As world stock markets have continued to climb to cyclical – if not all-time – highs, it has become almost the norm for industry Talking Heads to season their smatterings of media insight with a brief, talismanic expression of scepticism, uttered partly to appease the ever-jealous God of the Markets but mainly so as to be on record as ‘having foreseen the crash’ as and when one eventually occurs.
There are those who can display a solid grasp of the oft–misunderstood mechanics of credit and money generation by banks and who are also well aware of the episodes of endemic mistakes this entrains in in our system. Yet, perhaps because they possess a certain ideological bent, many such commentators cannot seem to steel themselves to take the next step and admit that very little of this has anything to do with a free market, or that those mistakes are decidely not an intrinsic feature of what they like to call ‘capitalism’.
TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW
So, one last time, let us lay out the argument developed above in the hope of eliminating all obscurity, for it is a pivotal one and therefore one which must be well understood if we are to challenge the very substance of the perilous theorizing of our Lords and Masters.
With positive real rates – which, we must again emphasize, simply imply that the instantaneous price ratio between goods today and goods tomorrow is greater than unity – the primal temptation is for the consumer to eat as much as he can, even including his seed corn, and so to yield to the pleasures of the moment in disregard of the needs of the morrow.
NO REMEDY IN THIS CONSUMPTION OF THE PURSE
But the sort of reasoning we developed in the last of this series is alien to much of today’s mainstream, many of whose members succumb to the long-dispelled, circular fallacies of the productivity argument. Yet more of them adhere to what Dennis Robertson wickedly derided as Keynes’ Cheshire Cat theory of ‘liquidity preference’ (‘The rate of interest is what it is because it is expected to be other than it is. But if it is not expected to be other than it is, there is nothing to tell us why it is what it is… [it is] a grin without a cat’).
THE NET THAT SHALL ENMESH THEM ALL
Now, the foregoing may be all well and good, but it is also the case that any such consignment of goods is open to a multitude of what economists call ‘rivalrous’ uses. If this is not true for that rare, individual batch of highly purpose-specific goods which we may have under consideration in some particular instance it will nonetheless still hold for the earlier, typically less use-constrained goods of which that batch is partially comprised, as well as for the later, more shop-ready goods to which it will in turn give rise and whose own market valuation, as we have seen, will help determine the price of their antecedents
THE CASE FOR POSITIVE INTEREST
An Austrian rebuttal of Summers et al, in four parts
THE TIME IS OUT OF JOINT
Over the years, any number of psychological experiments have been conducted in order to validate – or at least to give a veneer of academic corroboration to – a truth already well established by practical experience; namely, that we humans must continually struggle to overcome our basic animal instinct to seek instant gratification of our wants.