Many people in positions of power tend to think of themselves as being God-like.
No where is this more apparent than among the financial and government planners who beset the West. Educated at the best schools and responsible for the finances of the rich and powerful, it is understandable that they think of themselves way. They have come to believe, due to their education and responsibilities, that they know better than mere mortals. This hubris and arrogance was given credence in part by a British economist named John Keynes.
Keynes developed an economic model of thought which asserted that the government had a rightful role to play in the financial markets. Central to Keynes’s theory was the premise that the economy was just a matter of inputs and outputs that could be tinkered with to effect greater efficiency. The main thrust of Keynes’s argument was that whenever the economy stalled the government had an obligation to inject money into the economy to get it moving again. Keynes’s theory is known as “Keynesian economics” and his disciples now act as the main policy makers in the West.
Today, it is standard practice for government officials to start meddling in the private sector whenever there is a slowdown. They cite Keynesian economics for their actions. During recessionary times, government officials will increase public spending, create more public works projects and inject money into the banking system. President Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama, both presidents during recessionary periods, resorted to massive government spending to aid the economy.
Keynesian economics has become the dominant form of monetary policy today in government circles. The way policy makers inject money into the economy is by lowering the cost of money. They do this by manipulating the financial markets. The idea behind it is that cheaper money will stimulate the economy and create new jobs.
For example, during the last eight years, most major central banks have been buying their own debt to lower the yields. But these lower yields have not spurred any economic activity. Rather, it has caused actual investors to earn less interest income. If government bonds actually yielded something tangible, private investors would be earning a return on their money and putting that money to productive use. But since that money is not going to individual investors, the economy is continuing to stall.
The slower growth that we have seen over the last few years has pushed the government to enact more and more policies for even cheaper money. The end result is that, in many countries, we now see negative interest rates.
Figuring out what interest rates should be is not hard. Take GDP growth (currently 2%) and add 2.5% for inflation and you get your money which should be 4.5%. However, currently bond yields are only 2.15%. The difference between 4.5% and 2.15% rates is the money that is being stolen by these bad policies. Given the size of the market, we are talking billions of dollars that are not flowing into the private sector.
For some reason, this theft by the government is never reported as such. Instead, we use the terms “quantitative easing”, “buy backs” and stimulus packages to mask the central planners’ actions. Call it what you will, its theft.
Pension funds, IRA’s, and retirement plans all use the rates on the bond market to plan their investments. However, because the bond markets have been so distorted by government interference, the yields that investors were expecting are no longer there. Investors have been forced to speculate and invest more heavily in the market to recoup this “stolen” money.
The scope of this government manipulation of global stock and bonds markets is enormous —larger than the U.S. government’s manipulation of housing prices when they kept rates low and used Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to back housing loans. Most economist believe central banks around the world have created more than $11 trillion in new money, all of which has been invested in financial securities, real estate and commodities. The amount of government investment and intervention has never before been done on such a massive scale.
There is simply no way for this to end well.
Eventually, markets always correct themselves. The U.S. stock market is trading at record highs and at record-high valuations; but, earnings have fallen for five straight quarters. This simple observation is obvious to many but somehow not to our elected leaders. The world’s major economies are groaning with inflated securities prices and a debt burden they can not afford.
Who knows what will happen when investors realize that the party has ended? When investors scramble for the exits, there will be nowhere to go. By law (The Volcker Rule and others) banks will not be able to act as as intermediary for the majority of these trades.
We have forgotten the seed of all growth is capital. Capital is essentially the surplus from our economic activity which is then used to fund future growth. With rates being what they are, investors are being forced to risk and speculate in the markets and not save that all important seed — capital. Our government policies are discouraging capital formation.
When the market implodes, and it will, there will be no capital stored up to start over. It will all have been destroyed. So while we’re distracted by demonstrations and the illusory insanity of politics, the very foundation of our thriving nation has been eroded right before our eyes by the very people we trust to use good judgment in protecting it.