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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The Keynesian Fiat Economies are so Bad that the World is Turning back to Gold

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 19th, 2013

Week in Review

Keynesians hate the gold standard.  They blamed it for the Great Depression.  Which they believed could have been avoided if the government printed more money instead of contracting the money supply.  For a Keynesian’s answer to everything is to expand the money supply.  So the government can spend more money.  This came to a head in the U.S. during the Seventies.  Foreign countries were converting their dollars into gold.  Because the U.S. was devaluating the dollar by printing so much new money.  So these countries took the gold instead.  Because you can’t depreciate gold.

The Seventies were a disaster.  It turned out that the government just couldn’t print money to pay its bills as the destruction they caused on the dollar devastated the economy.  So they backed off.  The Federal Reserve raised interest rates into the double digits to stamp out that destructive inflation.  The world didn’t return to a gold standard, though.  As most countries were still hard-core Keynesians who liked the ability to make money out of nothing so they can keep spending. But now the Eurozone is in a sovereign debt crisis.  The UK is slashing their NHS budget.  Japan is now spending twice their GDP and stuck in an economic slump going on for over two decades.  And as the U.S. is spending about 100% of its GDP they added a whopper of a new entitlement.  Obamacare.  The destruction of the dollar isn’t a question of if but when.  And now we’re seeing a quasi return to the gold standard as nations everywhere are losing faith in the ability of these Keynesian governments to spend responsibly (see A new Gold Standard is being born by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard posted 1/17/2013 on The Telegraph).

The world is moving step by step towards a de facto Gold Standard, without any meetings of G20 leaders to announce the idea or bless the project.

Some readers will already have seen the GFMS Gold Survey for 2012 which reported that central banks around the world bought more bullion last year in terms of tonnage than at any time in almost half a century.

They added a net 536 tonnes in 2012 as they diversified fresh reserves away from the four fiat suspects: dollar, euro, sterling, and yen…

Neither the euro nor the dollar can inspire full confidence, although for different reasons. EMU is a dysfunctional construct, covering two incompatible economies, prone to lurching from crisis to crisis, without a unified treasury to back it up. The dollar stands on a pyramid of debt. We all know that this debt will be inflated away over time – for better or worse. The only real disagreement is over the speed.

This is the inevitable result of Keynesian economics.  Reckless spending that destroys currencies.  And right now these countries stand in judgment of the U.S., the Eurozone, Great Britain and Japan.  Their social spending obligations have put them on a path towards currency destruction.  And they don’t want be around when that happens while holding dollars, euros, sterling, or yen.  Because they just won’t be worth the paper they’re printed on.

In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged American Industrialists went on strike.  Walked away from their companies and disappeared.  Leaving their overregulated and overtaxed businesses to the government to do with them as they pleased.  Refusing to be economic slaves anymore.  They eventually migrated to a place called Galt’s Gulch somewhere in Colorado.  Where they made their own community.  And economy.  Where creators traded with other creators.  Using that one money that stood the test of time.  Gold.  For if you wanted to buy something in Galt’s Gulch you had to have gold.  For no one accepted cash there.  Some have been predicting we’ve been on the brink of something like this actually happening for the last 80 years or so.  And now it’s happening.  Only it’s not American industrialists turning on the U.S. government but the rest of the world.

Is it any wonder that sales of Atlas Shrugged have surged during the Obama administration?  These people are seeing what these countries see.  The decline of the U.S.  And the destruction of the dollar.  Thank you President Obama.

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