Periphery Watch

     

 

 

 

 

 


 

I write this with sadness, still, at the news of the death of my friend Heinz Blasnik. He is better known by his nom de plume, Pater Tenebrarum, who published the economics blog Acting Man and wrote for many other financial sites.

I met Heinz twice, at his home in Vienna. He was a kind and gracious host, sending his driver to pick me up and serving Austrian delicacies for lunch. When I met him, he was struggling near the end of a long illness which was the result of a youthful adventure. Even so, he retained a benevolent sense of life, and a positive spirit.

But this is not why I wanted to write this. We were friends because we shared some ideas. Important ideas. Ideas about the nature of the world, and mankind, and how man can work together and coordinate their productive activities. Economics and business are my life, and Heinz was the same way.

What better basis for a friendship than sharing important values?

Heinz was deeply, passionately interested in helping people understand economics. I know not how much time he gave to this cause—unpaid, as blogs do not make money—but it was surely more than I spend. He engaged with those who were interested. Sadly, Austrian economics is not mainstream, though there are more than enough people to keep a teacher—or sensei—busy. He was willing to correspond with me, and I credit his articles and emails for helping shape my own views.

We did not always agree. If you put 3 economists in a room then you have at least 4 opinions. But even when not, he listened with benevolent intention and did not make it personal. It was always about the ideas. I think this is an important and uncommon virtue.

On one of my visits, we discussed life, the universe, and everything. And he told me a bit about the Austrian welfare state. Which led me to write The Service Economy. I have traveled around the world, and I have shared food and drink with friends in many countries. Yet that one conversation with Heinz stands out as interesting and important. I can only recall one other discussion with one other friend that led directly to me writing an essay.

I don’t think Heinz believed in Heaven, but I hope everyone will understand when I say this. I would look forward to a day—many years in the future, I hope—when I could meet Heinz for beers in Heaven, and continue our conversation where it left off in 2021.

Adieu Heinz.

 

Dr. Keith Weiner is the president of the Gold Standard Institute USA, and CEO of Monetary Metals. Keith is a leading authority in the areas of gold, money, and credit and has made important contributions to the development of trading techniques founded upon the analysis of bid-ask spreads. Keith is a sought after speaker and regularly writes on economics. He is an Objectivist, and has his PhD from the New Austrian School of Economics. He lives with his wife near Phoenix, Arizona.

 

     

 

 

A Failure to Integrate Values

The only region in the world that has proactively tried to incorporate western culture in its societies is East Asia — Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan. China, which was a grotesquely oppressed, poor, Third World country not too far in the past, notwithstanding its many struggles today, has furiously tried to copy the West.

 

Famous Greek philosophers: their thoughts are a cornerstone of Western culture. [PT]

 

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Fiat Money Woes

Monday was Labor Day holiday in the US. The facts are that the euro lost another 1.4%, the pound another 1.1%, and the yuan another 0.9% last week.

 

Assorted foreign fiat confetti against the US dollar – we have added the Argentine peso as well, as it demonstrates what can happen when things really get out of hand. [PT]

 

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Exciting Visions of a Bright Future

Fund Managers, economists and politicians agree on the exciting future they see in the Third World. According to them, the engine of the world’s economic growth has moved from the West to what were once the poverty-stricken societies of the Third World. They feel mushy about the rapid increase in the size of the Middle Class in the Third World, and how poverty is becoming history.

 

GDP of India vs. UK in 2016 – crossing over.

 

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The Final Stage of a Crack-Up Boom

For economists the dire downward spiral of Venezuela’s economy holds the same fascination black holes hold for physicists. Both illustrate what happens amid the most extreme conditions imaginable. It is thought that this may potentially provide clues of a more general nature. The remnants of massive imploded stars are inanimate and many light years distant; regardless of how violent conditions in their vicinity are, they cannot touch us. Unfortunately, extreme economic conditions definitely involve a great deal of human suffering.

 

“We are the humanist socialism that will save the world”, from Venezuelan cartoonist Weil (he always draws the dear leaders with big wads of dollars sticking out of their pockets, making them look like otherworldly birds – look for his work on the intertubes).

 

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Extracting Meaning from PPP

 

“An alternative exchange rate – the purchasing power parity (PPP) conversion factor – is preferred because it reflects differences in price levels for both tradable and non-tradable goods and services and therefore provides a more meaningful comparison of real output.” – the World Bank

 

Headquarters of the World Bank in Washington. We have it on good authority that the business of ending poverty is quite lucrative for its practitioners (not least because employees of multilateral organizations such as the IMF and the World bank have to pay no taxes whatsoever on their income – and the perks certainly don’t end there). A number of long-serving employees of the institution we have met over time have struck us as quite cynical and not particularly convinced that their efforts in developing countries were achieving much (and it was not for lack of trying). That is of course not the official line and merely represents anecdotal evidence based on a limited sample size. Experience tells us though that we should not dismiss such evidence out of hand – especially not if it rings true. The agency’s views on PPP are a sign that its economists probably don’t get out much. [PT]

Photo credit: Simone D. McCourte

 

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Decolonization

The British Empire was the largest in history. At the end of World War II Britain had to start pulling out from its colonies. A major part of the reason was, ironically, the economic prosperity that had come through industrialization, massive improvements in transportation, and the advent of telecommunications, ethnic and religious respect, freedom of speech, and other liberties offered by the empire.

 

The colors represent the colonies of various nations in 1945, and the colonial borders of that time – click to enlarge.

 

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Étatiste Crackpottery

Shortly after we posted Jayant Bhandari’s recent article that inter alia discussed  the new complex GST (general sales tax) regime introduced in India by the Modi government (see “The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum” for details), we were contacted by Lakshminarayanan Kumaraapuram, a small businessman in Mumbai. He asked us whether we would be prepared to publish a comment he originally mailed to the prime minister’s “grievance portal”, so as to transform it into an open letter.

 

Let’s keep it simple… but not too simple. The chief surgeon gets ready to wield his scalpels and cleavers.

 

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Jayant on Emerging Markets, Precious Metals and Mining Companies

Maurice Jackson of Proven & Probable has once again interviewed one of our friends, namely Jayant Bhandari, a frequent and highly valued contributor to Acting Man.  Jayant is probably best known to our readers for his strong criticism of the economic and nationalist policies implemented by prime minister Narendra Modi in India since he decreed the demonetization of the bulk of the cash currency circulating in the country (see his most recent article here).

 

Jayant Bhandari speaking at the 2016 Capitalism and Morality seminar.

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Everything Gets Worse  (Part XII) –  Pakistan vs. India

After 70 years of so-called independence, one has to be a professional victim not to look within oneself for the reasons for starvation, unnatural deaths, utter backwardness, drudgery, disease, and misery in India.

Intellectual capital accumulated in the West over the last 2,500 years — available for free in real-time via the internet — can be downloaded by a passionate learner. In the age of modern technology, another mostly free gift from the West which has significantly leveled the playing field, societies that wanted economic convergence with the West, such as Japan, Korea, Singapore, HK, China, etc., have either achieved it rapidly, or have strongly trended toward it.

 

More than 28,000 children less than six years of age have died in just one province, Madhya Pradesh, over the past year. Because these deaths were due to diseases resulting from malnourishment, the government attributed every single death to disease rather than malnourishment.

Photo credit: Hemender Sharma, India Today

 

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India’s Currency Ban – Part VIII

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced on 8th November 2016 that Rs 500 (~$7.50) and Rs 1,000 (~$15) banknotes would no longer be legal tender. Linked are Part-I, Part-II, Part-III, Part-IV, Part-V, Part-VI and Part-VII, which provide updates on the demonetization saga and how Modi is acting as a catalyst to hasten the rapid degradation of India and what remains of its institutions.

 

India’s Pride and Joy

 

Indians are celebrating that their economy has surpassed that of India’s former colonial master, the UK.

 

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The Industrious Greeks Mystery

In the course of the Greek crisis, animosities between creditor countries like Germany and Greece didn’t take long to surface. They were fired up in the tabloid press, which was quick to revive various stereotypes. In Greece, Germans soon found themselves compared to their Nazi predecessors, while German tabloids inter alia complained sotto voce about those allegedly “lazy Southerners”.

 

lazy GreekThe stereotype of “lazy Greeks”

 

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