small population. Greece still lives much closer to the land than most countries in Europe.

We don’t.

From today’s vantage point, I consider it possible that in a couple years all of Dodd-Frank and the other new regulations will finally be in place and business will find a way to survive. We could see a period of small, but moderately stable growth. There will be lots of possible threats to our economy, mostly from outside. Some examples include: Another terrorist attack. The Chinese personality split, i.e., communist/capitalist, could come apart. (That connection is so explicitly M1 in so many ways.) Japan’s attempt to “ease” their way out of stagnation, after a couple decades of various kinds of “easing” failed, could surely lead to a worse case. The economy in Europe will fracture again. Islam could completely take over much of the oil supply. The list is nearly endless.

But even if we are able to accommodate the regulations, at some point things will come apart from our increasing debt load and the growing demands of the entitlement programs and/or our aging population.

We could go through a couple more financial crisis as we saw in the last decade. I predict that each one will be more severe, and depending upon how vindictive the politicians are, move difficult from which to recover. And each time capitalism, businesses, and bankers will be blamed. That scenario would be more like a death spiral.

All of that that means that we have even more reason to work now to reverse the entire process. As Yaron Brook has said, not being involved, not being active is no longer a rational option. Don’t act now and you will necessarily live to see the big mess. Certainly your children will.

Will that collapse correspond with the rise of an M2 religious dictatorship I don’t know. We will certainly be ripe for it.

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