Clothing giant Next begins to reverse its fortunes as sales recover after heavy lock-down losses

Some points and questions to consider while reading this article:

  1. The author makes the claim that the reversal of fortunes, is up by 4% from last year, is due to helped by cooler weather and fewer people going on holiday abroad.
  2. The author does make the point about how the revenues have increased by 4%, over the last seven weeks, and she also cites sales, pre-tax profitability(£300m), and etc. She does not provide context specifically how those things compare to last year. Is that comparison for a similar seven-week period from 2019?
  3. What things did Next implement, during the COVID-19 pandemic that specifically lead to the increase in revenue for the 7 week period? Did they lower prices? Did the seek to provide sales incentives via an online shopping distribution model?
  4. If they are seeking to close some of their retail outlets, and their end of year revenue projections are down, does this 4% increase really represent a growth trend—as we enter cooler weather and the holiday season?

By CAMILLA CANOCCHI FOR THISISMONEY.CO.UK

PUBLISHED: 04:13 EDT, 17 September 2020 | UPDATED: 06:23 EDT, 17 September 2020
Clothing and homeware chain Next has begun to reverse its fortunes after the Covid slump as it upgraded its full-year forecasts for a second time after recent strong trading.

The FTSE 100 retail bellwether said full price sales in the last seven weeks were up 4 per cent compared to last year, helped by cool weather and fewer people going on holiday abroad.

It now expects profit before tax to come in at £300million, up from its previous guidance of £195million given at the end of July. That, however, is less than half what it was expecting before the pandemic struck.
Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, says: ‘When you consider that in January, Next was expecting to see pre-tax profits of £734million for 2020, this is a remarkable turn in fortunes from what the business was facing as recently as a couple of months ago.’
But Simon Wolfson, Next’s chief executive, said the sales performance through the pandemic had been ‘more resilient than we expected’.
‘The scale of our online business (in the UK and overseas), the breadth of our product offer, and the fact that much of our store portfolio is located out of town, have served to mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic on trade,’ he added.
Investors seem to have received well the update, with shares rising 1.7 per cent to £62.77 in morning trading on Thursday. But they remain 12 per cent down so far this year.
Sales of home, children swear, sportswear, lounge and underwear performed better than formalwear and holiday categories.
Emily Salter, retail analyst at GlobalData, said: ‘This ability to switch product focus to different categories is a luxury not afforded to many retailers, and will benefit Next as the new “rule of six” will drastically reduce the demand for occasion wear for the festive period, so Next can switch its product focus to more casual, cozy styles instead.’
Despite the upgraded forecasts, the group still expects sales to fall 12 per cent this year under a better-case scenario, or between 17 per cent and 29 per cent in a worst-case scenario.
In the first half, sales fell 33 per cent, hammered by store closures during lockdown and the group fell made pre-tax losses of £16.5million for the six months to the end of July – compared to profits of £327.4million a year earlier.
On an underlying basis, it saw profits crash 97 per cent to £9million, though it had initially expected to be loss-making.
Next, which has around 500 stores across the country, warned it still expects to close 13 shops this year, down from 14 predicted in March. Next, which has around 500 stores across the country, warned it still expects to close 13 shops this year, down from 14 predicted in March
Its update follows that of Zara’s owner Inditex yesterday, which said a surge in online trade helped it to record a healthy profit during the summer.
Next said it has not seen a deterioration in bad debt rates or any extension in the length of time customers choose to pay down their accounts.
Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, says that despite the crisis, Next is still ‘managing to keep its head above water’.
‘Interestingly it has seen no change in bad debt trends, which one might have expected to shoot up amid growing unemployment,’ he said.
‘Next’s management has always taken a cautious view and is not being complacent, which explains why it is making provisions now for an increase in bad debts just in case.
‘That summarises Next to a tee. Its ability to keep making money through the crisis should be cause for celebration, but Next would never party too hard.’

Analysis of the Myths Regarding Government Debt Pt 1

Anthony Davies, Phd has taken the time to make a video regarding the Myths regarding Government Debt. As promised, I will provide some deeper insight on some of the points that Dr. Davies makes in his video. My insights will not be in order of the listing that he provides in the video, I will simply touch on some of them.

The Printing of More Money

Some individuals will state to solve the multi Trillion dollar debt issue, the solution of prininting more money will suffice. Albiet it may sound reasonable, it will actually make matters worse. The inflationary effects of the expansion of the money supply are well documented, on this blog as well in the video done by Dr. Davies. As prices rise, due to the devaluation of the currency, the illusion of increased tax revenues will occur. Public Policy analysts will remark a record number of tax revenues have flowed into the treasury. Yet, this is misleading. The tax rates will be based upon the PRICES of goods(this also includes the WAGES of labor). The inflationary impact, as stated in the video, impacts both PRICES AND WAGES. The impact of the increase of the money supply creates this effect, along with the depreciation of capital(savings). As an aside, this is why politicians love lower interest rates for monetary policy–this action encourages consumption in the present, and discourages savings for future consumption.

Since the revenues will increase to the treasury, politicians will spend more money, creating a wider short fall(deficit). This deficit will be “balanced” by the sale of Government securities or debt. Once those securities are sold, this action also expands the money supply, creating more inflationary impact on prices and wages, while concomitantly wiping out individual savings. More could be stated about his effect on savings, but that shall wait for another blog entry. In short, the debt will be never balanced by simply “printing more money”.

Raising Taxes

This battle cry is highly popular with politicians and their supporters: ” We can simply raise taxes on the rich, and this will help us balance the budget.” Like many of these proposals, they *sound* reasonable, at first. Once deeper analysis is performed, it is revealed these sort of proposals are meaningless and fallacious. A thought exercise: Suppose your local grocery story raises its prices on your favorite name brand cereal. Let us suppose it raises it by $10. Before the price was $5 for a box of Raisin Brand, now the retail price is $15. Will you continue to purchase this cereal? In most cases, the answer is no. You will seek alternatives to paying $15 for cereal. Yes, I know cereal is not the same as paying taxes, but the underlying human behavioral concept is the same: Price elasticity. Humans will purchase goods relative to their price elasticity–if the price of that good rises too high, actors in the free market will seek other means to satisfy their wants that were normally fulfilled from that particular good. If tax rates are raised up too high, individuals will seek out means to offset the tax risk or avoid paying on the tax increase. This economic phenomenon will occur if taxes are raised: Tax payers will seek alternatives(price elasticity) to paying the higher tax rates. Since this is the case, tax revenues will not increase when tax rates are increased. Historically, this has been proven to be true. When tax rates are lowered, tax revenues are increased. Also, regardless of what the tax rates are, taxes collected typically are around 17% of GDP.

More will be covered on another blog entry…

The US Dollar Collapse Is Greatly Exaggerated

The US Dollar Index has lost 10 percent from its March highs and many press comments have started to speculate about the likely collapse of the US dollar as world reserve currency due to this weakness.

These wild speculations need to be debunked.

The US dollar year-to-date (August 2020) has strengthened relative to 96 out of 146 currencies in the Bloomberg universe. In fact, the US Fed Trade-Weighted Broad Dollar Index has strengthened by 2.3 percent in the same period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The speculation about countries abandoning the US dollar as the reserve currency is easily denied. The Bank of International Settlements reports in its June 2020 report that global dollar-denominated debt is at a decade high. In fact, dollar-denominated debt issuances year-to-date from emerging markets have reached a new record.

China’s dollar-denominated debt has risen as well in 2020. Since 2015, it has increased 35 percent while foreign exchange reserves fell 10 percent.

The US Dollar Index (DXY) shows that the United States currency has only really weakened relative to the yen and the euro, and this is based on optimistic expectations of European and Japanese economic recovery. The Federal Reserve’s dovish announcements may be seen as a cause of the dollar decline, but the evidence shows that the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of Japan (BOJ) conduct much more aggressive policies than the US while economic recovery stalls. Recent purchasing manager index (PMI) declines have shown that hopes of a rapid recovery in Europe and Japan are widely exaggerated, and the Daily Activity Index published by Bloomberg confirms it. Furthermore, at the end of August, the balance sheet of the ECB stood at more than 54 percent of the eurozone GDP and the BOJ’s at 123 percent versus the Federal Reserve’s 33 percent.

What we have witnessed between March and August has just been a move back from an overbought exposure to the DXY index due to the severity of the crisis, with investors increasing positions in safe havens in February and March, only to reverse as markets and the economy recovered.

The lesson most governments should learn is that economies do not become more competitive or deliver stronger growth and exports with a weak currency. Emerging markets have shown in the past years how a weak currency does not help, and the eurozone has had a weak euro versus the US dollar for years just as its economy delivered disappointing growth.

The reason why the US dollar’s world reserve currency status is not at risk is simple: there are no contenders. The euro has redenomination risk, and the constant political and economic concerns about the union’s solvency weaken the currency, as historical performance has shown. It tends to strengthen relative to the US dollar when investors place unjustified hopes on the eurozone growth only to weaken afterward, when poor growth adds to an overly aggressive ECB policy, with negative rates and massive money supply growth. The yuan cannot become a world reserve currency if the country maintains capital controls and concerns about legal and investor security remain. The Chinese central bank (PBOC) is also extremely aggressive for a currency that is only used in 4 percent of global transactions according to the Bank of International Settlements.

We are living a period of unprecedented financial repression and monetary expansion. The US Dollar reserve status grows in these periods where countries ignore real demand for their domestic currency and decide to copy the Federal Reserve policies without understanding the global demand for their currency. When the tide turns, most central banks find themselves with poor reserves and lower demand for domestic currency risk, and the position of the US dollar as reserve currency strengthens.

This is not a year of US Dollar weakness or the end of its supremacy as reserve currency, what we are witnessing is a generalized fiat currency debasement through extreme monetary policy. That is the reason why gold and silver continue to rise despite hopes of an economic recovery that seems to be stalling. The US Dollar will likely remain the most demanded fiat currency, but the excessive monetary stimulus will ultimately damage the confidence in most fiat currencies.

Author:
Daniel Lacalle

Daniel Lacalle, PhD, economist and fund manager, is the author of the bestselling books Freedom or Equality (2020), Escape from the Central Bank Trap (2017), The Energy World Is Flat (2015), and Life in the Financial Markets (2014).

He is a professor of global economy at IE Business School in Madrid.

Sound Money Is Key to Defending Our Liberties

By Thorsten Polleit from: Mises Institute

The title of this article epitomizes what the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881–1973) called the “sound money principle.” As Mises put it:

The sound-money principle has two aspects. It is affirmative in approving the market’s choice of a commonly used medium of exchange. It is negative in obstructing the government’s propensity to meddle with the currency system.

And further:

It is impossible to grasp the meaning of the idea of sound money if one does not realise that it was devised as an instrument for the protection of civil liberties against despotic inroads on the part of governments. Ideologically it belongs in the same class with political constitutions and bills of right.

Mises tells us that sound money is an indispensable line of defense of people’s liberties against the encroachment on the part of the state and that sound money is a kind of money that is not dictated by the state but is chosen by the people in the free marketplace. The world we find ourselves in is a rather different place. Our monies—be it the US dollar, the euro, the Chinese renminbi, the yen, or the Swiss franc—represent fiat currencies, monopolized by the state.

Fiat money is economically and socially destructive—with far-reaching and seriously harmful economic and societal consequences, effects that extend beyond what most people would imagine. Fiat money is inflationary; it benefits a few at the expense of many others; it causes boom-and-bust cycles; it leads to overindebtedness; it corrupts society’s morals; and it paves the way toward the almighty, all-powerful state, toward tyranny.

Central Banking Is Marxist
It is certainly no coincidence that “the state” has been expanding ever since the world adopted an unfettered fiat money regime back in the early 1970s, and that as a result individual liberties and freedoms have been under pressure ever since. The state feeds itself on fiat money. It simply issues new debt, which is then monetized by the its central bank, which is at the heart of the fiat money regime.

Perhaps you will find it surprising that I believe that the concept of central banking is truly a Marxist concept. (I am not saying that central banking is only favored by Marxists. Not at all! There are also many other ideologies which approve of central banking.)

In their Communist Manifesto of 1848, Karl Marx (1818–83) and Friedrich Engels (1820–95) compiled a list of measures necessary to establish communism. Measure number 5 reads as follows:

Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.

Against this backdrop there should be no doubt that once the state has become the absolute ruler of fiat money, the door is open for it to grow bigger and bigger, eventually turning into the dreaded deep state. And the deep state, as we know well from history, has little regard for individual freedoms and liberties.

Making Money Great Again: Returning to Sound Money
What needs to be done? Well, the challenge at hand is “Making Money Great Again”! This requires, first and foremost, ending the state’s money production monopoly and opening up a free market in money. A free market in money means that people have the freedom to choose the kind of money they wish to use and that people have the freedom to provide their fellow men with alternative goods that may serve them well as money.

As things stand, however, a final solution to the “money problem” has not arrived yet—even considering the emergence of the cryptocurrency space. This is because the financial intermediation problem is still unsolved in the cryptocurrency ecosystem; we will come back to this issue in a moment.

But first let us address the question: How can we get from a state-controlled fiat money regime to a free market in money?

The first strategy is monetary enlightenment—informing the widest possible audience about the evils of fiat money and how it affects their personal lives, families, and communities. This also includes explaining to people that there is a superior and practicable alternative to a fiat money regime, namely a free market in money.

The second strategy is making progress in the field of alternative currencies and payment systems, especially in terms of technological disruptions and their economic profitability. This is the activity space for those among us who are propelled by entrepreneurial spirit.

The Limits of Cryptocurrency
The cryptocurrency community, the bitcoin community in particular, and also precious metals–based payment system providers have been making some headway in this area in recent years, but unfortunately victory has not yet been achieved.

For instance, bitcoin still has some scalability and performance issues. Currently, the bitcoin network settles a peak of around 350,000 transactions worldwide every day, and given its present configuration, it is presumably running at almost full capacity. By comparison, the German fiat money payment system alone processes more than 75 million transactions on average every business day. From the payment processing viewpoint, bitcoin cannot outshine fiat currencies yet.

What is more, a currency in a modern economy must provide for the possibility of financial intermediation (an issue I mentioned earlier). People typically demand payment or storage services for their money, or they want to lend and borrow money—irrespective of the kind of money they actually use. Often peer-to-peer is not enough, a third party is required.

Providing intermediation services outside existing state regulation is difficult. In fact, it would put an upper limit on the financial sophistication of any cryptocurrency. This is a heavy drag on their competitiveness compared to fiat currencies. And if a cryptocurrency comes out into the open space, it will have the state breathing down its neck, drowning it in business-destroying regulations and restrictions. Because the financial intermediation problem is still unsolved, one has reason to remain skeptical that—given the current circumstances—existing cryptocurrencies will succeed in pushing aside the state and replacing its fiat currency just like that.

Precious metals suffer from similar problems. In many countries, the state subjects gold and silver to value-added taxes and/or capital gains taxes. This makes them uncompetitive versus fiat currencies in terms of using them in daily transactions.

The Key to Free Market Money Is Deconstructing the State
In fact, is it possible that a free market in money can ever emerge as long as there is the kind of state we know today? The state is, as most of you probably know, the territorial monopolist of ultimate decision-making with the right to tax its citizens. We can rightfully expect that this kind of state will do its best to crush any competitor to its fiat money and prevent a free market in money from emerging.

So if we want a free market in money, the sobering logical conclusion is this: we need to reform, to deconstruct, the state (as we know it today).

Now the uncomfortable truth is out, because the state is possibly the fiercest adversary you could choose. How can we hope to achieve victory?

Well, there is certainly no magic spell. One possible and straightforward strategy might be appealing to people’s inner self, and that is their right to self-determination.

The right to self-determination is inalienable and it is an indisputable truth. Each and every individual is the owner of his or her body and the owner of goods acquired in nonaggressive ways (without violating the physical integrity of someone else’s property). We cannot dispute these words without causing a logical contradiction.

The right to self-determination implies that the citizens of a state have the right (1) to make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to be members of the state and (2) to form an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state. In other words: the right to self-determination includes the right of secession, that is, people’s right to break up the big state and to deconstruct it into smaller units.

Smaller political units are less powerful, more peaceful, and free market oriented. They keep taxation low, or may even go without it and become wealthier. Just think of, e.g., Shanghai, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, or Monaco. This is because small political units must compete for capital and talents with other political units. They must behave themselves nicely. Otherwise, people and capital will leave their territory. Given a great number of small political units, there is a good chance that some of them will allow for, even encourage, a free market in money, setting an example that creates emulators.

Conclusion
It is hard to say which route would be the most effective in “Making Money Great Again.”

Perhaps the cryptocurrency community will somehow succeed in ending the state (as we know it today), leaving a truly free market in money in its place.

In the meantime, however, it certainly would not hurt if we (1) kept educating the wider audience about what good money is and what bad money is and also (2) kept unmasking the state (as we know it today), showing that it is incompatible with and a violation of the inalienable right to self-determination of each and every human being.

In any case, it is of the utmost importance to wrest the money monopoly out of the hands of the state. Otherwise, there is indeed little hope that the free society (or what little is left of it) can survive.

(The complete article, with footnotes, is located here)

10 Myths About Government Debt

Antony Davies, Phd goes through a listing of 10 Myths about Government Debt. For future blog posts, I will attempt to expand on each of these 10 myths. This growing debt is a huge issue, not only for current generations, but for those to come in the future. As mentioned in the video, Dr. Davies does provide a “solution” to handle the Government Debt. It is a must see. Take copious notes.

Cheers,

Robert

Pathological and Parochial Altruism in the Age of Fear

By Lucio Saverio Eastman

When you think of altruism, what readily comes to mind? Charity, giving, love, kindness, and humanitarian progress, right? What if I were to tell you that altruism has a dark, secret pathology that has driven some of the worst, and most horrific acts humanity has experienced historically? It’s a difficult revelation for some, but necessary for what I’m about to discuss. This subject has a direct connection to our current trajectory of policy and reaction to the pandemic.

But first, let’s quickly explore what altruism is and how it influences society.

Altruism–healthy altruism–benefits society in many positive ways and is ingrained in Western philosophy and ethics. Studies have shown there are neurological benefits for people to participate in acts of kindness, love, philanthropy, mutual aid, and charity. One might also argue that it is a selfish act, as these neurological benefits are actually releasing compounds and chemicals into your brain to make you feel good. This is where things begin to go awry.

Addicted to the Good of All
Addiction is a problem most of us understand when talking about drugs. However, people can also become addicted to the biological stimulants produced by neurological signals. Study after study has shown that marketing, media programming, propaganda, gaming, social media, news cycles, and the endless debates that result from the onslaught of sanctimony, bias, and opinion in these mediums can be a source of emotional addiction, as well as somatic and psychological ills plaguing society. Everything has been gamified in order to gain that chemical advantage in perceived competition with self and/or others. Obviously, the line between healthy and unhealthy practice can be extremely thin.

I’ll address how this corresponds with our current world situation, but let’s take a brief look at the prisoner’s dilemma. It goes like this: Even when it seems to be in the best interest of two rational individuals to cooperate, wherein those individuals are presented with a choice between opportunity (defection) and responsibility (cooperation), it’s often difficult to come to a cooperative agreement because each person also benefits unilaterally from opportunity.

However, introducing a pathological altruist into the dilemma can wreak havoc in the cultural dynamics of small, tight-knit communities. Pathological altruists are masters at mustering social loyalty, obedience, and fealty. Their very presence and ability to organize and foster cooperation benefits the collective community even if better opportunities exist for individuals.

Just one maladaptive altruist can wipe out the disruptive advantage of opportunists by manipulating innovators and mavericks into cooperative followers. These highly charismatic individuals can project an almost messianic air, which spreads throughout the entire community. With the exponential increase in technological community and global outreach, this dynamic can grow far beyond the boundaries of one’s immediate circle of influence practically uninhibited. For more on this, see “Altruism Gone Mad” by Joachim I. Krueger

Unintended Consequences
Let us take a look at an example that most of you will recognize: Poverty eradication through entertainment industry star power and influence. Musicians (Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats and Bono of U2 as well as members of Glee for example) can be highly influential altruists with good intentions that might knowingly or innocently shade into pathology.

Magatte Wade, a Senegalese entrepreneur interviewed in the eye-opening and educational “Poverty, Inc.” says, regarding the altruistic attempts of musicians in both 1984 (Band-Aid) and 2011 (Glee),

“The Christmas song raised awareness and it was in response to a particular crisis. I understand that. But it also perpetuates a false image of Africa as barren and a sentimental image of Africans as helpless and dependent. And here we are a generation later and the same song, the same images are back with the same lyrics, the same silliness of Africa as not having any rain, not having any river, and us Africans not knowing that it’s Christmastime.”

Magatte goes on to say, “It does more harm than good.” That statement is the base definition of pathological altruism from Barbara A. Oakley, editor of “Pathological Altruism,

“Pathological altruism can be conceived as behavior in which attempts to promote the welfare of another, or others, results instead in harm that an external observer would conclude was reasonably foreseeable.”

“Pathologies of altruism and empathy not only underlie health issues, but also a disparate slew of humankind’s most troubled features, including genocide, suicide bombing, self-righteous political partisanship, and ineffective philanthropic and social programs that ultimately worsen the situations they are meant to aid.”

Historically, altruism within a collective or group that becomes parochial or pathological eventually leads to a general pathological obedience. This pattern can be found in governments (federal, and local), in small towns, in the office, and in the home. Examples can be found on both sides of the ideological and political spectrum: Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s statement, “If everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.” Or the “Wear a Mask. Save Lives.” propaganda campaign we’re seeing across the nation. All of these examples are catalysts for eliciting obedience. It has even been suggested that cooperation on a grand scale might be achieved via mandated medication.

“Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the sense of duty, are things which may become hideous when wrongly directed; but which, even when hideous, remain grand: their majesty, the majesty peculiar to the human conscience, clings to them in the midst of horror; they are virtues which have one vice–error…Nothing could be so poignant and so terrible…as the evil of the good.” ~Victor Hugo

Understanding the Connection
Tying this all together to address what is currently occurring in the world regarding COVID-19: the policies, reactions, lockdowns, social distancing, mask mandates, and unmitigated disaster to human progress and flourishing is staggering. It’s easy to recognize how this altruistic notion of protecting others has crossed the fine line into pathology. It may have even gone a step further into parochial altruism.

From a 2019 paper by Béatrice Boulu-Reshef and Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl. Social Distance and Parochial Altruism: An Experimental Study:

“Parochial altruism – individual sacrifice to benefit the in-group and harm an out-group – undermines inter-group cooperation and is implicated in a plethora of politically-significant behaviors.”

Conclusion: “We found that parochial altruism varies with social distance: higher social distance leads to a higher propensity to engage in parochial altruism, which is at its highest with high social distance to the in-and out-groups.”

And this, from another study by Angela R. Dorrough, Andreas Glöckner, Dshamilja M. Hellmann, and Irena Ebert, The Development of Ingroup Favoritism in Repeated Social Dilemmas

“Parochial altruism explains intergroup conflict through two phenomena that have been closely linked in human evolution: the readiness to benefit the ingroup (ingroup love) and to harm the outgroup (outgroup hate).”

In other words, social distancing and other isolating mandates may indeed lead to what can be classified as “righteous violence”. We see this in the news cycle daily. Mask vs. Anti-mask. Lockdown vs. Liberty. Immunology vs. Modeling. Left vs. Right. Us vs. Them, ad infinitum. The ease at which individuals enter an agentic state; that is, following the orders of someone in authority or within their ingroup…

“suggests not a failure of socialization (the usual control approach) but that they are/were oversocialized. Pathological obedience appears to be based on the development of a mentality that reflects long-term patterns of affiliation that inculcate a suppression of self-control in which executive function cedes its autonomy to external sources of direction.” ~Augustine Brannigan

At some point in our lives all of us as individuals have to deal with our own cognitive dissonances and the gaslighting we’ve endured at the hands of the State and other pathological and parochial agents, altruist or otherwise. These revelations are much harder to recognize in the self and so much easier to recognize in others. Outward projection is a deflection of individual responsibility onto the collective in-group or out-group. Inward reflection is individual recognition and ownership of responsibility.

Opportunity is the Future
In conclusion, it is becoming painfully evident that social distancing, lockdowns, and other policies implemented during this pandemic have not had enough positive impact to outweigh the negative. Divisive ingroup and outgroup conflict due to misinformation, catastrophically overstated predictions of death, and unyielding state propaganda will draw out global instability for the near future. We are beginning to hear more about starvation, overdoses, deaths of despair, and many other unintended consequences from lockdown policies that caught the public unaware and unprepared.

Misguided and sociopathic passions have fed us fear every day for nearly 6 months–destroying lives, businesses, hopes, and dreams. It will be difficult to recover from these tragedies. However, a healthy altruism already resides in the concepts of liberty, free markets, free trade, and exchanges that are beneficial to each individual. If in the spirit of entrepreneurship, the defectors from the status quo, the disruptors and ingenious can rise up to challenge the “new normal” and break away from the cult of blind obedience and pathological altruism, then there is still hope.

Read the rest here…

Why Property Rights Are Absolute, But Contracts Are Not

By Murray Rothbard

Excerpt from Chapter 19 of The Ethics of Liberty

The right of property implies the right to make contracts about that property: to give it away or to exchange titles of ownership for the property of another person. Unfortunately, many libertarians, devoted to the right to make contracts, hold the contract itself to be an absolute, and therefore maintain that any voluntary contract whatever must be legally enforceable in the free society.

Their error is a failure to realize that the right to contract is strictly derivable from the right of private property, and therefore that the only enforceable contracts (i.e., those backed by the sanction of legal coercion) should be those where the failure of one party to abide by the contract implies the theft of property from the other party.

In short, a contract should only be enforceable when the failure to fulfill it is an implicit theft of property. But this can only be true if we hold that validly enforceable contracts only exist where title to property has already been transferred, and therefore where the failure to abide by the contract means that the other party’s property is retained by the delinquent party, without the consent of the former (implicit theft). Hence, this proper libertarian theory of enforceable contracts has been termed the “title-transfer” theory of contracts.

Let us illustrate this point. Suppose that Smith and Jones make a contract, Smith giving $1000 to Jones at the present moment, in exchange for an IOU of Jones, agreeing to pay Smith $1100 one year from now. This is a typical debt contract. What has happened is that Smith has transferred his title to ownership of $1000 at present in exchange for Jones agreeing now to transfer title to Smith of $1100 one year from now. Suppose that, when the appointed date arrives one year later, Jones refuses to pay. Why should this payment now be enforceable at libertarian law? Existing law (which will be dealt with in greater detail below) largely contends that Jones must pay $1100 because he has “promised” to pay, and that this promise set up in Smith’s mind the “expectation” that he would receive the money.

Our contention here is that mere promises are not a transfer of property title; that while it may well be the moral thing to keep one’s promises, that it is not and cannot be the function of law (i.e., legal violence) in a libertarian system to enforce morality (in this case the keeping of promises). Our contention here is that Jones must pay Smith $1100 because he had already agreed to transfer title, and that nonpayment means that Jones is a thief, that he has stolen the property of Smith. In short, Smith’s original transfer of the $1000 was not absolute, but conditional, conditional on Jones paying the $1100 in a year, and that, therefore, the failure to pay is an implicit theft of Smith’s rightful property.

Let us examine, on the other hand, the implications of the now prevalent “promise” or “expectations” theory of contracts. Suppose that A promises to marry B; B proceeds to make wedding plans, incurring costs of preparing for the wedding. At the last minute, A changes his or her mind, thereby violating this alleged “contract.” What should be the role of a legal enforcing agency in the libertarian society? Logically, the strict believer in the “promise” theory of contracts would have to reason as follows: A voluntarily promised B that he or she would marry the other, this set up the expectation of marriage in the other’s mind; therefore this contract must be enforced. A must be forced to marry B.

As far as we know, no one has pushed the promise theory this far. Compulsory marriage is such a clear and evident form of involuntary slavery that no theorist, let alone any libertarian, has pushed the logic to this point. Clearly, liberty and compulsory slavery are totally incompatible, indeed are diametric opposites. But why not, if all promises must be enforceable contracts?

A milder form of enforcing such marriage promises has, however, been employed, let alone advocated, in our legal system. The old “breach of promise” suit forced the violator of his promise to pay damages to the promisee, to pay the expenses undergone because of the expectations incurred. But while this does not go as far as compulsory slavery, it is equally invalid. For there can be no property in someone’s promises or expectations; these are only subjective states of mind, which do not involve transfer of title, and therefore do not involve implicit theft. They therefore should not be enforceable, and, in recent years, “breach of promise” suits, at least, have ceased to be upheld by the courts. The important point is that while enforcement of damages is scarcely as horrendous to the libertarian as compulsory enforcement of the promised service, it stems from the same invalid principle.

Let us pursue more deeply our argument that mere promises or expectations should not be enforceable. The basic reason is that the only valid transfer of title of ownership in the free society is the case where the property is, in fact and in the nature of man, alienable by man. All physical property owned by a person is alienable, i.e., in natural fact it can be given or transferred to the ownership and control of another party. I can give away or sell to another person my shoes, my house, my car, my money, etc. But there are certain vital things which, in natural fact and in the nature of man, are inalienable, i.e., they cannot in fact be alienated, even voluntarily.

Specifically, a person cannot alienate his will, more particularly his control over his own mind and body. Each man has control over his own mind and body. Each man has control over his own will and person, and he is, if you wish, “stuck” with that inherent and inalienable ownership. Since his will and control over his own person are inalienable, then so also are his rights to control that person and will. That is the ground for the famous position of the Declaration of Independence that man’s natural rights are inalienable; that is, they cannot be surrendered, even if the person wishes to do so.

Or, as Williamson Evers points out, the philosophical defenses of human rights

are founded upon the natural fact that each human is the proprietor of his own will. To take rights like those of property and contractual freedom that are based on a foundation of the absolute self-ownership of the will and then to use those derived rights to destroy their own foundation is philosophically invalid.2

When a man renounces his liberty he renounces his essential manhood, his rights, and even his duty as a human being. There is no compensation possible for such complete renunciation. It is incompatible with man’s nature, and to deprive him of his free will is to deprive his actions of all moral sanction. The convention, in short, which sets up on one side an absolute authority, and on the other an obligation to obey without question, is vain and meaningless. Is it not obvious that where we can demand everything we owe nothing? Where there is no mutual obligation, no interchange of duties, it must, surely, be clear that the actions of the commanded cease to have any moral value? For how can it be maintained that my slave has any “right” against me when everything that he has is my property? His right being my right, it is absurd to speak of it as ever operating to my disadvantage.

Or, in short, if a man sells himself into slavery, then the master, being an absolute master, would then have the right to commandeer the funds with which he had “bought” the slave. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, bk. 1, chap. 4, in E. Barker, ed., Social Contract (New York: Oxford University Press, 1948), p. 175.
Hence, the unenforceability, in libertarian theory, of voluntary slave contracts. Suppose that Smith makes the following agreement with the Jones Corporation: Smith, for the rest of his life, will obey all orders, under whatever conditions, that the Jones Corporation wishes to lay down. Now, in libertarian theory there is nothing to prevent Smith from making this agreement, and from serving the Jones Corporation and from obeying the latter’s orders indefinitely. The problem comes when, at some later date, Smith changes his mind and decides to leave. Shall he be held to his former voluntary promise?

Our contention—and one that is fortunately upheld under present law—is that Smith’s promise was not a valid (i.e., not an enforceable) contract. There is no transfer of title in Smith’s agreement, because Smith’s control over his own body and will are inalienable. Since that control cannot be alienated, the agreement was not a valid contract, and therefore should not be enforceable. Smith’s agreement was a mere promise, which it might be held he is morally obligated to keep, but which should not be legally obligatory.

In fact, to enforce the promise would be just as much compulsory slavery as the compulsory marriage considered above. But should Smith at least be required to pay damages to the Jones Corporation, measured by the expectations of his lifelong service which the Jones Corporation had acquired? Again, the answer must be no. Smith is not an implicit thief; he has retained no just property of the Jones Corporation, for he always retains title to his own body and person.

What of the dashed expectations of the Jones Corporation? The answer must be the same as in the case of the disappointed suitor or bride. Life is always uncertain, always risky. Some people are better and some are poorer “entrepreneurs,” i.e., forecasters of future human action and events of the world. The prospective bride or bridegroom, or the Jones Corporation, are the proper locus of risk in this matter; if their expectations are disappointed, well then, they were poor forecasters in this case, and they will remember the experience when dealing with Smith or the breacher-of-marriage-promise in the future.

If mere promises or expectations cannot be enforceable, but only contracts that transfer property titles, we can now see the application of the contrasting contract theories to an important real-life case: do enlistee-deserters from the army, as well as draftees, deserve total amnesty for their actions? Libertarians, being opposed to the draft as compulsory slavery, have no difficulty in calling for total exoneration for deserting draftees. But what of enlistees, who enlisted in the army voluntarily (and setting aside the case of those who may have enlisted only as an alternative to the compulsory draft)? The “promise” theorist must, strictly, advocate both punishment of the deserters and their compulsory return to the armed forces. The title-transfer theorist, on the contrary, maintains that every man has the inalienable right to control his own body and will, since he has that inalienable control in natural fact. And, therefore, that the enlistment was a mere promise, which cannot be enforceable, since every man has the right to change his mind at any time over the disposition of his body and will. Thus, seemingly minor and abstruse differences over the theory of contracts can and do imply vital differences over public policy.

In contemporary America, outside the glaring exception of the armed forces, everyone has the right to quit his job regardless of whatever promise or “contract” he had previously incurred.3 Unfortunately, however, the courts, while refusing to compel specific personal performance of an employee agreement (in short, refusing to enslave the worker) do prohibit the worker from working at a similar task for another employer for the term of the agreement. If someone has signed an agreement to work as an engineer for ARAMCO for five years, and he then quits the job, he is prohibited by the courts from working for a similar employer for the remainder of the five years. It should now be clear that this prohibited employment is only one step removed from direct compulsory slavery, and that it should be completely impermissible in a libertarian society.

Have the employers, then, no recourse against the mind changer? Of course they do. They can, if they wish, voluntarily agree to blacklist the errant worker, and refuse to employ him. That is perfectly within their rights in a free society; what is not within their rights is to use violence to prevent him from working voluntarily for someone else.

One more recourse would be permissible. Suppose that Smith, when making his agreement for lifelong voluntary obedience to the Jones Corporation, receives in exchange $1,000,000 in payment for these expected future services. Clearly, then, the Jones Corporation had transferred title to the $1,000,000 not absolutely, but conditionally on his performance of lifelong service. Smith has the absolute right to change his mind, but he no longer has the right to keep the $1,000,000. If he does so, he is a thief of the Jones Corporation’s property; he must, therefore, be forced to return the $1,000,000 plus interest. For, of course, the title to the money was, and remains, alienable.

Let us take a seemingly more difficult case. Suppose that a celebrated movie actor agrees to appear at a certain theater at a certain date. For whatever reason, he fails to appear. Should he be forced to appear at that or at some future date? Certainly not, for that would be compulsory slavery. Should he be forced, at least, to recompense the theater owners for the publicity and other expenses incurred by the theater owners in anticipation of his appearance? No again, for his agreement was a mere promise concerning his inalienable will, which he has the right to change at any time. Put another way, since the movie actor has not yet received any of the theater owners’ property, he has committed no theft against the owners (or against anyone else), and therefore he cannot be forced to pay damages. The fact that the theater owners may have made considerable plans and investments on the expectation that the actor would keep the agreement may be unfortunate for the owners, but that is their proper risk. The theater owners should not expect the actor to be forced to pay for their lack of foresight and poor entrepreneurship. The owners pay the penalty for placing too much confidence in the actor. It may be considered more moral to keep promises than to break them, but any coercive enforcement of such a moral code, since it goes beyond the prohibition of theft or assault, is itself an invasion of the property rights of the movie actor and therefore impermissible in the libertarian society.

Again, of course, if the actor received an advance payment from the theater owners, then his keeping the money while not fulfilling his part of the contract would be an implicit theft against the owners, and therefore the actor must be forced to return the money.

For utilitarians shocked at the consequences of this doctrine, it should be noted that many, if not all, of the problems could be easily surmounted in the libertarian society by the promisee’s requiring a performance bond of the promissor in the original agreement. In short, if the theater owners wished to avoid the risk of nonappearance, they could refuse to sign the agreement unless the actor agreed to put up a performance bond in case of nonappearance. In that case, the actor, in the course of agreeing to his future appearance, agrees also to transfer a certain sum of money to the theater owners in case he fails to appear.

Since money, of course, is alienable, and since such a contract would meet our title-transfer criterion, this would be a perfectly valid and enforceable contract. For what the actor would be saying is: “If I do not appear at Theater X at such and such a date, I hereby transfer as of the date the following sum _, to the theater owners.” Failure to meet the performance bond will then be an implicit theft of the property of the owners. If, then, the theater owners fail to require a performance bond as part of the agreement, then they must suffer the consequences.

Say’s Law and the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle

By William L. Anderson

Abstract: Economists have tried to explain business cycles as well as fluctuations in the economy, but over the past two centuries, the explanations have fallen into two areas. The first area tries to explain business cycles as being the result of fluctuating aggregate demand; if overall demand for goods is strong (or to put it another way, consumers are confidently buying goods), then the economy is in a boom. However, if consumers choose not to spend, then the economy is in recession. The second area, as outlined by Sowell is that of seeing an economy as operating within internal proportions that are brought into imbalances. Say’s Law is found in this second category, and the Austrian theory of the business cycle (ATBC) also is a proportionality-based theory. However, most economists have failed to make the connection between Say’s Law and the ATBC.

  1. INTRODUCTION
    During the 1980 U.S. presidential campaign, many American voters for the first time were introduced to Say’s Law, and while the politicians debating it managed to mangle its concepts, nonetheless a staple of classical economics for a brief moment held center stage. Today, it seems that the zeitgeist of political economy is moving in another direction, as those in political power today are reaching back into the 1930s to the borrow-and-spend policies that marked what governments did in the United States and Europe.

Economists have tried to explain business cycles as well as fluctuations in the economy, but over the past two centuries, the explanations have fallen into two areas. The first tries to explain business cycles as being the result of fluctuating aggregate demand; if overall demand for goods is strong (or to put it another way, consumers are confidently buying goods), then the economy is in a boom. However, if consumers choose not to spend, then the economy is in recession.

The second area, as outlined by Sowell (1985) is that of seeing an economy as operating within internal proportions that are brought into imbalances. Say’s Law is found in this second category, and the Austrian theory of the business cycle (ATBC) also is a proportionality-based theory. However, most economists have failed to make the connection between Say’s Law and the ATBC, whether or not people are aware of the connection.

This article seeks to demonstrate how the ATBC and Say’s Law are interrelated, and to show that in his Treatise on Political Economy (1803, 1826) J.B. Say anticipated the ATBC and at the same time delivered a devastating critique against the Keynesian theories that dominate the political discussion today. The economic thought that Say introduced in his Treatise, while not explaining (or attempting to give) what one might call a business cycle theory, nonetheless lays an important foundation for the theory that Mises (1912, 1981) and other Austrian economists would develop.

The article is organized in the following way. I first explain what is meant by “Say’s Law” and how it was developed. In the next section, I briefly deal with the critics and supporters of Say’s Law. I then briefly explain the ATBC and show how Say’s Law explains a critical foundation of the ATBC, and afterward, I draw some conclusions.

  1. WHAT IS SAY’S LAW?
    Traite’ d’Economie Politique or Treatise on Political Economy first appeared in 1803 as a general book on economic thought. Like Adam Smith (1776, 1982), Say wished to discredit the doctrines of “mercantilism,” or, as called in France, “Colbertism,” after J.B. Colbert, the finance minister for Louis XIV, who developed a Byzantine system of taxes, monopolies, and business regulations for France.

There is no specific “law” that Say pronounces in his book, but the concept of what we call Say’s Law is developed in book one, chapter 15, which begins (from the 1826 edition):

It is common to hear adventurers in the different channels of industry assert that their difficulty lies not in the production, but in the disposal of commodities; that products would always be abundant, if there were but a ready demand, or market for them.When the demand for their commodities is slow, difficult, and productive of little advantage, they pronounce money to be scarce; the grand object of their desire is a consumption brisk enough to quicken sales and keep up prices. (p. 132; emphasis added)

In other words, Say is describing something akin to a recession. In explaining this passage, Mises (1960) writes:

Whenever business was bad, the average merchant had two explanations at hand: the evil was caused by a scarcity of money and by general overproduction. Adam Smith, in a famous passage in The Wealth of Nations, exploded the first of these myths. Say devoted himself to a refutation of the second. (p. 315)

It is important to point out that in chapter 15, Say does not attempt to explain why the condition he is describing has happened. In other words, the chapter does not contain a business cycle theory itself. Instead, he explains why the scarcity of money or overproduction/under- consumption explanations are fallacious, but in so doing, he also explains a set of conditions that find their way into the ATBC.

The explanation that Say gives is based upon what Sowell (1994, pp. 39–41) writes are the following propositions:

“The total factor payments received for producing a given volume (or value) of output are necessarily sufficient to purchase that volume (or value) of output.”
“There is no loss of purchasing power anywhere in the economy.” (In other words, no Keynesian “leakages.”) “People save only to the extent of their desire to invest and do not hold money beyond their transactions need during the current period.”
“Investment is only an internal transfer, not a net reduction, of aggregate demand.”
“In real terms, supply equals demand ex ante, since each individual produces only because of, and to the extent of, his demand for other goods.”
“A higher rate of savings will cause a higher rate of subsequent growth in aggregate output.”
“Disequilibrium in the economy can exist only because the internal proportions of output differ from consumer’s preferred mix—not because output is excessive in the aggregate.”
As we shall see, the sixth proposition is important to understanding the ATBC. Not surprisingly, the sixth (and really the last three) propositions are the ones that are disputed among economists in debates about the causes (and “cures”) for problems related to business cycles.

The popular definition of Say’s Law is: Supply creates its own demand. In the next section, I briefly shall point out how critics have misinterpreted that statement, something that is common in economic and popular literature, but in this section I will explain what the phrase actually means.

First, and most important, nowhere in the chapter does Say make the “supply creates its own demand” statement. Instead, he applies economic logic to production and consumption and demonstrates that consumption and production are interrelated, as opposed to being two separate and random activities, as was proposed by economists like Thomas Malthus and later Karl Marx and even John Maynard Keynes.

As Benjamin Anderson (1949) writes in support of this concept:

The prevailing view among economists,…has long been that purchasing power grows out of production. The great producing countries are the great consuming countries. The twentieth-century world consumes vastly more than the eighteenth-century world because it produces vastly more. Supply and demand in the aggregate are thus not merely equal, but they are identical, since every commodity may be looked upon either as supply of its own kind or as demand for other things. But this doctrine is subject to the great qualification that the proportions must be right; that there must be equilibrium. (p. 390; emphasis added)

Second, as Hazlitt notes, the purpose of Say’s chapter is to lay out the logical case that general bouts of “overproduction” or “underconsumption” are impossible. In other words, an economic downturn cannot occur because an economy has produced too much of everything, or that consumers lack the will (Malthus) or the ability (Harrington) to purchase what has been produced. Writes Harrington (1981):

During the 1930s, there was a glut of consumer goods because workers lacked the purchasing power to buy back what they produced. That was why government began to play a role in the economy on behalf of middle- and low-income people during the period of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. (p. 31)

Again, we see in Harrington’s statement the belief that (1) production and consumption are unrelated, and (2) unless enough workers can find the means to “buy back the product,” then the overproduction/ underconsumption problem reappears. Hazlitt (1979), includes a chapter that attacks the “buy back the product” viewpoint, noting that a payment to a worker also is a cost to the employer, which means that the believers in the “buy back the product” view are saying that the way to increase consumption is to increase business costs, which is easily and logically refuted.

One also must keep in mind that Say is not declaring that business downturns or recessions are impossible, something that will be discussed at greater length in the next section. Instead, he simply is attempting to counter the argument that a business downturn is not the result of “general overproduction” of goods within the economy. Furthermore, “Say’s Law” is not a law in the sense of what economists consider a law like the Law of Scarcity, the Law of Demand, the Law of Opportunity Cost, or the Law of Supply. Instead, Say extrapolates the logic found in these other laws to point out the simple fact that production and demand are intricately related, as one cannot consume without someone producing that which is to be consumed, and that the more one produces, the more one can consume.

While not giving a business cycle theory in particular, nonetheless Say does outline some basic parameters from which to build a theory. Furthermore, these parameters are a necessary foundation for the ATBC and for understanding the boom and bust cycle in general (including the present economic troubles that exist at the writing of this article). This will be covered in more detail in the ATBC section, but I include the item here as well.

Say held that business downturns would be proportional in nature, that too many goods in one sector—more than would be able to be consumed, given the preferences and income of consumers—could be produced, at least temporarily, but that there would be a corresponding shortfall in the production of other goods. In other words, business downturns were a matter of proportional “malinvestments” (to use the Austrian term), not overall lack of consumption. As we shall see, this point is crucial to understanding the ATBC.

  1. CRITICS AND SUPPORTERS OF SAY’S LAW
    Say was not without his critics then and now. As Sowell (1985) points out, the contemporary critics included Malthus, Sismondi, and Marx. The most important critic of the twentieth century was John Maynard Keynes (1937, 1953), whose “refutation” of Say’s Law will be examined in this section, as Keynes and the modern critics build on the earlier contemporary criticisms.

Sweezy (1947) declares about Keynes and his General Theory:

Historians fifty years from now may record that Keynes’ greatest achievement as the liberation of Anglo-American economics from a tyrannical dogma, and they may even conclude that this was essentially a work of negation unmatched by comparable positive achievements (p. 105).

However, Sweezy strikes a more ominous tone when he says that the “Keynesian attacks, though they appear to be directed against a variety of specific theories, all fall to the ground if the validity of Say’s Law is assumed” (p. 105). Thus, it was important that Keynes and his followers “discredit” Say’s Law.

As Hazlitt (1959) points out, Keynes “refuted” Say’s Law by taking a passage from Mill in which he states that

the means of payment for commodities is simply commodities…. Could we suddenly double the productive powers of the country, we should double the supply of commodities in every in every market; but we should, by the same stroke, double the purchasing power. (Quoted in Hazlitt, 1959, p. 34)

Keynes targets that passage as being false on its face because it allegedly declares that every good produced automatically will find a buyer and, thus, recessions are impossible, writing:

Thus Say’s Law, that the aggregate demand price of output as a whole is equal to its aggregate supply price for all volumes of output, is equivalent to the proposition that there is no obstacle to full employment. If, however, this is not the true law relating the aggregate demand and supply functions, there is a vitally important chapter of economic theory which remains to be written and without which all discussion concerning the volume of aggregate employment are futile. (p. 26 )

Harrington also makes a similar statement, declaring, “Say’s Law maintains that if business can produce products, it can sell them. The Great Depression discredited Say’s Law” (p. 31). Thus, the chapter that was written to explain what did not cause business recessions has been turned into something that was not written at all: that classical economists claimed “full employment” always was the norm.

Yet, as Hazlitt points out, Mill (1848, 1919) himself in the next passage explains the context of his previous statement in which he says, “It is probable, indeed, that there would now be a superfluity of certain things” (Hazlitt, 1959, p. 35). Sowell (1974, p. 43) quotes Mill (1844) elsewhere saying that “production is not excessive, but merely ill-assorted.” Likewise, on that same page, Sowell quotes Ricardo who says that “it is at all times the bad adaptation of the commodities produced to the wants of mankind which is the specific evil, and not the abundance of commodities.” Ricardo add, “Men err in their productions (but) there is no deficiency of demand.”

In other words, the same people who recognized and agreed with Say’s logic also recognized that business recessions were a possibility and that they themselves had observed them. As Hazlitt (1959) puts it:

If you had presented the classical economists with “the Keynesian case”—if you had asked them, in other words, what they thought would happen in the event of a fall in the price of commodities, if money wage-rates, as a result of union monopoly protected and insured by law, remained rigid or rising—they would have undoubtedly replied that sufficient markets could not be found for goods produced at such economically unjustified costs of production and that great and prolonged unemployment would result. (p. 36)

Thus, the critics of Say’s Law have claimed that it is absurd on its face, and that it denies something that has been observed many times in history: the business recession. Yet, as those who support Say’s Law might ask, “How could a chapter that acknowledges the presence of a business recession then deny that such a recession actually was taking place?” Indeed, Say’s Law is not about the denial of recessions or even a partial overproduction of goods relative to demand; it is about dealing with the claims that a recession occurs because of a general overproduction of goods.

  1. HOW SAY’S LAW HELPS FRAME THE ATBC
    The details of the ATBC are explained in Mises (1912) and Rothbard (1975) and elsewhere and will not be expounded here. However, because this article relates Say’s Law directly to the ATBC, Rothbard’s explanation about the economic crisis being one of proportionality is vital to understanding the relationship.

In explaining how the boom-and-bust of the business cycle occurs, Rothbard writes that the problem is in what Austrian economists call the “cluster of errors” by entrepreneurs and business owners:

The explanation of depressions, then, will not be found by referring to specific or even general business fluctuations per se. The main problem that a theory of depression must explain is: why is there a sudden general cluster of business errors? This is the first question for any cycle theory. Business activity moves along nicely with most business firms making handsome profits. Suddenly, without warning, conditions change and the bulk of business firms are experiencing losses; they are suddenly revealed to have made grievous errors in forecasting. (p. 16)

The widest fluctuations, Rothbard notes, are not in the consumer goods industries, but rather in capital or producers’ goods. In other words, the downturn does not begin by consumers suddenly deciding to purchase fewer goods, but rather because economic conditions in certain industries suddenly turn sour.

Rothbard goes on to say that in a normal, free-market economy, there will be no cluster of errors by entrepreneurs, but rather that those errors will be distributed on a more random basis. However, the combination of fractional reserve banking and aggressive efforts by the central bank to expand the supply of money in the economy will distort the structure of production. Rothbard first points out that if people change their time preferences by consuming less in the present so they can consume more in the future, then the addition of savings they add to the system will signal entrepreneurs to lengthen the structure of production and invest in capital goods as opposed to consumer goods, which appeal to people who prefer to spend their resources at the present time.

However, he points out that if the money that is directed toward the capital goods sectors comes because governments and their banking allies expand credit without a similar expansion of real savings, then problems begin:

Now what happens when banks print new money (whether as bank notes or bank deposits) and lend it to business? The new money pours forth on the loan market and lowers the loan rate of interest. It looks as if the supply of saved funds for investment has increased, for the effect is the same: the supply of funds for investment apparently increases, and the interest rate is lowered. Businessmen, in short, are misled by the bank inflation into believing that the supply of saved funds is greater than it really is. (p. 18; emphasis Rothbard’s)

From there, the dislocations begin as investments are poured into lines of production that cannot be sustained. The new “investments” alter the structure of production into a direction and scope that will not reflect the actual desires and spending patterns of consumers. Rothbard adds:

people will rush to reestablish the old proportions, and demand will shift back from the higher to the lower orders. Capital goods industries will find that their investments have been in error: that what they thought profitable really fails for lack of demand by their entrepreneurial customers. Higher orders of production have turned out to be wasteful, and the malinvestment must be liquidated.

A favorite explanation of the crisis is that it stems from “underconsumption”—from a failure of consumer demand for goods at prices that could be profitable. But this runs contrary to the commonly known fact that it is capital goods, and not consumer goods, industries that really suffer in a depression. The failure is one of entrepreneurial demand for the higher order goods, and this in turn is caused by the shift of demand back to the old proportions. (pp. 18–19; emphasis Rothbard’s)

Rothbard continues:

The “boom,” then, is actually a period of wasteful misinvestment. It is the time when errors are made, due to bank credit’s tampering with the free market. The “crisis” arrives when the consumers come to reestablish their desired proportions. The “depression” is actually the process by which the economy adjusts to the wastes and errors of the boom, and reestablishes efficient service of consumer desires. The adjustment process consists in rapid liquidation of the wasteful investments. Some of these will be abandoned altogether (like the Western ghost towns constructed in the boom of 1816–1818 and deserted during the Panic of 1819); others will be shifted to other uses. (p. 19; emphasis Rothbard’s)

In other words, the problem with the economy is one of incorrect proportions of production, as opposed to being a general fall in consumption. This point is vital to understanding not only the ATBC, but also understanding how Say’s Law helps lay the foundations of that theory. Sowell (1985) writes:

Long before Engels and Marx came upon the scene, economists had divided into two main groups—(1) those who explained depressions by inadequate demand (the “general glut” theorists, let by Sismondi and Malthus) and (2) those who insisted that depressions were caused by internal disproportionalities in the composition of aggregate output—too much of A and too little of B—rather than by its total being excessive relative to aggregate demand. (pp. 92–93)

In speaking of proportionality, Say writes:

But it may be asked…how does it happen, that there is at times so great a glut of commodities in the market, and so much difficulty in finding vent for them? Why cannot one of the superabundant commodities be exchanged for another? I answer that the glut of a particular commodity arises from its having outrun the total demand for it in one or two ways; either because it has been produced in excessive abundance, or because the production of other commodities has fallen short.

It is because the production of some commodities has declined, that other commodities are superabundant. (p. 135; emphasis added)

To put it another way, the relative proportions are incorrect. If one accepts this proposition (as opposed to holding to an “underconsumption” theory), then the critical question is this: Why are the economic fundamentals out of kilter?

The reason, as outlined by Garrison (1984), is that the growth of new money also changes the relative prices within a structure of production. Classical, as well as Austrian, economists believed that while money served as a medium of exchange, nonetheless the real economy, that is, the relationships between real goods, was key to understanding what was occurring. For example, a barrel of oil and a meal at a good restaurant might both cost $50. While the prices are denominated in dollars, they are equal in real terms, at least in barter.

Yet, these relationships can change under certain circumstances. Assume that consumer preferences change over the long term and people are wishing to use more oil, thus making oil twice as valuable as a restaurant meal. Economically speaking, while it means there will be adjustments in the economy due to this change in preferences, but it does not cause dislocations. It is just that in real terms oil now is twice as valuable to consumers relative to meals at good restaurants, and consumer choices will adjust accordingly, as entrepreneurs will recognize the consumers’ change in preferences and direct more resources toward oil.

However, if there is a bout of inflation, the relationships also will change, but in a very different way. The typical classroom model that tracks changes in the money supply is MV = PY, where M equals the stock of money, V is its “velocity,” or how quickly it is dispersed through the economy, P is the “price level,” or a weighted average of all consumer prices, and Y is national “output.” If M were to double but V and Y remain unchanged, then P also would double.

Although this is a convenient model to show to students, nonetheless it does not accurately demonstrate what occurs during a period of inflation. Prices of consumer and producer goods do not rise equally in tandem; instead, inflation, which really is a situation in which the value of the marginal unit of money decreases relative to real goods, as pointed out by Mises (1912) and Rothbard (1993). This simple but important point often is missed by many mainstream economists who insist on defining inflation as a rise in a constructed and stylized average of consumer prices. (The government also has a Producer Price Index, but this, too, is a weighted average of selected prices, except they are prices for factors of production, not consumer goods.)

Although these statistics might provide interesting fodder for discussion, they do not explain what happens during an inflationary period. Prices for goods indeed rise, but they rise in a manner in which the relative prices change even though consumer preferences do not do likewise. For example, when money loses its value after its stock is expanded, the prices of commodities like oil and gold (and other such goods that are publicly traded in commodity exchanges) increase more quickly than do prices of services and some consumer items, not to mention labor prices, which often are set via contracts or other longer-term agreements.

This is not the only problem. As Rothbard earlier explained, the mechanism of injecting new money into the economy—the banking loan process—brings two dislocation problems. First, if central banking authorities hold interest rates below levels where they would naturally be due to the demand for and supply of loanable funds, then this process will favor producers’ goods over consumer goods, changing that relationship even if consumer preferences have not changed. Second, when the new money spreads throughout the economy, it reduces the value of money, further changing relative prices of goods.

Only someone who understands how such action disturbs the real relationships of goods to one another can understand why central-bank led booms are unsustainable. At some point, the relationships of goods in an economy undergoing such injections of credit become dysfunctional and break down on their own. Economists who insist on defining inflation as a situation in which all prices rise in tandem are not going to see how increases in the supply of money via government-sponsored bank credit injections can distort the inner workings of an economy.

Indeed, that is one of the things that separates the two groups of economists as outlined above by Sowell. Economists who believe that economic recessions are caused by a sudden fall in aggregate expenditures also are going to believe that a new injection of bank credit and government spending will set matters right. However, economists who agree with Say and the Austrians that booms disturb the fundamental proportions of goods within an economy also will recognize that government policies—and especially the kind advocated by Keynes and his followers—will cause further distortions, thus making the economic downturn even worse.

It is true that Say did not give reasons as to the cause of the disproportionalities (Rothbard writes that David Ricardo developed a prototype for what would be the ATBC), and it would be a century later before Mises formally developed a theory that encompassed not only the reasons for the distortions, but also explained how the central bank usually was the originator of the crisis. However, it is clear that he and his supporters were on the right track.

  1. CONCLUSION
    Say’s Law, often misunderstood and certainly wrongly vilified, is an important part of the ATBC. This “law” is not sufficient, but it is necessary for the ATBC to be true. Despite the fact that the ATBC is an intricate and sophisticated economics theory (as opposed to the more crude notions of “aggregate demand” and “aggregate supply” that currently are in vogue), at its heart is the simple fact that monetary intervention by government authorities ultimately distorts the relationships of economic fundamentals and throws the economy out of balance.

This is why Austrians say that a recession is a necessary part of restoring the “proper” economic relationships that are seen in the fundamentals of the economy, with both consumer goods and the factors of production. Say’s Law provides the ATBC with a crucial reminder that there cannot be a recession without the fundamental economic relationships within an economy first being disturbed.

It is unfortunate that economists continue to misrepresent and even vilify Say’s Law. At its most simple point, it is an economic tautology: one cannot consume without first producing, and what one produces becomes a basis for determining what one consumes. Say did not “discover” this fact, but he highlighted it, and two centuries later, Say’s Law is as applicable as it was when Treatise first appeared in print.

Author:
Contact William L. Anderson

William L. Anderson is a professor of economics at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland.

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A Quarter Of All Household Income In The US Now Comes From The Government

By Tyler Durden

Following today’s release of the latest Personal Income and Spending data, Wall Street was predictably focused on the changes in these two key series, which showed a modest slowdown in personal spending (to be expected one month after the savings rate in the US hit a record), coupled with a modest decline in personal income (as government benefits and stimulus checks slowed substantially).

But while the change in the headline data was indeed notable, what was far more remarkable was less followed data showing just how reliant on the US government the population has become.

We are referring, of course, to Personal Current Transfer payments which are essentially government sourced income such as unemployment benefits, welfare checks, and so on. In May, this number was $4.9 trillion annualized, and while it is down from the record $6.6 trillion hit in April when the US government activated the money helicopters to avoid a total collapse of the US economy, it was nearly $2 trillion above the pre-Covid trend where transfer receipts were approximately $3.2 trillion.

Even more striking, is that as of June when total Personal Income was just below $20 trillion annualized, the government remains responsible for over a quarter of all income.

Putting that number in perspective, in the 1950s and 1960s, transfer payment were around 7%. This number rose in the low teens starting in the mid-1970s (right after the Nixon Shock ended Bretton-Woods and closed the gold window). The number then jumped again after the financial crisis, spiking to the high teens.

And now, the coronavirus has officially sent this number into the mid-20% range, after hitting a record high 31% in April.

And that’s how creeping banana republic socialism comes at you: first slowly, then fast.

So for all those who claim that the Fed is now (and has been for the past decade) subsidizing the 1%, that’s true, but with every passing month, the government is also funding the daily life of an ever greater portion of America’s poorest social segments.

Who ends up paying for both?

Why the middle class of course, where the dollar debasement on one side, and the insane debt accumulation on the other, mean that millions of Americans content to work 9-5, pay their taxes, and generally keep their mouth shut as others are burning everything down and tearing down statues, are now doomed.

To read the complete article, with charts and graphs, click here…

Jim Jordan Presses Dr. Fauci On COVID-19 Protest Hypocrisy

By Tyler Durden

Friday’s testimony before the House coronavirus subcommittee on Friday was supposed to be just another snoozefest with Dr. Fauci fielding the same questions from obsequious Democrats and hostile Republicans.

But viewers perked up roughly 2 hours into the hearing on Friday when Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, one of the good doctor’s most vocal critics, was called on to ask a question.

His initial question was simple enough: “Dr. Fauci,” Jordan asked. “Can protests spread the virus?”

Considering the straightforwardness of the question, Dr. Fauci seemed surprisingly startled. He took a few moments to gather his thoughts, then responded that all large gatherings where people aren’t complying with all social distancing recommendations are ill-advised – though, the good doctor insisted, he didn’t want to make a specific judgment about what types of activities are permissible, and which aren’t.

Read the rest here…