Michael Hudson on Real Estate & Speculation

Historian and economist Michael Hudson in a seminar from two years ago on real estate & financial speculation. Well worth the listen. Can’t recommend it enough.

Some Key Takeaways

Land is the most important thing in economics, the largest resource, and that’s why it’s the least talked about in the economics profession, hostage and or ally to the vested interests.

Thorstein Veblen observed that finance capital is real estate. The object of real estate developers is to tax the population via rent and interest, to inflate the price of property and then find “a sucker to buy.”

In the US, 80 percent of loans are mortgage loans. And 80 percent of capital gains are comprised of land.

The purpose of a city is to ensure that people can live, work, and do business there. But finance capitalism [as opposed to the industrial capitalism envisioned by the classical economists] is all about turning the city into an investment good – which means eroding the aforementioned activities [living, working, and (wealth creative) business].

Hong Kong’s budget [which includes all the expenses of running the public infrastructure] is based on taxing the rental value of property. The tax scheme it employs is not the Georgist single tax system. Even though the HK Government taxes the rental value of property, it’s still facing rising property prices. That’s because HK doesn’t capture anywhere near the full value of land.

Australian Governments have been content to neglect the manufacturing sector and encourage private debt growth and asset price inflation, relying instead on the resource exports sector – with China being their biggest customer.

The Chicago Boys, the first thing they did in Chile after bringing down Allende, in addition to assassinating every land reformer and labor union leader, closed every economics school in the country. They realized that you can’t have a [pseudo] free market without having a totalitarian state [complete control over the curriculum]. The Chicago School controls all of the major referee economic journals in North America – hence the lack of criticism of unearned income [like interest, rent, and patents].

Breaking with the tradition of Classical Economics, the modern ‘free market totalitarians’ insist that there is no economic rent, that there is no free lunch.

Big lenders to developing countries [Hudson cites Argentina as an example] try to assess the growth in the balance of payments of the debtor nation in question, in order to pocket all that growth for themselves.

The FIRE sector [finance, insurance, and real estate] effectively imposes a private land value tax on the country. Would-be debtors outbid themselves, who will pledge more of the rental value to the bank.

Foreign oligarchs wish to place their money outside, in case their Governments will try and confiscate their illicit wealth. Instead of putting their money in the stock and bond markets, they prefer to put it into real estate. This leads to asset price inflation, making it harder for households, workers, and SMEs to live, earn, and operate.

To the ‘rich people create jobs’ myth, Hudson argues that many in fact are job destroyers. He gives the example of a corporate raider, who borrows money at 1 or 2 percent from a bank, with which he acquires a company whose stock yields 6 or 7 percent, he doesn’t want to hire more people; he wants to lay off workers, to cut corners, to use the pension fund to pay the bank, and to threaten workers with company default if they don’t give up their current pension plans and other benefits.

The way to make money fastest is in an economy that’s being looted. Adam Smith said the rate of interest [referring to the interest payments the population had to make to the creditors] is often highest in countries going fastest to ruin.

Hudson says that the one identity that’s left out in Identity Politics is the identity of the person who has to work for a living.

The dream of finance capitalism / rentier markets is neofeudalism: that all income above subsistence be pledged to the rent-seekers, to the usurers, to the monopolists, to the plutocracy.

The practice of a Government borrowing in foreign currency [swiss franks and euros for instance] to finance domestic projects, which will require domestic currency to be printed anyway is ‘fake economics.’ Instead of being stuck with paying principal plus interest in a foreign currency [to fatten bankers], it’s much better for the Government to simply print its own interest-free currency.

High population levels don’t inflate property prices. Hudson gives India and China as examples and contrasts them with Western countries. It’s how much the banks are able to squeeze from the population that determines property prices, not the population level itself.

John Stuart Mill said that economic rent is what landlords make in their sleep.

There’s agreement among all the mainstream parties that the top 10 percent wealthiest in society should benefit at the expense of the bottom 90 percent.

Why do politicians allow financiers to dictate to them economic policy? Bribery, campaign contributions, blackmail, and crime.

For old people and retirees, who can’t afford to pay land value tax, the Government can freeze the money obligation on them for a given time period. However, the back tax [the arrears] will be collected from the sale of the property when the owner dies or moves out. Nobody has to be kicked out in the streets.

My enumeration ceases here. But there are many other important points Hudson makes. I encourage readers to make time and watch the whole seminar. To me, the notion of seizing the Natural Commons for the people is not only economically sound, but morally just, whether one’s of a particular faith or no faith. Treating land as capital, as a commodity, an instrument for speculation – to me – is not only economically unsound and false, but a sin against Man and an affront to God. In spite of my atheist brain, that is how my heart perceives it.

Erdogan is Right about Monetary Policy

by Serban V.C. Enache

Last month, Turkey’s president fired the head of the country’s Central Bank, Murat Cetinkaya. “We told him several times to cut interest rates at meetings on the economy […] We said that if rates fall, inflation will fall. He didn’t do what was necessary.” His view on monetary policy was mocked by mainstream economists, who are either incompetent or just playing dumb. Sure enough, the CB did what Erdogan desired. That being said, Turkey’s key lending rate and interbank rate remain in the double digits. Meanwhile, private debt to GDP has stabilized at around 170 percent and the public’s desire now is to slowly unwind.

Here’s why Erdogan’s unorthodox view on monetary policy is correct. The CB’s lending rate is the cost of borrowing reserves; reserves are used by banks for accounting and settlement purposes. Banks DO NOT lend out reserves to their debtor customers. The ability of banks to approve loans is contingent on their capital and the actual demand for loans: the presence of credit-worthy customers willing to borrow money. Banks first approve the loans, and later acquire the reserves if they need them. So long as a bank meets the capital requirement, it can always borrow reserves [in case it’s short on reserves] from the interbank market [from banks with a surplus of reserves] or from the Central Bank itself. The lending rate is a cost on liquidity. During a period of deleveraging, which the Turkish private sector wants to do, it’s not wise to increase this cost. At the same time, higher interest on reserves and on Government bonds translates into larger financial flows into the economy through the CB & Treasury interest payments channel.

A counter-argument can be made that, with a lower lending rate, speculators could borrow Liras more easily and use them to buy foreign currency. This is a legitimate concern, however, since Turkish private sector debt has peaked, fewer economic agents have a good balance sheet to engage in such activities, and at the same time, given the overall situation, banks are more prudent now, since their equity positions are shaky. This particular concern wouldn’t exist if the country’s laws ensured asset side discipline for the banking sector. Contrary to conventional beliefs, you don’t discipline banks on the liability side, but on the asset side. A bank’s liabilities are stable in value, but its assets [loans made] oscillate in value. The riskier the loans, the riskier the spread between assets and liabilities, endangering the bank’s equity position. Erdogan’s desire to have the Central Bank lower rates is beneficial in two ways for the Turkish economy. First, it allows for a smoother deleveraging phase. Second, it minimizes the volume of funds entering the economy via the CB & Treasury interest payments channel, easing inflationary pressures.

Here’s what Erdogan’s Government should do with regard to asset side regulations. Banks shouldn’t have subsidiaries of any kind, since keeping assets off balance sheet doesn’t serve public purpose and it makes it harder in real terms for Government regulators to monitor them. Banks shouldn’t be allowed to accept financial assets as collateral for loans, because leverage serves no public purpose. Banks shouldn’t be allowed to lend off-shore [for foreign purposes]; bilateral agreements between states should cover that type of activity. Banks shouldn’t be allowed to engage in proprietary trading or any profit making venture beyond basic lending. Banks would issue loans based on credit analysis, not market valuation; they would not be allowed to mark their assets to market prices. Banks shouldn’t be allowed to buy or sell credit default insurance. Banks shouldn’t be allowed to contract in an interest rate set in a foreign country. Banks would only be allowed to lend directly to customers, service and keep those loans on their own balance sheet. No public purpose is served by selling assets to third parties. The interbank market should be abolished as well, since it serves absolutely no public purpose. The CB should lend directly to its member banks. The reserve requirement should also be removed, since banks can provision themselves with enough liquidity [from the State] by simply looking at the behavior of their customers. And under all these rules in place, limited Government deposit insurance can be upgraded to full insurance. Last but not least, in order to improve the ability of banks to manage risk and lower overall speculation, a principle from the Islamic banking model should be adopted. It works as follows – when a customer comes in to get a loan to acquire a piece of property [a house, an apartment, a vehicle etc], the bank buys that property and gives it to the customer for use, but the bank retains ownership over it, until the debt is squared. This provision serves another great purpose… it facilitates an easy transition from mainstream taxation to the Single Tax [Georgist] framework. With this rule in place, the responsibility for paying the land-value tax [LVT] falls upon the bank, not the debtor. The debtor makes the debt payments to the bank, and the bank uses those funds to pay the LVT.

Here are two examples:

Phasing in Land-Value Taxation. I bought land through a bank loan, and now the Government has eliminated the property tax and instead introduced a 10 percent LVT. I’m stuck with paying the LVT and the debt I owe to the bank, which is not fair. Therefore, the Government introduces the Islamic banking rule retroactively, and the ownership of the land goes to my creditor, who can’t kick me out, as long as I honor my debt payments. With this change in ownership, the bank accepts a loss of 10 percent [the LVT]. It’s much easier for Government to deal with financial firms in an orderly, institutional manner, than directly with every household faced with this double-burden. The State can temporarily relax capital requirements, should it be necessary in the transition from the antiquated, regressive and perverse tax code to the new, fair and efficient one. The boys and girls at the Bank of International Settlements will, of course, grimace at such a bold and informed move.

Full Land-Value Taxation is in place. Banks won’t be happy to accept land as collateral, given the fact land has a 100 percent tax liability on it. And those that do will have to hope for a near zero profit at best. So gaining access to land will be possible in most cases without any upfront cost. A citizen will simply pledge to pay LVT to the State, and he or she gets the respective plot.

Going back to the issue at hand… mainstream commentators can mock Erdogan as much as they want, but they’re the ones who are wrong about interest rates. The ‘natural’ interest rate on fiat money is zero! Anything below zero is a tax. Anything above zero is a subsidy. Those who claim that higher interest rates lower the volume of ‘malinvestment’ are arguing for a regressive and inefficient way to combat it. According to their logic, all pharmaceuticals should be sold at a premium, to make it more expensive for those seeking to buy the drugs for recreational use, instead of treating illnesses. Why should everyone pay more because a few abuse these products? Why should the cost of money be higher, just because some use it for speculation, rather than wealth creation? The correct logic is to distinguish between productive and unproductive economic activity. Encourage the former and discourage the latter. Higher interest rates across the board [levied irrespective of the type of economic activity] is as regressive as it gets and it hardly does anything to contain malinvestment. Those who blame the real estate bubble on low interest rates [so-called artificially low rates] are wholly missing the root cause: privatized land rents – landlords and money lenders appropriating the value of location [value which they did not create]. Without this phenomenon, asset price inflation wouldn’t occur. Under full land-value capture, property prices would be kept stable. If Erdogan wants to escape the looming recession and secure his power, instead of engaging in damage control, his Administration should push in the Georgist direction, even if that means completely pissing off the vested interests within and without Turkey.

The 2nd Zimbabwean Hyperinflation

by Serban V.C. Enache

Zimbabwe is once again facing rampant inflation, a rate of almost 100 percent recorded in the month of May.

I felt the need to investigate its macros. As usual, the graphs are based on info from tradingeconomcis. An important development is that last month, the Government removed the legal tender status of foreign currencies and made the new Zimbabwean Dollar [RTGS] the sole legal tender.

The country dropped its national currency back in 2009, and replaced it with a multi [foreign] currency system in efforts to combat hyperinflation at the time. The recent reverse measure, taken by Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, comes in response to dire commodity shortages across the country. Mnangagwa replaced Robert Mugabe as president two years ago in a coup. However, without sufficient US dollars to pay for imports, the country’s fuel stations have frequently run out and gasoline prices more than doubled between the months of January and April.

Fuel going up, coupled with the currency’s depreciation, made the cost of food, transportation, and housing utilities to soar. Due to the lack of confidence, as expected, more and more vendors set prices in US dollars.

In a milestone deal with the IMF last month, the Government agreed to cease net money creation [deficit spending] in order to pay its bills, which was a root cause of the sudden hyperinflation. The IMF is monitoring economic reforms for a year under a mutually agreed program. Debt relief was promised at the end of this year, provided the Government respects the deal. Companies are meant to trade RTGS dollars on an official market, but there were few takers. Analysts said that the Government’s gamble to force greater adoption of the RTGS might very well backfire, pushing transactions in foreign currencies underground.

With all these developments in mind, let’s see Zimbabwe’s flow of funds, and later on we’ll look at other indicators. The country has been a net exporter of Aggregate Demand and a net importer of goods for ten years straight. The Domestic Private sector [composed of domestic firms and households] has been going severely into debt for those same ten years. Only in the last two years was it able to net save financial assets, when the Government seriously expanded fiscal deficit spending.

We also see how the country’s money supply shot up, especially in 2018 and 2019. The M2 measurement [which includes cash and checking deposits + savings deposits, money market securities, mutual funds, and other time deposits] reached an all time high of 10.55 billion US dollars last March.

The unemployment figure has remained stable throughout years, but I don’t put much faith in the accuracy of this data, simply because of how the State defines being unemployed. For example, people like subsistence farmers, who consume all of their own output, are categorized as employed. And more to the point, the graph below is based on the “strict unemployed” definition [one who has been without work, is available for work and is actively seeking work]. The broader definition doesn’t require the latter condition.

Those working in the grey [informal] economy include people who do unpaid labor for a family business or paid employees who are not entitled to sick leave or paid holidays. In Zimbabwe, there are a great many who work in these circumstances. If we count as employed those workers on a payroll with taxes deducted at source and pension coverage, then the unemployment estimate is huge.

On to trade. South Africa owns the largest share of Zimbabwe’s exports. In my opinion, the country is far too dependent on its southern neighbor for commerce, and South Africa’s socio-political stability looks bleak these days. It would be better to seek out markets in different countries, in order to minimize risk and better handle potential negative demand shocks [for Zimbabwean exports] and negative supply shocks [for Zimbabwean imports].

The graph below shows Zimbabwe’s exports by countries of destination.

The graph below shows Zimbabwe’s imports by countries of source.

According to the World Bank, Zimbabwe’s exports sector as percentage of GDP last year was 22.9 percent and its imports sector 25.5 percent.

It’s safe to say that strategic bilateral relations cannot be formed, so long as Zimbabwe’s political class doesn’t compromise on a certain vector the country needs to maintain long term. Foreign investors [state and private agents] won’t be willing to come in, if they believe their investments will be at risk at the next election cycle, or if the chances for political instability and social upheaval are high. In recent years, Russia has been paying more attention to Africa, the northern states in particular, investing mostly in oil rigs and nuclear power plant deals. That’s one potential partner state with which the Mnangagwa administration should seek to do business.

Going back to Zimbabwe’s main trade partner, South Africa… that country is experiencing serious problems in rising criminality, and Ramaphosa’s land reform [confiscation without compensation] is bound to fail. In South Africa, since 1994, 21 percent of farms were put into Black African ownership. But more than 80 percent of those farms failed to remain economically active. If you ask Black farmers the reason for that miserable success rate, they blame the Government, and that’s absolutely true. That’s how you know it was a simulation of reform and not a legit effort behind it; because a singular reform, in and of itself, can’t be successful when everything else remains the same. In order to be a commercial success, an agribusiness requires access to infrastructure, to financial and physical capital, crop insurance, skilled labor, competent management, and access to markets capable of absorbing its output at a price which covers operation costs plus the markup.

South Africa [and Zimbabwe] needs a holistic approach to its national problems, and that means a combination of measures. Changing ownership doesn’t fix anything. The goal should be to decommodify land, which can be done via nationalization or [my personal preference] through site value taxation. Complementary measures should include: community land trusts, community banking, a national infrastructure investment plan, a national health care and education service, a national trade strategy, and last but not least, asset-side reform of the financial sector.

Reducing bureaucracy should be a priority as well. Currently, Zimbabwe is ranked 155th in 190 countries in the category of ‘ease of doing business.’ The more complex the laws and regulations are, the more wasteful and corrupt the system is. The State-dirigist method and Single Tax philosophy don’t require more time spent between citizen and bureaucrat, quite the opposite!

After Mugabe’s land reform, Zimbabwe isn’t out of the woods, and its population is growing too.

Using the printing press without any regard to budgetary rules, without any clear goal in mind, will only make the situation worse. The Zimbabwean Dollar [RTGS], in order to appreciate in value, requires a combination of tighter supply and higher demand for it. The Government’s specialists need to determine the country’s potential output vis-a-vis actual output and adjust fiscal policy in consequence. A negative output gap occurs when actual output is less than what the economy can produce at full capacity – while a positive output gap is the reverse and is inflationary.

The Government should aim for a near zero fiscal deficit; should temporarily ban the importation of luxury items, at least for a few years if not several years; should prioritize the importation of vital commodities – fuel, water, pharmaceuticals, grain, milk, and the like. The Central Bank should be ordered to run permanent zero interest rate policy. Reduced interest payments into the economy means a smaller supply of Zimbabwean currency. And the Government should only accept RTGS in payment of its exports, and it should only guarantee bank deposits denominated in RTGS. This combo would be sufficient to halt inflation, bring price stability and political confidence in state institutions and fuel hope for a better tomorrow.

The Cure For Hyperinflation: Weimar and Venezuela

by Serban V.C. Enache

We frequently hear people bemoan the dreaded phenomenon of hyperinflation. We often hear only one explanation for it – the government printed money like crazy. We rarely hear the reasons behind the overuse of the currency press, which are: loss of output capacity [human and material] as a result of natural disasters or loss of a war, unfair war reparations, political instability, brazen corruption, the end of a fixed exchange rate with a strong currency. In this article I’ll focus on the cure for the phenomenon of hyperinflation – and this cure won’t entail brutal fiscal austerity that halts inflation by condemning much land and capital [buildings and machinery] to idleness and a great many souls to involuntary unemployment, poverty, and sickness.

The Weimar Republic. Background.

After WW1, life in Germany became hell. The political and economic burdens the creditors of the Versailles Treaty [Woodrow Wilson especially] imposed on the Germans created the conditions for the hyperinflation which soon followed. These impositions were highly unjust and impossible to meet. Meanwhile, the Ruhr Valley, Germany’s industrial heartland was occupied by the Allies. Workers responded to the occupation by organizing strikes. Crashing economic activity led to falling tax revenues and higher welfare payments. The Government, deprived of gold reserves and output capacity, had no choice but to print money to cover its costs plus the war reparations. Hyperinflation ensued. Farmers and manufacturers more and more refused to sell their output for the increasingly devalued Papiermark. This is the context of the phenomenon. Those interested in the facts will verify them, those interested solely in confirming their preconceived notions will dismiss them.

The Plan To Fix The Problem

Finance Minister Hans Luther, working together with Hjalmar Schacht [later head of the Central Bank], using Karl Helfferich’s idea of a currency backed by real goods, formulated a scheme to contain the rampant inflation of the Papiermark. In 1923, Berlin, the Rentenbank was created. The institution provided credit to agriculture, industry, and commerce.

The term “Rentenbank” stems from “annuity bonds”, fixed-income securities [bearer bonds] issued by the first pension banks during the 19th century. Since the Middle Ages the peasants were forced to provide easements to their landlords – various hand services and the like. In the early 19th century, though, agrarian reforms started in Prussia and other German states aimed to disband these obligations. The effort initially failed owing to a lack of a proper credit system.

To accelerate the agrarian reforms, pension banks were established as state-owned mortgage banks. They gave state-guaranteed, freely tradable and fixed-rate bonds (annuities) as money compensation for the expired privilege of the landlords. On the other hand, the peasants paid fixed income to the pension funds over a long period of time, from which the banks were able to service the principal and interest on the bonds. These reforms and the liberation of the peasants gained traction and agricultural productivity rose dramatically.

Enter the Rentenmark

Returning to the 1920s, November 1923 to be precise, the Rentenbank issued its own currency, the Rentenmark, which was covered by mortgages on the grounds of holdings. Total amount of mortgages and land imposts was valued at over 3.2 billion gold-marks. The Act creating the Rentenmark ensured twice yearly payments on property, due in April and October. In return for the real estate, Rentenbank issued interest-bearing bonds with a value of over 500 gold marks or a multiple thereof. The exchange rate between the Rentenmark and the Papiermark was set at 1:1 trillion, and with the US Dollar at 4.2:1.

The Rentenmark didn’t have legal tender status, so there was no legal obligation for private agents to accept it as a means of payment, however, all public institutions had to accept it. Even without legal tender status, the citizens embraced it right away. The Rentenmark’s value was relatively stable, while its quantity remained fixed, Shacht insisted on it. On August 30th, 1924, the newly-introduced Reichsmark became legal tender and was given equal value to the Rentenmark. It’s very important to note that this exchange rate was applied to two fiat currencies over which the Government had power of authority. It retained the right to alter the exchange rate if it wanted or needed to. The issued Rentenmark nominal remained in circulation up until 1948.

Tight Money Policy

In charge of the Central Bank, Hjalmar Schacht implemented a tight monetary policy, the institution ceased discounting Papiermark bills and, despite political pressures, he kept the volume of Rentenmarks strictly limited. As for fiscal policy, Finance Minister Hans Luther went on the austerity route, the correct choice given the circumstances. He brought forward due dates for taxes, increased prepayments of assessed taxes, raised the sales tax, and readjusted the fiscal burden between the regional governments [Lands] and the Reich [the Central Government]. Spending-wise, Luther shrank the number of Reich bureaucrats by a quarter over four months, froze bonuses and reduced their wages. These measures accompanying the issuance of the ‘land-backed’ Rentenmark succeeded; hyperinflation was brought to an end immediately. People spoke of the ‘miracle of the pension mark.’

Between 1926 and 1929 inflation hovered below 2 percent. In the early 30s, however, in reply to the Great Depression, the Government of Heinrich Bruning imposed harsh austerity measures needlessly [tightening credit, cutting wages, cutting public assistance, and increasing taxes], which exploded unemployment and poverty levels in the country and, in the process, made the once marginal Nazis incredibly popular with the people. The National Socialists opposed Bruning’s Government from the beginning, unlike the other right wing parties. Bruning and his policies became widely hated.

See the graph below.

The reader will rightly ask, why did fiscal austerity work for Schacht and Luther, but not for Bruning’s Government? Schacht and Luther applied counter-cyclical fiscal and monetary policy, while Bruning applied pro-cyclical policy. Excess demand relative to supply is eliminated via taxation [draining income from the private sector]. But during the Great Depression, there was too little demand relative to what was actually on the shelves. Bruning’s reforms collapsed aggregate demand levels even further.

Thoughts On Venezuela

The geopolitical aspect is very important, for it can greatly amplify minor or general problems very fast [See Turkey], or it can spark them. The State Central Bank’s dollars in non-cash form reside in accounts at the Federal Reserve, which are beyond Maduro’s control. The Government can’t access these funds. Recently, the US and the UK stole Venezuelan oil and bank assets worth about 30 billion dollars. More so, the US has imposed an outright embargo against Venezuela [trade sanctions levied since 2013 got harsher and harsher, depriving the country of hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity]. Lastly, belligerent statements coming from Europe and Latin America [Brazil and Colombia especially] and Washington threatening with ‘all options on the table,’ which includes assassination, sabotage, coup, and invasion.

Footage from supermarkets in the capital, stores filled with produce, reveal that a shortage of goods isn’t the problem, but high prices. If it’s true that Maduro’s Government kept public spending high without re-adjusting it to falling prices of crude, then his policy is a key contributor to the bolivar’s dramatically reduced purchasing power. Currency pegs and indexation of wages and pensions with anticipated inflation feed the vicious loop. The Venezuelan Government announced that it’s accepting payments in Euros. In my opinion, this is a big mistake, because the ECB can pull the same stunt on Venezuela that the FED pulled. Maduro is much better off negotiating an entry into the Petro-Yuan with Beijing. Why? You can purchase virtually anything from China. China has made numerous investments across the developing world without asking for political concessions in exchange, in stark contrast to the likes of the IMF. Beijing doesn’t seek regime change or privatizations in exchange for its money. It does business with whoever is interested and it offers advantageous rates too. Trade-wise the Chinese are interested in two things: securing raw material imports and securing demand for their factories. It’s a win-win for both sides.

In my opinion, Venezuela will become Syria 2.0, because there’s no sign that Washington is going to accept any other outcome. The satanic crowd around Trump, the Deep State, and their servants in the corporate media are all pushing the same old hypocritical, war-mongering narrative. They spew it as if it’s a new dish too, not the same rotten thing, teeming with slime and worms. And before we blame it all on the Republicans, remember that 85 percent of journalists in the US are registered Democrats. Since this issue is bipartisan, we know it’s outright devilry. Bolton, Pence, Trump, and the rest – they want to cover up their failure to dismember Syria and Iran by picking on Venezuela, a more vulnerable target closer to home.

If I were in Maduro’s shoes, I’d escalate things ahead of my rivals. I would invite in Russian and Chinese troops and war-gear. Washington doesn’t like to cooperate or negotiate with sovereign regimes. For many decades now, the logic has been, you do as we say, otherwise we treat you as a rogue state. Against a rival who doesn’t wish to bargain and who has threatened [euphemistically or not] violence and murder, you’ve no choice but to take all measures required. Maduro has to choose the 2nd most extreme of defence options [2nd only to the preemptive strike, which doesn’t apply here] because in this context, it’s the wisest step.

If mainstream commentators are fine with US gangsterism, with countries purchasing protection from Washington and the Military Industrial Complex, then they should be fine with Venezuela purchasing protection from Russia and China. They can’t oppose it without being hypocrites and without being Monroe Doctrine apologists, defenders of imperialism, oppression, and mass-murder; not that that’s gonna stop them. Let’s not be naive, US hegemony is shaking. The 2nd Cold War is on.

Update on Venezuela: a report by CEPR finds that US sanctions against Venezuela, started by Trump in 2017, are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths.

So What’s The Cure, Dammit?

The recipe for a return to price stability is contingent on the factors which spawned the instability. This list of measures will hopefully cover all eventualities: 1) Counter-cyclical fiscal policy [drain excess money in circulation via taxation, while cutting superfluous spending.] 2) Land-value capture to replace taxation of buildings, labor, sales, and enterprise [taxing natural monopolies, the rent of location; the site-value tax carries negative dead weight – it brings efficiency to the marketplace]. 3) Buffer stock policies [the public authority buys seminal commodities during periods of excess production and sells these commodities domestically during times of dearth]. 4) Allow the national currency to float freely according to demand [drop any fixed exchange rate, whether it’s to gold or foreign currencies, and embrace a sovereign fiat regime]. 5) Negotiate with rival political factions to settle differences and produce a national accord that appeases all sides to a reasonable extent. 6) Ration basic resources to ensure no section of the population starves [hands and minds are precious and must be kept alive and functional to create goods and services for another day; there’s no sense in killing off one section of the population to feed another extra rations]. 7) Bring in a second or third great power in your region, in order to decrease the bargaining power of the established one/s and strengthen your own position in the process. 8) Link up the country’s regions through a comprehensive system of infrastructure, high speed rail especially [the points of resource extraction with the manufacturing centers, the latter with the marketplaces]. 9) Restrict bank lending for speculative purposes [do not permit banks to accept financial assets as collateral for loans, or to mark their assets to market prices.] 10) Discourage private and public agents from borrowing in foreign currency [always ensure loans in domestic currency are cheaper than in foreign currency; never subsidize the latter type of loans]. 11) Employ all available labor to achieve maximum output [Depending on the situation, participation in public works programs would be mandatory or voluntary. In case of emergency, working hours could be increased and holidays decreased.] 12) Don’t lose a war [or better said, don’t lose peace negotiations concerning your fate]. 13) War Bonds [While the role of War Bonds is to allegedly fund a war, in practice what they do is drain liquidity from those who purchase them. They can be denominated in foreign currency, domestic currency, or both. That being said, liquid or illiquid purchasing power is still purchasing power. People can still purchase things on credit, contingent on their own financial situation. War Bonds may have a psychological effect on the populace, reminding households that they must tighten their belts, deferring consumption to the future, so more supplies can be allocated to the troops in the now. The promise is that, after the war is won, bond holders get paid at a profit. 14) Retiring the currency and replacing it with another [Brazil did it several times in the last 77 years; the Government announces taxes and fines payable in a different currency. This method involves burning away people’s cash savings. To escape hyperinflation, Zimbabwe gave several foreign currencies legal tender status.]

The Clock’s Ticking for Turkey

by Serban V.C. Enache

The financial picture looks like this:

Turkish Government debt: 28 percent of GDP in 2017, and has been falling for several years. Private sector debt is 170 percent of GDP – and roughly 35 percent of that is denominated in foreign currency. Turkish nominal GDP growth has been solid for several years, even reaching the double digit mark. Continue reading “The Clock’s Ticking for Turkey”