Sunday, October 30, 2016

The End of Normal

The "End of Normal" has plenty of persuasive arguments about why we should pursue liberal economic policies. (Government debt is a good thing because it represents savings that are invested. The debt has negative real rates (it is less than the inflation rate) thus using it is a good idea. Trade deficits are also required because the dollar is a global reserve currency.)
Super low interest rates are argued to be the new normal. The Fed has painted the economy into this corner with its policies and there is little reason for them to be changed. Maybe we wont see the large growth that we are used to.
Some of his ideas didn't seem to be fully thought through. He advocated raising the minimum wage. He saw that having some real cost for the government, but thought that it would be offset by decreased border protection costs, because there wouldn't be as much need for "below-market" labor. Huh? If there is a bigger gap, the cost differential would be even greater, making it even more worthwhile to go to "Black market" labor.
The Soviet collapse was purported to be caused by outdated systems. The USSR had gone on a massive building spree after World War II. These factories and structures were optimized for the industrial environment of the time. However, over time, manufacturing evolved, leaving these structures as poorly maintained, outdated monoliths. The advantage achieved when they were new is now long gone. The laborers are also all trained on the old systems. The cost to move to modernity was too much. The system thus collapsed. We have seen something similar happen in the US in the rust belt. These great steel and auto plants were state of the art at the time. However, the advantages they had are now gone. The local economies have had to reinvent themselves. Will the US or the entire western system suffer under its own weight? Today there are some distinct advantages. Much of the high tech industries rely on virtual infrastructure. It is much easier to shift to a new paradigm. Change can be carried out more quickly. This results in the change producing individual losers, but is less likely to bring about an entire collapse.
Are we in a new system where rates must be kept extremely low? Will a rate increase shock the system? Is the entire capitalistic system on the verge of collapse? We will have to wait and see.

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