Inflation, Milton Friedman famously said, is a monetary phenomenon. But it is also one given the readiest of outlets through recourse to what we call ‘fiscal’ policy – i.e., by spendthrift governments borrowing money created at their call and forced into the system by means of warfare, welfare, contracting, cronyism, bureaucratic expansion and plain old boondogglery. Arguably, this is where we find ourselves today, in a world where supply is no longer likely to meet demand as abundantly and as effortlessly as has been the case these past twenty years.
This essay attempts a review of the economics – and the prevailing economic thinking – which have brought us to our present pass of high-leverage and heavy debt-dependence. It helps set the backdrop for an in-depth look at markets which will follow shortly…
The Johnson government’s approach to COVID19 has been a toxic mix of contradiction, vacillation, and jackbooted authoritarianism. There seems no exit strategy and no end to the spiralling cost. We take a critical look at the impact on the budget impact and discuss what it means for inflation.
Thanks very much to my old friend, Steve Sedgwick at Squawk Box Europe for the chat this morning. We looked at Growth v Value, the US v ROW, we touched on bonds and borrowing, money supply, inflation, lockdown, commodities & gold – all in under 10 minutes!
With many commodity prices touching multi-year lows and with mounting fears for real estate valuations and car-lease residuals, numerous commentators seem convinced that ours is now a deflationary future. QE failed to raise CPI by anywhere near what the spin promised, they say, partly because it was ‘unsupported’ by fiscal policy. Therefore, if we don’t get Roosevelt, we’ll get Brüning, they conclude, and, meanwhile, we need the Fed to cut rates below zero, said one prominent pundit on April 5th. We replied:-
A noted [monetary extremist] resident at GMU’s Mercatus Center fretted on March 20th that Japan’s efforts during 2001-06 to have the central bank finance deficits ‘didn’t work’ – i.e., they failed to ignite meaningful levels of wealth-sapping inflation. The reason? As our sage tells us, was that there was ‘no commitment… to a permanent expansion of the monetary base’ as expounded in the ratiocinations of that dark genius of modern central bank theorising, Michael Woodford. We replied:-
MMT has recently enjoyed a sudden resurgence in popularity. but, like so many other systems which claim to reveal previously undiscovered truths, it turns out to be nothing more than a retread of a number of age-old fallacies, only appealing because it seems to promise the Provider State unlimited power to interfere in our lives. We discuss its failings here.