January 2017


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If you were waiting for a pullback to buy, here it is. Of course now the question is: will it keep pulling-back and get cheaper etc.

That is always the problem buying markets that have already made a run.

Personally, I wouldn’t buy here. Not that I know whether it goes higher/lower, simply that the potential volatility is too much to buy here.

For what it’s worth, I think the market goes higher again. Best guess.

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The Dow Jones Index has broken 20,000. Pretty impressive. Historic. Will it hold? Typically there is a bit of a pull-back and then the market moves forward.

 

 

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Towering debts, rapidly rising taxes, constant and expensive wars, a debt burden surpassing 200% of GDP. What are the chances that a country with such characteristics would grow rapidly? Almost anyone would probably say ‘none’.

And yet, these are exactly the conditions under which the Industrial Revolution took place in Britain. Britain’s government debt went from 5% of GDP in 1700 to over 200% in 1820, it fought a war in one year out of three … and taxes increased rapidly but not enough to keep pace with the rise in spending …

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Until now, scholars mostly thought of the effect of government borrowing on growth as either neutral or negative…

In a recent paper, we argue that Britain’s borrowing binge was actually good for growth (Ventura and Voth 2015). To understand why massive debt accumulation may have accelerated the Industrial Revolution, we first consider what should have happened in an economy where entrepreneurs suddenly start to exploit a new technology with high returns. Typically, we would expect capital to chase these investment opportunities – anyone with money should have tried to put their savings into new cotton factories, iron foundries and ceramics manufacturers. Where they didn’t have the expertise to invest directly, banks and stock companies should have recycled funds to direct savings to where returns where highest.

This is not what happened. Financial intermediation was woefully inadequate – it failed to send the money where it should have gone …

By issuing bonds on a massive scale, the government effectively pioneered a way – unintentionally – to put money in the pockets of entrepreneurs in the new sectors …

The shift from investing in liming, marling, draining, and enclosure into government debt liberated resources – labour that could no longer be profitably employed in the countryside had to look for employment elsewhere. Because so much of English agricultural labour was provided by wage labourers, the switch to government debt pushed workers off the land. Unsurprisingly, wages failed to keep pace with output; real wages, adjusted for urban disamenities, probably fell over the period 1750-1830. What made life miserable for the workers, as eloquently described by Engels amongst others, was a boon to the capitalists. Their profit rates continued to rise as capital received an ever-larger share of the pie – while the share of national income going to labour and land contracted. Higher profits spelled more investment in new industries, and Britain’s industrial growth accelerated.

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A Le Pen victory in May, pretty much signals the end of Europe as a European Union.

Is a Le Pen victory possible? I would say definitely yes. The ‘nationalistic’ winds are blowing strongly at the moment, Brexit and Trump being the 2 standout examples.

I’ll probably start to pay a little more attention to this now that Trump has taken power in the US. I also have some definite ideas about where I would want to invest for this coming political cycle.

 

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Well before Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, I sent a holiday greeting to my friends that read: “These times are not business as usual. Wishing you the best in a troubled world.” Now I feel the need to share this message with the rest of the world. But before I do, I must tell you who I am and what I stand for.

I am an 86-year-old Hungarian Jew who became a US citizen after the end of World War II. I learned at an early age how important it is what kind of political regime prevails. The formative experience of my life was the occupation of Hungary by Hitler’s Germany in 1944. I probably would have perished had my father not understood the gravity of the situation. He arranged false identities for his family and for many other Jews; with his help, most survived.

In 1947, I escaped from Hungary, by then under Communist rule, to England. As a student at the London School of Economics, I came under the influence of the philosopher Karl Popper, and I developed my own philosophy, built on the twin pillars of fallibility and reflexivity. I distinguished between two kinds of political regimes: those in which people elected their leaders, who were then supposed to look after the interests of the electorate, and others where the rulers sought to manipulate their subjects to serve the rulers’ interests. Under Popper’s influence, I called the first kind of society open, the second, closed.

The classification is too simplistic. There are many degrees and variations throughout history, from well-functioning models to failed states, and many different levels of government in any particular situation. Even so, I find the distinction between the two regime types useful. I became an active promoter of the former and opponent of the latter.

I find the current moment in history very painful. Open societies are in crisis, and various forms of closed societies — from fascist dictatorships to mafia states — are on the rise. How could this happen? The only explanation I can find is that elected leaders failed to meet voters’ legitimate expectations and aspirations and that this failure led electorates to become disenchanted with the prevailing versions of democracy and capitalism. Quite simply, many people felt that the elites had stolen their democracy.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US emerged as the sole remaining superpower, equally committed to the principles of democracy and free markets. The major development since then has been the globalization of financial markets, spearheaded by advocates who argued that globalization increases total wealth. After all, if the winners compensated the losers, they would still have something left over.

The argument was misleading, because it ignored the fact that the winners seldom, if ever, compensate the losers. But the potential winners spent enough money promoting the argument that it prevailed. It was a victory for believers in untrammeled free enterprise, or “market fundamentalists,” as I call them. Because financial capital is an indispensable ingredient of economic development, and few countries in the developing world could generate enough capital on their own, globalization spread like wildfire. Financial capital could move around freely and avoid taxation and regulation.

Globalization has had far-reaching economic and political consequences. It has brought about some economic convergence between poor and rich countries; but it increased inequality within both poor and rich countries. In the developed world, the benefits accrued mainly to large owners of financial capital, who constitute less than 1% of the population. The lack of redistributive policies is the main source of the dissatisfaction that democracy’s opponents have exploited. But there were other contributing factors as well, particularly in Europe.

I was an avid supporter of the European Union from its inception. I regarded it as the embodiment of the idea of an open society: an association of democratic states willing to sacrifice part of their sovereignty for the common good. It started out at as a bold experiment in what Popper called “piecemeal social engineering.” The leaders set an attainable objective and a fixed timeline and mobilized the political will needed to meet it, knowing full well that each step would necessitate a further step forward. That is how the European Coal and Steel Community developed into the EU.

But then something went woefully wrong. After the Crash of 2008, a voluntary association of equals was transformed into a relationship between creditors and debtors, where the debtors had difficulties in meeting their obligations and the creditors set the conditions the debtors had to obey. That relationship has been neither voluntary nor equal.

Germany emerged as the hegemonic power in Europe, but it failed to live up to the obligations that successful hegemons must fulfil, namely looking beyond their narrow self-interest to the interests of the people who depend on them. Compare the behaviour of the US after WWII with Germany’s behaviour after the Crash of 2008: the US launched the Marshall Plan, which led to the development of the EU; Germany imposed an austerity program that served its narrow self-interest.

Before its reunification, Germany was the main force driving European integration: it was always willing to contribute a little bit extra to accommodate those putting up resistance. Remember Germany’s contribution to meeting Margaret Thatcher’s demands regarding the EU budget?

But reuniting Germany on a 1:1 basis turned out to be very expensive. When Lehman Brothers collapsed, Germany did not feel rich enough to take on any additional obligations. When European finance ministers declared that no other systemically important financial institution would be allowed to fail, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, correctly reading the wishes of her electorate, declared that each member state should look after its own institutions. That was the start of a process of disintegration.

After the Crash of 2008, the EU and the eurozone became increasingly dysfunctional. Prevailing conditions became far removed from those prescribed by the Maastricht Treaty, but treaty change became progressively more difficult, and eventually impossible, because it couldn’t be ratified. The eurozone became the victim of antiquated laws; much-needed reforms could be enacted only by finding loopholes in them. That is how institutions became increasingly complicated, and electorates became alienated.

The rise of anti-EU movements further impeded the functioning of institutions. And these forces of disintegration received a powerful boost in 2016, first from Brexit, then from the election of Trump in the US, and on December 4 from Italian voters’ rejection, by a wide margin, of constitutional reforms.

Democracy is now in crisis. Even the US, the world’s leading democracy, elected a con artist and would-be dictator as its president. Although Trump has toned down his rhetoric since he was elected, he has changed neither his behaviour nor his advisers. His cabinet comprises incompetent extremists and retired generals.

What lies ahead?

I am confident that democracy will prove resilient in the US. Its Constitution and institutions, including the fourth estate, are strong enough to resist the excesses of the executive branch, thus preventing a would-be dictator from becoming an actual one.

But the US will be preoccupied with internal struggles in the near future, and targeted minorities will suffer. The US will be unable to protect and promote democracy in the rest of the world. On the contrary, Trump will have greater affinity with dictators. That will allow some of them to reach an accommodation with the US, and others to carry on without interference. Trump will prefer making deals to defending principles. Unfortunately, that will be popular with his core constituency.

I am particularly worried about the fate of the EU, which is in danger of coming under the influence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose concept of government is irreconcilable with that of open society. Putin is not a passive beneficiary of recent developments; he worked hard to bring them about. He recognised his regime’s weakness: it can exploit natural resources but cannot generate economic growth. He felt threatened by “colour revolutions” in Georgia, Ukraine, and elsewhere. At first, he tried to control social media. Then, in a brilliant move, he exploited social media companies’ business model to spread misinformation and fake news, disorienting electorates and destabilizing democracies. That is how he helped Trump get elected.

The same is likely to happen in the European election season in 2017 in the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. In France, the two leading contenders are close to Putin and eager to appease him. If either wins, Putin’s dominance of Europe will become a fait accompli.

I hope that Europe’s leaders and citizens alike will realise that this endangers their way of life and the values on which the EU was founded. The trouble is that the method Putin has used to destabilize democracy cannot be used to restore respect for facts and a balanced view of reality.

With economic growth lagging and the refugee crisis out of control, the EU is on the verge of breakdown and is set to undergo an experience similar to that of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Those who believe that the EU needs to be saved in order to be reinvented must do whatever they can to bring about a better outcome.

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If American conservatives have an intellectual hero, it might well be Friedrich Hayek — and rightly so. More clearly than anyone else, Hayek elaborated the case against government planning and collectivism, and mounted a vigorous argument for free markets. As it turns out, Hayek simultaneously identified a serious problem with the political creed of President-elect Donald Trump.

One of Hayek’s most important arguments in his great classic, “The Road to Serfdom,” involves the Rule of Law, which he defined to mean “that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand.” Because of the Rule of Law, “the government is prevented from stultifying individual efforts by ad hoc action.”

In “The Road to Serfdom” and (at greater length) in “The Constitution of Liberty,” Hayek distinguished between formal rules, which are indispensable, and mere “commands,” which create a world of trouble, because they are a recipe for arbitrariness. When formal rules are in place, “the coercive power of the state can be used only for cases defined in advance by law and in such a way that it can be foreseen how it will be used.”

Like the rules of the road, formal rules do not name names. They are useful to people who are not and cannot be known by the rule-makers — and they apply in situations that public officials cannot foresee.

Commands are altogether different. They target particular people and tell them what to do. (Think Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Castro’s Cuba.) They require the exercise of discretion on the spot. As examples, Hayek pointed to official decisions about “how many buses are to be run, which coal mines are to operate, or at what prices shoes are to be sold.”

Hayek offered two arguments on behalf of the Rule of Law. The first is economic: If the government’s actions are predictable, then people are able to plan. In his famous formulation, “the more the state ‘plans,’ the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.” If officials are issuing commands, it will become much harder for people to have the kind of security that is a precondition for economic development and growth.

Hayek’s second argument, moral in character, involves a specific value: impartiality. When the Rule of Law is intact, public officials act behind a veil of ignorance. If the government does not know who will be helped or hurt by what it does, it cannot play favorites or take sides. For Hayek, the state should never specify “how well off particular people shall be and what different people are to be allowed to have and to do.”

Many late 20th-century conservatives, including Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, have been drawn to Hayek’s arguments; the same is true of contemporary figures like Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz. In sharp contrast, President-elect Trump prides himself on his skills as a dealmaker, and he wants to use those skills to “make good deals” for the American people. There is a real risk that in practice, presidential deals, deliberately done on an ad-hoc basis, will turn out to be Hayekian commands.

Consider in this regard Trump’s participation in the highly publicized agreement with Carrier Corp., a manufacturer of air-conditioning and heating equipment, to keep operations in the U.S. in return for tax breaks. Or consider Trump’s negotiation with Boeing Co., which brought down the cost of the Air Force One program.

There is a legitimate argument (long pressed by Democrats) that Medicare should negotiate prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. But Trump’s endorsement of that argument undoubtedly stems, in part, from his enthusiasm for the role of Dealmaker-in-Chief.

In the abstract, of course, no one should object if the president is able to secure better deals for the American people. A successful negotiation is not a command. But unlike a candidate or a president-elect, a president has coercive power. Any negotiation is inevitably undertaken under the shadow of that awesome power.

A succession of “good deals” by the executive branch might garner impressive headlines, but Hayek’s analysis offers a serious warning. Exactly which companies will end up with favorable or unfavorable deals, and why? A dealmaking executive branch, interacting with those in the private sector along multiple fronts, will be tempted to reward its friends and punish its enemies — and it will have plenty of ways to do exactly that.

In a world of presidential deals, companies are going to have horrible incentives — to curry presidential favor in countless ways, to act strategically, and to make promises and threats of their own, so as to avoid unfavorable treatment from government and to obtain optimal concessions from it. That’s nothing to celebrate. On the contrary, it is a road to serfdom.

One of Hayek’s enduring achievements was to clarify the importance of government neutrality and forbearance, not through anything like laissez-faire, but by avoiding commands in favor of clear, general, stable, predictable rules on which the private sector can rely. A Dealmaker-in-Chief might turn out, in practice, to be a Commander-in-Chief in precisely the sense that Hayek deplored.

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A recent study found 50% of occupations today will be gone by 2020, and a 2013 Oxford study forecasted that 47% of jobs will be automated by 2034. A Ball State study found that only 13% of manufacturing job losses were due to trade, the rest from automation. A McKinsey study suggests 45% of knowledge work activity can be automated.

94% of the new job creation since 2005 is in the gig economy. These aren’t stable jobs with benefits on a career path. And if you are driving for Uber, your employer’s plan is to automate your job. Amazon has 270k employees, but most are soon-t0-be-automated ops and fulfillment. Facebook has 15k employees and a 330B market cap, and Snapchat in August had double their market cap per employee, at $48M per employee. The economic impact of Tech was raising productivity, but productivity and wages have been stagnant in recent years.

And the Trumpster…

Trump’s lack of attention to the issue is based on good reasons and bad ones. The bad ones are more fun, so let’s start with them. Trump knows virtually nothing about technology — other than a smartphone, he doesn’t use it much. And the industries he’s worked in — construction, real estate, hotels, and resorts — are among the least sophisticated in their use of information technology. So he’s not well equipped to understand the dynamics of automation-driven job loss.

The other Trump shortcoming is that the automation phenomenon is not driven by deals and negotiation. The Art of the Deal‘s author clearly has a penchant for sparring with opponents in highly visible negotiations. But automation-related job loss is difficult to negotiate about. It’s the silent killer of human labor, eliminating job after job over a period of time. Jobs often disappear through attrition. There are no visible plant closings to respond to, no press releases by foreign rivals to counter. It’s a complex subject that doesn’t lend itself to TV sound bites or tweets.

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The strength of the US dollar is forcing China down a path it has been trying to avoid for years, pushing it to slow the money machine that has propelled its economy since 2008.

The course of this path could mean strange and terrible things are in store for economies around the world. A slower, weaker Chinese economy — and the resulting weakness of the yuan — will create competition for other developing-market exporters in a race to the bottom.

This is a moment many China watchers have been waiting for — it just didn’t come how, when, or why they thought it would.

The money machine is China’s state-run banking sector. Through loans, the banks pumped cash into the economy at an unprecedented rate — as the rest of the world watched and worried. The International Monetary Fund harped on China’s debt for years, and across Wall Street, money managers have often gotten slaughtered betting on China’s demise (in one way or another) as debt climbed to 280% of GDP.

China’s leadership seemed to not hear these concerns until recently, when officials did something very strange: Party leaders got together to tell apparatchiks down the chain that they needn’t worry about hitting growth targets.

This means that a country infamous for its obsession with hitting the numbers is setting them aside in the face of mounting debt.

You can see where this change comes from: At the end of 2016, the US dollar started rising, the yuan started weakening, and people started to quickly take money out of the country to keep their savings from losing value.

Now “we are in uncharted territory,” Charlene Chu, a famed China analyst at Autonomous Research, wrote in a recent note titled “The war on outflows.”

We are now seeing that as the US gradually ends its postcrisis monetary easing program, China will be forced, in some measure, to do so as well. In many ways, though, the country is not ready.

To understand how it’s ever so slowly falling apart, we have to understand how the Chinese economy held together in the first place.

After 2008, the Chinese government kicked off its own program to avoid the global financial crisis. It did not do it the way the US did, though. Instead of having its central bank buy bonds, the Chinese government instructed its banks to lend. And they did, adding 30% or more credit to the economy every year, according to Chu.

Now there is 165 trillion more yuan ($23.8 trillion) in circulation than there was eight years ago. At the same time, the value of the yuan has remained virtually the same — an unnatural state in economics, to be sure.

The result has been an increase in purchasing power for Chinese people — a promise the Chinese Communist Party made and kept.

But it also created an imbalance between the increasing amount of yuan in circulation and the steadiness of the currency’s value that “will only continue to grow if the CNY does not weaken materially and China’s financial sector continues to expand at double-digit rates,” Chu wrote (emphasis ours).

Now, keep in mind that a double-digit expansion of the banking sector is something of a jog considering what China’s used to.

“Total banking sector assets in China will increase [by 30 trillion yuan] to [228 trillion yuan] in 2016 alone, and another [100 trillion yuan] will be added to this by 2020 if the banking sector grows at 10% per annum, which, we would note, would be the lowest growth rate on record,” Chu wrote.

Last month, $82 billion left China, as the government was forced to fix its currency lower and lower against the dollar and people worried about the value of their assets.

And despite the fact that China’s leaders have tried to tell the world that the yuan is now fixed against a basket of currencies, not just the dollar, it doesn’t matter. We still live in a dollar world.

Consequences

Now instead of growth, the Chinese government’s main concern is keeping capital in the country. To do so, it has instituted several capital controls for individuals and corporations, but, of course, there are always ways to get around things like that.

Plus, holding the yuan steady comes at a cost. The Chinese government is spending its foreign-exchange reserves to prop up the currency. Right now it’s holding about $3 trillion, but Chu sees this working for only the next two quarters. A more permanent solution must be found.

So the government also has to think about attracting money to the country, and that’s where the gears of this great money-making machine start to ever so slowly grind down.

One way China can attract money is by raising interest rates, which would have consequences for all the borrowers who have taken on unprecedented levels of debt.

The flow of yuan around the country would tighten, cooling the property market. This is important. Property-market growth is part of what turned 2016’s rocky start into a net positive year for China.

“Liquidity and market risk vulnerabilities in the financial sector will be more on display,” Chu wrote. In other words, some of the hands that distributed yuan around China would be impaired, taking a toll on the country’s heavily indebted corporations.

This is why the Chinese government is being forced to prepare its people, and the world, for a slowdown. For the world, this ultimately means deflation — a force it has been fighting since the start of the financial crisis — as the yuan declines and other countries try to keep up (or down). All China can do in the meantime is what it’s doing right now: fixing the yuan higher, no matter what the dollar does.

Regardless, as the economy slows the currency will glide down. It will have to. Chu estimates that if the government continues to support the yuan against market pressure, it could blow through its foreign-exchange reserves in a couple of years.

Some caveats, of course

Two things to keep in mind here. First, the dollar could weaken.

“I do think that it’s likely to be supported by the Fed raising rates again, but I really doubt that the dollar [index] is going to make it above 120,” Jeff “Bond King” Gundlach of DoubleLine Capital predicted in his most recent monthly investment outlook presentation.

That, of course, would take pressure off the yuan and help with outflows. But this wouldn’t stop this process; it would only slow it. No matter what happens, the Chinese economy is building up dangerous debt levels that must be dealt with, and China has acknowledged that the economy’s growth will slow. The imbalance between the yuan in circulation and its value remains, and that in and of itself will push the yuan’s value down.

“One thing that is increasingly clear to us is that the world’s largest source of monetary easing since 2008 won’t be passing through in the way it has been, whether that is from a closing of the gates on outflows or a fall in the purchasing power of Chinese companies and individuals through a weakening of the exchange rate,” Chu wrote.

Second, this will happen incredibly slowly. The catastrophic credit event that Wall Street’s wildest minds have wondered about is unlikely to happen. The Chinese government has control over too much of its economy and can pull and push levers such as interest rates and manipulate the money supply however it likes.

Increasingly, economists think China will look like a poorer Japan, declining into drudgery in unexpected ways to ease its transition into a painfully slow-growing economy.

Either way, it isn’t entirely a mystery where we’ll go. What’s more unprecedented is how we’ll get there.

China has shown its hand. We now know what a dollar can do — and how little China can do to stop it.

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The first thing you need to know is that the rest of the world has borrowed a lot of dollars the last eight years. About $4 trillion, to be exact. Since 2008, dollar loans to non-bank borrowers outside the United States have gone from $6 trillion to almost $10 trillion, with emerging marketsmaking up the majority of that increase. Their dollar debts, according to the Bank for International Settlements, have actually more than doubled during this time from $1.7 trillion to $4.5 trillion. And that makes them particularly vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the currency markets. Think about it like this. If you borrow in dollars but earn most of your money in something other than the dollar, then your debts will get harder to pay back any time the dollar increases in value — which it really has the last two and a half years. Indeed, on a trade-weighted basis, the dollar has shot up 26 percent against a broad basket of currencies since the middle of 2014.

That should only continue under President Trump. Why? Well, the Federal Reserve’s latest minutes show that it thinks Trump’s tax cuts, if they happen, will force it to raise rates faster than it thought it would just a few months ago. Otherwise, the Fed worries, the economy might start to overheat a little. So that means our interest rates should be even higher compared to the rest of the world’s than they already are, which, in turn, should push the dollar up even more than it has already gone.

It’s hard to say when, but at some point emerging market borrowers are going to have trouble paying back their dollar debts if the dollar keeps going up — especially if we put up tariffs that make it harder for them to earn dollars in the first place. A country like Brazil, which is currently mired in its greatest recession since the 1930s and has borrowed the second-most dollars of any emerging market, might have to choose between an even worse economic crisis and a financial crisis. That is, it could keep propping up its currency at the cost of growth, or it could let it fall against the dollar and see its borrowers default.

Even China might not be immune. It has the ugly combination of the highest dollar debt in the developing world and a currency that has been sliding against the greenback for over a year now. In the worst case, it might have to bail out a bunch of borrowers who can’t handle the combination of a stronger dollar, a slightly weaker economy and tariffs that take away some of their export markets.

It wouldn’t be that different from the Latin American debt crisis in the early 1980s. Then, like now, poorer countries had gone on a dollar borrowing binge. And then, like now, a surging dollar made those debts harder to pay off — until they couldn’t be. That not only sent those countries into a lost decade, but also almost brought down the American banks that had lent them so much money.

Although it’s not just Brazil and China that might cause some sort of crisis. It’s us too.  That’s not, though, because the dollar might get too strong, but rather that the mortgage market might get too crazy. Trump, you see, has said that “it’s so hard to get mortgages nowadays” that we need to get rid of the post-financial crisis rules restricting them.

This is one place where he agrees with GOP orthodoxy. Against all evidence, conservatives have insisted that it wasn’t Wall Street, but really the government that caused the housing bubble — basically Reagan über alles — and have been looking for ways to neuter the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a result.

The problem, of course, is that going back to a Wild West mortgage market only invites the kind of abuses we saw 10 years ago, particularly when there’s pent-up demand for new housing that could easily turn into a bubble.

Past, in other words, really might be prologue. Trumponomics might just be Bushonomics on steroids. A financial crisis waiting to happen.

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In the midst of so many economic fallacies being repeatedly seemingly without end, it may be helpful to return to some of the most basic laws of economics. Here are ten of them that bear repeating again and again. 

1. Production precedes consumption

Although it is obvious that in order to consume something it must first exist, the idea to stimulate consumption in order to expand production is all around us. However, consumption goods do not just fall from the sky. They are at the end of a long chain of intertwined production processes called the “structure of production.” Even the production of an apparently simple item such as a pencil, for example, requires an intricate network of production processes that extend far back into time and run across countries and continents.

2. Consumption is the final goal of production

Consumption is the objective of economic activity, and production is its means. The advocates of full employment violate this obvious idea. Employment programs turn production itself into the objective. The valuation of consumption goods by the consumers determines the value of production goods. Current consumption results from the production process that extends to the past, yet the value of this production structure depends on the current state of valuation by the consumers and the expected future state. Therefore, the consumers are the final de facto owners of the production apparatus in a capitalist economy.

3. Production has costs

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Getting something apparently gratis only means that some other person pays for it. Behind every welfare check and each research grant lies the tax money of real people. While the taxpayers see that government confiscates part of one’s personal income, they do not know to whom this money goes; and while the recipients of government expenditures see the government handing the money to them, they do not know from whom the government has taken away this money.

4. Value is subjective

Valuation is subjective and varies with the an individual’s situation. The same physical good has different values to different persons. Utility is subjective, individual, situational and marginal. There is no such thing as collective consumption. Even the temperature in the same room feels differently to different persons. The same football match has a different subjective value for each viewer as can be easily seen the moment when a team scores.

5. Productivity determines the wage rate

The output per hour determines the worker’s wage rate per hour. In a free labor market, businesses will hire additional workers as long as their marginal productivity is higher than the wage rate. Competition among the firms will drive up the wage rate to the point where it matches productivity. The power of labor unions may change the distribution of wages among the different labor groups, but trade unions cannot change the overall wage level, which depends on labor productivity.

6. Expenditure is income and costs

Expenditure is not only income, but also represents costs. Spending counts as costs for the buyer and income for the seller. Income equals costs. The mechanism of the fiscal multiplier implies that costs rise with income. In as much as income multiplies, costs multiply as well. The Keynesian fiscal multiplier model ignores the cost effect. Grave policy errors are the result when government policies count on the income effect of public expenditures but ignore the cost effect.

7. Money is not wealth

The value of money consists in its purchasing power. Money serves as an instrument of exchange. The wealth of a person exists in its access to the goods and services he desires. The nation as a whole cannot increase its wealth by increasing its stock of money. The principle that only purchasing power means wealth says that Robinson Crusoe would not be a penny richer if he found a gold mine on his island or a case full of bank notes.

8. Labor does not create value

Labor, in combination with the other factors of production, creates products, but the value of the product depends on its utility. Utility depends on subjective individual valuation. Employment for sake of employment makes no economic sense. What counts is value creation. In order to be useful, a product must create benefits for the consumer. The value of a good exists independent from the effort of producing it. Professional marathon runners do not earn more prize money than sprinters because running the marathon takes more time and effort than a sprint.

9. Profit is the entrepreneurial bonus

In competitive capitalism, economic profit is the extra bonus that those businesses earn that fix allocative errors. In an evenly rotating economy with no change, there would be neither profit nor loss and all companies would earn the same rate of interest. In a growing economy, however, change takes place and anticipating changes is the source of economic profits. Business that does well in forecasting future demand earn high rates of profit and will grow, while those entrepreneurs who fail to anticipate the wants of the consumers will shrink and finally must shut down.

10. All genuine laws of economics are logical laws

Economic laws are synthetic a priori reasoning. One cannot falsify such laws empirically because they are true in themselves. As such, the fundamental economic laws do not require empirical verification. Reference to empirical facts serve merely as illustrative examples, they are not statements of principles. One can ignore and violate the fundamental laws of economics but one cannot change them. Those societies fare best where people and government recognize and respect these fundamental economic laws and use them to their advantage.

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