The last few days have been so busy, we haven’t had any time to think. But, now things are settling down, so we’ve had a chance to put our thinking cap on.
What are we thinking about?
Well, of course, we’re trying to understand the basics… George Soros had the right idea: Find the story whose premise is false…and bet against it. What premise is false?
The major premise that almost everyone believes is that government economists can improve the workings of an otherwise free economy. That leads people to believe that the feds have pulled off a save…they’ve now got the economy well along on the road to recovery…the recovery is getting stronger as time goes by…and soon, the feds will begin to exit from their stimulus efforts.
The big question in most investors’ minds is this: how quickly will the feds exit? As long as they keep up their stimulus efforts, investors expect rising prices for everything but the dollar.
Those who think the feds will be able to exit quickly believe growth will come without too much inflation. Those who think the exit will come slowly expect higher rates of inflation.
Well, guess what? The whole premise is false. From top to bottom. From beginning to end. Even the air it breathes is tainted with the smell of fraud and self-delusion.
The theory behind the recovery concept is that government spending and stimulus from the Fed has a “multiplier” effect. That is, the feds spend…the money goes into the economy…and then, the private economy multiplies the spending by growth in consumption and investment of its own. If there were no multiplier effect the whole exercise would be a waste of time, because we know that government spending in itself is a cost to an economy, not a source of real wealth. Government spending, generally, is a drag on prosperity. The Soviet Union proved that. The question remains however, can extra government spending at critical moments “prime the pump” so that it is multiplied by the private sector?
“Our new research,” writes economist Robert Barro in The Wall Street Journal, “shows no evidence of a Keynesian ‘multiplier’ effect…the available empirical evidence does not support the idea that spending multipliers typically exceed one, and thus spending stimulus programs will likely raise the GDP by less than the increase in government spending.”
Now, we turn to the current situation. Is there any evidence of growth beyond the government’s own stimulus efforts? From what we can see so far, again, the answer is ‘no.’
The premise of recovery/multipliers/growth/and exit is false. We want to bet against it. Tomorrow we’ll talk about how.
Real economists know that there are no secrets. You work hard. You invest carefully. You save your money. That’s the best you can do. There are no multipliers. There are no miracle cures. There are no easy exits from trouble.
That’s why the world has little use for honest economists; they tell you what you don’t want to hear. So, people turn to the phonies…the charlatans…the imposter economists who say “yes we can!”
Trouble is, they can’t.