Category Archives: Economics

US government’s net worth is now NEGATIVE $75 TRILLION, by Simon Black

One guess as to who is on the hook for that negative $75 trillion. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:

Usually around the middle of February each year, the US Treasury Department releases an annual report of the federal government’s financial condition.

It’s called the Financial Report of the US Government… and it looks a lot like an annual report that you might see filed by a big company like Apple or Facebook.

Except that, unlike Apple and Facebook, the US government’s annual report is absolutely gruesome.

This year’s report is no exception, save for one humorous anecdote: they -just- released it. In other words, they’re a month and a half LATE (given that the report is typically released in mid-February).

I actually CALLED the Treasury Department myself in early March, asking when they would publish the report.

The bewildered individual on the other end of the line said that he had no earthly idea, given that the government had been shut down for so long earlier this year.

Anyhow, if you want to see the report for yourself, you can download it here.

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Boeing’s Problem Is Not Software, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

Raúl Ilargi Meijer examines the Boeing crashes. From Meijer at theautomaticearth.com:

We had already been told that in the Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 crash which killed all 157 people on board, the 4-month old 737 MAX 8’s anti-stall software reengaged itself four times in 6 minutes as the pilots struggled to straighten the plane post-takeoff. In the end, the anti-stall software won and pushed the plane nose-down towards the earth. Now, Ethiopia -finally?!- released its report in the March 10 crash:

Minister of Transport Dagmawit Moges said that the crew of the Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi on 10 March “performed all the procedures repeatedly provided by the manufacturer but were not able to control the aircraft.” As result, investigations have concluded that Boeing should be required to review the so-called manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system on its 737 Max aircraft before the jets are permitted to fly again, she said.


The results of the preliminary investigation led by Ethiopia’s Accident Investigation Bureau and supported by European investigators were presented by Ms Moges at a press conference in Addis Ababa on Thursday morning.

Ethiopia is being kind to Boeing. However, though the anti-stall software played a big role in what happened, Boeing’s assertion (hope?!) that a software fix is all that is needed to get the 737MAX’s back in the air around the globe rests on very shaky ground (no pun intended whatsoever).

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Malinvestment: Have We Learned Anything Since the Last Recession? by Bradley Thomas

Government spending does not promote recoveries or economic growth, especially when it goes down the rat holes to which most such spending goes. From Bradley Thomas at mises.org:

A growing number of economists are predicting the current economic boom will turn to bust in 2019. When recession does come, will economists simply call for more of the same — namely endless government spending?

After all, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, most economists told us the problem was the private sector was not spending and investing enough. So, we were told, government must step in and make up the difference with deficit spending to get “idle resources” — like capital goods and labor — back to work.

But what should the government be spending on? Apparently, anything.

This is not an exaggeration. For example, noted Cal-Berkeley economist Brad DeLong insisted in 2009 “At this point, anything that boosts the government’s deficit over the next two years passes the benefit-cost test — anything at all.”

Such thinking reveals one of fatal flaws of mainstream economics: the idea that all the economy is one big homogeneous blob. As Friedrich Hayek put it, “Mr. Keynes’ aggregates conceal the most fundamental mechanisms of change.”

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ECB Inflationists are Crippling Europe, by Alasdair Macleod

You can’t inflate your way to prosperity. From Alasdair Macleod at mises.org:

Last week, the ECB announced the reintroduction of targeted long-term refinancing operations for the third time. TLTRO-III is scheduled to start from next September. The idea is to make yet more money available for the banks at attractive rates on condition they increase their lending to non-financial entities.

The policy is justified because the ECB sees growing signs the Eurozone economy is stalling, possibly badly. The weaker Eurozone economies are moving into outright recession, and Germany’s motor exports appear to have dramatically slowed, putting a constraint on her whole economy.

The ECB’s reintroduction of TLTRO is an offer of yet more monetary and credit inflation, despite the evidence that unprecedented waves of monetary inflation in the last ten years have failed in all the objectives for which they were designed, except two: governments have continued to get the funds to spend without meaningful restraint, and insolvent banks have been preserved.

Only two months after its asset purchase programme officially ended, the inflationists are at it again. But one wonders why the ECB bothers to delay TLTRO-III until September. If it is such a good thing, why not introduce it now?

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In Defence of Free Markets, by Alasdair Macleod

Despite it’s unrivaled record as the freest and most productive and prosperous economic system, people whisper the word capitalism, if they say it all. Even the author of this article uses the term free markets, not capitalism. Socialism, despite its terrible record, is hailed as humanity’s salvation. From Alasdair Macleod at goldmoney.com:

Why is it that no one defends free markets, and socialism, despite all the evidence of its failures, comes back again and again? Unsurprisingly, the answer lies in politics, which have always led to a boom-bust cycle of collective behaviour. Furthering our understanding of this phenomenon is timely because the old advanced economies, burdened by a combination of existing and future debt, appear to be on the verge of an unhappily coordinated bust. But that does not automatically return us to the free markets some of us long for.

Cycles of collective behaviour

Throughout history there have been few long-lasting periods of truly free markets. Contemporary exceptions are confined to some small island states, forced to be entrepreneurial by their size and position vis-à-vis the larger nations with which they trade. The governments of these islands know that the state itself is not suited to entrepreneurship. Only by the state guarding the freedom of island markets and the sanctity of property rights can entrepreneurs serve the people in these communities and create wealth for all.

This is not the normal condition for larger nations. Before the Scottish enlightenment which nurtured David Hume and Adam Smith, the benefits of free trade were barely understood. Since then, the wealth created by free trade and sound money has nearly always been the springboard for detrimental change. Sometimes a political strongman, like Mao or Lenin dictates to the people what they can and cannot do. Alternatively, a leader courts popularity by taxing heavily the few for the alleged benefit of the masses. This is the model of welfare states today. Debasement of the means of exchange is an extension of these socialising policies, furthering the transfer of personal wealth to the state.

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Capitalism Saved Sweden, by Michael Munger

If the US were to adopt the “Swedish model,” so beloved by so-called democratic socialists, the US would become more capitalistic. Sweden is a mixed economy, but it is certainly not socialistic, and by many measures its economy is freer than the US’s. From Michael Munger at aier.org:

Josh Billings famously diagnosed a problem with beliefs: “I honestly believe it is better to know nothing than to know what ain’t so.” I am astonished at how many students, and for that matter adults, in the U.S. honestly believe that the U.S. should model itself after Sweden because Sweden has shown that socialism works.

I will leave aside the question of whether the U.S. should try to “be like” Sweden; they are very different countries, with different histories and different institutions. But it is important to refute, using simple and widely available empirical evidence, the claim that Sweden is “socialist.” It is not. In fact, Sweden is one of the most robustly capitalist nations on earth.

By socialism, I mean a system that relies on state ownership and control of the means of production, state direction of production decisions, and direct state control of education and employment decisions of individuals. If one does not mean those things, then that would require a little more thinking about what “socialism” means. If by “socialism” you mean prosperity and rule of law, then you are confused.

There are several important issues to discuss, to understand the differences between capitalism and socialism.

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When Bubbles Burst – Tesla, The Everything Cycle and the End of Global Warming, by Tom Luongo

The Tesla company, its cars, and global warming are articles of faith among a certain set. That faith is going to be tested. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:

As the center of the U.S. freezes this weekend, Elon Musk is trying to figure out how to save Tesla from going the way of Enron.

Religions die hard. It takes an orgy of evidence to change a person’s mind on a subject that is integral to their moral and ethical structure.

In the case of Tesla, the mania surrounding it over the past decade has been inextricably bound up with the hysteria of global warming.

For years investors ignored the obvious warning signs that Tesla would never be able to graduate from a boutique, hand-built car manufacturer and technology skunk works to a mass producer.

I’ve been very hard on Musk in the past, with good reason. But, as a guy with vision I applaud him getting Tesla off the ground and legitimizing the idea of the upscale electric car.

But it was never going to work as a mass production scheme because Musk isn’t that guy. He’s a dreamer and a schemer, not a builder. And, as I’ve said multiple times, he should have stepped down as CEO of Tesla ages ago.

A man has got to know his limitations as The Man once said.

Musk doesn’t.

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