Tag Archives: free trade

The Ethics of a Gold Standard

goldstandard

The efficacy of a metallic monetary system is beyond dispute at least among real economists which eliminates just about 95% of whom are now engaged in the “profession.”  Money, which gold is, allows for specialization, the division of labor, and provides the means for mankind to escape from barter and, thus, a primitive existence.  Like free trade, money naturally integrates mankind both among and between peoples.

A system of central banking with an unbacked paper currency is the antithesis of a gold standard.  Manipulation of currencies by central banks, mostly through debasement, hinders trade, creates distortions, and ultimately leads to the dreaded business cycle.  Murray Rothbard aptly describes the baneful results of state intervention in the monetary system:

. . . government meddling with money has

not only brought untold tyranny into the world;

it has also brought chaos and not order.  It has

fragmented the peaceful, productive world

market and shattered it into a thousand pieces,

with trade and investment hobbled and hampered

by myriad restrictions, controls, artificial rates,

currency breakdowns, etc.  It has helped bring

about wars by transforming a world of peaceful

intercourse into a jungle of warring currency blocs.*

Rothbard Money

While the economic efficiency of a gold standard is important, the ethical case for it is more compelling and was the reason why gold, as money, lasted as a medium of exchange for so long.  Gold/money has to be created through honest-to-goodness production and exchange.  The often dangerous mining of gold takes labor, capital goods, and land.  Turning raw gold into coinage is another process which requires a high level of specialization and production techniques.  Both are honest and morally sound activities which make for the betterment of life all around.

The ethical standing of central banking and its issuance of unbacked currency as money through the printing press, stroke of a computer key, or via the expansion of credit cannot stand similar scrutiny.  By any appraisal, central banking is immoral.  Through the creation of money, banks stealthy transfer wealth to those who control the money supply and those closely associated with it.

The ability of central banks to create unlimited amounts of money and credit has been the greatest redistribution scheme ever conceived.  The process ultimately leads to class conflict as the wealth disparity between the politically well-connected and those outside that nexus invariably widen.

Under a gold standard, none of this would take place.

Because of their lack and often distain for economic doctrines, in particular, monetary theory, “economic nationalists” (really “economic ignoramuses”) have wrongly focused on trade as a factor in the continued decline of the middle and working classes.  China’s supposed unfair trade practices was a staple of President Trump’s campaign rhetoric and has continued through much of his first term.

The focus on trade has deflected attention from the real cause of worsening economic conditions for American workers and the enrichment of Wall Street.  Despite the blatant transfer of wealth via the Fed’s policies of suppressed interest rates and money printing since the 2008 Recession, economic nationalists continue to applaud President Trump’s tariff policies while the President continues to browbeat the Fed to do more of the same even calling for negative interest rates and more Quantitative Easing.

The Left rightly speaks out of the vast and growing inequality of wealth distribution, but like those who espouse economic nationalism, they fail to understand the reason for why the societal imbalance has occurred.  One remedy they propose – a “wealth tax” – will not address the problem.  Moreover, their “soak-the-rich” schemes would snare in their plunder (not that Leftists particularly care) many of the wealthy outside of the banking and financial sector of their legitimate, just gains.

The case for honest money must be made on ethical grounds.  The current system must be exposed and shown for the scam that it is: a massive redistribution scheme enriching the political elites and their closely aligned business and financial allies. While it is undeniable that a gold standard would lead to enormous prosperity, its reinstatement would remedy one of the great injustices that plague the world – central banking!

*Murray N. Rothbard, What Has Government Done To Our Money?  BN Publishing, 2012: 84.

Antonius Aquinas@antoniusaquinas

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What President Trump and the West Can Learn from China

Trump Trip China

Instead of a demonstration of its overwhelming military might intended to intimidate tiny North Korea and pressure China to lean on its defiant communist neighbor, President Trump and the West should try to learn a few things from China.

The President’s trip to the Far East came on the heels of the completion of China’s 19th National Congress where the current president, Xi Jinping, has cunningly positioned himself as China’s unchallenged leader.  In an address at the opening of the Congress, Xi cautioned that the country faced “challenges” that are “extremely grim” yet, despite these, the nation’s future is “extremely bright.”*

While Western politicos and pundits bemoan the lack of political pluralism that exists within China and President Trump complained about bad trade “deals,” they miss an important factor as to why China has transformed itself from a socialist basket case some three decades ago into an economic powerhouse which now boasts over a third of the world’s billionaires!

China’s economic ascendancy can be attributed not only to the implementation of market reforms in the 1990s, but also its lack of “political competition.”  As a one-party state, resources, time, energy, and capital are not allowed to be channeled into wasteful political processes, but instead are used and “invested” in wealth-creation activities – construction, factories, plants, equipment, research, technology – all of which leads to more and cheaper consumer goods.

The US and the West spend too much on elections, campaigns, polling, political consultation, etc., which diverts scarce resources away from the private wealth sectors of society.  For example, in her last failed presidential campaign run, the Wicked Witch of Chappaqua alone spent over a half of billion dollars.

Under Western democratic pluralism, public debt and state spending have increased to unsustainable levels.  In the US alone – history’s greatest debtor nation – the national debt is in excess of $20 trillion, while its total debt officially is $68 billion with a federal deficit (GAAP) running yearly at $5 ½ trillion.

Such staggering numbers are the result, in part, from political parties seeking public office and once elected exploiting their position to enrich themselves, their constituents, and create dependent classes among the ever shrinking productive segments of society.

China’s foreign policy – an extension of politics – has also been conducive for wealth creation.  Instead of wasteful spending on military hardware, the maintenance of a far-flung global empire, and involvement in incessant wars, China has a rather meek military compared to its national income and has conducted a pretty much non-interventionist foreign policy – witness its diplomacy with North Korea.

The US is almost the polar opposite.  It spends more on “defense” than the next eight countries combined.** Instead of the production of useful consumer goods, billions are siphoned off into the military/security industrial complex.  Not only does this impoverish Americans at home, but it leads to never ending involvement in wars, conflicts, and disputes, most of which are created or exacerbated by US spy organizations.

Def spending

After meeting with Chinese leadership, President Trump tweeted:

I don’t blame China, I blame the incompetence

of past Admins for allowing China to take advantage

of the U.S. on trade leading up to a point where the

U.S. is losing $100’s of billions.  How can you blame

China for taking advantage of people that had no clue?

I would’ve done the same!

Making better trade deals will not revitalize the moribund US economy.  Instead, there should be less politicization of society and adoption of market reforms as China has done.  The most important plank of such a policy would be the encouragement of real savings – not the creation of bank credit – through the normalization of interest rates.  This would begin the arduous process of capital accumulation, the basis upon which any economy can be built.

Another sign of the divergence between the two is China’s continued push to make the yuan the world’s reserve currency with apparently some sort of gold backing to it.  Contrarily, the Trump Administration has continued the same disastrous policies of its predecessors and has chosen a Janet Yellen clone to head the Federal Reserve with a continuation, no doubt, of the suppression of interest rates.  On the other hand, China continues to import massive quantities of gold and encourages its citizens to own the yellow metal while the West is in the midst of a crypto currency mania, another fraudulent monetary scheme.

China’s economic miracle, while certainly impressive, would not look as astounding if Western economies had not been in a state of stagnation and decline over the past half century.  It was not political liberalization that led to China’s phenomenal growth, but economic freedom which used to be a staple of Western life.  The lesson that should be taken from President Trump’s trip is less politics domestically and more free markets.

*Chris Buckley, “Xi Jinping Opens China’s Party Congress, His Hold Tighter Than Ever.”  The New York Times, 17 October 2017.   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/17/world/asia/xi-jinping-communist-party-china.html

**Peter G. Peterson Foundation.  “US Defense Spending Compared to Other Countries.”  1 June 2017.  https://www.pgpf.org/chart-archive/0053_defense-comparison

Antonius Aquinas@AntoniusAquinas

https://antoniusaquinas.com

Donald Trump is an Economic Ignoramus!

Trump & Trade II

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump has followed in the infamous footsteps of his presidential predecessors in the transition from candidate to chief executive.  Invariably, every candidate for the presidency makes a whole host of promises, the vast majority of which are horrible and typically only exacerbate the problems they attempt to resolve.  Among the proposals, however, there is an occasional bright spot.  Yet, once elected the stupid polices are eagerly pursued while the good ones are quickly discarded.

What was somewhat unique about Donald Trump was that he was the first candidate in a long while who had a number of refreshing and much needed proposals – border wall, “drain the swamp,” criticism of Ma Yellen and the Fed, rapprochement with Vladimir Putin and Russia, a deescalation of U.S. imperialism.  There were bad ones, too, but the good ones were enough to lead him to a smashing win over the Wicked Witch of Chappaqua.

Even before being sworn in, however, the president-elect began to downplay his most positive positions and emphasize the worst.  At the top of this list, and what Trump has been consistently wrong about since the inception of his political career, and even prior to it, has been “trade.”

Trump considers himself an “economic nationalist” in the mold of Patrick Buchanan.  Both, however, are simply wrong in this regard demonstrating that they do not have a grasp of the most basic of economic principles.

The latest Trump tirade on trade was reported during his recent trip to Europe and a meeting with high-ranking officials.  Trump is reported to have lashed out at German auto makers who the President accused of being “very bad” because of the “millions of cars that they sell in the U.S.”  The Donald bemoaned, “Terrible, we’re going to stop that” and added “I don’t have a problem [with] Germany, I have a problem with German trade.”*

Such talk makes Trump sound like a fool.  What is “bad” about providing American consumers with first-class automobiles that they apparently want in large quantities and are voluntarily willing to pay for?  And what of American workers employed with Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Volkswagen?  What is so horrible about the jobs and income that is provided by German firms to these workers?

Instead of berating German car manufactures, Trump should direct his ire at the immigration policies of psychopathic politicians like Frau Merkel.  Candidate Trump was very vocal about this and criticized European leaders for allowing their countries to be turned into multicultural cesspools.

The benefits of free trade and the baneful consequences of protectionism have long ago been elucidated by right-thinking economists, while the historical record has shown that lands which engage in “free trade” are decidedly richer than those that do not.  That Trump could spout off such nonsense about the evils of German trade shows how far the level of economic understanding has fallen.

Not only does free trade allow for the extension of the division of labor and specialization, but it has very important non-economic fruits.  When trade is unregulated, there is less of a tendency of trading partners to engage in bellicose actions toward each other.  Free trade and peaceful coexistence among nations are synonymous.  It is when trade is prohibited, skewed by governments to “protect” favored industries, which creates tensions among peoples.

Free trade does not require measures such as NAFTA or negotiated deals by politicians.  Instead, producers of one region are free to sell their goods at whatever prices or quantities to consumers of other areas that agree to buy them.  Ultimately, trade is up to individual producers and consumers in what they contractually agree to exchange, there is no need for political involvement.

Trump’s lambasting of the German auto makers, however, underscores a more fundamental problem with the U.S. economy.  America no longer produces goods that the world’s consumers desire, but instead, produces military hardware that it sells to despotic regimes which enables them to remain in power and wreck havoc on their enemies.  Predictably, this escalates tensions abroad while, domestically, the standard of living of Americans fall as scarce resources that could have been used in the production of useful consumer goods are diverted to the creation of murderous military armaments.

Trump has repeatedly boasted about his and his appointees’ abilities to negotiate great trade “deals.”  His bashing of the German auto makers right after his multi-billion dollar arms sales to the Saudis show not only that he is clueless in regard to the immense benefits of free trade, but that he is just another adherent, like his predecessors, to the ideals of crony capitalism.

*Tyler Durden, “Trump Slams ‘Very Bad’ Germans for Selling Millions of Cars in US: ‘We Will Stop This.'”  Zero Hedge 26 May 2017. http://www.zerohedge.com/print/596683

Antonius Aquinas@AntoniusAquinas

https://antoniusaquinas.com