Rent Control reduces the Amount of Affordable Housing

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 15th, 2014

Week in Review

Living in New York City is expensive.  High taxes.  And high property values.  But people want to live in the city.  And will pay very high rents to do so.  Which landlords can charge because there are people willing to pay them.  It’s the basic law of supply and demand.  It’s the same reason why beachfront property is so expensive.  There’s so little of it and so many people want to live there.  So the property goes to the highest bidder.  Which is why some of the richest movie and television stars own the best of these properties.  Because they are willing to pay the highest price.

Of course that’s all right for the rich.  But what about the poor and middle class?  Who can’t afford to live like rich movie and television stars?  Well, there has long been a cry for affordable housing for the less affluent.  And price controls.  To keep rents affordable for those of more modest means.  There have been various forms of rent control in New York City.  To make housing more available to the less affluent.  Which actually reduced the number of apartments available to them.  How, you may ask.  Well, when it comes to rent there are two parties.  A buyer and a seller.  We know why buyers are buying.  They want a place to live.  But why do sellers want to rent out apartments?  To make a profit.  And because rent control made it more difficult to make a profit landlords went elsewhere to make a profit.  Thus reducing the number of rental units available.

New York City still has rent-controlled apartments.  And people desperately want to live in them because rent everywhere else (at market prices) is so expensive.  So there are often battles between rent-control tenants and landlords who want to rent at market prices.  Like this (see Brooklyn landlords illegally harassed, targeted rent-stabilized tenants: suit by Erik Badia, Ginger Adams Otis posted 4/15/2014 on the Daily News).

The landlords targeted longstanding black tenants who lived in rent-stabilized apartments, the suit contends.

The plaintiffs pay anywhere from $600 to $1,400 a month for 52 three-bedroom units in the three buildings, according to the lawsuit…

The group claims the landlords, who bought the buildings in 2009, have neglected to do repairs in black-occupied units…

Approximately 15 new tenants have moved in since then, paying market rents as a high as $2,500, the plaintiffs claim…

Pilgrim, who pays a stabilized $950 rent for his apartment, said he has talked to new tenants who had told him they are paying more than double that rate…

“How can you go from paying $687 a month to $2,500 a month? They’re also taking advantage of these young kids,” Bell said.

The tenant sees the landlord as being greedy.  While the landlord sees that apartment being rented 72.5% below what it could be renting for.  If the roles were reversed the tenant would probably do the same thing.  Because people want to make money.  And people want to be rich.  That’s why they buy lotto tickets.  And try to make it in movies and television.  To be rich and famous.  They don’t buy properties to see how little money they can make with them.  They buy them to see how much money they can make with them.  Movie stars would never put their mansions up for sale at 72.5% below what other rich people would pay for them.  Just as a middle class homeowner would never sell her home for 72.5% below what someone would pay for it.

The law of supply and demand bring buyers and sellers together at a price they both agree on.  Making both parties happy.  When laws interfere with market prices (such as rent control) both parties are seldom happy.  Buyers tend to be happier.  But because sellers are so unhappy they stop selling.  Thus reducing the number of apartments available to rent.  Which is why rent control doesn’t work.  It actually reduces the amount of affordable housing.  So that only a very lucky few can enjoy life in a rent-control apartment.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Keynesian Economics is as Corrupt and Immoral as is Crony Capitalism

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 5th, 2013

Week in Review

Before John Maynard Keynes came along the established economic thought was classical economics.  Those principles that made America the number one economic power in the world.  A sound money like the gold standard gave you.  Low tax rates to encourage economic risk taking.  Responsible government spending for only those things a federal government should be doing.  And only spending what that minimal federal tax revenue could pay for.  Little government intervention into the private sector economy.  And thrift.  People spending money very cautiously.  And saving as much as they possible could.  To save for the future.  While providing investment capital for businesses.

These policies made the United States the number one economic power in the world.  Laissez-faire capitalism.  Tried and proven for over a century in the U.S.  But then government got big in the beginning of the Twentieth Century.  The progressives came into the government.  And they needed a new way to lie to and deceive the American people.  And then came along John Maynard Keynes.  The answer to their dreams.  Whose Keynesian economics has destroyed nation after nation with his assault on classical economics.  And now debt crises from excessive government spending in the Twentieth Century have plagued Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, and other nations that dared to embrace Keynesian economics.

President Obama’s economic recovery has been horrible because he embraces Keynesian economics.  He lied like a good Keynesian to the American people to pass his stimulus.  It did nothing.  As predicted by everyone that isn’t a Keynesian.  He continues to destroy the American economy with near zero interest rates.  Destroying our savings.  Creating stock market bubbles while the labor force participation rate falls to its lowest since the Seventies.  And caused the federal debt to soar to levels that we can never pay down.  Putting us on the road to Greece.  All because of the corrupt economic school of thought John Maynard Keynes gave us.  That governments everywhere are using to increase their size and power.  To elevate the government class into a new aristocracy.  That lives very well thanks to those people beneath them.  The working class.  That works longer while earning less.  Like the nobility and peasants of old.  And a little Orwellian.  As they built this upon a house of lies.  Beginning with changing the meaning of words (see Two Sides of the Same Debased Coin by Hunter Lewis posted 5/2/2013 on Ludwig von Mises Institute).

When we turn to Keynes’s economics, perhaps the most fantastic self-contradiction was that an alleged savings glut, too much supposed idle cash, could be cured by flooding the economy with more cash, newly printed by the government. Perhaps even more bizarrely, Keynes says that we should call this new cash “savings” because it represents “savings” just as genuine as “traditional savings.” That is, the money rolling off the government printing presses is in no way different from the money we earn and choose not to spend.

All this new “savings” enters the economy through the mechanism of low interest rates. At this point, Keynes further confounds his forerunners and elders by arguing that it is not high interest rates, as always thought, but rather low interest rates, that increase savings, even though we started by positing too much savings in the first place.

Keynes’s followers echo this even today. Greenspan, Bernanke, and Krugman have all written about a savings glut which is supposed to be at the root of our troubles, and have proposed more money and lower interest rates as a remedy, although they no longer call the new money “genuine savings.” They prefer quantitative easing and similar obscure euphemisms…

The General Theory does argue that interest rates could and should be brought to a zero level permanently (that’s pages 220–21 and 336)…

Keynesians hate savings.  They don’t want people saving their money.  They want them to spend every last dime.  And then borrow more money to spend when they run out of their own.  Because consumer spending is everything to them.  Spending is what drives economic activity.  And any money they save they don’t spend.  And drain out of the economy.  Which is why they want zero interest rates.  Or even negative interest rates.  To discourage people from saving.  For if you lose purchasing power when you put your money in the bank you might as well spend it now.  And generate economic activity.

This is, of course, a ‘live for the day and screw the future’ mentality.  For if people spend all of their money going out to dinner, buying new cars, going on more vacations, running up their credit cards, etc., that will create a lot of economic activity.  But when these people retire they will have to live like paupers.  Because they didn’t save for their retirement.  Even if someone loses their job and is out of work for a few months if they have no savings they will struggle to pay their mortgage or rent.  Struggle to put food on the table.  They will struggle to pay their utility bills.  And their credit card bills.  This is the problem of living as if your income stream will never end.  It sometimes does end.  And if you didn’t bank a rainy day fund you could find yourself suffering some extreme hardship as you can no longer afford to live like you once did.

Keynesians once called printed money ‘savings’.  Today they call tax cuts ‘spending’.  A little Orwellian doublespeak.  Change the meanings of words.  So they can fool the people into believing that the government printing money and depreciating the currency is the same thing as you working hard and saving for your retirement.  And not taking more of your hard-earned paycheck is irresponsible government spending.  The only government spending, incidentally, they find irresponsible.  This is a fundamental tenet of Keynesian economics.  Deceiving the people.  So politicians can continue to recklessly spend money they don’t have to buy votes for the next election.  And to reward their campaign contributors with the favors of crony capitalism.

These Romney advisors also, of course, believed in the fairy tale of borrow-and-spend stimulus. It is usually forgotten that Keynes assured us that each dollar of such stimulus would produce as much as twelve dollars of growth and not less than four dollars. Even the most ardent Keynesians have, of course, been unable to demonstrate as much as one dollar. How did Keynes know that you would get four dollars at least? He didn’t. He told the governor of the Bank of England, Norman Montague, that his ideas were “a mathematical certainty” but that was just a crude bluff.

What is empirically verifiable is that all debt, private or public, has been generating less and less growth for decades. In the ten years following 1959, the official figures say that you got 73 cents in growth for each dollar borrowed. By the time of the Crash of ’08, that was down to 19 cents. And I expect it was really negative by then and is deeply negative now.

Keynes lied.  But that lie sanctioned governments to expand into the private sector economy.  So they embraced the lie.  And continue the lie.  Because none of these politicians want to give up the good life and get a real job.  They like it the old fashioned way.  Before the Founding Fathers had to muck it up with their attacks on the nobility.  They like being part of the aristocracy.  To live better than any of the poor schmucks that work a 40-hour week.  They just want to take a percentage of that poor schmuck’s earnings for themselves.  Rub elbows with the beautiful people.  And laugh at the working class.

The idea that you can take a dollar from the taxpayer, run it through a costly bureaucracy that a portion of that dollar has to pay for and think you’re going to generate more than a dollar in economic activity is absurd.  By the time that dollar reenters the economy the government has skimmed so much off the top that any economic activity it generates is negligible.  Now compare that to how the taxpayer who earned that dollar spends it.  He or she spends a dollar out of that dollar.  Because they’re not putting it through a costly bureaucracy before they spend it.

Which begs this question.  If a wage earner gets more economic activity when spending that money why not let that wage earner keep more of his or her money to spend?  For each additional dollar they can keep they can generate another dollar of economic activity.  Not the 19 cents the government will be lucky to generate from it.  Ah, well, if they can keep their money they may just do something responsible with it.  Like save it.  Which Keynesians hate.  And the government won’t be able to skim at least 81 cents from each dollar if they don’t tax it away.  Which Keynesians hate even more.

The common theme [of Keynesian Economics] is that market prices don’t matter…

Is this, then, the essence of Keynesianism, its blind destruction of the price mechanism on which any economy depends, as Mises demonstrated? Yes. But there may be an even deeper essence…

For the Victorians, spending within your means and avoiding debt were not just financial principles. They were moral principles. Keynes, who was consciously rebelling against these same Victorians, described their “copybook morality” as “medieval [and] barbarous.” He told his own inner circle that “I remain, and always will remain an immoralist…”

So, in conclusion, when we strip down Keynesianism to its essence, the relationship to crony capitalism becomes even clearer. Crony capitalism represents both a corruption of capitalism and a corruption of morals. Keynesianism also represents both a corruption of economics and a corruption of morals. Crony capitalism and Keynesianism are just two sides of the same debased coin.

The price mechanism allocates scarce resources that have alternative uses.  Through the laws of supply and demand.  Guaranteeing that the people who most want a resource—and are willing to pay more for it than others—will get that resource.  While those who don’t want that resource as badly are not willing to pay the higher prices others are willing to pay.

This is capitalism.  This is what enables you to go out and buy the things you want.  Because the price mechanism has automatically allocated millions upon millions of resources in the economy to get them into the things people most want to buy.  Crony capitalism smashes this apart.  By distorting market forces.  With government fiat.  Which allocates those resources first to their close friends who, in return, favor their friends in government with generous campaign contributions.  Or gifts of gratitude.  While others must pay a higher price.  If they can even get these resources at all.  Which they might not be able to do if they don’t please someone in government who has power over these resources.

This is crony capitalism.  Corrupt.  And immoral.  Just as is Keynesian economics.  Unlike the classical economics that made this country the number one economic power in the world.  Thanks to the gold standard, low taxes, low government spending, little government intervention into the private sector economy and thrift.  Things that kept a government moral.  However hard they may try not to be.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Used Cars put a Crimp in Venezuela’s Inflationary Policies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 27th, 2013

Week in Review

The American Left attacks capitalism for being unfair and evil because it puts profits before people.  Whereas socialism puts people before profits.  Where people give according to ability and take according to need.  Fair, yes?  In the way it makes people want to link arms and sing Kumbaya.  Because everyone has everything they need.  Thanks to that redistribution of wealth.  And exactly how does that work?  Something like this.

An unemployed man with 8 children will get more from the government than a single woman with no children working 12-hour days 6 days a week.  She will have a lot of income the state can tax.  So she has a lot of ability.  While he will get a lot of state benefits.  Because he has a lot of need.  A smart person will look at this and quickly come to the understanding that working hard sucks.  While being a lay-about means you live comfortably on state benefits.  Paid for by people like that woman working 12-hour days 6 days a week.  So in true socialism it’s a contest to show as little ability and as much need as possible.

Sometimes there aren’t enough people to tax.  So to keep the people happy the state spends money it doesn’t have.  By printing more and more money.  Which is what Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela.  Actions which the American Left applaud.  As they applaud Hugo Chavez for putting people before profits.  For unabashedly embracing socialism.  And condemning capitalism.  So Venezuela should be a socialist utopia.  So is it?  Let’s take a look (see Venezuela Ready to Crack Down on Clunker Car Inflation Refuge by Corina Pons & Nathan Crooks posted 1/24/2013 on Bloomberg).

Automobiles purchased in Venezuela, South America’s largest oil exporter, typically gain in value the moment they are driven off the dealership lot. Facing 20.1 percent inflation and capital controls introduced in 2003 that limit the amount of bolivars citizens may take out of the country, Venezuelans invest in durable goods…

Venezuela’s consumer prices last month rose 3.5 percent, the fastest pace in 32 months, the central bank said Jan. 11. Venezuela has the third-highest inflation rate worldwide.

Chavez in 2012 ordered companies to cut prices of shampoo, soap and other personal care products to contain inflationary pressures…

Inflation rose after Chavez restricted dollar supplies in a bid to close a fiscal gap widened by spending before elections in October, in which he defeated challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski by more than 10 percentage points.

The lack of dollars has created shortages of goods that range from toilet paper to detergent and extend to automobiles. Suvinca, a Venezuelan state distributor of Chinese-made cars, posted a notice on its website yesterday that said it had run out of cars and suspended sales…

“The law won’t solve the problem, because it doesn’t resolve the fact that there is still little supply. It won’t reduce demand, either,” Garcia said. “A black market will be created very fast. Instead of solving the problem, it will make it worse…”

“With this law, it will not be permissible to sell a car above the maximum suggested price, and a used car can never cost more than a new one,” Amoroso said. “Notaries will be prohibited from legalizing any transaction that is above the suggested price.”

When you print a lot of money it just makes your money worthless.  Which is why governments frown on people using their computer printers to make money.  If everyone did this money would lose its value.  For it would be as common place as leaves on the ground in autumn.  In countries with high inflation rates people want to spend their money as fast as they get it before it loses too much of its purchasing power.  For the real goods they buy will hold their value.  So it’s a safer place to put your savings.  Instead of in a bank.

The more bolivars (the Venezuelan currency) they print the less each bolivar is worth.  The more they depreciate the bolivar the faster people want to convert them into something that will hold its value.  Like cars.  If the bolivar loses half of its value it will take twice as many of them to buy a car.  So if you own a car its value in bolivars will soar the more of them they print.  Not that people want bolivars.  But they do want dollars.  And getting dollars by selling real goods avoids the inflation problem of the bolivar.  But it also helps to undermine the currency as no one wants to use it.  Or accept it in exchange for valuable goods.

Of course an easy solution to this problem is simply implementing price controls.  If you legally prevent prices from rising in response to runaway inflation problem solved, yes?  No.  Because if prices are held at artificially low levels people will buy so many of these items while the buying is good that these things will disappear from store shelves.  And if the store shelves are empty it doesn’t matter what prices are.  This is why there were gas lines in the Seventies.  Gas sales were so strong that gas stations ran out of gas.  And with prices below real market prices there wasn’t new supply coming on market to meet that excessive demand.  Because having to sell below your costs doesn’t encourage anyone to sell.  Except on the black market.  Where black market prices adjust market supply to market demand.  And everything is available for a price.

This is the socialist utopia that is Venezuela.  Only it’s not a utopia.  It just converts as many people with ability into people with need.  And when there are no longer enough people to tax to provide for those in need societies break down.  And governments collapse.  Unless you have a strong police state.  Which has been the hallmark of all social utopias that put people before profits.  Places like Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, the communist countries of Eastern Europe, Cuba, etc.  Venezuela, too.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Working Capital

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 3rd, 2012

Economics 101

A Business Owner uses Start-Up Capital to Pay the Bills until the Business starts Making Money to Pay the Bills

Few people understand how business works.  Some think it’s a mystical entity that has an endless supply of money for the taking.  To be taken by the government.  The unions.  And their employees.  While some believe business is some evil entity that acquired its wealth by taking it from poor people.  Poor people that had no wealth to give.  Because they’re poor.  Who we define as being poor because they have no wealth.

But businesses aren’t mystical or evil.  They’re run by ordinary people.  Often doing extraordinary things.  In a constant battle to survive.  They start off by risking everything they’ve ever earned and saved.  Perhaps persuading family to invest in them and their idea.  Or mortgaging their house to the hilt.  Just to get the money to start their business.  Short term financing to pay the bills until the business starts making money to pay the bills.  If the business ever starts making money to pay the bills.

One of the most misunderstood things about business is that their prices are pure profit.  When you buy a $4.50 cup of coffee from Starbucks people think that’s $4.50 of profit.  But it’s not.  That price has to pay for the coffee beans.  The water.  The regular milk.  The low-fat milk.  The flavored syrup.  The cup.  The cup sleeve so you can hold it without burning you hand.  The lid.  The plastic stick that plugs the drinking hole in the lid.  The baristas working there.  The equipment to grind the coffee beans.  To make coffee.  To make espresso.  To make steam to heat the milk.  The point-of-sale cash registers.  The lights.  The heat.  The air conditioning.  The Internet access provided free to their customers.  The soap and toilet paper in the restrooms.  Garbage bags.  Cream.  Sugar.  Sugar substitute.  Coffee stirrers.  The rent.  The telephone bill.  Marketing.  Etc.  They have to recover all of these costs in the sales price of their coffee.  With enough left over to pay for growth.

For a Business to be able to Pay their Bills their Current Assets must be Greater than their Current Liabilities

Bills.  Everyone has them.  And business owners have more than most.  Because it takes money to make money.  A business owner has to spend a lot of money to make something to sell.  Like a cup of coffee.  So they incur a lot of costs.  Costs that their revenues have to pay.  For a business like Starbucks that’s mostly cash and credit card sales.  For other businesses that could be sales on account.  Or accounts receivable.  Sales that don’t result in cash.  But a promise to pay cash later.  Like a lot of those bills Starbucks has to pay.  Things they bought on account.  With the promise to pay cash later.

Businesses have current liabilities.  Which include the bills they owe.  Accrued payroll.  Accrued payroll taxes.  And everything else that they have to pay within one year.  All of which they have to pay with current assets.  Such as cash.  Or short-term assets they can convert into cash within one year.  Like accounts receivable.  Or things that conserve cash.  Like prepaid expenses.  For a business to be able to pay their bills their current assets must be greater than their current liabilities.  If their current liabilities are greater than their current assets, though, they will have some problems paying their bills.

The relationship between current assets and current liabilities is important.  If we divide current assets by current liabilities we get the current ratio.  If this is greater than one then a business will find it easier to pay their bills.  If it’s less than one then a business will struggle to pay their bills.  And may not be able to pay their bills.  If they can’t they are insolvent.  Meaning that they are not selling at high enough prices.  They’re not selling enough.  Or their costs are just too great at the prevailing market prices.  And if any of the above is true they may have no choice but to file for bankruptcy protection.  Because they simply cannot pay their bills.

If a Business can’t Generate Cash (Working Capital) Borrowing Money will only Delay the Inevitable—Bankruptcy

Cash is king.  A business has to have it.  And if they’re business can’t generate it they have to get it someplace else.  Either by borrowing it from the bank.  From family.  Or taking out another mortgage on their home.  All of which are short-term solutions to a much bigger problem.  For if their business can’t generate cash borrowing money will only delay the inevitable.  Bankruptcy.  Which means they either have to raise their sales volume.  Raise their prices.  Or cut their costs.  To get their current ratio above one.  Making them solvent again.

When you subtract current liabilities from current assets you get a business’ working capital.  The greater a business’ working capital is the easier it is for them to pay their bills.  And the easier it is to grow their business.  Or to offer raises, bonuses, more generous benefits, etc.  For to do any of these things a business first has to be able to pay their bills.  If they can keep paying their bills and maintain a current ratio above one for a few consecutive accounting periods they will find themselves with a surplus of cash.  Or working capital.  Useable cash to expand business operations.  Or to better pay their employees.

Of course if a business is too generous with their employees it will dry up that working capital and make it harder to pay their other bills.  For example, when generous union contracts impose heavy costs on a business while the prevailing market prices prevents them from charging enough to be able to afford those generous union contracts a business will soon find itself in financial difficulties.  Leading to a possible bankruptcy.  Where a bankruptcy court allows them to renegotiate their union contracts.  So their sales at prevailing market prices can afford them.  As well as their other bills.  While leaving enough working capital left over to grow their business.  Replace some worn out equipment.  Or repay a loan.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Inflation and Deflation

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 26th, 2011

Economics 101

When Demand is Greater than Supply there’s Inflation, when Supply is greater there is Deflation

Agriculture advances gave us food surpluses.  Food surpluses gave us a division of labor.  The division of labor gave us trade.  Money made that trade more efficient.  Religion and the Rule of Law allowed great gatherings of people to live and work together in urban settings.  Free trade let us maximize this economic output and elevated our standard of living.  Free labor sustained economic growth by increasing the number of people making economic exchanges.  Prices automated the process of assigning value and allocating scarce resources (that have alternative uses).  And provided incentive and competition.  The free movement of prices in our economy, then, is very important.  So important that we track extremes in these movements and give them special names.  Inflation.  And deflation.

When the economy is good we typically see prices increase.  Because the greater amount of economic activity is competing for the same scarce resources.  So businesses ‘bid’ up the price of these scarce resources.  To make sure they get what they need before someone else beats them to them.  This more intense competition for these resources causes their prices to rise.  We call this inflation.  Telling other suppliers that demand is greater than the current supply.  This encourages suppliers to bring more supplies to market.  And attracts others into the market.  As this happens the available supply of these scarce resources increases.  And approaches the level of demand.  Where prices then stabilize.

This is the free market correcting prices.  Prices were high because demand was greater than supply.  When supply caught up to demand they stopped rising.  And if supply continues to grow and exceeds demand they will start falling.  Because those scarce resources won’t be so scarce anymore.  Which happens when people bring too much supply to market.  Of course they have no way of knowing this.  Until the prices tell them so.  Falling prices, then, are a signal that supply has exceeded demand.  So suppliers scale back on what they bring to market.  We call this fall in prices deflation.  And when supply drops at or below demand the price correction is complete.  And prices stop falling.

When Government Interferes with Market Prices we can get Bubbles where both Prices and Supply are High

This price-correction deflation goes by another name.  Recession.  And we call this inflation/deflation cycle the business cycle.  Often referred to as a boom-bust cycle.  Times are good on the inflation side.  But not so good on the deflation side.  Because recessions aren’t fun.  Unless you like periods of high unemployment.  But it’s a natural and necessary part of the business cycle.  It’s how the free market corrects prices.  Allocates scarce resources that have alternative uses.  And provides incentive and competition.  Everything that makes free market capitalism function.  Providing the highest standard of living man has ever known.

But some in government like to tinker.  They think why not make the inflation part last longer?  And try to end the deflation part?  So they play with the tools at their disposal.  Monetary policy.  Fiscal policy.  And regulatory policy.  To stimulate demand beyond what the market is demanding.  To keep the good times rolling.  Where we live with permanent but ‘manageable’ inflation.  And avoid deflationary periods all together.  And recessions.  Sounds good.  In theory, at least.  But it rarely ends well when the government interferes with market prices.

When they interfere with market prices they give false information to those in the market.  Continued inflation means continued high prices.  Prices go even higher than they would have if left to market forces.  Indicating a high demand when there is none.  So suppliers rush in to meet this false demand.  Greatly increasing supply beyond demand.  Creating what we call a bubble.  Where both prices and supply are high.  An artificial creation.  And one that cannot last.  And when prices do correct they have a lot farther to fall.  As excess supply is sold off at discount prices.  And employers cut back and shed excess capacity.  Creating high levels of unemployment.  And a long and unpleasant recession until prices finally stabilize once again.  When supply once again matches demand.

The More we try to Eliminate the Deflationary Side of the Business Cycle the More Painful the Recession

Interestingly, government interference into the free market was to eliminate the business cycle.  Especially the unpleasant deflationary side of it.  But their actions only made the deflationary side far more painful.  Because it was their actions that created those inflationary bubbles.  Not the market.  Their actions only delayed the inevitable market correction.  It couldn’t stop it.  Nothing can.  The more they tried the bigger the bubbles they created.  And the bigger the bubble the bigger the correction.  And the more painful the recession.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Incentive and Competition

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 19th, 2011

Economics 101

Prices set by the Free Market make Competitors Think and Innovate

Agriculture advances gave us food surpluses.  Food surpluses gave us a division of labor.  The division of labor gave us trade.  Money made that trade more efficient.  Religion and the Rule of Law allowed great gatherings of people to live and work together in urban settings.  Free trade let us maximize this economic output and elevated our standard of living.  Free labor sustained economic growth by increasing the number of people making economic exchanges.  Prices automated the process of assigning value and allocating scarce resources (that have alternative uses).  But that’s not all.  Prices also provide incentive and competition.

High prices signal high profits.  Or the potential for high profits.  Which encourages other people to enter the market to get their piece of these high profits.  People who think they can do a better job.  Make something better.  And sell it for less.  That’s right, to get rich they will sell it for less.  That’s key.  That’s how you gain market share.  The ultimate goal of all businesses.  Because with market share comes profit.  And often times this happens even with a price below that of the competition.

Prices set by the market allow this amazing phenomenon to happen.  It stimulates the creative juices.  It makes competitors think.  And innovate.  Providing incentive.  To improve on an existing idea.  Or replace an existing idea with a better idea.  All the while being guided by market prices.  Which tell them the current value a buyer places on a product or service.  And the final cost they have to remain below to bring their innovation to market.  If they do both they will gain market share.  By giving customers better value at a lower price.  And they will make themselves rich in the process.  The proverbial win-win of the free market.  The hallmark of capitalism.  Incentive and competition.

With Crony Capitalism Government Increases the Cost of Competition, Squelching any Incentive to Innovate

Free market prices are essential for free market capitalism.  If the market is not free to determine prices this amazing phenomenon will not occur.  Consumers will not get more value for less.  And business people and entrepreneurs will not take chances and create more value for less.  Because if there are outside forces influencing prices these forces also create uncertainty.  They throw unknowns into business calculations.  Things businesses have no power over.  Which makes them cautious.  And less prone to risk-taking.

We can see examples of this every time there is unrest in the Middle East.  Which tends to threaten the oil supply.  Everything in a modern economy uses energy.  Nothing comes to market without energy.  So anything that affects energy prices affects all prices.  Another example is government’s regulatory cost.  Such as Obamacare.  Which has caused great uncertainty.  And a lot of unknowns.  For entrepreneurs.  And business owners.  Who don’t know the ultimate regulatory compliance cost.  Freezing hiring.  And business expansion.  Extending the Great Recession.  Causing the economy to spit and sputter along.  Like an engine that just won’t restart.

Typically when government over regulates it’s to reward their friends and cronies.  Hence the term crony capitalism.  Which isn’t even capitalism.  Crony capitalism is about getting rich by who you know in government.  Not by creating more value for less.  The government fixes the game by keeping prices high for their cronies.  By enacting regulations that increase the cost of competition.  Squelching any incentive to innovate.  Leaving consumers stuck paying more for less value.

When Government Interfered with Market Prices they gave us the Great Depression and the Great Recession

Free market prices assign value.  Allocate scarce resources that have alternative uses.  Provide incentive to innovate.  Encourage competition.  Incentive and competition.  The hallmark of capitalism.  Which ultimately provides consumers with more value at lower prices.  And it does all of this automatically.  As long as government doesn’t interfere with this automatic pricing mechanism.

But government often does.  They interfere with this automatic pricing mechanism to reward friends and cronies far too often.  When they do the economy suffers.  And often goes into recession.  And when they really interfere, they cause Great Depressions.  And Great Recessions.

Government regulatory policy turned an ordinary recession into the Great Depression.  One of their greatest anti-business regulations being the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act.  Which launched an all out trade war.  Killing the economy.  And government regulatory policy in the mortgage industry caused the Great Recession.    First by creating a housing bubble by forcing lenders to qualify the unqualified.  And then enabling this bad policy on a grand scale by having Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy the resulting bad subprime mortgages.  Which removed all risk from the lenders so they kept on approving bad subprime mortgages.

Say what you will about the Great Depression and the Great Recession.  But what you can’t say is that they were market failures.  Because they weren’t.  Both were government-made.  Because it was government that interfered with market prices.  Not the free market.  And the consumers paid the price for their crony capitalism.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Price Controls make Scarce things Scarcer

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 23rd, 2011

Week in Review

If there’s anything that tells us not to take mainstream economists or the United Nations or the International Monetary Fund or other global organizations seriously it’s this (see Economists Call for Crop-Trading Limits to Curb Volatility by Alan Bjerga posted 10/10/2011 on Bloomberg Businessweek).

Hundreds of economists including scholars from Oxford University and the University of California, Berkeley, are asking the Group of 20 nations to impose limits on speculative positions in food commodities to curb volatility in crop prices…

Research sponsored by the United Nations, International Monetary Fund and other global organizations suggest speculation in crop futures by index funds and large banks may cause price spikes that can put grocery costs out of reach for poorer people. Global regulation of speculators has been a goal of French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his term as leader of the G-20 this year.

What’s the common thread in all these organizations?  They’re all Keynesian tax and spend big world government.  And, surprise, surprise, they want more control over the world’s economies.

Have we learned nothing from the Nixon’s price controls of the Seventies?  Price controls make scarce things scarcer.  Did rent control make more low-income housing available?  No.  Did price controls make gasoline more available?  No.  Why?  Because market prices match supply to demand.  And when you mess with the market price mechanism, you mess with supply and demand.  Resulting in shortages.  Such as low-income housing and gasoline during the Seventies.

Messing with prices doesn’t make scarce things less scarce.  So why do it?  Because that’s what Keynesian tax and spend big world government does.  It’s not about the economy.  It’s about power.  Their power.  And they want more.

The 2008 spike in gasoline prices is an example of this pricing mechanism.  The run up that peaked in July 2008 was due to a fall in OPEC production, not speculation (see Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Clearly Explains Why Speculation Didn’t Drive Oil Prices in 2008 by Kay McDonald posted 10/14/2011 on big agriculture picture).  The high gas prices in 2008 just made sure that a scarce resource was available for those who really needed it.  People drove less over the summer.  Which made a scarce resource available for those who really needed it.  The result?  No gas shortages.  And no gas lines.  Like in the Seventies.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

 

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Rules of Supply and Demand Apply to Gasoline, Too

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 18th, 2010

What’s the Difference Between Underwear and Gasoline?

Go through your wife’s or girlfriend’s underwear drawer.  What do you see?  What kind of underwear does she have?  Silk?  Nylon?  Satin?  Cotton?  Chances are you’re not going to see only one type.  There’ll be a little variety.  If you don’t see her get dressed, can you tell what she’s wearing?  Probably not.  The underwear she’s wearing will have no impact on her life.  Whatever she does on any given day will probably be the same regardless of her choice of underwear on that day.

All right, now think about what kind of fuel she puts into her car.  What are her choices?  At best, maybe two.  Far fewer than her underwear choices.  Chances are that she’ll be running her car on gasoline.  If it’s a late model car and she’s a hardcore environmentalist she may be using E85 (an alcohol-based fuel made from food).  However, if she finds herself having to refuel in a bad part of town late at night she’ll probably be switching back to gasoline pretty darn quick.  You see, you just can’t drive as far on a tank of E85 as you can on gasoline.  For when it comes to fuel, gasoline is king.  It packs a lot of energy per gallon.  It’ll let most people refuel on the weekend at that safe gas station close to home.

So what’s the difference between underwear and gasoline?  Choice.  If the price of gasoline goes up, we have but two choices.  Pay more.  Or drive less.  If the price of cotton goes up, we can pay more or wear less cotton.  And when there’s other fabric available (silk, nylon, satin, etc.), wearing less cotton is a whole lot easier.  And that choice will never put anyone in danger.  Like stopping to refuel in a bad part of town late at night.

Market Forces Driving Market Prices

Well, cotton prices are going up (see Flashback to 1870 as Cotton Hits Peak in the Wall Street Journal on line by Adam Cancryn and Carolyn Cui).  Floods in Pakistan and heavy rains in China have significantly reduced the supply of cotton.  And when supply goes down, what happens to prices?  They go up.  How much?

The sudden surge in prices—cotton has risen as much as 56% in three months—has alarmed manufacturers and retailers, who worry they may be forced to pass on higher costs to recession-weary consumers.

Ouch.  56%.  Even gasoline doesn’t go up that much in three months.  But will we, the consumers, absorb that increase? 

For the apparel industry, rising prices have upended roughly two decades of cheap cotton. Consumers have become used to relatively low prices, making it hard for garment producers to pass on the rising costs, especially as the economy struggles to recover.

Probably not.  Why?  Because we have fabric choices.  Wearing something other than cotton is no big deal.  It’s easy to do.  And life will go on just as it did when we were wearing cotton.  We won’t notice the difference.  Which is why it’s hard to pass these price increases on to us.  It’s not the same with gasoline.  With gasoline, we don’t have other choices.  Maybe E85.  But we’ll have to buy more of that to drive just as far so we might as well pay the higher gasoline prices.  At least our wife/girlfriend won’t have to stop to refuel in questionable parts of town.  But cotton isn’t gasoline.  People will buy other fabrics if cotton prices go up.  So manufacturers will look at ways to keep from passing on these costs

The most at risk are discount retailers that compete on price and sell large quantities of cotton-based basic items, such as T-shirts. But clothing manufacturers of all price levels may be forced to decide between absorbing the costs or passing them on. Some say they also are exploring different materials, including synthetic blends.

Because consumers have clothing choices, clothing manufacturers will switch to less expensive fabrics to offer what the consumer will choose.  Gasoline producers can’t do this.  There’s only gasoline.  Sure, there’s E85.  But E85 is not gasoline.  When you choose E85, you get less.  It’s not the same with fabric.  There may be a difference in the feel of cotton and a synthetic blend, but you’re not going to incur additional costs with a synthetic blend (i.e., you won’t have to buy more of the synthetic blend clothing for the same amount of ‘wear-time’ of the cotton).  So the consumer won’t just whistle a happy tune and pay these higher prices.   

Compounding this problem of supply pressure on prices is the demand pressure.

Meanwhile, demand from Chinese cotton mills has shown no signs of slowing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said China bought 267,700 running bales of U.S. upland cotton last week, more than half of the total bales exported and more than the country usually takes.

The clothing manufacturers may be suffering, but, surely, the cotton farmers must be loving this.  Just like Big Oil must love those high oil prices, right?  Sure.  As long as someone is buying at these prices. 

However, the lofty prices are making some cotton farmers worry.

“I hope it won’t go too high. If you can’t put it into clothes and clothes become too expensive, prices will come down,” Mr. Wilkins said.

And that’s the problem.  As prices go up, we buy less.  When we have choices, we just won’t pay high prices.  And in free-market capitalism, there are always choices.

Drill Baby Drill – If You Want Affordable Gasoline

There are no other fuels to compete with gasoline like there is with fabrics.  But we still have a choice.  We just drive less.  That’s a choice.  Before the great recession resulting from the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008, gasoline had peaked around $4/gallon.  It doesn’t cost that much now.  Prices came down because a lot of people bought less $4/gallon gasoline than they did $2.75/gallon gasoline.  But that price will go up again.  Not because of Big Oil’s price fixing (if they could fix prices gasoline would not have come down from those $4/gallon prices).  But for the same reason cotton prices are going up.  Exploding demand in China. 

Until there is a viable alternative to gasoline, gasoline prices will always be more volatile than clothing prices.  But the laws of supply and demand will have similar affects on each.  A reduction in supply (a poor cotton harvest or a lack of new oil drilling) will raise prices.  An increase in demand (hungry Chinese cotton mills or a growing Chinese middle class buying and driving cars) will increase prices.  Both of these together will really increase prices.  It’s not Big Oil.  It’s not Big Cotton.  It’s simple economics.

How do you make these prices go down?  Well, with little control over the Chinese economy, our only choice is to increase supply.  And when it comes to gasoline, that means we need to drill more.  The more oil we pull from the ground the more we can refine.  It’s just simple economics.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,