Scotland wants to Keep the Pound in a (somewhat) Independent Scotland

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 8th, 2014

Week in Review

The Greek crisis happened because there was a currency union without a political union.  The Eurozone set some pretty strict limits on deficits and debt to join.  Why?  Because people in the Eurozone would all be using the same Euro.  So they didn’t want one country running up deficits or their debt.  Because if they did they wouldn’t just be messing with their economy.  They would be messing with the entire Eurozone economy.

Well, that’s what Greece did.  They were spending so much money that they had large deficits that added to a large debt.  A euro-denominated debt.  Which meant a default would raise borrowing costs for other euro-denominated debt.  Raising the borrowing costs for the Eurozone.  So to avoid that required other Eurozone nations to help Greece with their debt.  Requiring higher taxes in the more responsible countries of the Eurozone to pay for the irresponsible spending of Greece.  Neither option (default or rescue package) being a popular option.  Especially for the Greek people.  For the rescue package came with strings.  And the big one was austerity.  They had to stop spending so much.  Which meant a lot of people lost some of their government benefits.  Making them very unhappy.  Leading to some rioting in the streets.

Had there been a political union this would not have happened.  For there would have been only one entity borrowing and spending Euros.  One entity taxing the Eurozone nations.  And one entity printing money.  Much like the federal government in the United States.  And London in the United Kingdom (see Scotland’s referendum: Salmond says independence will benefit whole UK posted 3/4/2014 on BBC News Scotland Politics).

An independent Scotland with a strong economy would benefit the whole of the UK, First Minister Alex Salmond has told a gathering in London…

“I believe George Osborne’s speech on sterling three weeks ago – his ‘sermon on the pound’ – will come to be seen as a monumental error.

“It encapsulates the diktats from on high which are not the strength of the Westminster elite, but rather their fundamental weakness.

“In contrast, we will seek to engage with the people of England on the case for progressive reform.”

But Tory MP Mr Mundell said that Mr Salmond was saying that a choice to leave the UK and become independent “means staying exactly the same as we are now”.

He added: “By definition, that simply cannot happen.

“No one should be under any illusion that voting for independence means getting independence, which means becoming a new country outside the UK.

If the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis has taught us anything it’s that a currency union without a political union is not a good thing.  An independent Scotland would eliminate the political union there is now.  And the reason why England does not want a currency union with an independent Scotland is because of what happened in the Eurozone.  It doesn’t work.  At least, it doesn’t work well.  Which begs the question why do they want independence but not complete independence (keeping the pound)?

One can only surmise so they can have more autonomy over their taxing, borrowing and, of course, spending.  Perhaps to spend more.  Creating larger deficits.  And a greater pound-denominated debt.  Which would be of great concern to other holders of pound-denominated debt.  The rest of the United Kingdom.

It is unlikely that independence would lead to a stronger Scottish economy.  Or a stronger UK economy.  If it did then the whole point of the Eurozone would be a lie.  To create a larger economic zone to compete with the large economic zone that is the United States.  Because bigger is better.  At least in terms of GDP.  The British Empire was bigger than the United Kingdom is now.  And the United Kingdom is bigger than a United Kingdom without Scotland.  And an independent Scotland would be smaller than all of the above.  So if you want to maximize GDP you would want to maximize the size of your economy.  Not shrink it.  Which leads one to believe that the reason for independence is something other than economic.  Because the UK is too English?  Perhaps.  Whatever the reason let’s just hope everything works out for the best.  For the United Kingdom did make the world a better place.  With great people like Adam Smith from Scotland.  And John Locke from England.  To name only two of the greats to come from the United Kingdom.


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Britain and Scotland disagree over Scottish Currency in an Independent Scotland

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 16th, 2014

Week in Review

The Eurozone was a grand idea to make an economic zone that could compete against the United States.  A United States of Europe, if you will.  But the Eurozone has suffered a sovereign debt crisis that was unavoidable.  As many analysts have identified the problem causing the Eurozone all its sovereign debt woes.  The lack of a political union.

The solution they say is for member states to give up some of their sovereignty and allow a Eurozone government have more control.  Like the United States of America has.  Which means putting even stricter controls on member states when it comes to their spending.  Which, in turn, would limit their deficits.  And their borrowing needs.  Which brought on the sovereign debt crisis in the first place.  Excessive spending beyond their ability to pay for with taxes.  Normally not a problem for other countries when another country spends itself into oblivion.  Unless, of course, there is a currency union with that country.  Which makes their problems your problems.  Problems that are impossible to solve without a political union.

The Eurozone sovereign debt crisis illustrates that a currency union without a political union will not work.  Which makes the movement for Scottish independence very interesting (see Britain warns Scotland: Forget the pound if you walk away by Belinda Goldsmith, Reuters, posted 2/13/2014 on Yahoo! News).

Britain warned Scotland on Thursday it would have to give up the pound if Scots voted to end the 307-year-old union with England, declaring the currency could not be divided up “as if it were a CD collection” after a messy divorce…

The message was aimed at undermining the economic case for independence and one of the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) key proposals – that an independent Scotland would keep the pound…

The debate has intensified in recent weeks with Bank of England chief Mark Carney cautioning that a currency union would entail a surrender of some sovereignty…

The SNP [Scottish National Party] has indicated that if London prevented a currency union, an independent Scotland could refuse to take on a share of the UK’s 1.2 trillion pounds ($1.99 trillion) of government debt which Britain has promised to honor…

Osborne said the nationalist threat to walk away from its share of UK debt would mean punitively high interest rates for an independent Scotland and was an “empty threat”.

“In that scenario, international lenders would look at Scotland and see a fledgling country whose only credit history was one gigantic default,” Osborne said.

Currently there is a political union between Scotland and England.  The United Kingdom (UK).  And Scottish independence would go contrary to what some analysts say is needed to save the Eurozone.  Political unity.  The problem in the Eurozone is that no one nation wants to give up any of their sovereignty and have some distant power tell them what they can and cannot do.  The way some in Scotland feel about London.  That distant power that governs the United Kingdom.

The British pound is one of the world’s strongest currencies.  A product of the powers in London.  Because they have political control across the UK.  If they lose their political control over Scotland will it damage the British pound?  If the Eurozone is any measure of a currency union without a political union, yes.  So it will be interesting to see what happens between these two great nations.  Whose people made the world a better place.  People like the great Scotsman Adam Smith.  And the great Englishman John Locke.  To name just two.  So whatever happens let’s hope it’s in the best interest of both countries.  For countries everywhere enjoying economic freedom and human rights can thank these two countries for their contributions to the British Empire.  Which helped spread the best of Western Civilization around the world from the United States to Canada to Australia to Hong Kong.  And beyond.


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The Problems in the Eurozone may Influence Scottish Voters in their Independence Referendum

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 27th, 2013

Week in Review

During the Roaring Twenties the American economy was giving the economies of Europe a run for their money.  The Europeans, accustomed to running the world for so long, looked at the economic prowess of America with concern.  And began to talk about a United States of Europe to compete with the economic juggernaut across the pond.  But when Calvin Coolidge chose not to run for a second term the progressives got back into power.  And Herbert Hoover put an end to that surging economy.  Causing a stock market crash.  And throwing the country into recession.  Which FDR turned into the Great Depression.

So there was no United States of Europe.  But there would be a European Union one day.  And after that, a currency union.  The Eurozone.  To compete against the economic prowess of the United States.  But a currency union without a political union.  Without a single fiscal and monetary policy to support that currency union.  Which turned out to be a problem.  For without that political union the currency union was only as strong as its weakest state.  In the Eurozone that state was Greece.  Whose unrestrained government spending caused a debt crisis that threatened to bring down the entire Eurozone.  Unless the other members stepped in to bail out Greece.  Which they have.  But the crisis hasn’t gone away.  For the central governing authorities can only ask Greece to cut their spending.  Which there is a lot of opposition to in Greece.  Putting a lot of pressure on the Euro.

Greece isn’t the only problem.  There was Ireland.  Spain.  Portugal.  And Cyprus.  All sovereign nations.  Sharing a common currency.  Making it all but impossible to maintain a uniform fiscal policy throughout the Eurozone.  Like they can in the United States.  Because the United States of America is a political union.  With one central government.  One central fiscal authority.  And one central monetary authority.  Making it hard for any one state to undermine the currency.  (Though California is making a valiant effort.)  Which is the problem they’re having in the Eurozone.  Many of the states are threatening to undermine the common currency.  Making a very strong case against future currency unions without a political union.  Which is something they are considering with an upcoming referendum on Scottish independence (see UK says “no clear reason” to let independent Scotland use the pound by David Milliken posted 4/23/2013 on Reuters UK).

The euro zone’s experience of countries sharing a currency but not a government shows there is no clear case for an independent Scotland to use the pound, the Treasury said on Tuesday.

The nation of 5 million will hold a referendum on September 18 next year to decide whether to split from the United Kingdom, at the instigation of the Scottish National Party that runs the country’s devolved government.

Pro-independence campaigners want Scotland to keep sterling, at least in the early years of independence, and then to decide later whether to switch to its own currency.

But in a report on Tuesday, the Treasury said there was no clear case for the United Kingdom to agree to a formal currency union with an independent Scotland, which would have an economy of a similar size to New Zealand’s…

“The recent experience of the euro area has shown that it is extremely challenging to sustain a successful formal currency union without close fiscal integration and common arrangements for the resolution of banking sector difficulties,” it added.

Scotland and England have a long history.  Not all of it good.  But if we’ve learned anything from history it is that large economic blocs do better than smaller counties.  As the United States demonstrated.  And as the Eurozone tried to duplicate with their currency union.  But as that experiment showed us a currency union without a political union is a recipe for disaster.  If Scotland breaks from the United Kingdom they will have to go all of the way.  And leave sterling.  Which will make independence more difficult.  Having to set up a new currency with everything else they will have to do.  (Such as dealing with separating their military forces from the UK’s.  And providing for their own defense.  Or forming a military union with the UK.  Which will tie them closely to the UK.  Something many Scots no doubt will consider before voting in the referendum.)

Of course if they do and they devalue their new currency it would make their exports cheaper to those nations with a stronger currency.  But that weak currency will make anything they import more expensive.  As Scotland exports and imports a lot of stuff they won’t get a clear advantage in devaluing their new currency.  So they may peg their new currency to sterling.  The next best thing to keeping sterling.  Which will tie them closely to the UK.  Something many Scots no doubt will consider before voting in the referendum.  Perhaps choosing to stay in the UK.  As Quebec chose to stay in Canada in their past referendum.  Who had less in common with the rest of Canada than the Scots have with the UK.  For they don’t even speak the same language.

They could join the Eurozone.  But recent events in the Eurozone does not make that option as appealing as setting up a new currency.  Or staying a part of the UK.  It would probably be best for the rest of the world if Scotland remained part of the UK.  For the world will need at least one strong reserve currency.  As the Euro is making itself less attractive by the day.  The U.S. dollar may hit the wall soon with the amount of debt the Americans are racking up.  And the Chinese are likely to go the way of Japan before the decade is out.  And have their own Lost Decade with all their malinvestments.  The ultimate cause in the fall of state-capitalism.

Now the UK has its problems.  But their decision to stay out of the Eurozone was clearly sound as a pound.  And pound sterling may grow even more attractive as a reserve currency as these other countries continue to rely on easy credit and debt to pay for their burgeoning welfare states.  And/or their malinvestments.  But one thing the UK is doing that none of these other bloated states are doing is making real cuts in spending.  Even in their venerated NHS.  Giving the UK the edge in responsible governing these days.  And really making a strong argument against Scottish independence at this time.  Even for those who hate England.  For it is better to deal with the devil you know than the devil you don’t.  Especially during uncertain times.


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Farming, Food Surplus, Artisans, Trade, Barter, Search Costs, Money, Precious Metals, Pound, Dollar and Gold Standard

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 9th, 2012

History 101

Food Surpluses allowed Everything that followed in the Modern Age

Humans were hunters and gatherers first.  When the environment ruled supreme.  Then something happened.  Humans began to think more.  And started to push back against their environment.  First with tools.  Then with fire.  Bringing people closer together.  Eventually settling down in civilizations.  When the human race embarked on a new path.  A path that would eventually usher in the modern age we enjoy today.  We stopped hunting and gathering.  And began farming.

Throughout history life has been precarious.  Due to the uncertainty of the food supply.  Especially when the environment ruled our lives.  That changed with farming.  When we started taking control of our environment.  We domesticated animals.  And learned how to grow food.  Which lead to perhaps the most important human advancement.  The one thing that allowed everything that followed in the modern age.   Food surpluses.  Which made life less precarious.  And a whole lot more enjoyable.

Producing more food than we needed allowed us to store food to get us through long winters and seasons with poor harvests.  But more importantly it freed people.  Not everyone had to farm.  Some could do other things.  Think about other things.  And build other things.  Artisans arose.  They built things to make our lives easier.  More enjoyable.  And when these talented artisans and farmers met other talented artisans and farmers they traded the products of all their labors.  In markets.  That became cities.  Enriching each other’s lives.  By allowing them to trade for food.  For things that made life easier.  And for things that made life more enjoyable.

We settled on using Precious Metals (Gold and Silver) for Money for they were Everything Money Should Be

As civilizations advanced artisans made a wider variety of things.  Putting a lot of goods into the market place.  Unfortunately, it made trading more difficult.  Because while you saw what you wanted the person who had it may not want what you had to offer in trade.  So what do you do?  You look for someone else that has that same thing.  And will trade for what you have.  And when the second person doesn’t want to trade for what you have you look for a third person.  Then a fourth.  Then a fifth.  Until you find someone who wants to trade for what you have.

This is the barter system.  Trading goods for goods.  And as you can see it has high search costs to find someone to trade with.  Time that people could better spend making more things to trade.  What they needed was a temporary storage of value.  Something people could trade their things for.  And those people could then use that temporary storage they received in trade to later trade for something they wanted.   We call this ‘something’ money.

We have used many things for money.  Some things better than others.  In time we learned that the best things to use for money had to have a few characteristics.  It had to be scarce.  A rock didn’t make good money because why would anyone trade for it when you could just pick one up from the ground?  It had to be indestructible and hold its value.  A slab of bacon had value because bacon is delicious.  But if you held on to it too long it could grow rancid, losing all the value it once held.  Or you could eat it.  Which would also remove its value.  It had to be divisible.  A live pig removed the problem of bacon growing rancid.  However, it was hard making change with live pigs.  Which is why we settled on using precious metals (gold and silver) for money.  For they were everything money should be.

The Key to Economic Activity is People with Creative Talent to make Things to Trade

Money came first.  Then government monetary systems.  Traders were using gold and silver long before nations established their own money.  And when they did they based them on weights of these precious metals.  The British pound sterling represented one Saxon pound of silver.  The U.S. dollar came from the Spanish dollar.  Which traces back to 16th century Bohemia.  To the St. Joachim Valley.  Where they minted private silver coins.  The Joachimsthaler.  Where the ‘thaler’ (which translated to valley) in Joachimsthaler became dollar.  The German mark and the French franc came into being as weights of precious metals.  People either traded silver or gold coins.  Or paper notes that represented silver or gold.

We used silver first as the basis for national currencies.  Then with new gold discoveries in the United States, Australia and South Africa gold became the precious metal of choice.  Using precious metals simplified trade by providing sound money.  And it also made foreign exchange easy.  For when the British made their pound represent 1/4 of an ounce of gold and the Americans made their dollar represent 1/20 of an ounce of gold the exchange rate was easy to calculate.  The British pound had 5 times as much gold in it than the U.S. dollar.  So the exchange rate was simply 5 U.S. dollars for every British pound.  Which made international trade easy.  And fair.  Because everything was priced in weights of gold.

The pure gold standard, then, was part of the natural evolution of money.  The state did not create it.  It does not require an act of legislation.  Or political decree.  The pure gold standard existed before the state.  And states based their currencies on the monetary system that already existed.  Using weights of precious metals as money.  That is, a pure gold standard.  Central banks and fiat money are only recent inventions of the state.  And bad ones at that.  For the thousands of years that preceded the last hundred years or so there were only traders mutually agreeing to trade their goods for precious metals.  Using these precious metals as a temporary storage of wealth.  To temporarily hold the value of the things they made.  So the key to economic activity is people with creative talent to make things to trade.  And a sound money like gold and silver to facilitate that trade.  Not a central bank.  Or monetary policy.


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