Wednesday, February 11, 2009


there's no link

I'm trying to explain why I'm not posting. And, you know, here's the problem. If the Zeitgeist is with me, I've got nothing to say. A year ago, I could say, "Our economy based on retail spending fueled by a ludicrous expectation of eternally accelerating increase in real home values will detonate, obliterating the fantastical idea that 'innovative finance' was anything more than theft by the well-connected" and have some disagreement. Now, people just say, "Obviously. But, how do we get back on track?" It's sad. Over the past, say, twelve years we've been living on imaginary money, and that's got to balance out over the next few decades. This is neither a fun nor an interesting thing to say. There's an interesting drama playing out, where possible stakeholders in our future world of finance are (at least) one of two things: complicit or clueless. That is, anybody who can speak comfortably of the milieu of modern finance is probably partly responsible for its problems. The problem with talking about how this process plays out is that it's all behind the scenes. There's nothing to link to -- I'd become a source of information myself, and I'm really happier as an analyst.

WARFism is also arising on the climate change front. We've gone from people who don't really feel they have a stake in whether human life gets wiped out -- this was the kind of odd impression the Bush 43 administration made on me -- to people who, as they grapple with the issues, will come to understand that We Are Royally Fucked. Even if American meets my challenge to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production by July 17, 2018, humankind has at best even chances to make it to the end of the century.

I could talk about what 200% inflation is going to be like, but 'unpleasant' really sums it up.

It's not like people don't know there's trouble. What is there left to say? The current presidential administration wasn't elected on a platform of perfidy, or reelected after assuring the people that he'd had the epiphany that his job was 'hard work.'

The people who were enforcing the central lies of our lives have had it blow up in their faces. They're either begging for TARP money or registering for jobs as lobbyists, so I don't feel like I have to argue against them strenuously. I'm not officially hanging up the laptop, but....


nephos said...

Hey, thanks for writing again.

Though previously a fan, not sure I buy long term hyperinflation any more. More of a fan now of "quasi-equilibrium" transitions, which could involve inflation, but more of the low long term variety. Won't the system respond to a huge balance between nominal and real production by simply producing less? I mean, what's the point of producing a ton if only a third actually adds to value?

But dramatically lower standard of living and sky-rocketing unemployment, leading to civil unrest and the ultimate collapse of the union, sure...

malechem said...

Well, we all justify our mortgages in different ways. Hyperinflation is the only way it makes any sense at all to me.

The money supply has already greatly expanded, and inflation is the only way the government can meet its obligations.

I looking forward to backsourcing manufacturing! Into some nation-states at least.

nephos said...

So printing money to meet obligations eventually fails for reasons I can't quite articulate. It just doesn't seem like a viable long-term strategy any more than continually jacking up home prices seems viable.

I think the fundamental question is what is "long-term". Didn't Keynes say something like "in the long-term everything goes to equilibirum, but in the long term we're all dead"

Poor Zimbabwe

mark said...

2 things:

1) "Over the past, say, twelve years we've been living on imaginary money, and that's got to balance out over the next few decades." suggests that you agree with me that a big part of the economy's messed-up-iness is irresponsible consumers. Part of the problem. The bankers and the consumers fed on each other.

2? You familiar with the theory of population reduction that goes:? gradually stop producing as much food as we currently do and we the population will naturally, painlessly diminish. I think nephos is positing a variation on the same theory.

malechem said...

Some popular economics writer -- it could have been Dr. Krugman, but I can't find the reference, so it could have been Dean Baker, Calculated Risk or somebody else -- was explaining why even though it was a good idea for us to expand the money supply now, and Robert Mugabe's been expanding the money supply in Zimbabwe, it did not follow that President Mugabe's been following sound economic policy. Apparently, inflation causes some spiral or something.
(1) Knocking down that canard maybe requires its own blog post. Do you really think bad prison guards were to blame at Abu Ghraib? People got in trouble because of policy failures and failures in leadership.
(2) No! I'm not familiar with that theory. I'm only familiar with growing and crashing. The Antichrist is supposed to be able to coordinate actions globally, which would be a necessary precondition, but I believe he only reigns for 7 years.

nephos said...

My sons are currently undergoing an inflationary spiral. This will stop. Eventually they will die. I know this.

Inflationary spirals exist, but nature abhors infinities, and they cannot continue. Zimbabwe simply cannot continue as it has. Either the people go, or they give up on Zims all together and go all subsistence-like. Right?

And maybe this is why Mugabe now has to share power now. To the extent he does crazy stuff, he cannot continue to be in charge for very long.

Still, as I said, sky-rocketing unemployment, civil unrest, and near total collapse. Can't wait!!!

malechem said...

Don't count those boys out yet!

How long has President Mugabe been doing crazy things? How long has Zimbabwe been simply unable to continue as it had? Wikipedia starts its "decline" section 10 years ago, at land redistribution. It's hard to believe anyone is still working in Zimbabwean Dollars, but they're legal tender -- refusing payment in Zims is probably not the sort of crime the government is going to overlook.

I've moved from an economically integrated neighborhood in the middle of the city to a highly defensible wealthy enclave. When things start to go, it should be relatively easy to sell.

nephos said...

Zimbabwe gives up on the Zim