Wednesday, February 16, 2011

John Boehner says "We're broke"

Speaker of the house John Boehner told reporters yesterday that we are broke. This was in response to someone asking him about proposed cuts which will cost quite few jobs. He said if it caused some to lose jobs it was fine because we are broke.

Boy I sure hope no trouble breaks out in the Sinai peninsula or Iran. How will we be able to get our young men to go fight if we cant pay them, or buy additional fuel for our carriers and airplanes? Will we need a bake sale? Maybe a golf tournament?

I really wish someone would ask him where the money would come from in the event of a new international crisis. Would we have to go to our banker (China) and ask for just one more 5 trillion dollar line of credit? How the hell does China get all these dollars when we cant....... aren't they US dollars???

How did we run out of money? Where was this "stock" of money kept and didn't someone have the job of telling us when it was running out? Why did we have to hear it from John Boehner?

They better not come asking me for any cuz I've got my bills to pay

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Moral Argument Part III

The people who seem to have the most opposition to the MMT school of thought are the Austrians. It really strikes at the core of all they are opposed to............... on MORAL grounds, of course. I find myself attracted to arguing the merits of my views with Austrians more than any other group and its usually because they make such strong moral claims about their arguments. I cant say I've ever felt I've argued an Austrian out of their view (about as likely as arguing a fundamentalist Baptist out of his view) but I have been able to crystallize I think what it is that they see morally wrong with my view of the economy and money. As I see it the Austrians have the largest problems with the following ideas; 1) A "state" issued money, especially if its not backed by gold 2) A central bank which is there as lender of last resort 3) Efforts to "stimulate" the economy 4) State provided employment or pensions 5) Inflation, which is really a result of the previous 4 in their view 6) States regulating business activity, which should be left to the court system (presumably a creation of the state)

I see #1 as falling under the "Money is the root of all evil" (MIROAE) type moral framework. The state takes over our money system and cannot be trusted with this responsibility and always ends up debasing our currency as they pursue frivolous wars, handouts to cronies etc etc. #2 falls into this category as well but also into the "Two wrongs dont make a right" (TWDMAR) framework I described in part I. Backstopping unproductive behavior is always and everywhere simply rewarding failure and cannot have a redeeming value in this view. #3 I would put into the "Invisible hand"(IH) framework. The economy is seeking a right equilibrium and we only delay, for a period, that effort. Stimulus never works we only think it works. #4 Is in the MIROAE because by giving people money for unproductive (anything outside private sector is simply exploiting private sector production) activity we are making them lazy, dependent and worthless. #5 I see as a falling into all three categories, which is due to the nebulous nature of inflation. To the Austrian inflation occurs because a state spends new money into an economy, the central bank monetizes debt and state employees have guaranteed raises and generous pensions which cause wage price spirals. Money is evil when spent by a state and guaranteed employment contracts go against the invisible hand regulating labor supply an demand through wage adjustments. #6 definitely falls into the IH framework as businesses are viewed as being sensitive to price fluctuations as their signals. Regulations, by affecting the costs, end up distorting price signals and increase uncertainty, leading businesses to functionless then optimally. Left alone businesses will always get it right because prices will reflect all real information out there. If their product is dangerous, we'll find out and punish them by not buying it. If their product is of poor quality, we'll price it lower then the higher quality competitor. Attempts by outside agents to rectify these issues will only end up hurting consumers, it is postulated.

The common theme in these critiques is the negative aspect of "The State" and the perfect condition of "markets". States always morph towards an immoral polluter of human quests to be economically free. While markets express and satisfy human whims and desires when allowed to operate uninhibited. This brings forth two questions (just to start) for me; So what makes a state different than a market? Is not the state a market response to the human question of "How best to organize and protect our collective interests"?

I can already see this exploration taking a lot of tangents but I want to try and focus my efforts on the six forementioned ideas and I hope to use the answers to my 2 questions to begin to show that the Austrians are creating a false dichotomy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Moral Argument Part II

To recap my last post. When examining the appeals to morality, made in almost any thread you get involved in discussing economics, money and our present recession, I find at least three recurring types of arguments that are being appealed to. 1) Two wrongs dont make a right type arguments 2) Money/greed is the root of all evil types of arguments and 3) Invisible hand (hat tip to Art!!) type arguments.

I also argue that maximizing our satisfaction is at the heart of these arguments. Two wrongs dont make a right is never satisfactory because it risks a never ending spiral of retribution, vengeful hearts are never content. Money is the root of all evil recognizes the hollowness of chasing monetary wealth. Chasing money often leads to compromising all principles and is denounced in virtually every culture. The notion of an invisible hand tries to remind us of our ignorance of the big picture and tries to assure us that there is something looking out for the big picture so we should just let go and stop trying to control that which we cant control. We will always end up with collateral damage with any effort and be less satisfied.

The root of the word economics is oikos (household) and nomos (custom or law) so within the word is a suggestion that there are customs or laws governing the trade of goods and services. In any society that ever existed it is through its laws and customs that the collective morality is expressed. In addition, virtually every economist Ive ever read opines that each of us in our economic decisions is trying to maximize our own welfare. It seems to me that economics is about trying to maximize our own welfare while maintaining an eye to the customs which have been agreed upon within your culture/community. When I hear people trying to argue that economic decisions are value free or amoral I just have to chuckle. No decision is value free. If one claims something is just about money and not personal that reveals a fundamental flaw in a view that money isnt personal. Money IS personal. That is why people are so passionate in their feelings about it.

Lets agree at least that every decision we make with our money says something about our morals. It must. We use money to express what we want, what we are willing to pay for, what we value and what has meaning to us. We would never pay for something totally meaningless to us. Even when I bought Happy Meals for my son and had ZERO interest in the worthless plastic toy inside, I knew my son was going to get great joy from not only the toy but the totally empty calories, and I WAS willing to pay for his joy, no matter how fleeting I knew it was.