Sunday, September 28, 2014

People. Planet. Prosperity. A job guarantee for Saudi Arabia?

With leadership from some of the world's leading monetary economists based at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the newly launched Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity has, among other projects, been working on a pilot job guarantee program to address the unemployment problem in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

Below are some of the ideas being presented. View the full presentation here.

How ironic if Saudi Arabia will show the West how people, prosperity, and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. I wish them every success! This happens to be the best way to sustain a market economy and democratic society for the long term. 

"Full employment is possible, desirable, and affordable for any nation". 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Modern money explained (with an Aussie accent)

An excellent overview of how money works in plain language. Steven Hail does a great job exposing the misunderstandings about government spending, deficits, and debts in terms palatable for the non-economist. This speech was given in Adelaide, Australia in 2014. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

The deadly allure of Doom Porn, and its antidote

"I know it when I see it" Supreme Court justice Stevens famously stated in reference to pornography. Doom Porn is arguably easier to describe but perhaps more insidious -- because it is self-fulfilling.

Doom Porn is addicting. It takes various shapes and forms depending on the environment. 

Those of the Libertarian tradition and followers of Ron Paul with his outspoken criticisms of the Federal Reserve have been predicting the collapse of "fiat money" and a return to the gold standard or at least restoring gold to its rightful place of coexisting with national currencies and circulating as money. A whole movement has emerged with predictions of currency crises, hyper-inflation, and the meteoric rise of gold and silver.

Blogs and websites are continuously cropping up to promote the purchase of gold and silver as the only safe haven for reckless governments and out-of-control central banks. The common theme is preparing for and surviving the coming economic collapse: see here and here for just a couple of the many examples. 

The media, of course, makes its living by attracting eyeballs to calamities (while also trying to tell us that everything is going to be okay). Now there are TV shows about the so-called "preppers" who are going to great lengths to stockpile food, weapons, build bunkers, and otherwise attempt to shield themselves from coming disaster. Doom Porn is big business.

Jaded Wall Street types flock to the more sophisticated, witty, and cynical sites such as ZeroHedge, and follow the blogs of former and current bankers such as Marc Faber and others. Always, there is an overtone of doom, gloom, calamity, and crisis. Talk of bullion, bullets, and beer abound in the chat rooms, and any talk of an alternative path forward that doesn't involve crises followed by gold money is silenced by the "troll police".

Others, such as Chris Martenson, have made their case with demographics, a growing human population, and limited natural resources  to predict a dramatic shock wave to society, and once again, economic crises.

And let's not leave out religion, which after-all, has probably played a seminal role in sowing the seeds of imminent disaster for many of those caught up in Doom Porn. Armageddon, apocalypse, "End Times", trial and tribulation; themes that have taken on particular shape and meaning especially in various American Protestant circles (often picked up and amplified by Hollywood), seem to have swept up large swaths of the religious right. It's also big business. It keeps the masses dutifully coming to hear what they must do to be ready, while ironically sidelining many of them from any productive outworking of the teachings of Jesus in everyday life, work, and government as they await the end.

What gives Doom Porn its power? 

There is a powerful concept that all dispensers of Doom Porn rely upon. 


From the illustrated Road to Serfdom
originally published by General Motors.
When you create a narrative that leads to a predictable outcome and leave no alternative in the plot, the end game seems without doubt. It isn't just the simple or weak minded who succumb to its lure. Some narratives contain seemingly unassailable logic backed by compelling historical examples that can sway even the skeptic. 

At least until the premise is found to be flawed and the logic falls apart. 

Inevitability is the mantra of the gold-money and economic doom folks. Their claim is that all fiat currencies fail - it's just a matter of time. Government debt is unsustainable and the collapse of our currency is imminent. A steady stream of dire economic news stories and commentary feed the addicts and keep them coming for more, hoping they'll see the collapse before it happens and maybe cash in on the wealth transfer before heading to the hills. 

Inevitability was the mantra of Hayek's claims in Road to Serfdom, where tyranny was always the end result of any expanded role for government or government money in the economy, and his disciples are still making the same exaggerated claims today.

Inevitability is made more powerful in religious circles when it's combined with Biblical authority. Those who think they know the mysteries of its apocryphal predictions speak in definitive terms of America's doom, Israel's end game, Russia's rise, and more -- using whatever convenient headlines of the day bolster their case. How are the faithful supposed to think otherwise if even god says the world is going to hell in a hand-basket! Surely there is no alternative, right?

People love Doom Porn. It can get the adrenalin going and keeps you coming back for more. Like movie-goers at Halloween, we're suckers for another dire prediction of terrible outcomes. Hard core addicts begin to wish it all to happen so as to be proven right. 

Actually, it's worse than that. Our collective failure to understand the very real and very positive alternative path forward leads us to make collective decisions that lead to the fulfillment of these dire predictions. 

  • We choose leaders who shepherd our economy from one crisis to the next while perpetuating the myths that cause them in the first place. 
  • We keep choosing politicians who believe the false dichotomy between taxes and spending, as though any increase in one must result in an increase in the other: where the only way to help the needy is to take more from the rich, and the only way to help the economy is to bleed it back to health through austerity.
  • We refuse to use our currency and fiscal policy to provide help to the private sector economy and employment, repeating some of the same mistakes that led to the Great Depression.
  • We argue for balanced budget amendments and "fiscal responsibility", which inevitably lead to financial crises and recession.  

The antidote for Doom Porn

My focus in this blog is on money - the economic story behind our real-world lives. If you carefully examine the roots of the Doom Porn genre, you will find a common theme: a rigid belief that our economic system is deeply flawed and that it must fail. It is inevitable. There's no option. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

What a dismal perspective. What a waste of people's lives and hopes and dreams!

Now to be sure, we do have economic problems and they run deep, and I don't want to dismiss the very real concerns about our banking system, income inequality, etc. Some things that should be changed are harder than others.

But here's the thing. There really are options available to us today that could significantly reduce poverty, end involuntary unemployment, restore economic growth, solve challenging social and environmental problems, and allow future generations to have a better lives than our own. 

So here's the antidote to Doom Porn. Hope! 

Now hope is NOT wishful thinking. It has nothing to do with the meaningless "hopium" of a charismatic politician promising change but having no idea what change is needed. No, I'm talking about real knowledge of real options that are available to us today that can expose and prevent the dire predictions of the twin false prophets of Doom and Gloom. 

Hope is rooted in confidence which comes from knowledge. Those with hope know something! They can see a path forward when others despair. We have been duped; blinded by ideology and bunk economics; led to believe that bleeding patients helps them recover. 

To the contrary! 

  • We have the tools and resources and talent to end our economic malaise and demonstrate to other nations how it can be done. 
  • We can employ every person that is ready, willing and able to work without causing inflation.
  • We can see small businesses thrive and become the innovation engine of our economy again. 
  • We can provide real care to all the sick of our nation, not just those fortunate enough to have a good job. 
  • We can shift our energy supply to sustainable sources without jeopardizing industry and raising costs. 
  • We can provide for our elderly and disabled. 
  • We can pioneer new ideas, research new fields, fund R&D, and lead the world in life-changing technologies and medical advances.

That's HOPE! And it all starts with a shift in our understanding of how modern money works. 

Doom Porn is sick. It is perverted. It's based on all the flawed premises that we've discussed repeatedly. There is no inevitable economic collapse if we choose to avoid it. We need to end our addiction to Doom Porn and start understanding and voting for the real solutions that will bring our nations forward. 

Nothing is inevitable

Simply put, a nation that issues its own currency, has a floating exchange rate, and doesn't peg or promise to convert into something it doesn't control (e.g. gold, US$) has tremendous policy flexibility to use its currency for the good of its people. And it can do so without jeopardizing capitalism and the market system, private enterprise, or freedom, without causing inflation, and without resulting in a centrally planned economy and government tyranny!

  • There's hope for the US to halt the slide of declining real wages, end unemployment, restore growth, and to once-again catch a vision to martial its tremendous intellectual, monetary, and natural resources to tackle big problems for the betterment of humanity.
  • There's hope for Japan to support its aging population with a productive workforce, without inflation or currency collapse, and to shift its energy supply over to a sustainable and low-cost system.
  • There's hope for the nations of Europe if they choose to restore their respective national currencies; or if they stay with the Euro, to lift the burden of austerity and provide for sufficient fiscal policy to maintain full employment and their desired social infrastructure.
  • There's hope if Scotland chooses independence and establishes its own currency to demonstrate to the world just how a nation can use its sovereign money to provide a robust economy without inflation and unemployment.
  • There's hope for Ireland to unshackle themselves from the burden of debt to the banks much as Germany finally threw off the shackles of reparations after WWI.
  • There's hope for any nation if they avoid corruption and use their national resources wisely: its people, land, technology, infrastructure, and money.

There are many who will tell you "there is no alternative", just as the leaders of Europe have been claiming for years, all while their people (especially the youth!) suffer misery upon misery. But hope remains. And knowledge gives power to the people. 

So now that you know better, spread the word and let's bring real change!