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Tag Archives: capital consumption

Obvious Capital Consumption, Report 28 Jul

We have spilled many electrons on the topic of capital consumption. Still, this is a very abstract topic and we think many people still struggle to picture what it means. Thus, the inspiration for this week’s essay. Enterprise Car Service Suppose a young man, Early Enterprise, inherits a car from his grandfather. Early decides to drive for Uber to earn a living. Being enterprising, he is up at dawn and drives all day. He finds that he makes a comfortable living. He grosses $250 a day, minus...

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The Fake Economy, Report 21 Jul

Folks in the liberty movement often say that the economy is fake. But this does not persuade anyone. It’s just preaching to the choir! We hope that this series on GDP provides more effective ammunition to argue with the Left-Right-Wall-Street-Main-Street-Capitalists-Socialists. We frame it that way, because nearly everyone loves to tout GDP (though some do so only when it suits their political agenda). It is fashionable to say variously that the Fed is doing a good job, Obama did a good job,...

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How to Fix GDP, Report 14 Jul

Last week, we looked at the idea of a national balance sheet, as a better way to measure the economy than GDP (which is production + destruction). The national balance sheet would take into account both assets and liabilities. If we take on another $1,000,000 debt to buy a $1,000,000 asset, then we have not added any equity. This is so, even though assets have gone up. But unfortunately, as a consequence of assets going up, consumption goes up. This is the much-vaunted wealth effect. The...

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More Squeeze, Less Juice, Report 7 Jul

We have been writing on the flaws in GDP: that it is no measure of the economy, because it looks only at cash and not the balance sheet, and that there are positive feedback loops. “OK, Mr. Smarty Pants,” you’re thinking (yes, we know you’re thinking this), “if GDP is not a good measure of the economy, then what is?!” The National Balance Sheet In the first part of this series, we introduce some concepts from accounting: cash basis and balance sheet. This approach would logically suggest that...

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What Gets Measures Gets Improved, Report 23 June

Let’s start with Frederic Bastiat’s 170-year old parable of the broken window. A shopkeeper has a broken window. The shopkeeper is, of course, upset at the loss of six francs (0.06oz gold, or about $75). Bastiat discusses a then-popular facile argument: the glass guy is making money (to which all we can say is, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”). Bastiat says it is true, and this is the seen. The glazier does make money. Then he introduces the concept of the unseen. The shoemaker...

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Debt and Profit in Russell 2000 Firms

This week, the Supply and Demand Report featured a graph of debt vs profitability in the Russell 2000. Here’s the graph again: This graph shows a theme that we, and practically no one else(!) have been discussing for years. It is the diminishing marginal utility of debt. In this case, more and more debt is required to add what looks like less and less profit (we don’t have the raw data, only the graphic). We do not view the coming end of this incredible false boom in biblical terms, nor in a...

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Is Capital Creation Beating Capital Consumption? Report 3 Mar

We have written numerous articles about capital consumption. Our monetary system has a falling interest rate, which causes both capital churn and conversion of one party’s wealth into another’s income. It also has too-low interest, which encourages borrowing to consume (which, as everyone knows, adds to Gross Domestic Product—GDP). What Is Capital At the same time, of course entrepreneurs are creating new capital. Keith wrote an article for Forbes, showing the incredible drop in wages from...

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Who Knows the Right Interest Rate, Report 3 Feb 2019

On January 6, we wrote the Surest Way to Overthrow Capitalism. We said: “In a future article, we will expand on why these two statements are true principles: (1) there is no way a central planner could set the right rate, even if he knew and (2) only a free market can know the right rate.” Today’s article is part one of that promised article. Let’s consider how to know the right rate, first. It should not be controversial to say that if the government sets a price cap, say on a loaf of bread,...

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Modern Monetary Theory: A Cargo Cult, Report 20 Jan 2019

Newly elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently said that Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) absolutely needed to be “a larger part of our conversation.” Her comment shines a spotlight on MMT. So what is it? According to Wikipedia, it is: “a macroeconomic theory that describes the currency as a public monopoly and unemployment as the evidence that a currency monopolist is restricting the supply of the financial assets needed to pay taxes and satisfy savings desires.” It is...

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The Prodigal Parent, Report 9 Dec 2018

The Baby Boom generation may be the first generation to leave less to their children than they inherited. Or to leave nothing at all. We hear lots—often from Baby Boomers—about the propensities of their children’s generation. The millennials don’t have good jobs, don’t save, don’t buy houses in the same proportions as their parents, etc. We have no doubt that attitudes have changed. That the millennials’ financial decision-making process is different. And that millennials don’t see things...

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