On Capitalism

     

 

 

Operation 'Perfect Hedge' – the Criminalization of 'Greed'

As most of our readers are probably aware, the ongoing FBI investigations into insider trading at prominent hedge and mutual funds has just yielded another  batch of arrests and indictments. This seems to be still the same investigation  that ensnared the founder of Galleon, Raj Rajaratnam, a little while ago. Apparently the investigation has been going on for four years running.

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Revisiting the Squid

Back when we wrote a brief critique of Matt Taibbi's latest populist jeremiad against 'God's workers', a.k.a. Goldman Sachs, we were of course aware that the topic would be controversial. Quite a few people seem to have misread that piece as an apologia for Goldman Sachs (judging from some comments on the Seeking Alpha reproduction of the post and e-mails we received), so perhaps we didn't express our point clearly enough. Yesterday, another writer dared to speak up in Goldman's defense, specifically with regards to the questions surrounding its trades and Taibbi's allegation that GS executives are guilty of perjury. Just as we suspected, the case is not as clear-cut as Taibbi makes it out to be – not by a long shot.

 

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A recent poll suggests that public support for the free market has markedly declined all over the world. The question is though, what do people consider the \'free market\' to be? Most associate the modern-day state-capitalistic system with the term free market, but obviously that is not what it is. Meanwhile, the political establishment and the mainstream media have pawned off the crisis as an alleged \'market failure\' - even a superficial examination of this claim should reveal it as nonsense, but many people apparently believe it to be true. Ironically, Germany is the country where support for the free market is currently deemed the highest. Color us suitable baffled by this revelation. In France, disdain for the market is by now a well-worn tradition. Alas, no French refugees from evil capitalism have as of yet shown up at the border of Stalinist North Korea, so maybe they\'re not really serious about it. However, the French government - nominally \'conservative\' - attempted to introduce price controls for agricultural commodities earlier this year. It had to be lectured by Brazil and Argentina on the merits of such interventions, which inter alia brought down the Roman Empire\'s economy. We would term the French plan the \'Road to Famine\'. Oil market manipulators get \'caught\' - really? Apparently two oil futures traders managed to do what OPEC - a cartel controllig 40% of global oil output - has failed to achieve in many decades - namely manipulate the biggest commoditiy market in the world. The accused traders are rather perplexed by the suit. They bought and sold oil, which is what everybody in the oil market does. So what? According to the CFTC, the bureaucrats have detected that their actions were \'economically irrational\'. It would be laugh-out-loud funny if it didn\'t represnt a serious assault on economic freedom. Contrary to the story the witch-hunting political class is trying to sell, countless studies confirm what we already know from economic theory: the activities of speculators are beneficial. Without them, there would not be a market economy. Read the rest of this entry »
     

 

 

An Empire In Disarray – Russia Prior To The Bolshevik Revolution

Just as the Marxian theory and ideology must be understood as a product of its time – it was conceived in a time of upheaval that marked the beginning of the end of the monarchies of old Europe, and made use of the statist philosophy of one of these monarchies to establish its scientific credentials – so must the actual Bolshevik revolution be seen in the context of its time and place.


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Marx and Engels and the Theory of Dialectic Materialism


„A socialist advocates socialism because he is fully convinced that the supreme dictator of the socialist commonwealth will be reasonable from his–the individual socialist's–point of view, that he will aim at those ends of which he–the individual socialist–fully approves, and that he will try to attain these ends by choosing means which he–the individual socialist–would also choose. Every socialist calls only that system a genuinely socialist system in which these conditions are completely fulfilled; all other brands claiming the name of socialism are counterfeit systems entirely different from true socialism. Every socialist is a disguised dictator. Woe to all dissenters! They have forfeited their right to live and must be "liquidated."

The market economy makes peaceful cooperation among people possible in spite of the fact that they disagree with regard to their value judgments. In the plans of the socialists there is no room left for dissenting views. Their principle is Gleichschaltung, perfect uniformity enforced by the police.“

Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, Ch. XXV., The Imaginary Construction Of A Socialist Society


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A Theory of Capital

Time, savings and economic progress

The economics of Keynes and the Chicago monetarist school are historical outgrowths of a school of economic thought that has remained curiously untouched by the revolution of subjectivist economics that began with the publication of ‘Grundsätze der Volkwirtschaftslehre’ (‘Priniciples of Economics‘) by Carl Menger in 1871.

 

Carl Menger: Author of ‘Principles of Economics’ and founder of the Austrian school.

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The money multiplier

The practice of creating new bank deposits from thin air has large economic effects. It is important to recognize that from a practical standpoint, deposit money in demand deposits at banks is part of the money supply. It matters not if money circulates in the form of banknotes and coins or is deposited in demand deposits – demand deposits are a perfect money substitute, which is to say, they are money. We have previously commented on measures of the money supply and provided links to the various methodologies attempting to measure it in ‘Monetary conditions in the US‘, but for this article it is enough to state, money is the medium of exchange, and every form of money or money substitute that performs this function from the viewpoint of the individual actors in the economy is ipso facto money.

  moneymultyImage via Pennsylvania Lottery

 

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Part One: Legal and Ethical Questions – the debate over fractional reserves

We recently came across an article by Robert Murphy, ‘The Fractional Reserve Banking Question‘, in which he briefly comments on a controversy within the Austrian School, between what could be termed the ‘neo-Currency’ and ‘neo-Banking’ schools, a terminology introduced by Joseph Salerno, harkening back to the ‘currency’ and ‘banking’ school debate of the early 19th century.

 

bankrun

 

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Get me a Job, Ben!

So the demand uttered in a recent article on Slate. The author Daniel Gross refers to the many things the Federal Reserve is responsible for according to its mandate. Plaintively Gross asks:

 

“Fed Chairman Bernanke does not seem to care about high unemployment. Why?”

 

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A crisis for the Establishment – the One Party State comes under attack

We have speculated for a long time that the day was probably drawing near when the US political establishment would be seriously challenged. Our pet idea has always been that this challenge  could take the shape of the eventual formation  of a viable third political party, or alternatively an independent political movement. You might of course just as well say 'a second political party'.

 

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Ruminations on the effects of monetary policy in the context of short term and secular cycles: Money supply growth, asset prices and capital over different time frames

Once the growth momentum of money supply wanes, asset prices – specifically stock prices – that have been buoyed by an excess of free liquidity tend to either come under pressure or see their rallies stall out. Normally an economy emerging from a cyclical recession experiences an increase in private sector credit demand. In the early stages of recovery, the Fed’s easy money policy tends to egg this credit demand and credit growth on. Investments in higher order production stages appears more profitable, as low interest rates suggest low time preferences and an abundance of available savings.

 

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The high priest of interventionist economics

From his perch at the New York Times, Professor Krugman has been dispensing economic and political advice for many years. Unfortunately, he is to economics somewhat similar as Ben ('you have to buy financials here') Stein is to investments, in short, he is potentially capable of causing a lot of damage. For this reason alone, his views must be challenged from time to time, even though we poor bloggers do certainly not have his reach. My fellow blogger and friend Mish has recently done so,  in a blog entitled 'Krugman still wrong after all these years'. He certainly is, and I want to take the opportunity to add a few complementary thoughts to Mish's ruminations on the topic. First of all, I would recommend this paper (pdf) by Daniel Klein and Harika Bartlett, in which Krugman's editorials have been analyzed statistically and then interpreted by the authors.

 

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Most read in the last 20 days:

  • Silver “Scarcifies” – Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      On Monday, Silver got Scarcer – and Simpler On 23 July, we said:   “Well, it’s complicated.”   The action on 27 July was not.   Silver spot price vs. September basis   Notice the big drop in the basis starting around midnight (London time). It falls from over 7% to under 2%. To refresh: Basis = Future(bid) - Spot(ask) For the first two and half hours, the spot price is not moving. So, the only way the basis can drop is if the price...
  • Silver Explodes — But Why? Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Explosive Days in Silver The silver market witnessed another explosive day! At midnight (in London), the price of the metal was $26.90. By 9pm, it had rocketed up to $28.95, a gain of 7.6%. This is not normal. But then, we are not in a normal world.   After several years of going nowhere and a downside fake-out in March this year, silver has come to life rather dramatically... [PT]   The Republicans are spending like drunken Modern Monetary Sailors. And...
  • Best Laid Schemes
      A Really Neat Bridge   But, Mousie, thou art no thy-lane, In proving foresight may be vain; The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy! – Robert Burns, To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough (in extract), 1785     Installation of the final cable support pipes on the Gerald Desmond bridge replacement. Here is a drone video of the project. [PT] Photo by...
  • The Dollar Is Dying
      Insulting the Captive Audience This week, while perusing the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet figures, we came across a rather curious note.  We don’t know how long the Fed’s had this note posted to its website.  But we can’t recall ever seeing it.  The note reads as follows:   “The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has expanded and contracted over time.  During the 2007-08 financial crisis and subsequent recession, total assets increased significantly from $870...

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