Higher Labor Costs are squeezing Margins for Chinese Export Manufacturers

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 4th, 2012

Week in Review

China is still able to exploit their cheap labor to maintain a healthy export market.  But for how long (see China exports may stay strong despite weak Europe by Zhou Xin and Nick Edwards posted 3/1/2012 on Reuters)?

An estimated 200 million jobs — a quarter of China’s workforce — are directly dependent upon the external sector, hiking the political risks of an export slowdown to a leadership hypersensitive to any hint of social instability that might threaten the one-party rule of the Communist Party…

Ye Dingsong is an exporter who has relied on sales to Europe, but his primary headache is pricing, not falling orders.

“There are orders, but the problem is that it’s hard to get good prices. European buyers have become sensitive to prices, but costs are rising quickly so I have to ask for higher prices,” said Ye, the owner of Dadong Shoes in Wenzhou.

His shoe factory, which at its peak employed more than 100 people, currently has only half as many after workers walked out for better wages elsewhere when Ye said he could manage only a 10 percent rise…

Wenzhou exported 265 million pairs of shoes to the EU last year, roughly one pair for every two EU residents, according to data from the local customs office. But total sales were just $1.6 billion, or $6.04 per pair, meaning margins are very narrow even as a starter’s monthly wage can easily exceed 2,000 yuan ($320).

Ye is one of the many exporters Beijing is trying to help through tough times with tax rebates and easier bank credit.

The state capitalists in America look to China with awe and admiration.  They would love to expand state control of the economy in America to the level in China.  So they, too, can produce those magnificent GDP growth rates.  Which they think they can do.  With a union work force.  Even with the high wages and generous benefits of union workers.  Which, of course, they cannot do.  For the only thing maintaining China’s export market is that cheap labor.  Which is far below the union wages and benefits in America. 

In America a Chinese type state capitalism will not result in higher GDP growth rates.  Only in higher wages and benefits for union workers.  Along with a collapsing GDP growth rate.  Thanks to an uncompetitive American work force becoming even more uncompetitive.

But even in Communist China they are having problems keeping their labor cheap.  But they will do everything they can.  Including brutal state oppression.  And Keynesian economic policies.  Urging businesses to borrow money and expand production.  Even in the face of rising prices.  Which one day will lead to falling sales.  Leaving the Chinese with some nasty asset bubbles in their economy.  The kind the Japanese had in the Nineties.  And the kind the U.S. just recently had in the housing market.  Both bubbles popped.  And a horrible deflation set in to undo all the Keynesian mischief that caused the bubbles in the first place.

There is no way for the Americans to do what the Chinese are doing.  Unless the state capitalists do like the Chinese.  And outlaw all unions.  And that’s about as likely to happen as Keynesian economics policies actually working without causing inflation and asset bubbles.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

FDR, Wage Ceiling, Arsenal of Democracy, Benefits, Big Three, Japanese Competition, Legacy Costs, Business Cycle and Bailouts

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 14th, 2012

History 101

After the Arsenal of Democracy defeated Hitler the Wage Ceiling was Gone but Generous Benefits were here to Stay

FDR caused the automotive industry crisis of 2008-2010.  With his progressive/liberal New Deal policies.  He placed a ceiling on employee wages during the Great Depression.  The idea was to keep workers’ wages low so employers would hire more workers.  It didn’t work.  And there was an unintended consequence.  As there always is when government interferes with market forces.  The wage ceiling prevented employers from attracting the best workers by offering higher wages.  Forcing employers to think of other ways to attract the best workers.  And they found it.  Benefits.

Adolf Hitler ended the Great Depression.  His bloodlust cut the chains on American industry as they tooled up to defeat him.  The Arsenal of Democracy.  America’s factories hummed 24/7 making tanks, trucks, ships, airplanes, artillery, ammunition, etc.  The Americans out-produced the Axis.  Giving the Allies marching towards Germany everything they needed to wage modern war.  While in the end the Nazis were using horses for transport power.  This wartime production created so many jobs that they even hired women to work in their factories.  Bringing an end to the Great Depression finally after 12 years of FDR.

The Arsenal of Democracy defeated Hitler.  U.S. servicemen came home.  And the women left the factories and returned home to raise families.  With much of the world’s factories in ruins the U.S. economy continued to hum.  Only they were now making things other than the implements of war.  The auto makers returned to making cars and trucks.  The ceiling on wages was gone.  But those benefits were still there.  Greatly increasing labor costs.  But what did they care?  The American auto manufacturers had a captive audience.  If anyone wanted to buy a car or truck there was only one place to buy it.  From them.  No matter the cost.  So they just passed on those high wages and expensive benefit packages on to the consumer.  Times were good.  The Fifties were happy times.  Good jobs.  Good pay.  Free benefits.  Nice life in the suburbs.  All paid for by expensive vehicle prices.

The Big Three could not Sell Cars when there was Competition because of their Legacy Costs

But it wouldn’t last.  Because it couldn’t last.  For those factories destroyed in the war were up and running again.  And someone noticed those high prices on American cars.  The Japanese.  Who rebuilt their factories.  Which were now humming, too.  And they thought why not enter the automotive industry?  And this changed the business model for the Big Three (GM, Ford and Chrysler) as they knew it.  The Big Three had competition for the first time.  Their captive audience was gone.  For the consumer had a choice.  They could demand better value for their money.  And chose not to buy the ‘rust buckets’ they were selling in the Seventies.  Cars that rusted away after a few snowy winters.  Or a few years near the ocean coast.

The new Japanese competition started about 30 years after U.S. workers began to enjoy all those benefits.  So the U.S. car companies paid their union auto workers more and gave them far more benefits than their Japanese competition.  And those early U.S. workers were now retiring.  Giving a great advantage to the Japanese.  Because those generous benefits provided those U.S. retirees very comfortable pensions.  And all the health care they could use.  All paid for by the Big Three.  Via the price of their cars and trucks.

Well, you can see where this led to.  The Big Three could not sell cars when there was competition.  Because of these legacy costs.  Higher union wages.  Generous pension and health care benefits that workers and retirees did not contribute to.  (By the time GM and Chrysler faced bankruptcy in 2010 there were more retirees than active union workers).  The United Automobile Workers (UAW) jobs bank program where unemployed workers (laid off due to declining sales) collected 95% of their pay and benefits.  (You can find many quotes on line from a Detroit News article stating some 12,000 UAW workers were collecting pay and benefits in 2005 but not working.)  The Japanese had none of these costs.  And could easily build a higher quality vehicle for less.  Which they did.  And consumers bought them.  The Big Three conceded car sales to the Japanese (and the Europeans and South Koreans) and focused on the profitable SUV and truck markets.  To pay these high legacy costs.  Until the gas prices soared to $4/gallon.  And then the Subprime Mortgage Crises kicked off the Great Recession.  Leading to the ‘bankruptcy’ of GM and Chrysler.  And their government bailouts.

The U.S. Automotive Government Bailout cut Wage and Benefits once Set in Stone

The Big Three struggled because they operated outside normal market forces.  Thanks at first to a captive audience.  Then later to friends in government (tariffs on imports, import quotas, union-favorable legislation, etc.).  All of this just delayed the day of reckoning, though.  And making it ever more painful when it came.

During economic downturns (when supply and prices fall) their cost structure did not change.  As it should have.  Because that’s what the business cycle does.  It resets prices and supply to match demand.  With recessions.  Painful but necessary.  Just how painful depends on how fast ‘sticky’ wages can adjust down to new market levels.  And herein lies the problem that plagued the Big Three.  Their wages weren’t sticky.  They were set in stone.  So when the market set the new prices for cars and trucks it was below the cost of the Big Three.  Unable to decrease their labor (wage and benefit) costs, profits turned into losses.  Pension funds went underfunded.  And cash stockpiles disappeared.  Leading the Big Three to the brink of bankruptcy.  And begging for a government bailout.

Well, the bailout came.  The government stepped in.  Gave the union pension fund majority control of the bailed out companies.  Screwing the bondholders (and contract law) in the process.  And created a two-tier labor structure.  They grandfathered older employees at the unsustainable wage and benefit packages.  And hired new employees at wage and benefit packages that the market would bear.  Comparable to their Asian and European transplant auto plants in the right-to-work states in the southern U.S. states.  And put the market back in control of the U.S. auto industry.  For awhile, at least.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

China’s actions to Stimulate their Economy may have only Stimulated Inflation

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 12th, 2012

Week in Review

China is state capitalism at its best.  The government really massages the economy over there.  With wise bureaucrats making wise decisions to steer the economy to endless prosperity.  Embracing Keynesian economics.  Manipulating interest rates to sustain economic growth.  And a small but manageable permanent level of inflation.   Spending money the only way government knows best.  Like the Japanese did in the Eighties just before they collapsed into a deflationary spiral that lasted a decade or two (see Chinese New Year pushes up prices in January posted 2/8/2012 on the BBC News Business).

China’s rate of inflation unexpectedly accelerated in January for the first time since it peaked in July, as consumers raised spending around Chinese New Year.

Consumer prices rose 4.5% from a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said. That compares with 4.1% in December…

Chinese authorities, who were once implementing measures to control high inflation, had recently begun easing monetary policy to spur growth as inflation eased and weak demand from Europe affected exports…

The biggest contributor to the rise was pork prices, which gained 25% compared with 21.3% in December. That drove overall food inflation to rise 10.5%.

Hello, what’s this?  Inflation getting a little out of hand?  Blimey, that’s not supposed to happen.  Not with wise bureaucrats carefully applying Keynesian economic tweaks to the economy.  But it has, hasn’t it?  As it always does.  Because when you use monetary policy to stimulate the economy this is what you do.  You increase the money supply long enough (by keeping interest rates low) you devalue your currency.  And raise prices.

In the West it’s usually wage inflation that’s the killer.  Those sticky wages that can reset quick enough to avoid a recession at the end of an economic boom.  But there is no wage inflation in China.  Because the government sets wages.  And they set them low.  Which is why they can out-manufacture the West.  And to prevent any opposition to these low wages that maintain their manufacturing advantage they outlaw unions.  To keep the peace in their state capitalism.  And their workers obedient.

But none of this will work if no one is buying the things they make.  Which is their problem.  And it’s a big one.  They were keeping rates low to stimulate their economy to produce more when people were already buying less.  High inflation and excess capacity?  Only one way to fix that.  Like the Japanese did in the Nineties.  A deflationary spiral to bring prices and capacity back in line with actual demand.  And if it can happen to the Japanese it can happen to the Chinese.  For let’s not forget that the Japanese were quite the capitalists for a very long time before they had their troubles.  Much longer than the Chinese have been playing with their experiments in capitalism.  A little here and a little there.  But never so much where markets were truly in control.  No, in China, the state never lost their control.  Which may make their inevitable deflationary spiral worse.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

Workers Protest Poor Working Conditions and Low Wages in China’s State Capitalism

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 29th, 2012

Week in Review

Big Government types everywhere look to China and say that’s how business should be done.  State capitalism.  Where the state can make sure that capitalism is a kinder more caring kind of capitalism.  Like it is in China (see Thousands Strike in China in First Month of 2012 posted 1/28/2012 on The Epoch Times).

The first month of the year in China has seen tens of thousands of people strike and protest against poor working conditions, overdue wages, or insufficient pay levels. By Jan. 22 there had been reports of at least 10 strikes and large-scale protests across China since the beginning of the year—almost one every two days. Many of the incidents involved thousands of people—in one case up to 8,000.

It’s not the goodness of government making China rich.  It’s not cutting edge technology increasing productivity.  It’s not a love of government that spurs their workers on to work harder and ask for less.  No.  It’s low wages.  And the heavy hand of government settling labor disputes in the favor of the state.

In China there are no labor unions.  The Big Government types always seem to leave that out when they fawn over the Chinese government and their brand of state capitalism.  Cheap labor is the key to state capitalism.  Unlike in free market capitalism.  Where market forces set the price of labor.  Not the state.  Using force to keep wages low.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Aristocracy, the Old World, the New World and the American Civil War

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 6th, 2011

History 101

General Robert E. Lee represented the Old World, General Ulysses S. Grant represented the New World

General Robert E. Lee represented the Old World.  The last of a long line of wealthy landowners.  The finest of inherited wealth.  With a lineage that went back to George Washington.  The Father of our Country.  On his wife’s side.  Through the Custis ancestry.  Lee fought to continue the old ways.  Magnificent landholdings.  Grand mansions.  Servants.  Balls.  Gentlemen.  And ladies.  None who worked.  But who enjoyed the very best of lives.  Because of a very good last name.  And Lee wanted to pass this life on to his heirs.

General Ulysses S. Grant represented the New World.  His father was middle class.  A tanner.  And Grant worked in his father’s shop.  But hated the blood.  And the horrific odors.  He left and went to West Point.  Saw combat in the Mexican War.  After the war he served in some lonely posts.  Away from his family.  And started to drink.  He missed his family so much that he eventually left the Army.  Tried and failed in some business ventures.  And ended up a clerk back at his father’s tannery.  Working for his younger brother.  To support his family.

Grant and Lee actually met once in the Mexican War.  When Lee visited Grant’s unit.  Lee remembered the visit.  But he didn’t remember Grant.  For Grant was a rather plain soldier.  When war came between the states the North offered Lee command of all Union forces.  But Lee could not draw his sword against Virginia.  His beloved country/state.  So he resigned his commission and joined the Confederate Army.  Grant raised a regiment so he could rejoin the army.  Lee won many victories against the Army of the Potomac.  Grant advanced Union forces to a series of victories in the West.  His successes earned him command of all Union forces.  And he travelled east.  To ride with General George Meade and the Army of the Potomac.  As it pursued General Lee’s Army of the Northern Virginia.

The Planter Elite had Poor White Southerners who did not Own Any Slaves Fight to Maintain the Institution of Slavery

Until Grant took over Lee had many successes besting the Army of the Potomac.  In Virginia it became routine.  After the Union suffered yet another defeat the Army would turn and head back north.  Not so with Grant.  When he came to that fork in the road, he turned south.  To try and outflank Lee.  And face him in battle again.  And again.  Until Appomattox Courthouse.  Where Lee found himself outmanned.  And surrounded.  Lee and Grant met to discuss terms of surrender.  Lee arrived first.  Expecting to be taken prisoner and possibly hung for treason, he arrived resplendent in his finest uniform.  Grant arrived later.  Muddied.  And wearing a private’s jacket.

Grant offered very generous terms.  Which had a very positive effect on Lee.  And his men.  There would be an end to the war.  And there would be no guerilla war.  Instead, Lee would do everything within his power to help bring the South back into the Union.  With Lee being more important than the president of the Confederacy, this mattered.  The people respected Lee.  And if he said the war was over the war was over.  It was time to be good citizens of the United States again.

The South fought valiantly.  For what turned out to be a dying cause.  Old World aristocracy.  Based on the institution of slavery.  Which is why the cause failed.  But before we get to that consider who fought for the confederates.  Like in the Old World, the majority of the people in the South were those who worked the land.  Black slaves.  Unlike feudalism, though, these black slaves did not fill the ranks of the armies led by their landowners.  So those responsible for war, the Planter Elite, did not risk their ‘property’ during the war.  Instead, they had poor white southerners who did not own any slaves fight to maintain the institution of slavery.  Who they lied to.  By saying the war was about states’ rights.  Or that it was to repel the Northern aggressors who wanted to change the Southern way of life.  But that’s not why the Planter Elite seceded from the Union.  It was to maintain their way of life.  An Old World-style of aristocracy.  Perhaps the greatest lie in all U.S. history.  Considering the Planter Elite killed some 618,000 trying to maintain that way of life.  Which was 2% of the total population.  Today 2% of our approximate 312 million population would be 6.2 million dead.  Just to give you an idea of how big killing 2% of your population is.

The American Civil War was the Final Battle between the Old World and the New World in the United States

So why did the South lose?  Because the world changed.  There was now a middle class.  Creating and innovating.  Expanding the Industrial Revolution to the New World.  In the northern states.  Where factories hummed with efficiency.  And produced a modern economy.  Whereas the South stayed primarily an agricultural economy.  Based on King Cotton.  With the majority of their population being slaves working in the fields.

The northern population swelled as immigrants filled their factories.  Railroads crisscrossed the North.  Steam-powered ships plied the rivers and coastal waters.  There was economic activity everywhere.  And free laborers earning wages everywhere.  And spending their wages.  Taking part in economic exchanges.  The North became advanced.  Efficient.  And wealthy.  Whereas the only wealth in the South was on the plantations.  Confined to the landed aristocracy.  And King Cotton.  When war broke out there was no way that the economic powerhouse that was the North would not prevail.  Especially when their factories could make rifles and cannon.  And ships to bottle up Southern harbors.  Making all that cotton in the South worthless.  And irrelevant.  As the British just turned to India to feed their textile industry.

The American Civil War was the final battle between the New World and the Old World in the United States.  Between the middle class of Ulysses S. Grant and the aristocracy of Robert E. Lee.  Between free market capitalism and the landed aristocracy.  And capitalism won.  Because it was the better system.  To produce wealth.  And to improve the quality of life.  For those free laborers who participated.   Allowing anyone to have a  better life.  Unlike the peasants, serfs and slaves of the Old World.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

Free Labor

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 5th, 2011

Economics 101

Unlike Slaves Paid-Laborers Worked, Went Home and Fed & Housed their Own Families

Agriculture advances gave us food surpluses.  Food surpluses gave us a division of labor.  The division of labor gave us trade.  Money made that trade more efficient.  Religion and the Rule of Law allowed great gatherings of people to live and work together in urban settings.  Free trade let us maximize this economic output and elevated our standard of living.  And to sustain this economic growth we needed something else.  Free labor.

Slavery as an economic model has serious defects.  For one the labor is not free.  People are restrained against their will.  And only work to minimize their pain and suffering.  They do not think or innovate.  Their human capital is wasted.  Because no one voluntarily thinks and innovates to make a better life for others.  Especially if it  won’t improve their own life.  A slave, then, has little incentive to think or innovate.  Their incentive is to follow orders.  Because that was the proven way to minimize their pain and suffering.

Buying human beings is also less efficient than renting them.  Not everyone in a slave family was in their working prime.  The elderly couldn’t work the fields anymore.  Neither could the infant children.  But they all needed room and board.  Unlike a paid laborer.  Who you paid only for the hours they worked.  You didn’t feed or house them.  They worked and went home.  And fed and housed their own families. This is why George Washington wanted to sell his slaves and replace them with paid laborers.  To increase his profits.  But he found people were only interested in buying slaves in their working prime.  He could sell some.  But not all of them.  Which meant breaking up slave families.  Something he couldn’t do.  So he kept his slaves.  Settled for lower profits.  And kept the slave families together.

The Slave-Economy in the New World was a Step Backward toward Old World Aristocracy

Not everyone was as kind as Washington.  Some people had no problem breaking up families.  Or abusing their slaves.  But they all had to exercise restraint.  Because a maimed or a dead slave couldn’t work.  A problem for slave owners because they bought their slaves.  Often borrowing money for the purchase.  So it was costly to replace them.  As well as to train them.  One skilled in picking cotton may not readily take to harvesting and drying tobacco.  Whereas you could simply advertise for a hired hand who was skilled in harvesting and drying tobacco if you used free labor.

Free labor added to the economy.  Because they had earnings for economic exchange.  Slaves didn’t.  The slave owner provided their room and board.  So they were not only enslaved they were also dependent on others for everything free laborers bought with their earnings.  Economic exchanges in a slave economy, then, were limited to the wealthy landowners.  Making it a system much like European feudalism or Russian serfdom.  Only instead of peasants or serfs there were slaves.  Who were less free.  And even poorer.

Thus the slave-economy in the New World was a step backward toward Old World aristocracy.  (And a little beyond it.)  Where there were a few rich and a lot of poor.  Agricultural reform came with the help of the Black Death.  When the balance of power tipped from the landed aristocracy to the much thinned out labor force.  Who could then demand wages and better conditions.  And then came capitalism.  For those new wage-earners had money for economic exchanges.  Which they made.  Thus producing a prosperous middle class.  Which took root in the New World.  At least, in the parts of the New World that used free labor.

Our Capacity to Think is the Key to Unlocking our Human Capital, Economic Growth and the Quality of Life

The great problem of slavery (other than the moral one) is that it excluded a great part of the population from the economy.  Slavery excluded millions of people from making economic exchanges.  And millions who might have thought and created didn’t.  Their human capital was wasted.  Setting economic development back.  As well as the quality of life.

In a modern capitalistic economy there must be no slavery.  Or dependency.  Because those enslaved or dependent do not create.  Or innovate.  They just exist.  And do not maximize the gift of being human.  Our capacity to think.  Which is the key to unlocking our human capital.  Economic growth.  And the quality of life.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

British Corn Laws and Empire, the U.S. Free Trade Zone and the Eurozone

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 29th, 2011

History 101

With the Royal Navy, the Steamship, the Railroad and the Telegraph, Great Britain Peacefully Ruled and Led the World

The British Corn Laws were on the books from 1815 to 1846.  To protect domestic cereal farmers from less expensive food imports.  By adding a tariff to these grain imports.  Increasing their price.  So they weren’t any cheaper than the domestically grown grain.  Interestingly it was the few great landowners who wanted these tariffs.  Not the people who had to buy the food.  For paying more for food meant they had less to spend on clothing and other things.

When it came to consumer prices the people were always for free trade.  Because whatever they earned it never seemed enough.  So paying more in taxes was never a good thing.  These wealthy landowners even put forth the argument that paying higher food prices meant higher wages.  In a feeble attempt to maintain these tariffs.  They said that manufacturers just wanted cheaper food so they could pay cheaper wages.  Because if food wasn’t that expensive their workers wouldn’t need as much pay.  And, of course, the greedy manufacturers would just pocket more profits.  Much like the greedy landowners were doing thanks to the Corn Laws.  But their greed was somehow different.

Well, free trade won out.  Eventually.  And they repealed the Corn Laws in 1846.  And, as expected, food prices plummeted.  Soon they imported more food than they grew.  Because it was cheaper.  And it freed up more money for use elsewhere in the economy.  Stimulating innovation and invention.  Taking the Industrial Revolution to new heights.  And raising the standard of living for all people.  Not just the wealthy landowners.  The British Empire reached its zenith in the 19th century.  After the defeat of Napoleon there was about a century of peace called the Pax Britannica.  Where Great Britain became the global policeman.  With the Royal Navy, the steamship, the railroad and the telegraph, Great Britain peacefully ruled and led the world.

The U.S. was a Large Free Trade Zone with a Common Currency, Language, People and Customs

The British were the most advanced nation in the 19th century world.  And the richest.  Her empire dominated trade.  Her rule of law and common currency made that trade efficient.  It was a giant free trade zone within her empire.  But it couldn’t last.  The cost of maintaining the empire, plus a world war, was just too much.  Her economic might faded.  While another rose.  In a former colony.  The United States.

The sun never set on the British Empire.  Because it was that big.  Reaching around the globe.  Connected by long lines of communication.  And an imperial British culture uniting different peoples.   Who knew different cultures, laws and money.  Whereas as the United States had all the advantages of empire (size and range of resources) without any of the disadvantages.  The U.S. was a large free trade zone with a common currency, language, people and customs.  The states comprising the U.S. were as big as countries in other parts of the world.  But trade could flow between any two states without custom duties, tariffs or even inspections.  It was truly free.

When the Industrial Revolution reached the United States, the economy took off and never looked back.  By the end of the 19th century she was challenging the British Empire.  And rapidly overtook her.  There was another global policeman in town.  All because of a giant free trade zone that was as big as a continent.

The ‘United States’ of Europe created the Eurozone and a Common Currency (the Euro) to Compete with the U.S.

The United States is such the perfect model of free market capitalism that Europe created the Eurozone and a common currency (the Euro) to compete with the U.S.  And it worked.  For awhile.

The ‘united states’ of Europe as a whole has a larger economy than the U.S.  But they have their problems.  For a common currency is only part of America’s success.  The U.S. is a united federation of states with one set of federal laws, language and culture for interstate commerce.  Something Europe doesn’t have.  And probably never will.  European countries have far too much history and culture.  And nationalism.  They will never unite politically.  Like the United States.  Or the British Empire, for that matter.

The key to the British Empire was that it was British.  One currency.  One language.  One set of laws.  One culture.  For interstate trade, at least.  Just like in the country that surpassed her.  The United States.  Still, there’s nothing wrong with being a smaller economic power than the U.S.  As long as you have free trade your people can enjoy a high standard of living.  Without the added responsibility of being the global policeman.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

Money

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 7th, 2011

Economics 101

The High Search Costs of the Barter System Hindered Trade

Agriculture advances gave us food surpluses.  Food surpluses gave us a division of labor.  The division of labor gave us trade.  And trade gave us an advanced civilization.  By allowing more specialists to live together in crowded urban settings.  Creating a rich surplus of goods for trade.  That people traded.  With other people.  Near.  And far.

As trade grew civilizations got better.  The division of labor grew larger.  And more complex.  Producing more things.  Soon there was a rich variety of goods to trade with for other goods.  From civilizations in distant lands.  Which made life more interesting.  And enjoyable.  During that brief time when you weren’t working.  Or trading.  Which was taking more and more time.  To find someone to trade with.  That had something you wanted.  And who wanted something you had.

This is the barter system.  Trading goods for goods.  Producers took their goods to other producers.  And asked, “What will you take in trade for that?”  Often the response was, “Nothing that you have.”  To which the trader replied, “Very well.  I shall keep looking.”  And sometimes would spend days, weeks and even months looking.  And that was time spent not making anything new.  This was the high search cost of the barter system.  And it hindered trade.  We needed something better.

Money made Trade more Efficient and Unleashed the Human Capital of the Middle Class

For civilization to advance further we had to make trade more efficient.  We had to reduce these search costs.  What we needed was a temporary storage of value.  Something we could trade our valuable goods for.  And then trade the value of our goods, held temporarily in this temporary storage of value, for something else of value later.  And we call this temporary storage of value money.

Money greatly simplified things.  Allowed a more complex economy.  A greater division of labor.  And it allowed wages.  Allowing more people to work on more narrow specialties.  These producers could then take their wages to market.  And buy what they needed.  Instead of spending days, weeks or even months traveling to find people to barter with.

Money made trade more efficient.  It allowed cities to grow in size.  And become even more advanced.  It unleashed the human capital of the middle class.  For they could spend more time creating and building new and better things to trade.  And this economic activity allowed more people to live together peacefully.  As producers produced.  And traded with other producers.  All made easier by money.  A temporary storage of value.

Money doesn’t Create or Produce, it just Temporarily Stores the Value of what we Create and Produce

Please note what came first here.  First there was trade.  Then there was money to make that trade more efficient.

At the heart of all economic activity is our human capital.  What we use to create and produce.  Money doesn’t create or produce.  It just stores the value of what we create and produce.  Which is why Keynesian economic stimulus doesn’t work.  Making money to give to people to spend simply does not create new economic activity.

Our skills create economic activity.  That ability to create things other people value.  And wish to trade for.  Because we are traders.  Not spenders.  We trade things of value.  And to trade things of value someone has to create them first.  If you just take things of value without offering something of value in trade it is not trade.  It’s plunder.  And little different from the uncivilized barbarians on the frontier of the civilized world.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

If it weren’t for High Labor and Regulatory Costs there would be no need for Currency Manipulation

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 2nd, 2011

Minimum Wage Earners only become Valuable after Costly on the Job Training

Minimum wage jobs are entry level jobs.  And they’re starting to get that in the UK (see Minimum wage harming job opportunities for young by Richard Tyler and James Kirkup posted 10/2/2011 on The Telegraph).

Firms may be reluctant to create jobs by recruiting inexperienced staff because they are put off by the increased wage bill, the Low Pay Commission has suggested.

The Commission’s intervention comes amid calls from businesses for minsters to freeze or even cut the rate to enable more young people to find work…

Official figures last month showed that almost 1 million of the 2.5 million people officially counted as unemployed in Britain are aged between 16 and 24.

Almost 220,000 have been out of work for more than a year and some economists fear a “lost generation” of young people who never learn the habits of work and face a lifelong struggle ever to find employment…

“The concern is that the current rate is discouraging some employees from taking on young people and giving them a chance to get into the workplace,” he said. “Some companies are finding the rate is a real problem.”

The New England Patriots pay Tom Brady more money than the Detroit Lions pay Mathew Stafford.  Stafford was the number one draft pick.  Brady wasn’t.  But Brady has 3 Super Bowl rings.  Stafford doesn’t have one.  Yet.  He may have one soon, though.  He’s having a very good season.  Undefeated through 4 weeks.  But Brady is better.  Because of his 3 Super Bowl rings.  And his experience.  It’s that experience that makes him worth more.

What’s true for quarterbacks in the NFL is true for workers everywhere.  Experience makes a worker worth more to an employer.  Inexperienced workers are worth less.  So they’re paid less.  Just like in the NFL.

The New England Patriots pay Brady a lot of money.  But they can’t pay everyone that amount of money.  Most players will make less than him.  Just like in the workforce.

Key employees are paid more.  And less critical employees are paid less.  Entry level workers with the least skill and the least experience get paid the least.  These are the minimum wage workers.  Who are just starting their working careers.  Most of who are grateful for the work experience.   Because they know if they show ability they can move up.  Gain more experience.  And earn more as they become more valuable to their employer.  Or to their employer’s competitor.

So of course employers oppose high minimum wages.  Because minimum wage earners only become valuable after costly on the job training.  That’s why they’re paid the least.  They come in with nothing.  And don’t provide any value until the employer gives them value through training.  Mentorship.  And experience.

If you Protect your Markets too much from Imports you will Hurt your own Export Markets

Costs are costs.  And labor costs are some of the more expensive costs.  Because there are a lot of other costs attached to wages.  They add up.  And often are a percentage of an employee’s wages.  The higher the wage, the higher these other costs.  Which makes it harder for a business to be competitive.  And in today’s competitive global economy, nations will help their businesses be competitive any way they can.  To try and make up for all those onerous regulations they impose on their businesses (see One more such victory posted 10/1/2011 on The Economist).

A YEAR ago Brazil’s finance minister, Guido Mantega, declared that the world had entered into a “currency war”. He worried that in a depressed global economy, without enough spending to go around, countries would sally forth and grab a bit of extra demand for themselves by weakening their currencies. The dollar, for example, fell by 11% against Brazil’s real in the year to August 2011, much to the chagrin of Brazil’s manufacturers. Like other emerging economies it fought back by imposing taxes and other restrictions on foreign purchases of local securities…

A cheaper real, zloty and rupee will help emerging economies win a bigger share of global spending. But that is small consolation if global spending declines…

Falling export orders was one of the complaints voiced by Chinese manufacturers in a preliminary survey of purchasing managers published by HSBC last week.

Yes, a cheaper currency gives you an advantage.  So a nation wants it.  But so do other nations.  And what’s more, these other nations don’t want your nation to have a cheap currency.  Because a cheap currency means more exports.

But a currency war is a double edged sword.  If you protect your markets too much from imports you will hurt your own export markets.  Yeah, you may succeed in having a cheap currency but little good that will do if your primary export market slaps a punitive tariff on everything you sell there.

And then there’s the danger of releasing the inflation genie from its bottle.  If you devalue your currency too much your own manufacturing costs will rise.  It’ll take more dollars to buy the stuff you need to manufacture the things you sell.  Which means you’ll have to raise prices.  And anyone who buys from you will have to raise their prices.  And so on until this inflation ends in a recession.  Which will slash overall consumer spending.  Making any win in a currency war a hollow one.

The Senate Bill to Punish China for Currency Manipulation is nothing more than Pandering to a Recession-Weary America

So rational thinking bets against any currency war.  Or antagonizing any trade relationships.  Of course, in an election cycle, rational takes a back seat to winning an election (see Senators court 2012 voters with China currency bill by Doug Palmer posted 10/2/2011 on Reuters).

For lawmakers eyeing their re-election prospects next year, this week provides a chance to show they mean business about cracking down on China’s currency practices and returning jobs to America…

“It is very easy to say that China is the bogeyman,” said Doug Guthrie, dean of business at George Washington University. He said the bill would do little to help U.S. jobs and would raise U.S. import costs, but said it might yet pass…

The Senate bill is the wrong approach because most of the goods the United States imports from China are no longer made by U.S. industry, Frisbie [president of the U.S.-China Business Council] said.

“I’ve always been of the view that, if the Chinese currency were to appreciate, we’re not going to get those jobs back in the U.S. They will migrate to Indonesia or Vietnam or Bangladesh perhaps Sub-Saharan African — the lowest next lowest cost place,” Lardy [a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics] said.

So this Senate bill is nothing more than pandering to a recession-weary America.  It won’t help the economy.  And probably will end up making things worse.  By making life that much more expensive for the American consumer.  By replacing those cheap Chinese goods with almost as cheap goods from Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh or Sub-Saharan Africa.  All the while creating zero American jobs.   It will just make life more difficult.  But it may elect a politician or two.  And really, now, isn’t that what’s really important?  I’m jesting, of course.

Why Exactly is the ‘Made in USA’ Stamped Stuff more Expensive?

Perhaps it isn’t the Chinese.  Or the other emerging economies.  Perhaps it isn’t the weak currencies of our trading partners.  Maybe it’s us.  I mean, why do we play with the currency in the first place?  To make our goods cheaper.

So the issue we should be addressing is why are our goods more expensive in the first place.  Why exactly is the ‘Made in USA’ stamped stuff more expensive?  Higher labor and regulatory costs.  Such as the minimum wage.  And the hundreds of other costly regulations American businesses have to comply with.  Remove these and America can be competitive again.  With anyone.  Anywhere.  And in any industry.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

Looking at the Economic Data it’s getting hard to tell who’s President, Barack Obama or Jimmy Carter

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 22nd, 2011

Keynesian Economists’ Poor Forecasts suggests their Keynesian Economics doesn’t Work

More bad news for the housing market.  Not that this is a surprise.  That was a pretty big housing bubble that the Fed created.  With their stimulative low interest rates.  And the bigger they are the harder they fall.  Or pop, as it were.  And as the market corrected the Fed’s damage, it threw a slew of people out of work (see Early Mortgage Delinquencies Rise to Highest in Year as U.S. Economy Slows by Kathleen M. Howley posted 8/22/2011 on Bloomberg). 

The percentage of U.S. mortgages overdue by one month rose to the highest level in a year in the second quarter as homeowners who lost jobs were unable to make their payments…

The gain in early delinquencies signals a slowing economy may increase foreclosures, said Jay Brinkmann, chief economist of the trade group. The unemployment rate in the three months ended June 30 rose to 9.1 percent from 8.9 percent, the first quarterly increase since 2009, according to the Labor Department. Jobless claims jumped to an eight-month high in late April, government data show.

For the quarter ending June 30 unemployment was at 9.1 percent.  Ouch.  Remember why it was so urgent to pass the Obama Keynesian stimulus?  To keep the unemployment rate under 8%.  That was in February of 2009.  That’s two years ago.  Guess Keynesian economics doesn’t work.

The world’s largest economy grew at a 1.3 percent annual rate in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said on July 29. That was less than the increase of 1.8 percent forecast by economists surveyed by Bloomberg. A Federal Reserve report last week showed manufacturing in the Philadelphia region contracted in August by the most in more than two years as orders fell and factories fired workers.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. lowered their forecasts for U.S. gross domestic product last week. The U.S. will expand 1.5 percent this year, down from a previous forecast of 1.7 percent, according to Goldman economists in New York. JPMorgan predicts 1 percent growth in U.S. GDP in the fourth quarter, down from an earlier projection of 2.5 percent, the bank said last week.

And the news just keeps getting better.  And by better I mean worse.  Again another record.  This one for manufacturing.  And actual GDP numbers are coming in under economists’ estimates.  The numbers are so bad these economists are revising their future projections down.  It should be noted that the vast majority of mainstream economists are Keynesian economists.  Which suggests their Keynesian economics doesn’t work very well.

Inflation Growing at a Greater Rate than Wages equals Real Pay Cuts

These mainstream economists said the Great Recession ended by July 2009.  Said that the Obama administration followed their Keynesian advice.  Kicked that recession in the behind.  And launched the recovery with a Recovery Summer.  Yay said the Keynesians.  Everything was going to be all right.  And yet two years later here we are.  Where things are still not right (see Survey: US companies say they’re planning another year of small raises for workers in 2012 by the Associated Press posted 8/22/2011 on The Washington Post). 

After increasing salaries by 2.6 percent this year and last year, companies are planning a 2.8 percent bump in 2012, benefits and human resources consultancy Towers Watson reported Monday.

That’s somewhat smaller than raises in the last decade. From 2000 to 2006, the year before the Great Recession began, salaries rose an average 3.9 percent for workers who were not executives.

And the modest bump may not help add much buying power for shoppers. In the 12 months through July, prices for consumers have risen 3.6 percent, according to the government’s latest calculations.

Those lucky enough to have a job are taking real pay cuts to keep those jobs.  Inflation is growing at a greater rate than their wages.  Which means as prices go up their pay checks will buy less.  Despite those raises.  High unemployment.  And rising inflation.  The last time the economy saw numbers this bad was during the Seventies.  When we called it stagflation.  And blamed Jimmy Carter.  Who became a one-term president because of it.

Obama Cares enough about the People to Hide from them on the Golf Course

President Obama is aware of the nation’s woes.  He is even thinking about them while on vacation.  On Martha’s Vineyard.  Playground for the uber rich (see President keeps low profile on Martha’s Vineyard by Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein posted 8/20/2011 on the boston.com).   

But it was later, at the Vineyard Golf Course in Edgartown, where the president’s recalcitrance was most evident. Approaching the eighth tee in a golf cart with friend and frequent golfing buddy Eric Whitaker, the president noticed three TV cameras and a Globe photographer across the street. Rather than stop and be photographed teeing off, the president skipped the hole.

That’s how much he cares.  He’ll skip a hole during a round of golf just so we don’t see him living well during these bad economic times.  Talk about sacrifice.  He’s just not playing 17 holes instead of 18.  Skipping that hole may have an adverse affect on his handicap.  He called for fair-share sacrifice.  And he, too, is sacrificing.  Walking it like he talks it.  So think about this noble act before you start bitching about another tax hike.  He skipped a hole of golf.

Obama bailed out General Motors and Chrysler and put Detroit back to Work

But it’s back to work after Martha’s Vineyards.  Just like the rest of us after our vacations.  Though our vacations are a bit more Spartan these days.  And rarely venture farther than our own backyards (see Obama to join unions’ Labor Day festivities in Detroit by Aaron Kessler posted 8/22/2011 on the Detroit Free Press). 

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will join thousands of union members at Labor Day festivities in Detroit, the Free Press has learned,

Obama will deliver remarks at a Labor Day event sponsored by the Metro Detroit Labor Council, according to a White House official with knowledge of the trip.

While no other details were immediately available, it is likely he would again use the opportunity to tout his administration’s role in the rescues in 2009 of General Motors and Chrysler.

So the president is going to Detroit to celebrate Labor Day.  It makes sense.  I mean, he bailed out General Motors and Chrysler, didn’t he?  And put the good people of Detroit back to work.

With 13.7% Unemployment where’s the Summer Recovery in Detroit?

Then again, looking at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it would appear that he has not put the good people of Detroit back to work (see Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment Summary posted 8/3/2011 on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). 

Eleven of the most populous metropolitan areas are made up of 34 metropolitan divisions, which are essentially separately identifiable employment centers. In June 2011, Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, Fla., and Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, Mich., registered the highest jobless rates among the divisions, 13.9 and 13.7 percent, respectively. Nashua, N.H.-Mass., reported the lowest division rate, 5.4 percent, followed by Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md., 5.8 percent. (See table 2.)

No wonder Maxine Waters is so angry.  He skips Detroit on his ‘listening’ bus tour.  And vacations on the very exclusive Martha’s Vineyards.  While the Detroit area is suffering double-digit unemployment.  If he was listening anywhere, it should have been in Detroit.

The Detroit area unemployment rate is 13.7%.  While the national rate is only 9.1% for the same period.  Yes, the national rate is bad.  But it’s not Detroit bad.  And this after the automotive bailouts.  That put the good people of Detroit back to work.  On top of the Obama stimulus.  So where’s the Summer Recovery in Detroit?  What’s happened to the Motor City? 

So this is what a Second Jimmy Carter Term would have been Like 

In a word, Obamanomics.  His Keynesian policies that were supposed to save jobs have killed jobs.  In Detroit.  And across the nation.  Worse, on top of high unemployment these policies have ignited inflation.  Unemployment plus inflation equals stagnation.  Misery.  And malaise

So this is what a second Jimmy Carter term would have been like.  Makes one want to say, “Welcome back Carter.”  But not in that warm nostalgic way like in that Seventies sitcom (Welcome Back Kotter).  Of course you never saw Jimmy Carter living it up like Obama.  So there are some differences.

This economy will not help Obama in 2012.  Worse, the American people will get no relief until after 2012.  For it’s like Ronald Reagan said in his campaign against Jimmy Carter (see President Ronald Reagan – Liberty State Park [Pt. 1] at 5:26).  A recession is when your neighbor loses his job.  A depression is when you lose yours.  And recovery is when Barack Obama loses his.

I’m paraphrasing, of course.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

  Next Entries »