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Commentary on The Capital Markets- Category [Monetary]

There are few more self-destructive things a human can undertake than denying provable facts.

Only a few things qualify as "provable facts", and it is important to separate out hypothesistheory and opinion from fact.  Mathematics and physics are two areas of discipline that have massive amounts of their subject matter within the realm of provable facts.

Honest people call the parts of these disciplines that are within the ability to prove laws. Unlike laws made by men that are often ignored these are simply inviolate -- period.  The laws of thermodynamics prohibit a "free lunch", basically; they state that while energy may be transformed from one type to another, and other parts of physics make clear that matter and energy can also be transformed you never get out everything you put in; there is always loss to the environment that you can neither use or avoid.  Newton's laws of motion tell us how momentum, mass, force and velocity interact; how energy, in short, is carried and dissipated in an object that moves or is contacted by one that is moving.

Likewise the laws of mathematics tell us that 2 + 2 = 4, that 2(x + 3) = 2x + 6, that the square root of 9 is 3 and more. These are called laws because every single time the same result will be obtained -- here, there, on Mars or somewhere in Interstellar space.

Here's the reality of money:

Money is only valuable because it is, in relative terms, scarce.  Money is really nothing more than a unit of accounting that's convenient in the physical world.

We could (and perhaps should) account for production in the physical world, and its value, in some invariant physical unit.  I happen to like BTUs (or Joules) of energy required to produce a thing or contained within a thing, because it is an invariant and therefore not subject to tampering.  Accounting for it under production rather than the recoverable (e.g. "stored") energy in a good or service means that improvements in productivity (e.g. discovery of a new, "cheaper" way to make gasoline, for example) makes the value of each unit (a gallon, for example) less and accessibility greater.  This is what productivity improvement is supposed to do -- it advances the common benefit to everyone because it makes useful goods and services more accessible to everyone.

So let us assume that among everything in the economy there is 100,000 Joules of energy represented in a given period of time.  Yes, I know this is a ridiculously small number, but adding more zeros doesn't change anything other than scale, and 100,000 is a nice convenient number.

We will also assume that there is $100,000 -- that is, one hundred thousand dollars, in said economy.

It would be reasonable to assume that the average cost of transacting for one Joule of represented production of a good or service would be one dollar.  There would be items in the economy that are of relatively more value in terms of dollars-per-Joule, and some with less, but on average that would be the expected clearing price.

Now let's remember that money is fungible (that is, exchangeable) with credit (which is just another word for "debt"); that is, a promise to make something tomorrow.  They both are accepted in the economy as exactly the same thing, even though they demonstrably are not.

Now here's the problem: Bill and some others (e.g. the MMT charlatans) assert that the government can simply create money.

But that's not true.  The "creation" he refers to is in fact credit because the government did not first produce anything.

Consider what happens if you double the amount of "money" in the system from $100,000 to $200,000, given that 100,000 Joules of production takes place.

The average clearing price of a good or service produced with those Joules will double from $1 to $2. It cannot be otherwise because equations always balance; this is what the laws of mathematics tell us.

Now does it matter whether you borrow or "create" in this regard?  Only in one respect: The prospect of having to repay (potentially with interest) is a check and balance on borrowing that is utterly absent if you "create."

But in terms of the economic impact today, at the point in which you put the new "money" into the system the two acts are exactly identical. 

Both do immediate violence to the purchasing power of every unit of currency or credit that exists in the system at that instant in time.

It cannot be otherwise because the laws of mathematics, which state that equations always balance, are not suggestions!

As a consequence there is no possible way for the government to spend more than it takes in via taxes without distorting the economy and destroying the purchasing power of the people.

"Creating" is exactly the same thing as shaving coins -- it is counterfeiting and is economically indistinguishable at the moment of the act from borrowing by emitting unbacked credit.

Borrowing, in point of fact, other than the interest, actually has a benefit in that when the amount borrowed unbacked is repaid it is destroyed and thus the inflationary impact is reversed.  Of course in today's world we don't repay government debt ever and so that reversal never takes place, but that someone cheats doesn't mean that the underlying premise is wrong -- it just means you cheated.

Further, when rates are near zero there is no difference economically between "creating" and "borrowing"; it is only when rates rise that the difference shows up.  For this reason if "creating" would work we'd already have proof since we've "created" more than $8 trillion by the Federal Government alone since 2008 and yet there has been no strong, positive economic recovery impact.

The mathematical facts are that the only way to stop the destruction of purchasing power and thus economic damage is for the government at all levels to stop spending more than it takes in -- period.

Denying the laws of mathematics makes you either a fool or a charlatan.

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2015-07-07 07:00 by Karl Denninger
in Monetary , 1498 references
 

I have often commented about innumeracy among the American people, but nowhere do I find it more-distressing than among those who are of sound mind and reasonable (or better) education.

There really isn't any point in having any sort of debate on government reform, monetary reform or anything of the sort with those who deny arithmetic.  It is a complete waste of time to discuss that which cannot work and if your answers do not comport with arithmetic they cannot work.

When it comes to government spending it's quite simple: Government cannot spend, in nominal dollars, more than it taxes.  It does not matter one bit whether the money that government is using is theirs (that is, they're a "currency issuer") or whether the money is issued as debt or by pure fiat -- that is, debt-free.

The reason is as I've put forward for years now -- pretty much since I started writing this column, and which I spent a lot of ink on in LeverageTwo compound (exponential) functions will always diverge from one another.  If the smaller, that is the component of the larger, is growing faster than the whole it will eventually consume the entirety.

There are no exceptions to this, ever, because this is a fact of arithmetic just as 2 + 2 = 4.

Since a sub-part (e.g. government) can never exceed the whole (the entire GDP of the nation) yet the progression of growth of government spending that exceeds that of output (both in nominal terms) must inevitably do so there is no way such a path can succeed.

Ever.

Every single person who claims to have a high-school diploma knows this because you all learned it in school.

Our Congress refuses to face this -- both parties, not just one.  I have been told that deficit spending will not be stopped -- by Republican leaders, back in 2011 during the "debt ceiling" talks.

Since July 1st of 2011 to March 31st of this year total federal debt has increased by 26.6%.

Since July 1st of 2011 to March 31st of this year GDP has increased by 14.4%.

Federal Debt is increasing at a rate approximately twice that of economic output and this is beginning two years after the end of the "Great Recession"!

It is mathematically impossible to continue doing this; continuation of this policy will fiscally destroy the nation with mathematical certainty.

Yet despite this fact, and that you cannot argue with arithmetic, neither political party will stop it.

It does not matter whether you issue the currency as "debt" or not.  If you "print" the money then the destruction in real purchasing power happens just as it does if you issue as debt-backed currency.  This impairs economic growth in exactly the same way.

There is, in fact, a greater push-back in the form of compounding interest in that said interest also consumes more and more of your funds if you issue debt-backed currency.  It can be argued that this is a positive in that it (should) act as an inhibitor of bad government behavior, even though we have seen that it is entirely ineffective in the present tense.

However, if the government does not deficit spend, that is, if it does not take on debt then there is no impact on government sustainability irrespective of the monetary form.

There are plenty of reasons to like debt-free currency.  Philosophically if someone is going to get to the benefit of currency issuance it should be we the people through the government, not private banks.

But -- and this is key -- that debate is utterly immaterial until and unless deficit spending ceases and advancing it as an "answer" to debt-laden nations who are and continue to deficit spend is utter nonsense.  

Such debate on monetary form is irrelevant here, it is irrelevant in Greece, it is irrelevant everywhere that deficit spending (whether formally or simply through the expansion of debt) is taking place because if you do not stop advancing government spending in excess of economic output expansion your nation and its economic system are mathematically certain to fail.

America has one advantage over Greece and most of the rest of the EU: We have a piece of our federal, state and local government budgets we can whack off without destroying our economy.  We need only enforce existing laws. The answer is found in putting an end to medically-related monopolies and restraint of trade and were we to do it we'd be able to remove roughly $800 billion a year from federal spending alone.

The problem is that we have to take that step and stop the deficit spending now -- while we still can.

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