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Tag Archives: capital consumption

The End of an Epoch, Report 8 Dec

“There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.” What the heck did John Maynard Keynes mean by saying this? Overturning the existing basis of society?! Let’s begin by stating something that is both obvious and unpopular. We are living in days that could be called the end...

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The Perversity of Negative Interest, Report 17 Nov

Today, we want to say two things about negative interest rates. The first is really simple. Anyone who believes in a theory of interest that says “the savers demand interest to compensate for inflation” needs to ask if this explains negative interest in Switzerland, Europe, and other countries. If not, then we need a new theory (Keith just presented his theory at the Austrian Economics conference at King Juan Carlos University in Madrid—it is radically different). Perverse Inventives Second,...

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Wealth Accumulation Is Becoming Impossible, Report 20 Oct

We talk a lot about the falling interest rate, the too-low interest rate, the near-zero interest rate, the zero interest rate, and the negative interest rate. Hat Tip to Switzerland, where Credit Suisse is now going to pay depositors -0.85%. That is, if you lend your francs to this bank, they take some of them every year. Almost 1% of them. A bank deposit comes with a risk. But instead of compensating you for the risk, the bank pays you nothing. So it’s a return-free risk. And worse than...

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A Wealth Tax Consumes Capital, Report 6 Oct

It seems one cannot make a name for one’s self on the Left, unless one has a proposal to tax wealth. Academics like Tomas Piketty have proposed it. And now the Democratic candidates for president in the US propose it too, while Jeremy Corbyn proposes it in the UK. Venezuela finally added a wealth tax in July. A Wealth Tax So how does a wealth tax work? The politicians quibble among themselves, as if the little implementation details that differ between them are important. But they share the...

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The Purchasing Power of Capital, Report 29 Sep

We discuss capital consumption all the time, because it is the megatrend of our era. However, capital consumption is an abstract idea. So let’s consider some concrete examples, to help make it clearer. Flipping Homes, Consuming Capital First, let’s look at the case of Timothy Housetrader. Tim has a small two-bedroom house. Next door, his neighbor Ian Idjit, owns a four-bedroom house which is twice the size. For some reason, Ian offers to trade houses with Tim. Both own their houses free and...

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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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