Currencies, Exchange Rates and the Gold Standard

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 17th, 2013

Economics 101

Money is a Temporary Storage of Value that has no Intrinsic Value

Giant container ships ply the world’s oceans bringing us a lot of neat stuff.  Big televisions.  Smartphones.  Laptop computers.  Tablet computers.  The hardware for our cable and satellite TVs.  Toasters.  Toaster ovens.  Mixers and blenders.  And everything else we have in our homes and in our lives.  Things that make our lives better.  And make it more enjoyable.  These things have value.  We give them value.  Some have more value to one than another.  But these are things that have value to us.  And because they have value to us they have value to the people that made them.  Who used their human capital to create things that other people wanted.  And would trade for them.

When we first started trading we bartered with others.  Trading things for other things.  But as the economy grew more complex it took a lot of time to find someone who had what you wanted AND you had what they wanted.  So we developed money.  A temporary storage of value.  So we could trade the valuable things we created for money.  That money held the value of what we created temporarily while we looked for something that we wanted.  Then we exchanged the money we got earlier for something someone had.  It was just like trading our thing for someone else’s thing.  Only instead of spending weeks, months even years meeting hundreds of thousands of people trying to find that perfect match we only needed to meet two people.  One that exchanges money for the thing we have that they want.  And another who has what we want that they will exchange for our money.  Then that person would do the same with the money they got from us.  As did everyone else who brought things to market.  And those who came to market with money to buy what others brought.

Money is a temporary storage of value.  Money itself doesn’t have any intrinsic value.  Consider that container ship full of those wonderful items.  Now, which would you rather have as permanent fixtures in your house?  Those wonderful things?  Or boxes of money that just sit in your house?  You’d want the wonderful things.  And if you had a box of money you would exchange it (i.e., go out shopping) for those wonderful things.  Because boxes of money aren’t any fun.  It’s what you can exchange that money for that can be a lot of fun.

Devaluing your Currency boosts Exports by making those Goods less Expensive to the Outside World

So there is a lot of value on one of those container ships.  Let’s take all of that value out of the ship and place it on a balancing scale.  Figuratively, of course.  Now the owner of that stuff wants to trade it for other stuff.  But how much value does this stuff really have?  Well, let’s assume the owner is willing to exchange it all for one metric ton of gold.  Because gold is pretty valuable, too.  People will trade other things for gold.  So if we put 1 metric ton of gold on the other side of the balancing scale (figuratively, of course) the scale will balance.  Because to the owner all of that stuff and one metric ton has the same value.  Of course moving a metric ton of gold is not easy.  And it’s very risky.  So, instead of gold what else can we put on that scale?  Well, we can move dollars electronically via computer networks.  That would be a lot easier than moving gold.  So let’s put dollars on the other side of that scale.  Figuratively, of course.  How many will we need?  Well, today gold is worth approximately $1,380/troy ounce.  So after some dimensional analysis we can convert that metric ton into 32,150 troy ounces.  And at $1,380/troy ounce that metric ton of gold comes to approximately $44.4 million.  So that container ship full of wonderful stuff will balance on a scale with $44.4 million on the other side.  Or 1 metric ton of gold.  In the eyes of the owner they all have the same value.

Moving money electronically is the easiest and quickest manner of exchanging money for ships full of goods.  These ships go to many countries.  And not all of them use American dollars.  But we can calculate what amounts of foreign currency will balance the value of that ship.  Or one metric ton of gold.  By using foreign exchange rates.  Which tell us the value of one currency in another currency.  Something that comes in pretty handy.  For when, say, an American manufacturer sells their goods they want American dollars.  Not British pounds.  Danish kroner.  Or Russian rubles.  For American manufacturers are in the United States of America.  They buy their materials in American dollars.  They pay their employees in American dollars.  Who pay their bills in American dollars.  Go shopping with American dollars.  Etc.  For everyday American transactions the British pound, for example, would be un-useable.  What these American manufacturers want, then, are American dollars.  So before a foreigner can buy these American exports they must first exchange their foreign currencies for American dollars.  We can get an idea of this by considering that container ship full of valuable stuff.  By showing what it would cost other nations.  The following table shows a sampling of foreign exchange rates and the exchanged foreign currency for that $44.4 million.

foreign currencies and exchange rates

If we take the US dollars and the Exchanged Currency for each row and place them on either side of a balancing scale the scale will balance.  Figuratively, of course.  Meaning these currencies have the same value.  And we can exchange either side of that scale for that container ship full of valuable stuff.  Or for that metric ton of gold.  Why are there such large differences in some of these exchange rates?  Primarily because of a nation’s monetary policy.  Many nations manipulate their currency for various reasons.  Some nations give their people a lot of government benefits they pay for by printing money.  Which devalues their currency.  Some nations purposely devalue their currency to boost their export sector.  As the more currency you get in exchange for your currency the more of these exports you can buy.  Most of China’s great economic growth came from their export sector.  Which they helped along by devaluing their currency.  This boosted exports by making those goods less expensive to the outside world.  But the weakened yuan made domestic goods more expensive.  Because it took more of them to buy the same things they once did.  Raising the cost of living for the ordinary Chinese.

The Gold Standard made Free Trade Fair Trade

Some economists, Keynesians, approve of printing a lot of money to lower interest rates.  And for the government to spend.  They think this will increase economic activity.  Well, keeping interest rates artificially low will encourage more people to buy homes.  But because they are devaluing the currency to keep those interest rates artificially low housing prices rise.  Because when you devalue your currency you cause price inflation.  But it’s just not house prices that rise.  Prices throughout the economy rise.  The greater the inflation rate (i.e., the rate at which you increase the money supply) the higher prices rise.  And the less your money will buy.  While the currencies at the top of this table will have exchange rates that don’t vary much those at the bottom of the table may.  Especially countries that like to print money.  Like Argentina.  Where the inflation is so bad at times that Argentineans try to exchange their currency for foreign currencies that hold their value longer.  Or try to spend their Argentine pesos as quickly as possible.  Buying things that will hold their value longer than the Argentine peso.

Because printing fiat money is easy a lot of nations print it.  A lot of it.  People living in these countries are stuck with a rapidly depreciating currency.  But international traders aren’t.  If a country prints so much money that their exchange rate changes every few minutes international traders aren’t going to want their currency.  Because a country can’t do much with a foreign currency other than buy exports with it from that country.  A sum of highly depreciated foreign currency won’t buy as much this hour as it did last hour.  Which forces an international trader to quickly spend this money before it loses too much of its value.  (Some nations will basically barter.  They will exchange their exports for another country’s exports based on the current exchange rate.  So that they don’t hold onto the devalued foreign currency at all.)  But if the currency is just too volatile they may demand another currency instead.  Like the British pound, the euro or the American dollar.  Because these stronger currencies will hold their value longer.  So they’ll buy this hour what they bought last hour.  Or yesterday.  Or last week.  There is less risk holding on to these stronger currencies because Britain, the European Central Bank and the United States aren’t printing as much of their money as these nations with highly devalued currencies are printing of theirs.

This is the advantage of gold.  Countries can’t print gold.  It takes an enormous expense to bring new gold to the world’s gold supply.  It’s not easy.  So the value of the gold is very stable.  While some nations may devalue their currencies they can’t devalue gold.  A nation printing too much money may suffer from hyperinflation.  Reducing their exchange rate close to zero.  And when you divide by a number approaching zero the resulting amount of currency required for the exchange approaches infinity.  Weimar Germany suffered hyperinflation.  It was so bad that it took so much money to buy firewood that it was easier and less expensive to burn the currency instead.  This is the danger of a government having the ability to print money at will.  But if that same country can come up with a metric ton of gold that person with the container ship full of wonderful stuff would gladly trade it for that gold.  Even though that person will not trade it for that country’s currency.  This was the basis of the gold standard in international trade.  When nations backed their currencies with gold.  And kept them exchangeable for gold.  Forcing nations to maintain stable currencies.  By maintaining an official exchange rate between their currency and gold.  If that nation devalued its currency the market exchange rate will start to move away from the official exchange rate.  For example, say the official rate was $40/troy ounce.  But because they printed so much of their currency they devalued it to where it took $80 to buy a troy ounce on the open market.  So a nation could take $80 dollars of that devalued currency and exchange it for 2 troy ounces of gold from that nation.  The official exchange rate forcing the nation to give away 2 troy ounces of gold for $80 when the real market exchange rate would only have given them 1 troy ounce.  So devaluing your currency would cause gold to flow out of your country.  And the only way to stop it would be to decrease the size of your money supply.  Undoing the previous inflation.  To bring the market exchange rate back to the official exchange rate.  Which is why the gold standard worked so well for international trade.  Nations could not manipulate their currency to get a trade advantage over another nation.  Making free trade fair trade.  Something few say today.  Thanks to currency manipulators like China.

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If the U.S. was on a Gold Standard there would NOT have been a Financial Crisis in 2007

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 9th, 2013

Week in Review

Counterfeiting money is against the law.  We all know this.  But do we understand why?  Today’s money is just fiat money.  The Federal Reserve prints it and simply says it is money.  So why is it okay for them to print money but not for anyone else?  Because the amount of money in circulation matters.

The goods and services that make up our economy grow at a given rate.  You hear numbers like GDP of 2%, 3% or more.  In China they had GDP numbers in excess of 8%.  The goods and services in our economy are what have value.  Not the money.  It just temporarily holds the value of these goods and services as they change hands in the economy.  So the amount of money in circulation should be close to the value of goods and services in the economy.  Think of a balancing scale.  Where on the one side you have the value of all goods and services in the economy.  And on the other you have the amount of money in circulation.  If you increase the amount of money on the one side it doesn’t increase the amount of goods and services on the other side.  But it still must balance.  So as we increase the amount of money in circulation the value of each dollar must fall to keep the scale in balance.

Now when we put our money into the bank for our retirement we don’t want the value of those individual dollars grow less over time.  Because that would reduce the purchasing power of our money in the bank.  Making for an uncomfortable retirement.  This is why we want a stable dollar.  One that won’t depreciate away the value of our retirement savings, our investments or the homes we live in.  We’d prefer these to increase in value.  But we can stomach if they just hold their value.  For awhile, perhaps.  But we cannot tolerate it when they lose their value.  Because when they do years of our hard work just goes ‘poof’ and disappears.  Leaving us to work longer and harder to make up for these losses.  Perhaps delaying our retirements.  Perhaps having to work until the day we die.  So we want a stable currency.  Like the gold standard gave us (see Advance Look: What The New Gold Standard Will Look Like by Steve Forbes posted 5/8/2013 on Forbes).

The financial crisis that began in 2007 would never have happened had the Federal Reserve kept the value of the dollar stable. A housing bubble of the proportions that unfolded–not to mention bubbles in commodities and farmland–would not have been possible with a stable dollar. The Fed has also created a unique bubble this time: bonds. It hasn’t popped yet (nor has the farmland bubble), but it will.

The American dollar was linked to gold from the time of George Washington until the early 1970s. If the world’s people are to realize their full economic potential, relinking the dollar to gold is essential. Without it we will experience more debilitating financial disasters and economic stagnation.

What should a new gold standard look like? Representative Ted Poe (R-Tex.) has introduced an original and practical version. Unlike in days of old we don’t need piles of the yellow metal for a new standard to operate. Under Poe’s plan–an approach I have long favored–the dollar would be fixed to gold at a specific price. For argument’s sake let’s say the peg is $1,300. If the price of gold were to go above that, the Federal Reserve would sell bonds from its portfolio, thereby removing dollars from the economy to maintain the $1,300 level. Conversely, if the gold price were to drop below $1,300, the Fed would “print” new money by buying bonds, thereby injecting cash into the banking system.

Yes, the subprime mortgage crisis and the Great Recession would not have happened if the Federal Reserve kept the dollar stable.  Instead, they kept printing and putting more money into circulation.  Why?  To keep interest rates low.  To encourage more and more people to buy a house.  Even people who weren’t planning to buy a house.  Even people who couldn’t afford to buy a house.  Until, that is, subprime lending took off.  Because of those low interest rates.  With all of these people added to the housing market who otherwise would not have been there (because of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies of printing money to keep interest rates artificially low) the demand for new houses exploded.  As people tried to buy these before others could house prices soared.  Creating a great housing bubble.  Houses worth far greater than they should have been.  And when the bubble burst those housing prices fell back to earth.  Often well below the value of the outstanding balance of the mortgage on the house.  Leaving people underwater in their mortgages.  And when the Great Recession took hold a lot of two-income families went to one-income.  And had a mortgage payment far greater than a single earner could afford to pay.

So that’s how that mess came about.  Because the Federal Reserve devalued the dollar to stimulate the housing market (and any other market of big-ticket items that required borrowed money).  If we re-link the dollar to gold things like this couldn’t happen anymore.  For if it would put a short leash on the Federal Reserve and their ability to print dollars.  How?  As they print more dollars the value of the dollar falls.  Causing the value of gold priced in dollars to rise.  So they would have to stop printing money to keep the value of gold priced in dollars from rising beyond the established gold price.  Or they would have to remove dollars from circulation to decreases the value of gold priced in dollars back down to the established price.  Thereby giving us a stable currency.  And stable housing prices.  For having a stable currency limits the size of bubbles the Federal Reserve can make.

But governments love to print money.  Because they love to spend money.  As well as manipulate it.  For example, depreciating the dollar makes our exports cheaper.  But those export sales help fewer people than the depreciated dollar harms.  But helping a large exporter may result in a large campaign contribution.  Which helps the politicians.  You see, a stable dollar helps everyone but the politicians and their friends.  For printing money helps Wall Street, K Street (where the lobbyists are in Washington DC) and Pennsylvania Avenue.  While hurting Main Street.  The very people the politicians work for.

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Labor Theory of Value and Prices

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 13th, 2013

Economics 101

“Do you know how many men you and that machine are putting out of a job?”

Ditch digging is back-breaking work.  Often under a blistering sun.  Where laborers swing picks into the hard soil.  Breaking the compacted soil and rock into loose chunks.  Then another laborer thrusts his shovel into the loosened soil.  Scoops up a load and transfers it to a large bucket.  When full other laborers topside heave the bucket up from the trench.  And empties it onto a cart.  Then returns the bucket to the bottom of the trench.  Then laborers swing their picks.  And scoop up more soil.

A ditch digger may hate his job.  The immense physical requirements wearing him down.  Working in unbearable heat.  And the monotony.  Just dig, dig, dig.  Pausing to wipe the sweat rolling off his face with his shirt sleeve.  To grab a deep breath.  Or a swig of water.  Then back to the pick.  Or shovel.  Calloused hands gripping a splintered handle.  As his burning muscles drive it back into the earth.  All the while thinking that there must be a better way.

Then the day comes when a truck pulls onto site.  Pulling a trailer.  And on that trailer is the future.  A mechanical excavator.  With a 44″-wide bucket on it that can move more soil with one swipe than a laborer can dig in a day.  A machine that would revolutionize ditch digging.  As one machine and a crew of a few men could do the work of 100 ditch diggers in far less time.  As the machine operator prepares to drive the mechanical excavator off the trailer a grizzled ditch digger walks up to him and says, “Do you know how many men you and that machine are putting out of a job?”

Something is Worth what Someone is Willing to Pay for it Regardless of the Quantity of Labor

The labor theory of value would say this ditch is very valuable.  Before the future arrived on that trailer.  For this theory states that value is proportional to the quantity of labor it takes to make or do something.  The more labor hours required the more valuable it is.  It’s not the market that determines value via the laws of supply and demand.  As happens under capitalism.  No.  It’s labor that determines value.  A theory championed by labor movements.  And Karl Marx.  The father of communism.  The greatest anti-capitalist of them all.  Which reveals the true motive behind the labor theory of value.  To give more political power to labor.  While having nothing to do with economics.

To illustrate this let’s look at ditch digging.  The way it was.  And the way it is.  For this exercise let’s consider a ditch for a 60″ storm drain.  Which requires a deep, long trench.  Let’s say it takes a crew of 100 laborers to hand-dig the trench in 6 weeks.  While a crew of 10 laborers and a machine can do the job in 1 week.  Each laborer has $25 worth of tools.  And the mechanical excavator costs $25,000 to rent for one week.  Now let’s assume two construction companies put a bid together for this work.  One bases their estimate on the way it was.  Men digging by hand.  The other bases their estimate on the way it is.  Using a machine.  The value of this trench is the cost of their estimates.  That is, the value of the trench is the cost to dig it.  Which is the price someone must pay to have this ditch.  We summarize these two estimates in the following table.

Ditch Digging

The bottom line in the table is the value of the dug trench.  Which you will notice has two different values.  Even though both methods result in an identical thing.  A trench the same length, width and depth.  Yet if dug by hand the price is $1.8 million.  But if we dig it with a machine the price is $55,250.  How can this be?  How can two identical things have two different prices?  Well, they can’t.  What we have is two prices.  But only one price someone will pay.  The low price.  Because that’s all the trench is worth.  The price someone is willing to pay.  Regardless of the quantity of labor used to dig it.

The Labor Theory of Value is a Flawed Economic Theory used more to Attack Capitalism

So Karl Marx was wrong.  As are those in the labor movement.  While the capitalists were/are right.  Labor does NOT determine value.  The market does.  Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.  Based on the laws of supply and demand.

For example, a lot of labor hours go into building a caboose.  The last car on a train before FRED (flashing rear-end device).  The steel wheels, the brakes, the enclosure, the wood burning stove for the brakeman to warm up by, etc.  Which gives it great value based on the labor theory of value.  And a high selling price.  But trains today don’t use cabooses.  For they have no brakemen running along the top of moving trains to turn the brake wheels to stop the train.  Thanks to George Westinghouse and his air brake.  So there is very little if any demand for cabooses by today’s railroads.  Making it all but worthless.  Despite the high price tag based on the quantity of labor used to build it.

Again, supply and demand determine prices.  Not the quantity of labor.  And you can see this anywhere you look.  Another good example is housing.  You can build identical houses in two different locations and they can sell for two different prices.  Despite being built with the exact same amount of labor.  That house on the beach in Malibu will have a far higher price than the same house in Detroit.  For when it comes to real estate three things determine the price of a house.  Location, location and location.  Regardless of the quantity of labor used to build it.  Whether 100 workers build it using nothing but hand tools.  Or a crew of 10 using the latest in power tools and equipment.  It will cost more to pay 100 men to build it using nothing but hand tools.  But it won’t sell for any more than the one built by the crew of 10 using the latest in power tools and equipment.  Because the labor theory of value is a flawed economic theory.  Used more to attack capitalism.  To transfer power from the capitalists to the labor movement.  And the unions that represent them.  As well as the government officials that protect the unions in exchange for campaign contributions.

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Big Box Stores going after Mom and Pop Stores again, this time on the Internet

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 12th, 2013

Week in Review

The big box stores put Mom & Pop stores out of business everywhere.  Mom and Pop cried foul.  But the big box stores told them to cry them a river.  This is business.  If you want to play with the big boys then you have to figure out how to stay in business selling at the big boys’ prices.  Which Mom and Pop never could do.  Not with the big box stores’ purchasing power.  And their big box stores and warehouses that can house massive inventories.  When Mom and Pop could only buy a handful of stuff at a time.  Quantities so small they got the worse pricing from their suppliers.  Who could care less if they stopped buying from them.  Because it was the big box stores that kept the suppliers in business.

So the big box stores had a mighty advantage over Mom and Pop.  Some would even say it was unfair.  Even causing people to protest the opening of another big box store in their neighborhoods.  To protect the Mom and Pop stores.  For the people knew the moment a better deal was available they’d leave Mom and Pop and flock to the big box stores.  Where they could get real value for their hard-earned money.  And now the shoe is on the other foot.  And Mom and Pop have found a way to beat the big box stores.  Who are now crying foul (see You’re probably a tax cheat! Even if online stores don’t charge it, you’re supposed to pay it and new law will try to force you by AP Reporter posted 5/5/2013 on the Daily Mail).

Few taxpayers know they’re expected to pay sales tax on online purchases, so a new law likely to pass in Congress Monday will help states force retailers to pay up, thus forcing the retailer to charge its customers tax…

Supporters say the bill is about fairness for local businesses that already collect sales taxes, and lost revenue for states…

Supporters say the bill makes it relatively easy for Internet retailers to comply. States must provide free computer software to help retailers calculate sales taxes, based on where shoppers live. States also must establish a single entity to receive Internet sales tax revenue, so retailers don’t have to send them to individual counties or cities…

‘Complying and living under the tax laws of 50 states is a major undertaking because the process of complying with tax law goes far beyond just filling out the right forms,’ said Brian Bieron, eBay’s senior director of global public policy. ‘You have to deal with the fact that all of these government agencies can audit you and can question you and can actually take you into court and sue you if they think you are doing something wrong.’

Not charging sales tax does not give Mom and Pop an advantage over the big box stores.  It’s not having a brick and mortar store that gives them the advantage.  And not much of a one at that.  For unlike the big box stores everything Mom and Pop sell over the Internet includes something the big box stores don’t.  Postage and handling.  Which can be greater than the sales tax the big box stores adds to their sales.

As far as lost tax revenue for the states?  It is not as bad as they claim.  For instead of sales tax cities and states are generating fuel taxes on the fuel the delivery trucks consume.  They’re generating payroll and income taxes from the delivery truck drivers, the package sorters, the mechanics keeping the trucks on the road, etc.  In addition to the taxes these workers pay they spend what they keep.  Spending it in the local economy.  Where they even take their wages into those big box stores.  Purchase something.  And pay sales tax.

This is real economic activity that Internet sales drive.  Which DOES create a lot of tax revenue in these states.  So this isn’t as much about an unfair tax advantage Internet retailers are getting away with.  It’s about the big box stores who just don’t like the shoe being on the other foot.  So they hope to destroy that competition by putting Mom and Pop under an additional 49 (or more when adding in cities and counties that charge sales tax) tax jurisdictions.  Which will just suck the life out of dear Mom and Pop.  Again.

And it’s a chance for government to suck more wealth out of the private sector to pay for their bloated public sector.  Who are drowning under the weight of their costly public sector union contracts that they will grab any tax they can.  Leaving the taxpayers with less money in their pockets.  Which is why they turned to the Internet in the first place.  To get as much value as they can from their rapidly shrinking paychecks.

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Dow Jones Industrial Average

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 6th, 2013

Economics 101

The Dow 30 is a Selection of Companies that gives an Idea of how the Economy is Doing as a Whole

The stock market rallied on Friday thanks to what investors viewed as a favorable jobs report.  Sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average into new territory.  Above 15,000.  But it couldn’t hold on to close above 15,000.  Instead, closing at 14,974.  Close but no cigar.  It even fell a little on Monday.  Reaching only 14,968.89 at the close of trading.

No doubt many wonder 14,968.89 of what?  Is it dollars?  After all, they call it the Dow Jones Industrial Average (i.e., the Dow).  And most know it has something to do with the stock prices of some group of companies.  Thirty, to be exact.  The Dow 30.  A selection of companies that gives an idea of how the economy is doing as a whole.  By looking at stock prices from all sectors of the economy.  So is the average price of these 30 stocks $14,968.89?  Well, let’s take a look at those 30 stocks and their closing prices at the end of trading today.

Bow Jones 30 Stocks and Closing Prices 5-6-2013

Hmmm.  Looks like IBM is the most expensive stock in the group at $202.78.  But an average can’t be higher than the highest price.  It has to be somewhere in the middle of the pack.  In this case the average is $64.97.  So the Dow certainly isn’t the average stock price of these 30 companies.   Is it the sum of these stock prices?  Well, if we add all of the stock prices in the above table we get $1,949.19.  That’s closer to 14,968.89 than 64.97.  But it sure isn’t 14,968.89.  So what exactly is this number?

A Company wants a Rising Stock Price and a High Trading Volume

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) dates back to 1896.  Then it included 12 industrial stocks.  American Cotton Oil, American Sugar, American Tobacco, Chicago Gas, Distilling & Cattle Feeding, General Electric, Laclede Gas, National Lead, North American, Tennessee Coal & Iron, U.S. Leather preferred and U.S. Rubber.  (General Electric has been a part of the DJIA for all its 117-year history except for the periods September 1898 – April 1899 and April 1901 – November 1907.)  And the DJIA was just that.  The average price of these 12 stocks.

To simplify this let’s look at three fictitious companies and their stock prices.  ABC at $300/share.  XYZ at $200/share.  And 123 at $100/share.  If you add these three stock prices together you get $600.  And if you divide this number by three you get the average stock price ($200).  This is how they calculated the first DJIA.  Only with those 12 stocks.  Which gave a good idea about the market.  If companies were doing well their stock prices went up.  Raising the average price.  Telling us the economy was doing well.  Doing this today, though, would give you a distorted view of the economy.  Why?  Because of stock splits (as well as the changing of companies in the Dow 30).

When a company has growing sales and growing profitability the value of the company increases.  Which the stock price reflects.  As people bid up the price of the stock.  Because everyone wants to buy it.  So the laws of supply and demand raise the price.  But a higher price will reduce the number of shares an investor can buy.  Which will reduce the trading volume.  Showing a falling interest in the stock.  Which may cause the stock price to fall.  Something a company doesn’t want.  What they want is a rising stock price AND a high trading volume.  Two seemingly contradictory things.  Which is where the stock split comes in.  Which works like this.  If there are 1 million shares outstanding at $300/share that’s a market capitalization of $300 billion (1 million shares X $300/share).  To increase the trading volume the company may announce a 2-1 stock split.  That is, they will cut the stock price in half and double the shares outstanding.  So after the stock split there’s a market capitalization of $300 billion (2 million shares X $150/share).  The value of the company is the same BEFORE and AFTER the stock split.  But the stock price is lower which encourages investors to buy and sell more of the stock.  Thus increasing the trading volume.  While the stock price can continue to rise.  Thus meeting those two contradictory objectives.

They divide the New Sum of the Closing Stock Prices for the Dow 30 by the Current Divisor to get the DJIA

The DJIA shows the relative strength of the economy.  As companies grow more valuable their stock prices rise.  If they rise a lot the company may announce a stock split.  Anyone holding stock at the time of the stock split will be very happy.  As the number of their shares may double.  Triple.  Even quadruple.  And even though the market capitalization remains the same before and after the stock split the split itself is a sign of a strong and growing company.  Which tends to drive the stock price—and the market capitalization—higher.  So stock splits are good things.  Which is why they had to change the way they calculated the DJIA.  For the average of stock prices after a split will fall even though the economy as a whole is getting stronger.  As we can see with our three sample companies.

Adjusting Index after Stock Split

This is the problem of using a straight average of stock prices.  It would show a weakening market when it was, in fact, growing stronger.  So they had to add a little math.  To make the market capitalization before and after the stock split the same.  And they do this with a divisor.  They divide the sum of stock prices after the split by the sum of stock prices before the split (450/600=0.75).  So if we divide the sum of stock prices after the split by 0.75 the ‘DJIA’ equals 600.  Just what it was before the stock split.  Which makes the market capitalization before and after the split the same.  As it should be between the close of one day’s trading and the beginning of the following day’s trading.  As there are more and more stock splits this divisor gets smaller.  As the sum of stock prices gets smaller with each stock split.  Which makes the divisor grow smaller with each stock split.  And as we divide the sum of closing stock prices in the Dow 30 by a divisor that is continually getting smaller the resultant ‘DJIA’ gets larger.  As we can see here.

Adjusting Index after Stock Split 2

These companies are doing exceptionally well.  So well that they all announced stock splits.  ABC and XYZ quadrupled the number of shares outstanding and divided their stock price by 4.  123 tripled their outstanding shares while dividing their stock price by 3.  The average stock price fell by 73%.  If this was reported as the ‘DJIA’ it would probably cause a stock market crash.  Which is why the DJIA is no longer an average of stock prices.  Because an average of stock prices does not show the true economic picture.  But adding a divisor into the mix does.  And every time there are stock splits (or new companies replace old companies in the Dow 30) they calculate a new divisor.  They divide the new sum by the old sum of stock prices.  Then multiply this number by the old divisor to get the new divisor.  Which they divide into the new sum of closing stock prices in the Dow 30 to arrive at the DJIA at the close of each trading day.

At the close of trading today the DJIA was 14,968.89.  While the sum total of the closing stock prices for the companies in the Dow 30 was $1,949.19.  If we divide 1,949.19 by 14,968.89 we get 0.130216081.  This is the divisor.  Which they publish every day.  Showing any revisions in the divisor whenever there is a stock split or a change in the companies in the Dow 30.  And every day at the close of trading they divide the new sum of the closing stock prices for those companies in the Dow 30 by the current divisor to get the DJIA.  And today they divided 1,949.19 by the current divisor to get 14,968.89.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average at the end of today’s trading.

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Hard Money versus Paper Money

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 1st, 2013

Economics 101

Money would have No Value if People with Talent didn’t Create things of Value

Money is a temporary storage of wealth.  We created it because of the high search costs of the barter system.  It took a lot of time for two people to find each other who each had what the other wanted.  And we started trading things to have things we couldn’t make efficiently for ourselves.  Someone may have been a superb potter but was a horrible farmer.  So, instead, the potter did what he did best.  And traded the pottery he made for the things he wanted that he was not good at making.  Or growing.  Before that we were self-sufficient.  Whatever you wanted you had to provide it yourself.

As we go back in time we learn why money is a temporary storage of wealth.  For it was the final piece in a growing and prosperous economy.  And at the beginning it was people with talent, each creating something of value.  Something of value that they could trade for something else of value.  It’s the creative talent of people that has value.  And we see that value in the goods and/or services they make or provide.  Money temporarily held that value.  So we could carry it with us easier to go to market to trade with other talented and creative people.  Who may not have wanted what we made or did.  But would gladly take our money.

So we took our goods to market.  People that wanted them traded for them.  They traded money for our goods.  Then we took that money and traded for what we wanted elsewhere in the market.  Trade grew.  With some people becoming professional traders.  By trading money for goods from distant lands.  Then trading these goods for money at the local market.  People who didn’t spend time creating anything.  But bought and sold the creative talent of others.  Who were able to do that because of money.  The creative talent came first.  Then the goods.  And then the money.  For money is a temporary storage of wealth.  Which has no value if no one is making anything of value.  Because if you can’t buy anything what good is having money?

There were no more Gold Certificates in Circulation than there was Gold in the Vault to Exchange them For

These early traders used a variety of things for money.  Pigs, tobacco, grain, oil, etc.  What we call commodity money.  Which was valuable by itself.  As people consumed these commodities.  Which is what gave them the ability to store value.  But because we could consume these they did not make the best money.  Also, they weren’t that portable.  And not easy to make change with.  Which is why we turned to specie.  Such as gold and silver.  Hard money.  It was durable.  Portable.  Divisible.  Fungible.  For example, all Spanish dollars were the same while all pigs weren’t.  One pig could weigh 30 pounds more than another.  So pigs weren’t fungible.  Or durable.  Portable.  And, though divisible, making change wasn’t easy.

So in time traders big and small turned to specie as the medium of exchange.  For all the reasons noted above.  If you worked hard to produce fine pottery you trusted in specie.  You would accept specie for your pottery goods.  Because you knew this hard money would hold its value.  And you could use it in the future to buy what you wanted.  No matter how long that may be.  Why?  Because the money supply remained relatively constant.  As it took a lot of work and great expense to mine and refine ore to make specie out of it.  So there was little inflation when using hard money.  Which meant if you saved for a rainy day that hard money would be there for you.

Gold and silver could be heavy to carry around.  Anyone struggling under the weight of their specie were targets for thieves.  Who wanted that money.  Without creating anything of value to bring to market.  So we found a way to improve a little on using gold and silver.  By locking our gold and silver in a vault.  And carrying around receipts for our gold and silver to use as money.  These gold certificates were promises to pay in gold.  People could continue to use them as money.  Or they could take these receipts back to the vault and exchange them for the gold inside.  These gold certificates were as good as gold.  And there were no more gold certificates in circulation than there was gold in the vault to exchange them for.

Governments Today use nothing but Paper Money because it gives them Privilege, Wealth and Power

Some saw advantages of expanding the money supply with paper currency.  Money that isn’t backed by gold or any other asset.  Money easy to print.  And easy to borrow.  Allowing rich people to borrow large sums of money to buy more assets.  And get richer.  Giving them more power.  And if you were the one printing and loaning that money it gave you great wealth and power.  So having a bank charter was a way to wealth and power.  You could make it easy for those who can help you to borrow money.  While making it difficult for those who oppose you to borrow money.  So there were those in business and in government that liked un-backed paper money.  Because a select few could borrow it cheaply and get rich and powerful.

While some liked these banks and that paper money there were others who bitterly opposed them.  Some who didn’t like to see so much power in so few hands.  And the hard money people.  Who wanted a money that held its value.  The common people.  People who couldn’t borrow large sums of cheap money.  But people who had to get by on less as the inflation from printing all those paper dollars raised prices.  Leaving them with less purchasing power.  Making it harder for them to get by.  Often having to turn to the hated banks to borrow money.  Again and again.  Such that the interest on their loans consumed even more of their limited funds.  Making life more tenuous.  And more bitter between the classes.  The rich who benefited from the cheap paper money.  And the common people who paid the price of all that inflation.

Rich people, on the other hand, loved that inflation.  It helped them make money.  When they bought something at a lower price and sold it at a higher price they made a lot of money.  The greater the inflation the greater the selling price.  And the more profit.  Also, the money they owed was easier to pay off with money that was worth less than when they borrowed it.  Allowing rich people to get even richer.  While the common people saw only higher prices.  And the value of their meager savings lose value.  So this cheap paper money fostered great class warfare.  The hard money people hated the paper money people.  Debtors hated creditors.  The middling classes hated the large landowners, merchants, manufacturers and, of course, the bankers.  And those who had talent to create things hated those who just made money with money.  The greater the inflation the greater the divide between the people.  And the greater wealth and power that select few acquired.  This is what paper money gave you.  Privilege.  Which is why most governments today use nothing but paper money.

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Inflation and the Erosion of Savings

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 4th, 2013

Economics 101

Some of the First Banknotes were Gold Receipts Redeemable for Gold on Deposit in a Goldsmith’s Safe

Money has a few important attributes.  It has to be portable so we can carry it to the store.  It has to be durable so we can use it and carry it without it wearing out.  It has to be divisible so we can buy things at a variety of prices and make change.  It has to be fungible so one $20 bill is the same as any other $20 bill.  And it has to be scarce.  Because above all else money has to store value.  For money is a temporary storage of value.  Which is why we don’t use garbage for money.  Because garbage isn’t scarce.  Nor is it portable, durable or fungible.  And it smells bad.  No one wants it.  And no one will take it in payment for anything.

Precious metals make good money.  They have all of the necessary attributes money should have.  Especially gold.  Which will last forever.  And it will never rust or lose its sheen.  And above all it is scarce.  No one can make gold.  It takes enormous costs to find it, mine it and process it.  So it’s not easy to make it NOT scarce.  Which means it will hold its value.  The only drawback to gold is that it’s not that portable.  It’s pretty heavy to carry around.  And a little dangerous.  As you can’t hide a large and heavy pouch full of gold very well.

So some people started thinking.  Who else has a lot of gold?  And needs to put it in a safe place where others can’t help themselves to it?  A goldsmith.  Who has a large safe they lock their gold in.  So, for a fee, the goldsmith would lock up other people’s gold in his safe.  And give them a paper receipt for the gold on deposit.  And the banknote was born.  People left their gold in the safe.  And used their gold receipts as money.  Paper currency.  Which were fully redeemable for the gold on deposit in the goldsmith’s safe.

The more we Increase the Money Supply the more we Depreciate the Currency and reduce Purchasing Power

Issuing banknotes for gold on deposit evolved into the gold standard.  Where we used paper currency that represented the gold on deposit.  And it was just as good as that gold.  Sharing all the same attributes.  Portable, durable and fungible.  As well as scarce.  If, that is, the amount of paper in circulation equals the amount of gold on deposit.  If so then the paper is as scarce as gold.  And as valuable.  So people will be willing to hold onto it.  Just as they are willing to hold onto the gold.  Because the paper currency is redeemable for the gold on deposit.

But as governments spent money they started to think.  They could spend more money if they just printed more.  And increase the amount of money in circulation beyond the amount of gold on deposit.  Allowing governments to spend more.  And they did.  But it made paper money less scarce.  And less valuable.  We can see how with the following table.  We start with $100 of gold on deposit.  And $100 of paper banknotes in circulation.  Then each year we increase the number of banknotes in circulation (the money supply) by 3% while the amount of gold on deposit remains the same.  Representing a 3% annual inflation rate.  ‘MSB’ stands for Money Supply at the Beginning of the year.  ‘New’ stands for the New money added to the money supply that year.  ‘MSE’ stands for Money Supply at the End of the year.  ‘100/MSE’ is the result of dividing the $100 of gold on deposit by the money supply at the end of the year.  And ‘Savings’ stands for the purchasing power of $750,000 in retirement savings after being adjusted for inflation ($750,000 X 100/MSE).

Inflation on Savings 3 Percent

When 100/MSE equals 1 the amount of banknotes in circulation equals the amount of gold on deposit.  Which means those banknotes are as good as gold.  For you can redeem every last one of them for that gold on deposit.  But when they start printing more banknotes the money supply grows greater than the gold on deposit that backs it.  Making each dollar worth less.  Depreciating the currency.  For the total amount of currency in circulation still equals the $100 of gold on deposit.  The more we increase the money supply the more we depreciate the currency.  Reducing the purchasing power of the currency in circulation.  Which erodes away the value of retirement savings over time.

High Inflation Rates greatly Discourage Savings and Encouraging Consumption

This was at a 3% annual inflation rate.  Which is something you may find in the United States or Britain.  Some countries, though, really inflate their currency.  Especially nations that have abandoned the gold standard.  Which removed all restraint from printing money.  The following table shows what happens to that retirement savings at a 25% annual inflation rate.

Inflation on Savings 25 Percent

Even though there is no longer an exchange mechanism between gold and dollars to keep the monetary authorities responsible they are still supposed to exercise restraint.  As if there was still a gold standard.  Because whether there is gold or not a massive inflation of the money supply still depreciates the currency.  And the greater the inflation the greater it erodes that retirement savings.  At this rate a person’s retirement savings loses over half of its value in 4 years.  It loses 74% of its value in 6 years.  And loses 89% in 10 years.  Greatly discouraging savings.  And encouraging consumption.  Graphing these results we get savings curves for these different inflation rates.

How Inflation Erodes Savings

Note that the higher the inflation rate the steeper the curve.  And the steeper the curve the faster your retirement savings lose their purchasing power.  Here you can see why people living in countries with high inflation rates don’t want to hold onto their currency.  They try to spend it as soon as they get it.  Buying things that hold their value.  Or exchanging it for a stronger currency.  Like U.S. dollars.  British pounds.  Or Eurozone euros.  Anything to avoid their wealth eroding inflation.

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FT152: “Liberals who expand the welfare state tell us not to feed wild animals because it makes them dependent on handouts.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 11th, 2013

Fundamental Truth

Before there was Money People Traded Things they made with their Human Capital

Which came first?  Money?  Or stuff to buy?  Was there stuff in a store before someone walked in with money to buy it?  Or without anyone having any money to buy stuff would a store owner stock his or her shelves with stuff no one could buy?  It’s a regular chicken and egg question.  Liberal Democrats would say money came first.  Because they believe in Keynesian stimulus spending.  Put more money into people’s hands and they will buy more stuff.  Thus stimulating economic activity.

But if money was all that we needed to stimulate economic activity the government could just print money and hand it out to the people.  Who will take that money and go to the stores to buy stuff.  But here is where the illusion of money creating economic activity ends.  If the government just printed money and gave it to the people no one would have to work.  Which is everyone’s earnest desire.  This is why people buy lotto tickets.  To get money to spend without having to work anymore.  But if no one worked anymore because they could get money from the government printing presses instead of getting it in a paycheck in exchange for work what would these people buy?  If no one had to work anymore who would make the stuff we find on store shelves to buy?  Of course no one would.  So those store shelves would be empty.  And with nothing to buy all the money in the world would be worthless.

So this isn’t a chicken and egg question.  Stuff to buy came long before money appeared on the scene.  Before money people bartered.  They traded things for other things.  Meaning that if you wanted something that you didn’t have you had to create something yourself to trade.  This is barter.  People with human capital (talent and ability) create something they are good at.  They create more than they need.  And take their surplus to meet other people to trade with to get those other things they want.  Things other people made using their human capital.

Search Costs made the Barter System Costly and Inefficient

Money was a solution to a problem.  As the economy got more complex with more things to trade it got more difficult to find people to trade with.  If you made product A and wanted product B you had to find someone who made product B who wanted product A.  Imagine you make vacuum cleaners.  And you want a television.  You go to market looking for people to trade with.  Let’s say you find 3 people who make televisions.  But none of them want a vacuum cleaner.  So you would have to go to another market.  And find other people who made televisions.  Until you found one that wanted a vacuum cleaner.

This time spent trying to find someone to trade with is called search costs.  Which made the barter system costly and inefficient.  For all of that time spent looking for someone to trade with was time not spent making vacuum cleaners.  Giving you less to trade with.  Allowing you to trade for fewer things.  One way to reduce search costs was to bring a third trader into the picture.  Someone that wanted a vacuum cleaner but made smartphones.  Not televisions.  If a television maker wanted a smartphone you could trade a vacuum cleaner for a smartphone.  Then trade the smartphone for a television.  Making barter a little more efficient.  By reducing search costs.  But it could still be very difficult to find three people to trade with.

This is where money comes in.  It serves as that third trader.  You would simply trade your vacuum cleaner for money.  Then trade your money for that television.  Greatly simplifying trade.  By removing half of the trade equation.  All you had to do was to find what you wanted.  And then trade your money for it.  You didn’t have to worry about what the other person wanted.  Because once they got your money they could go and trade it for whatever they wanted.  Money makes trade easier.  As long as it was something that could hold value.  A handful of dirt was not good money because anyone could scoop it up from the ground.  Gold, on the other hand, was very good money.  Because it was very difficult to get gold out of the ground.  Thus it was scarce.  As well as being durable, divisible, fungible, etc.

People Today share their Every Thought on Social Media for Validation that they Matter

Based on this let me ask you another question.  Does Keynesian stimulus spending end recessions?  No.  Because giving people money to spend allows them to spend that money without creating something of value first.  And creating more money out of nothing makes money less scarce.  And less valuable.  Like picking up a scoop of dirt from the ground.  You create too much money and people will return to the barter system.  Because something they create with their human capital will have far more value than a continuously devalued dollar.  Best of all, in a barter system there can be no Keynesian stimulus spending.  Because there is no money.  And no inflation.  Making Keynesian stimulus spending impossible.  For there will only be people creating things with their human capital to trade with other people doing the same.

Those in government, though, don’t give up their Keynesian ways.  For they like spending money.  And being able to create it out of nothing allows them to spend a lot.  Which gives them a lot of power.  By getting people dependent on government benefits.  For once they are they keep voting for those who promise to give more.  And for those who promise not to reduce their current level of benefits.  Allowing a lot of people to withdraw from half of the economic equation.  Instead of using their human capital to bring value to market to trade for other value they let their human capital wither away.  Giving them little reason to get out of bed in the morning.  For when it comes down to it, people want to have a purpose.  They want to matter.  Which is why people today share their every thought on social media.  For validation that they matter.  For others to acknowledge that what they think and say is smart, funny, witty, insightful.

Wild animals are beautiful creatures.  We are attracted to them.  And would like to approach them in the wild.  To gain their trust.  We sometimes feed them because we want to help them.  Because life in the wild is no picnic.  It’s hard.  Brutal.  And these animals are just too cute to suffer.  But the Left frowns on this.  They don’t want us to feed the animals.  For if we make them dependent on us they will never be able to return to a normal life in the wild.  They won’t be able to live without those handouts.  The Left understands this.  Yet they have no problem with making people dependent on government benefits.  Giving them no reason to get out of bed.  Destroying the economy in the process.  Making it ever harder for these benefit recipients to return to the workforce.  Leaving them no purpose in life.  Save one.  To vote Democrat.

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Macroeconomic Disequilibrium

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 24th, 2012

Economics 101

In the Barter System we Traded our Goods and Services for the Goods and Services of Others

Money.  It’s not what most people think it is.  It’s not what most politicians think it is.  Or their Keynesian economists.  They think it’s wealth.  That it has value.  But it doesn’t.  It is a temporary storage of value.  A medium of exchange.  And that alone.  Something that we created to make economic trades easier and more efficient.  And it’s those things we trade that have value.  The things that actually make wealth.  Not the money we trade for these things.

In our first economic exchanges there was no money.  Yet there were economic exchanges.  Of goods and services.  That’s right, there was economic activity before money.  People with talent (i.e., human capital) made things, grew things or did things.  They traded this talent with the talent of other people.  Other people with human capital.  Who made things, grew things or did things.  Who sought each other out.  To trade their goods and services for the goods and services of others.  Which you could only do if you had talent yourself.

This is the barter system.  Trading goods and services for goods and services.  Without using money.  Which meant you only had what you could do for yourself.  And the things you could trade for.  If you could find people that wanted what you had.  Which was the great drawback of the barter system.  The search costs.  The time and effort it took to find the people who had what you wanted.  And who wanted what you had.  It proved to be such an inefficient way to make economic transactions that they needed to come up with a better way.  And they did.

The Larger the Wheat Crop the Greater the Inflation and the Higher the Prices paid in Wheat

They found something to temporarily hold the value of their goods and services.  Money.  Something that held value long enough for people to trade their goods and services for it.  Which they then traded for the goods and services they wanted.  Greatly decreasing search costs.  Because you didn’t have to find someone who had what you wanted while having what they wanted.  You just had to take a sack of wheat (or something else that was valuable that other people would want) to market.  When you found what you wanted you simply paid an amount of wheat for what you wanted to buy.  Saving valuable time that you could put to better use.  Producing the goods or services your particular talent provided.

Using wheat for money is an example of commodity money.  Something that has intrinsic value.  You could use it as money and trade it for other goods and services.  Or you could use it to make bread.  Which is what gives it intrinsic value.  Everyone needs to eat.  And bread being the staple of life wheat was very, very valuable.  For back then famine was a real thing.  While living through the winter was not a sure thing.  So the value of wheat was life itself.  The more you had the less likely you would starve to death.  Especially after a bad growing season.  When those with wheat could trade it for a lot of other stuff.  But if it was a year with a bumper crop, well, that was another story.

If farmers flood the market with wheat because of an exceptional growing season then the value for each sack of wheat isn’t worth as much as it used to be.  Because there is just so much of it around.  Losing some of its intrinsic value.  Meaning that it won’t trade for as much as it once did.  The price of wheat falls.  As well as the value of money.  In other words, the bumper crop of wheat depreciated the value of wheat.  That is, the inflation of the wheat supply depreciated the value of the commodity money (wheat).  If the wheat crop was twice as large it would lose half of its value.  Such that it would take two sacks of wheat to buy what one sack once bought.  So the larger the wheat crop the greater the inflation and the higher the prices (except for wheat, of course).  On the other hand if a fire wipes out a civilization’s granary it will contract the wheat supply.  Making it more valuable (because there is less of it around).  Causing prices to fall (except for wheat, of course).  The greater the contraction (or deflation) of the wheat supply the greater the appreciation of the commodity money (wheat).  And the greater prices fall.  Because a little of it can buy a lot more than it once did.

Keynesian Expansionary Monetary Policy has only Disrupted Normal Market Forces

Creating a bumper crop of wheat is not easy.  Unlike printing fiat money.  It takes a lot of work to plow the additional acreage.  It takes additional seed.  Sowing.  Weeding.  Etc.  Which is why commodity money works so well.  Whether it’s growing wheat.  Or mining a precious metal like gold.  It is not easy or cheap to inflate.  Unlike printing fiat money.  Which is why people were so willing to accept it for payment.  For it was a relative constant.  They could accept it without fear of having to spend it quickly before it lost its value.  This brought stability to the markets.  And let the automatic price system match supply to the demand of goods and services.  If things were in high demand they would command a high price.  That high price would encourage others to bring more of those things to market.  If things were not in high demand their prices would fall.  And fewer people would bring them to market.  When supply equaled demand the market was in equilibrium.

Prices provide market signals.  They tell suppliers what the market wants more of.  And what the market wants less of.  That is, if there is a stable money supply.  Because this automatic price system doesn’t work so well during times of inflation.  Why?  Because during inflation prices rise.  Providing a signal to suppliers.  Only it’s a false signal.  For it’s not demand raising prices.  It’s a depreciated currency raising prices.  Causing some suppliers to increase production even though there is no increase in demand.  So they will expand production.  Hire more people.  And put more goods into the market place.  That no one will buy.  While inflation raises prices everywhere in the market.  Increasing the cost of doing business.  Which raises prices throughout the economy.  Because consumers are paying higher prices they cannot buy as much as they once did.  So all that new production ends up sitting in wholesale inventories.  As inventories swell the wholesalers cut back their orders.  And their suppliers, faced with falling orders, have to cut back.  Laying off employees.  And shuttering facilities.  All because inflation sent false signals and disrupted market equilibrium.

This is something the Keynesians don’t understand.  Or refuse to understand.  They believe they can control the economy simply by continuously inflating the money supply.  By just printing more fiat dollars.  As if the value was in the money.  And not the things (or services) of value we create with our human capital.  Economic activity is not about buying things with money.  It’s about using money to efficiently trade the things we make or do with our talent.  Inflating the money supply doesn’t create new value.  It just raises the price (in dollars) of our talents.  Which is why Keynesian expansionary monetary policy has been such a failure.  For their macroeconomic policies only disrupt normal market forces.  Which result in a macroeconomic disequilibrium.  Such as raising production in the face of falling demand.  Because of false price signals caused by inflation.  Which will only bring on an even more severe recession to restore that market equilibrium.  And the longer they try to prevent this correction through inflationary actions the longer and more severe the recession will be.

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Stages of Production, Free Market Capitalism, Civil War, King Cotton, Emancipation Proclamation, Southern Democrats and Jim Crow Laws

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 17th, 2012

History 101

Free Market Capitalism maximizes Wealth Creation with Free Markets, Free Trade and Free Labor 

The whole point to a value added tax (VAT) is that we add value as we go through the stages of production.  Raw materials in the earth have no value.  They begin having value when we extract them.  Raw iron ore gains value when we process the iron out of the rock.  A Great Lakes freighter full of taconite pellets (processed from low-grade iron ore flint-like rock) is worth more than the same weight of the low-grade iron ore flint-like rock.  These taconite pellets gain value when we transform them into steel in a blast furnace.  That steel gains more value when we transform it into steel products (like a truck frame or a refrigerator).  The finished goods we incorporate these steel products into gain even more value.

The VAT tax applies a tax on the increased value at every stage in the stages of production.  It’s a way for government to collect a lot of tax revenue without using something obvious like a sales tax.  Because no one but the government knows all the tax collected on all that value created.  Which is a very important point.  Increasing value increases tax revenue.  And that’s because increasing value increases wealth.  Making economically advanced countries (with a lot of economic activity throughout the stages of production) wealthy countries.  Giving them an advanced industrial base.  An extensive infrastructure.  And a high standard of living.

Free market capitalism maximizes this wealth creation.  Free markets.  Free trade.  And free labor.  Where people can work hard to learn a skill that will give them more value.  And the ability to create more wealth with their labors.  Allowing them to earn a nice paycheck.  That they can use in the market place to buy things.  Contributing to economic activity.  And the wealth creation in the country.  As well as the tax base.  The greater the population the greater the number of people engaging in economic activity.  The greater the number of retail stores.  The greater the wholesale industry.  The greater the manufacturing base.  And the greater amount of raw material extraction.  All of this activity producing an advanced nation.  That can build whatever it needs.

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made it Impossible for the Europeans to Support the Southern Cause

There were two Americas in the mid 1800s.  An industrial North.  And an agricultural South.  An advanced nation in the north based on free labor.  And medieval economy based on slave labor in the south.  In the north they had factories, shipyards, railroads and everything else a modern industrial nation had.  In the south they had cotton.  In the north they had a growing population of free men.  In the south they had a growing population of slaves.  In 1861 the North had a population of about 22 million.  The South had a population of about 5.5 million free men.  And about 3.5 million slaves.  So the North enjoyed explosive economic activity creating great wealth.  While the South enjoyed great wealth from their cotton.  For the few plantation owners.  The slaves didn’t enjoy any of that wealth.  While the majority of the white population struggled to scratch out a living on small family farms.

When the American Civil War broke out the South was at a distinct disadvantage.  For technology wins wars.  And the North was far more technologically advanced than the South.  As Rhett Butler said in Gone with the Wind, “They’ve got factories, shipyards, coal mines…and a fleet to bottle up our harbors and starve us to death.  All we’ve got is cotton, and slaves and…arrogance.”  Which was true.  But in their arrogance they thought that King Cotton would trump all of the North’s advantages.  By bringing in the British on the South’s side.  Because Britain bought a lot of that southern cotton.  And the South was sure that Britain would support their cause to maintain that cotton flowing to their textile and garment industries.  They thought wrong.

Cotton was a raw material.  And other people could grow it just as well as the southern plantations.  Yes, the self-imposed cotton embargo by the South on Britain hurt the British.  Causing a major interruption to their textile and garment industries.  But it didn’t take long to replace that Southern cotton with Egyptian and Indian cotton.  And in no time the British industries were up and running again as if nothing had happened.  Creating higher orders of wealth than the raw cotton resources of the South.  Which was a problem for the South.  For there was no way for them to break the blockade of their harbors without European help.  But that help would never come.  Because the only thing they had to offer, cotton, was available elsewhere.  Not to mention the fact that Britain had emancipated her slaves.  And was working diligently to interdict the Atlantic slave trade.  So they weren’t coming to the South’s aid.  And if Britain wasn’t going to help then neither were the French.  And Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was just the icing on the cake.  Making it impossible for the Europeans to support the Southern cause.  It then became a matter of time for the technologically advanced north to defeat the medieval South.

The South’s Old World Economy was just no Match for the New World Economy of the North  

Outmanned, out manufactured and with no foreign recognition the South learned the lesson that an economy based on slave-labor was no match for an economy based on free market capitalism.  For the slave-based agricultural economy was little different than the feudalism of the Middle Ages.  A system long since abandoned in Europe but clung on to in the Confederate South.  Concentrating the wealth in a few hands.  The landed aristocracy.  And a small middle class of artisans and business owners primarily to serve the planter class.  While everyone else, whites and slaves, worked hard and barely survived.  The blacks of course suffering more than the whites.  But they both lived in poverty.

The advanced economy of the industrial North built ships, cannon, rifles, bullets, locomotives, track and everything else a modern industrial economy has.  Their ships commanded the rivers and the southern coast.  The South was cut off from the rest of the world.  Their valuable cotton sitting worthless in warehouses because there was no one to sell it to.  Not even in the South.  For while the North had a textile industry the South did not.  With no way to add value to this cotton this cotton lost all value.  And the Southern economy collapsed.  Because cotton was all they had.  Well, that, and arrogance.  But when that cotton became worthless the South had nothing.  And little choice but to surrender.  And they did.  First General Lee to General Grant.  Then General Johnston to General Sherman.  And soon the war was over.

It took some 4 years and about 600,000 dead.  Which is especially sad considering the South never had a chance.  Their Old World economy was just no match for the New World economy of the North.  With the thing they were fighting for, slavery, being the cause for their defeat.  For slavery may have worked in a medieval agricultural-based economy.  Where there were no stages of production.  Just procurement of raw material.  But it was no match for free men working in free market capitalism.  Which is why the North prevailed in the Civil War.  And why the United States went on to be an economic superpower.  And leader of the free world.  Thanks to President Lincoln.  Who freed the slaves.  And the South from its Old World past.  Unleashing human capital everywhere throughout the United States.  And allowing all people to engage in economic activity.  Though the freed slaves would suffer discrimination for decades under the Southern Democrats.  And their Jim Crow Laws (separate but equal).  But the Republicans would eventually usher in civil rights legislation ending that.  Just as they ended slavery.  Allowing all people to live a better life under free market capitalism. 

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