The Only Debate Topic That Matters

submitted by jwithrow.
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Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
The Only Debate Topic That Matters

September 29, 2016
Hot Springs, VA

Loading up the nation with debt and leaving it for the following generations to pay is morally irresponsible. Excessive debt is a means by which governments oppress the people and waste their substance. No nation has a right to contract debt for periods longer than the majority contracting it can expect to live. ” – Thomas Jefferson

The S&P closed out Wednesday at $2,171. Gold closed at $1,327 per ounce. Crude Oil closed at $47.12 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 1.57%. Bitcoin is trading around $605 per BTC today.

Dear Journal,

Nearly one-third of all Americans – almost 100 million people – tuned in to watch the first presidential debate earlier this week. This represents an increase in viewership by nearly 40% from the 2012 presidential debates, and it almost rivaled television’s biggest draw – the Super Bowl – which received 112 million viewers last year. Apparently the debate was aired on television throughout Europe as well.

I see these numbers and the first thing that pops into my head is a question: how in the world do the ratings agencies know how many people are sitting on the couch in front of a given television?

I didn’t spend too much time with this, but all of the numbers I have seen reference “viewers” and “people”, not “households”. They are very specific about this.

I can’t help but think about poor Winston in George Orwell’s 1984 – he sits down in front of his telescreen and while he is watching it, it is also watching him… Continue reading “The Only Debate Topic That Matters”

What We Forgot About Free Market Capitalism Part Two

submitted by jwithrow.Mises Capitalism

Failure is just as much a facet of free market capitalism as success is.

In a free market economy, well managed businesses with desired products and services will succeed and poorly managed business with undesired products and services will fail.

Consumers, when well informed, will make decisions based on their individual preferences; they will either buy the highest quality product at the lowest price for which that product is available or they will buy a lower quality product for a price lower than the higher quality product. Consumers are typically not very interested in paying high quality prices for low quality products.

So, in the free market, businesses must constantly strive to either offer the best product at the lowest price or a suitable product at a very low price. This requires businesses to focus on improving efficiency and decreasing costs without sacrificing product quality. If a business cannot offer competitive products at competitive prices then it will not be in business for very long.

This model aligns the interests of both businesses and consumers and creates a self-regulating incentive structure.

In the free market system, businesses have an incentive to offer quality products to customers at the best price and they have a disincentive to offer poor products at poor prices. While this is a simple representation, the incentive structure is one of the core principals underlying the free market system.

But what happens if businesses are not allowed to fail due to government intervention?

We have seen numerous cases of this scenario in recent years. The “too big to fail” banks were propped up by the federal government when they came to the point of failure. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken under receivership by the federal government when they came to the point of failure. General Motors was temporarily taken over and propped up by the federal government when it came to the point of failure.

This is moral hazard.

Oh, and we should probably mention that the federal government cannot actually bail anything out with its own capital. To fund the bail-outs, the government has to appropriate capital from the private sector in the form of tax dollars and it has to borrow money from the Federal Reserve that was created out of thin air.

So the business losses were socialized but the profits remained privatized – this is fascism in action.

By creating moral hazard in this way, the disincentive piece has been removed from the system and the incentive model has shifted away from a consumer focus and to a focus on generating high profits with no regard for risk. Such a model is a win-win for the favored businesses and the government cronies that they support. The losers are everyone else as the economy turns to mush.

Coming full circle, failure is a welcome facet of free market capitalism. Maybe not for the companies’ doing the failing, but failure is a force for creative destruction that serves to weed out the businesses that cannot offer quality products at reasonable prices.

This is why it is ridiculous to claim that any company is “too big to fail” as justification for bail-outs. Sure there would be temporary hardship were the major banks to fail, but this would eventually free up capital and clear the way for sustainable banking practices to be implemented.

Feel free to read more on the matter here and here.

What We Forgot About Free Market Capitalism Part 1

submitted by jwithrow.Rothbard Capitalism

One of the most important elements of free market capitalism is the price system. The capitalist price system provides information on supply and demand in the marketplace and individuals make business and investment decisions based on this information.

The economic system that America now employs is not free market capitalism and there are legions of regulations in place that distort the market pricing system every step of the way.

The most insidious price distortion is the suppression of interest rates.

Interest rates are simply the price of money. Like everything else in the market economy, interest rates are self-regulated by the forces of supply and demand. If there is a high quantity of capital in the system available for lending then interest rates will naturally be low. Low interest rates will entice borrowers to engage in long term financing – purchasing homes, expanding businesses, etc. Interest rates will then naturally rise as the capital available for lending diminishes. High interest rates are not attractive to borrowers so individuals and businesses will focus more on short term projects. This will lead to increased capital formation within the system which will gradually trigger falling interest rates.

But what happens when a central bank suppresses interest rates and keeps them near zero for an extended period of time? Well, this destroys the entire pricing system and distorts the entire market system.

Artificially suppressed interest rates send a false signal – which is exactly why they were suppressed in the first place. Artificially suppressed rates still entice borrowers to take engage in long term financing but this is a Keynesian trap. The problem is that there is not sufficient capital formation in the economy to warrant the low interest rates and thus there is not a true demand for all of the long term projects undertaken.

This is called mal-investment.

“If you build it, they will come” is a great catch phrase in the movies but it’s just not how the real world works.

Despite what the economics textbook says, there is no such thing as a ‘mixed economic system’. There is simply no room for the suppression of interest rates or the distortion of prices in a capitalist system.

There are only two choices:

  1. Free markets
  2. Central planning

Free market capitalism presumes an honest and functional price system that is not manipulated by a central bank.

Oh, we should probably mention how interest rates are suppressed.

The Federal Reserve creates currency units out of thin air and uses them to buy long term Treasury bonds at low rates. What could possibly go wrong?

By the way, you can read more on this topic here, here, and here.

MyRA-QE Taper Connection

submitted by jwithrow.Government Help

We have a question for you:

Is it a coincidence that the government has introduced the “myRA” plans just as the Federal Reserve has begun to taper its quantitative easing programs?

Let’s think this thing through for a minute.

We know:

  • China is now a net-seller of U.S. Treasuries so the Federal Reserve has had to step in and purchase U.S. Treasury Bonds in increasing quantities to support government spending.
  • The average American saves for retirement in a qualified retirement plan focusing primarily on mutual funds, exchange traded funds, and stocks with bonds comprising a small portion of the allocation.
  • The proposed myRA plans are designed to focus on U.S. Treasury Bonds.
  • The Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing programs have pumped massive amounts of liquidity into the system which has resulted in a broad increase of stock prices across the board.
  • Tapering QE will withdraw liquidity from the system which will almost certainly result in a broad decrease of stock prices across the board and quite possibly a severe stock market crash.
  • A falling stock market would likely cause many Americans to seek investment options that they deem “safer”.
  • The government is already hard-selling their myRA plans stating that there is “no risk to lose what you put in”.


Maybe our benevolent bureaucrats really do think that myRA plans will help the common man.

But we hold dearly to a personal mantra:

Maximize Capital,
Minimize Crap,
Never Trust the Government.

With that mantra echoing in our mind, we can’t help but be a little suspicious – something funny seems to be afoot.

What do you think?