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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Economic Booms & Busts

Murray N. Rothbard

Economic depression, the elixir to inflationary expansion.

A communal error; recent economic busts

It is evident that in a market environment where all participants are free to operate without any intervention from an authority and regulatory monopoly, i.e., government, some entrepreneurs will succeed in their endeavors while others will fail and have to either retire to other ventures or rebuild. Perhaps these failures may directly alert and guide those individuals to a more stable position in the economy with regard to a fixed income and a relative "guarantee" by obtaining employment within an established business, which was of course created by one of these successful entrepreneurs.

A natural separation between the winners and losers, to put it crudely, will be created by self-realization on the part of all involved in an economy. It must be made clear however that being an individual who is gainfully employed does not make him or her a less capable productive member of society. Rather, it asserts the fact that he/she is valued by his peers and even more so by the enterprise which invested (hired) him or her and is remunerating said person for their labor. However, it does also assert that as it was previously mentioned that this is their place in society. They've voluntarily accepted this position whether by past failures in attempting to put their own ideas to work or because they know that they will be best utilized and subconsciously most productive to the economy in this manner.

This is all important when contemplating how it is possible that during recent market busts, so many individuals failed when taking the same path. How is it possible that so many credible and successful business men are suddenly presented with an error in their own forecasting at the same time when up until this certain moment hefty profits were being earned consistently? What have they 'all' missed 'en masse?' Whatever happened to the theory that where one fails others will always succeed, that perhaps some may fail together, but never in tandem and in a large cluster. How is it that so many enterprises can go bust at the same time?

The only way this cohesive failure occurs is when manipulation which masks the true price mechanism of free exchanges is artificially introduced.

"Under conditions of a free competition...the market is...dependent upon supply and demand...there could [not] develop a disproportionality in the production of goods, which could draw in the whole economic system...such a disproportionality can arise only when, at some decisive point, the price structure does not base itself upon the play of only free competition, so that some arbitrary influence becomes possible." - Siegfried Budge, 1925.

In essence, banks (commercial and central banks, e.g., PBOC, ECB, Federal Reserve, BoE, BoJ, et al) create new bank notes (credit expansion) and proceed to loan them out to businesses (or individuals). This fresh supply of funds creates the illusion that the amount of money available for investment has increased and thus lowers the interest rate (this process also occurs naturally when individual's time preferences are lower; preferring later satisfaction to present satisfaction).

Due to this apparent inflation (increase in supply), businessmen believe that there has truly been a significant increase in the supply of funds available for investment. This sends a misleading signal to the market that investments must be made in long term projects or processes of production. This stimulates a shift in investment from the lower order goods (closer to the consumer) to higher order goods (far from the consumer), or from consumer goods to capital goods.

Such a shift would be sustainable had it occurred through the natural mechanism of time preferences, for the funds would be readily available due to real savings. However, in this example the market signaling interest rate was lowered due to direct price manipulation through bank credit expansion (inflation). Eventually this will create a trickle-down effect and factors of production such as rents, wages, and interest will also rise. Consequently, people will rush to spend this new money in the form of higher nominal rates thus bidding up prices. Demand then shifts back to the lower order goods and the above mentioned businessmen will find their investments to have been in vain, what they had thought to be the true demand from their entrepreneurial customers turned to be nothing but a farce. Old proportions (time preferences) will be reestablished and all of this malinvestment has to be liquidated.

In short, this cluster of failures were nothing but a result of the tampering with the free market rate of interest through the aforementioned artificial expansion of credit.

The "boom" which is created by this injection of liquidity or credit into the economy, thus distorting signals is the period where wasteful investments occurs, erroneous ventures are undertaken, and resources misallocated no longer serving consumers properly. What is then termed by the media as the "crisis" is the period when the old more natural proportions return to reestablish themselves. The "recession or depression" is then a necessary event in order to cleanse the market of all these malinvestments and [re]allocate resources to their most efficient means. Some existent ventures which were the product of the boom and subsequently failed, would be broken apart, liquidated and acquired by others to be put to other uses that reflect true demand by the economy (bail outs prevent this and perpetuate failure temporarily).

It is important then to recognize the depression or contraction period as the actual true "recovery" where the economy once again tries to rid itself of misallocations and reasserts its optimum efficiency in servicing consumers. Instead of it being seen as a negative occurrence, depressions are the necessary return of the economy to normal.

"The boom, then, 'requires' a "bust." – Murray N. Rothbard

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