The Truth about Economics: Part 9 Mortgaging the Future

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(See Comic) Relative Price Rises General commodity prices have been rising since the beginning of the decade. Part of that rise in prices has been related to supply and demand issues (or at least the anticipation of supply and demand issues). The other aspect to the price rises has been excessive money supply growth leading to a steadily weaker dollar. Although it seems like, for example, oil has become quite expensive in recent years when denominated in dollars, it has actually remained fairly steady in price relative to gold. And that means that if you had all your money in gold (which is historically “real money”) the rise in prices would be for the most part a non issue. Each time commodities have sold off and corrected on their steady march upward, people have been calling an end to the bull market in commodities. It hasn’t happened yet, but there has been a good sized correction in recent weeks. For example, silver has seen a big decline off it’s March highs. But the lower prices have really simply increased demand for silver. So, the decline is more manipulation than anything. Go try to buy some silver bullion near spot price and you’ll see it isn’t all that easy because demand is high. For those looking to get into silver as a hedge against inflation, these lower prices are a gift. And those lower prices are also a gift for people who bought in at higher prices. Unless you are some market wizard, you’ll never be able to pick the exact top or bottom of a market. Thus, by averaging in and out of a market you assure that you won’t buy or sell everything at the exact wrong time. That is called dollar cost averaging. And the beauty of precious metals investing is that it is basically just insurance anyway. So, no matter where the price goes longer term, it is going to be where it needs to be to act as an inflation hedge. Short Term Bail Out The recent government bail out of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is merely a symptom of the excessive money supply growth the US has seen in recent years. Most dollars are made by the banking industry through fractional reserve lending. So, when lending got loose through the risk distribution afforded to lending institutions by packaging large groups of mortgages into mortgage backed securities combined with low interest rates, the recipe was in place for excessive money supply growth. Since all this new money was debt (as all new money is in our current debt based monetary system) that debt came with interest. That is a problem because the only place to get the money to pay the interest is through making more debt. It is an accelerating treadmill effect (inflate or die). If money supply growth slows, people default on their debt. People defaulting on debt makes it hard for lending institutions to maintain their required fractional reserves. Since the money they lent out never really existed except as book keeping entries, when people demand the money from the bank used as reserves for loans, a bank can quickly become insolvent. Technically, all banks are insolvent. But it usually isn’t an issue unless people start demanding their money from the bank. Most of that money doesn’t really exist and that is why the FDIC exists. The FDIC makes up the difference between actual money and money invented trough fractional reserve lending is necessary. We may be seeing a bit of disinflation right now, but inevitably we are going to try and inflate our way out of this mess. And that will just make the mess even bigger. If we don’t inflate, we’ll have a major depression. If we do inflate, we’ll still eventually have a major depression, but we’ll delay it some more. John Maynard Keynes, the economist responsible for a lot of the thinking behind our current insane economy, advocated solving economic problems sort term because in his words, “In the long run, we are all dead.” But really, we aren’t all dead, that is just an excuse for mortgaging the future.