Channeling Hayek

It Is Not A Matter Of If With Hyperinflation, But When

Dr. Marc Faber gets it exactly right, except he misses one key point: he was channeling Hayek.

Booms and busts happen also under the gold standard like we had in the 19th century various railroad and canal booms, and we also had real estate booms, first on the east coast in Chicago, then, at end of the century, in California. What the Federal Reserve has really done is create a lot of economic volatility. If you look back at the various crisis starting with the S&L crisis in 1990, then the Tequila crisis [the Mexican Peso crisis] in 1994, then Long Term Capital Management (LTCM), the NASDAQ bubble and at the current crisis, each crisis actually became worse and worse and the bubbles became bigger and bigger. The Federal Reserve did not pay any attention to excessive credit growth. The reason I am so negative about the Federal Reserve’s policies is that they only target core inflation and argue that they can’t identify bubbles, but when each bubble bursts they flood the system with liquidity that bring about unintended consequences.

Basically, if you look at consumption as a percent of the economy and at housing activity, the excessive debt growth began essentially after LTCM and, I have to say, it was a huge mistake of the Treasury and Fed to bailout LTCM because it gave Market participants in the financial sector a signal that there is a Greenspan put, and later on a Bernanke put, with an even higher strike price and this resulted in excess leverage. So, if you have problems, the Federal Reserve will bail you out or the system will bail you out. That’s where I think the Federal Reserve acted irresponsibly—irresponsibly—that has to be said very clearly. They didn’t pay attention to credit growth. Every central banker in the world pays attention to credit growth, but not in the US.

The first action Mr. Bernanke should take is to resign

The solution is, basically, for the government to move out and not intervene in the economy. There are economists who will dispute that the Federal Reserve is partially responsible for the crisis and there are economists that will still tell you that debt doesn’t matter, that deficits don’t matter and they want to continue to intervene in the free market constantly. To these economists I respond: What about Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac? It was an intervention by the government into the housing market and into the mortgage market and the biggest bankruptcies—bigger than Citigroup and all the banks—are Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac— government-sponsored enterprises.

HRN: It seems the US is moving towards more government intervention into the free market rather than less.

Dr. Marc Faber: Yes. That’s why I’m very negative about economic growth in the US. It just won’t happen. Can the US economy grow at 2% per annum or, in the best case scenario, at 3% per annum with current policies? Yes, but it will create a lot of distortions. The best case for an economy that goes into a boom phase, in other words over consumption, is to bring it back into the trend line as quickly as possible. So when you have an excursion into a boom, what you need is a cleansing of the system and that may take a few years to happen in the US because the excesses were built up not just in the last 7 years between 2000 and 2007 but, over the last 25 years. So, to really bring the US back into sanity—into a healthy mode where the economy can grow—might take 5 to 10 years, but it won’t happen under the Obama administration.

HRN: Given the poor prospects for US economic growth, do you foresee a flight of capital from the United States?

Dr. Marc Faber: You would be out of your mind, with health care reforms and with the government interventions and the uncertainty about future taxes in the US, to even consider expanding in the US and this is a problem.

HRN: Is this an example of why central planning of the economy by the Federal Reserve isn’t effective?

Dr. Marc Faber: Yes. Exactly.

HRN: Do you think hyperinflation in the US is possible?

It’s more a question of when it will happen rather than if it will happen.

Sorry for the long quote.  But it’s exactly what the problem is: central banking, credit driven boom/bust cycles, central planning, and intervention.  Would have loved if he’d have mentioned Hayek, but maybe it’s better he didn’t in the sense that now Hayek’s views are becoming mainstream, so mainstream that he needn’t even be referenced.  Maybe one day economists will say “we’re all Austrians now”!!


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