Really, Let's Cut the Crap Eh?
The Market Ticker - Commentary on The Capital Markets
2015-11-08 04:00 by Karl Denninger
in Monetary , 606 references Ignore this thread
Really, Let's Cut the Crap Eh?*

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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