Millions of Venezuelans escape a country destroyed by bad government and coercive collectivism.
The border of Colombia and Ecuador is full of Venezuelans who are doing their earnest to escape the clutches of a coercive regime in search of free markets and better opportunities. Common tourists, amongst the droves of Venezuelans, must wait hours and hours in a line that wraps around the immigration office here in Ipiales, Colombia. During peak days, it can take over 24 hours to cross the border between Colombia and Ecuador.
The border crossing’s elevation is 2898 m (9500 ft), which makes the experience a rather cold one as nighttime approaches. Individuals in line are able to stay warm with the help of vendors selling coffee, hot dogs, and empanadas.
Most South American countries have no choice but to allow free movement of these refugees due to treaties signed by UN member states. The strain of this situation hampers economic stability and the free flow of goods and services due to long lines at the border.
While in the line, one can also learn of the tragedies affecting the people of Venezuela and understand why they are leaving their beloved homeland. Men and women full of fond memories and past success, now crushed by coercive collectivism. Doctors, welders, and professionals of all sorts are throwing away their experience to land a job in a neighboring country, hoping to make the minimum wage of $300 per month in favorable countries such as Chile and Peru. Ecuador and Colombia are not desirable, and Brazil’s language barrier makes the destination unattainable.
To date, an estimated 4 million Venezuelans have left the country. Hyperinflation is the sole reason these people have left. “There is a lot of work, but there is no money.” The minimum wage is currently 2,000,000 Bolivars per month which equates to $3 USD per month. That is $36 per year. The price of a kilogram of beef in Venezuela is $3 dollars and the price of shampoo is also $3.
To make matters worse, the Venezuelan government instituted new currency controls on money entering the country through financial institutions. In order to send money to your family members stuck in Venezuela, you must have a bank account in both Venezuela and an outside country. One refugee believes this policy is “choking the people.”
The current administration’s new constitution would completely eliminate the ability to own private property. This market uncertainty makes investments impossible.
The people who are working to stay in the country are almost at the end of what seems to be the brink of collapse. Schools are functioning, but they have no food to feed their students. Most of the faculty members leave the schools in search of new opportunities. Revolutionaries like the violin playing patriot and Oscar Pérez have become heroes to Venezuelans trying to take back their country.
The Venezuelan regime is continuing to provide a box of food to each family in accordance with its collectivist agreement. This box is called CLAP and contains two packages of flour and rice along with powdered milk “if you are lucky.” The frequency of these food distributions is about once every 5 to 6 months according to a refugee waiting in the 24-hour line.
One wealthy Venezuelan had a stable career for over 15 years. He had a house, a car, and “a whole complete life.” He went on trips with his family inside and outside the country. Right now he is busy moving groups of Venezuelans to more favorable environments scattered throughout South America. He understands the attraction of collectivism and believes “the Venezuelans have to learn the lesson.”
A Colombian bus driver passes and asks, “are you going to Cúcuta?”, a town on the border of Venezuela and Colombia, 32 hours in the opposite direction from this particular crossing.
It is truly a sad state of affairs for the people of Venezuela who slowly lost their grip on freedom and their country. Experts believe it will take 30 years to bring this country back to its former self. Many Venezuelans will most likely never return to their homeland, which is but another civilization lost to socialism and coercive collectivism.
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Donald Trump, as reported in Bob Woodward’s new book “Fear: Trump in the White House”, told Gary Cohn, the Director of the National Economic Council, to just “run the presses– print more money” when addressing the insurmountable US Federal Debt. Donald Trump, the same man who ran a campaign to the White House that pledged to “eliminate the [$19 trillion national] debt over a period of eight years”, thinks we can print our way out of this mess.
Bob Woodward, an investigative journalist and Editor at the Washington Post since back in the Nixon days of 1971, wrote a full book exposure of the Trump White House in comparison to the other administrations he’s seen in his tenure at WaPo. In the book, Woodward describes a back-and-forth between the National Economic Council and Trump that is truly telling of how out of the loop President Trump is. While the book dates the quotes and conversations back to 2015 and 2016 during his campaign, it is hard to believe the stances on this economic issue have changed in the slightest. With the signing of reckless spending bills and omnibus budgets that only increase the forecast of US government expenditures, it is clear that President Trump is all talk and no walk on the subject of the current economic crisis that is the National debt.
Whether or not it was already known that Trump’s words bleed insincerity when it comes to spending cuts or a balanced US checkbook, it is evident now that the current POTUS has no viable long-term solution for the issue, which could cause the worst depression yet. His “solution” if it could be considered as such, of printing more money to offset the effects of the ever-growing now $21 trillion national debt is not just infeasible, but is admittedly extremely popular in Washington D.C. and the White House itself, with past Presidencies.
We see in the Obama administration, the idea of printing more money caught wildfire throughout the EU and G-20 with direction by former President Obama himself. In fact, there was a specific occasion during a G-20 meeting where Obama and Biden called on Angela Merkel of Germany to start “pulling their weight in the global effort of economic stability” by “printing” more money. As much of an oxymoron as that sounds to even the most amateur economist, it is a legitimate belief that has spiraled many countries to insurmountable debt.
The Basis of Economics
The principles of economics rest on responsibility with the money you own. It would be foolish for the average person to go out and buy a $350 Xbox One when after my checkbook is cleared, I only have $150 to spend. Why do we not ask this much culpability from our Federal Government?
It all started back in the days of Woodrow Wilson, and the creation of the Federal Reserve as an entity itself in 1917. The overarching power of a central bank to be the authority on all things money related can be a powerful responsibility, and in most times, a detriment to the economy it attaches itself to. Before the creation of the Federal Reserve, only $20 billion in debt had accumulated in the years after the Civil War. When adjusted to inflation, this comes out to around $51.7 billion, just barely 25 percent of what the US National Debt is today. Since then, we’ve seen the ability to print money used as a weapon to over tax citizens, and justify wars overseas where the US frankly should not be involved in at all.
In the case of George W. Bush, the National Debt was increased 101%, tacking on $5.849 trillion to pay for the (ongoing) War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. Military expenses rose to all-time highs, and when the US taxpayers couldn’t chip in the yearly $600-800 billion necessary to fund it, Bush and the Federal Reserve created the money out of thin air to respond to the 9/11 attacks over a span of 8 years that hasn’t stopped since. When will we be done with this intervention? The question has yet to be answered, and President Trump hasn’t made progress in that regard either.
Bad economic habits and fiscal irresponsibility is prevalent across the board, no matter party denomination. President Obama raised the debt 74% in his tenure in the White House, adding $8.588 trillion from fiscal years 2008-2016. Whereas Bush picked his poison with military spending, Obama focused more on tax cuts, unemployment benefits, and public works projects to recklessly spend more money than the US Government could even think about obtaining. That’s not to say that Obama didn’t have his fair share of military spending checks sent to the Department of Defense consisting of artificially printed money, because the War on Terror persisted throughout his Presidency as well. These bad values will lead us to the next depression at the expense of the taxpayer and common folk, while the people who got us in this mess leave untouched.
Hyperinflation is defined as the monetary inflation that occurs at a high. uncontrollable rate. When the economy sees an influx of money in circulation, prices rise as the natural tendency of the free market sets out to do. When the government steps in to pay for it’s mistakes or overspending by printing money out of thin air is where the problems really start to occur. As Kimberly Amadeo of The Balance describes: “Instead of tightening the money supply to stop inflation, the government keeps printing more. With too much currency sloshing around, prices skyrocket. Once consumers realize what is happening, they expect continued inflation. They buy more now to avoid paying a higher price later. That excessive demand aggravates inflation. It’s even worse if they stockpile goods and create shortages.”
The economy will crash in the event of Trump printing more money to stabilize the National Debt, and it won’t be a small recession. We will see the closing of businesses as the value of the US dollar declines, leading to lower imports and exports, and a shortage of goods in the US market. With all of this leading to a disaster, we beg the question: Why aren’t we holding these government workers to higher standards? After all, they clearly aren’t looking out for our best interests. On his campaign trail, Trump vowed to be the change in the government bureaucracy that is Washington D.C., but he clearly can’t live up to that.
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When looking at the empirical evidence for economic systems, socialism/communism seems to be in dead last. Time and time again, socialist governments have met economic demise. The Soviet Union collapsed after starving massive amounts of people. Communist regimes throughout history have been notorious for massacring enemies of the socialist order. In the present, the Venezuelan state has hyperinflated the currency and is causing widespread economic degradation in their country. North Korea is held as the earth’s boogeyman of unfreedom.
But when confronted with this historical evidence, a proponent of any of the many forms of socialism will claim that it was “not real socialism.” They explain that if one small adjustment had been made to the economic-political order, we would have seen the worker’s utopia by now. Yet we have not. The twentieth century taught us that statism is a failure. Yet we have not heeded this lesson. Hoppe explains:
To this day, socialists claim that “true” socialism has not been refuted by the empirical evidence, and everything would have turned out well and unparalleled prosperity would have resulted, if only Trotsky’s, or Bucharin’s, or better still their very own brand of socialism, rather than Stalin’s, had been implemented.
At this early point, a leftist reader may make the claim that I am not using the terms “socialism” and “communism” correctly. When I use these words, I refer to a system where property is not owned privately. It is either owned by the state, the community, the workers, or any other body that is not private individuals/firms. If you as the reader brand yourself a socialist yet still believe in private property rights, I have no problem with your version of socialism. This is not the case of most socialists, though. They believe property should be owned by one of the aforementioned groups, rather than private individuals.
The Austro-libertarian critique of socialism is not purely based off of empiricism. It is a two-pronged critique, consisting of the Misesian problem of economic calculation and the Hayekian problem of knowledge. Both of these apply to any socialist/communist system that moves away from private property rights. They are not specific to any historical instance of communism or socialism. They merely apply to the economic theories behind such a system.
This puts pressure onto those that posit that socialism “is good and theory and bad in practice.” Its theory is where the Austro-libertarian critique is aimed. A similar empty statement is that “it would be good if it worked.” Well obviously – if socialism brought ultimate economic prosperity it would be good. But one of the conditions for socialism cannot be its success, yet this seems to have been tacked on to the definition. With such a definition, every failed socialistic regime can easily be brushed off as “not real socialism.” But the argument based on this definition is ultimately bankrupt for a socialist engaging in such an argument is merely playing with a bit of rhetorical trickery.
The Misesian side of the Austrian critique of socialism focuses on that issue of calculation. In the market, firms are required to create products that consumers are demanding. They can tell if they are by measuring the relationship between the total earnings and the costs. If costs exceed earnings, there is a loss, and the firm knows that it is not serving consumer demand. If earnings exceed costs, there is profit, and the firm will continue its present profitable action.
When the state is providing a good or service, it does not know if it is serving consumers. Because the state takes taxes and then produces, it does not need to worry about being profitable. Its earnings are secure because of its coercive nature. Thus, any bureaucracy faces an issue of unknown allocation. This includes any socialist agency that the state runs. The more processes of productions that are nationalized, the more resources are misallocated. Hoppe continues:
In distinct contrast, socialism means to have no economy, no economizing, at all, because under these conditions monetary calculation and cost-accounting is impossible by definition. If no private property in the factors of production exists, then no prices for any production factor exist; hence, it is impossible to determine whether or not they are employed economically.
On the Hayekian side sits the problem of knowledge. Hayek detailed that centrally planned economies are bound to fail because the central planner cannot know what to produce. They cannot hold in their head the needs of every individual. They cannot look out for the best interests of everyone all the time. It is only sensible that such a centrally planned economy should be delegated to subsidiary authorities. But when it comes to the workings of individual firms, who knows better for the firm than the individual in charge of the firm.
It does not matter if you define socialism as something different than what the historical instances have been. As long as you advocate for a system based upon the removal of private property rights and favor state/community ownership, there will inevitably be negative results. The state or commune cannot effectively allocate resources and satisfy the needs and wants of everyone. Socialism is ultimately a failure based simply off of its core characteristics.
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The world is sitting on the largest financial bubble ever created. While the economic elite says that we will never see another crisis in our time (just as Keynes said two years before the crash of 1929), we have been living in a bubble for more than a century, and it will inevitably break. This bubble, however, is unlike any economic boom we have dealt with before. The inflated commodity that will cause the future bust is the currency which the US Federal Government forces us to use: the US Dollar, and this is all because of the unnecessary fear of deflation.
Estimates say that as much as 98% of the value of the US Dollar has disappeared since the Federal Reserve claimed a monopoly power over currency in the United States. The only reason the Dollar has not collapsed already is due to legal tender laws, which requires businesses to deal in US Dollars within the US.
So, how did it get so bad? As alluded to in the first paragraph, it is because the government is terrified of deflation. They fear that since prices have a tendency to decrease, people will hoard their money since they can make a profit by simply refraining from spending in the present. Since consumers hold on to their money, firms earn less revenue, which causes them to decrease their spending. This leads to a decrease in employment, and therefore production. With this loss of production, those who make the factors of production also lose revenue, leading them to cut spending, thus decreasing production and employment. With the loss of employment, consumers spend even less. This ultimately leads to a complete collapse of the economy according to the Keynesians (see Chapter 12 of John Maynard Keynes’s The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money).
Deflationary Spiral will not destroy the economy
The process outlined in the prior paragraph is known as a “deflationary spiral,” in which deflation causes the entire economy to disappear. This, however, is an economic myth. In truth, a deflationary spiral can only occur under special circumstances. The reason why Keynes is wrong in assuming a deflationary spiral will happen is two-fold.
First, it is not possible for human beings to reduce spending externally. Although money does possess deflationary tendencies when unregulated, this does not mean that people will hoard their money indefinitely. Humans have basic needs, namely food, water, and housing. It simply isn’t possible for the people to cease all forms of economic activity.
The second reason why a deflationary spiral will not destroy an economy is time preference. Time preference is the concept that human beings prefer present goods to future goods. If one offered you one thousand dollars today or one thousand dollars in one month, people will typically take the money today. This is why we have an interest in society. Interest gives an incentive for one to refrain from present consumption so that they may have even more future consumption.
People, however, have varying degrees of time preference. The lower your time preference is, the more willing you are to forego present consumption for future consumption. Simply because something is cheaper in the future does not guarantee that someone will wait to consume it. If the price drop is high enough, then they will wait, but that only applies to those with low enough time preferences to be willing to wait. Those with higher degrees of time preference will still consume and the economy will not totally disappear.
What are the causes of deflation?
There are four immediate causes of deflation.
An increase in the demand for money will cause deflation. If the demand for money increases relative to the demand for goods, then price deflation will occur. Money will have an increased purchasing power due to the increased demand for money.
A decrease in the supply of money will lead to price deflation. If less money is in the system, then people will marginally value money more than goods. Simply put, with less money in the system, people will be able to purchase more goods for less money.
A decrease in the demand for goods. If the demand for goods decreases relative to the demand for money, then money becomes more valuable and deflation occurs.
An increase in aggregate output. In other words, an increase in the supply of goods will cause price deflation because production has become more efficient.
The commonality among these causes is that it leads to the decrease in the price of goods.
Deflation is caused by economic growth
The fourth cause of deflation, an increase in aggregate output, is simply economic growth. Economic growth, in fact, is inherently deflationary. When the people can afford more for less, there is growth. This compels more production, more innovation, and more prosperity, especially among the lower classes.
The only examples in which economic growth was not deflationary was in times of war. In times of war, the State forces an increase in production through inflationary policies that allow the government to “afford” these wars. This inflation, of course, always leads to a bust in the future.
Inflationary growth is unsustainable.
Under inflationary growth, the government utilizes their power to dictate the devaluation of their currencies. This leads to vast misallocations of resources. By devaluing the currencies, governments redistribute wealth to political entrepreneurs who position themselves to receive money straight from the printing press. Major banks and corporations are among the most prone to doing this.
The growth these firms experience, however, is vastly unsustainable, whereas it is built upon wealth that did not exist in the first place. In true growth, firms cut their costs in order to produce more efficiently and maximize their profits. Under inflation, however, the exact opposite happens. An inflationary monetary policy, especially one based on a fiat currency in a system that tolerates fractional reserve banking, will lead to a boom that must be corrected.
The idea that inflationary policies can lead to growth in the short run is just another example of the broken window fallacy. As mentioned before, political entrepreneurs who receive money straight from government printers benefit, but those who are not politically connected suffer since they cannot pay the higher wages and other costs. This leads to unnatural growth at the expense of others.
Inflation is fraud.
When the government implements a fiat system, they have the ability to manipulate the currency to deceive the masses into believing out economic condition is better than what it really is.
Fractional Reserve Banking
Perhaps the most egregious form of inflationary fraud is fractional reserve banking (FRB). FRB is a system in which banks loan out the deposits of its customers, keeping only a fraction of their nominal reserves in the bank. This leads to unnaturally low-interest rates and thus high levels of debt.
If a shock in the economy occurs, bank runs will happen. When it comes out that the bank can’t give its customers their money, the bank goes under (or gets bailed out due to government intervention), and the people lose everything.
FRB is a clear instance of fraud in which a bank claims to have more money than it truly has. It is loaning out its customers’ funds, leading to credit expansion, which leads to business cycles.
Of course, we can dodge this by returning to the gold standard and punishing those who partake in fractional reserve banking.
Deflationary Spiral punishes parasitic frauds.
Inflation must come down eventually. And the only way to do that is through deflation. This is not to be feared but celebrated. It is the market’s way of correcting the malinvestments caused by government manipulation of money. Deflation is a means by which the economy returns to the real world. In addition, it halts the centralization of power under governments that have cartelized the monetary system of their nations.
Firms that are deeply in debt, which have certainly taken advantage of the fraudulent fiat and fractional reserve banking systems, will go under. The power elites of the State will be humbled as they will lose the foundation on which they rested. Deflation purges our society of the parasites and frauds that have been manipulating the economy to their advantage since 1913. By this, of course, I mean the central planners and political entrepreneurs who have propped up the Federal Reserve and the federal government. For they have delayed deflation for more than a century. For liberty and prosperity to return, we must have a deflationary spiral to rid us of the wealth that the State holds, which never existed, to begin with.
Imagine a kid doing chores for his parents. One day there isn’t a lot for him to do, so the parents make a huge mess for him to clean up. Does this make sense? Of course not. But, this logic is similar to the Keynesian school of economics. Keynesianism has taken over both American parties and severely hurts the economy.
What is Keynesian Economics?
During The Great Depression, economist John Maynard Keynes developed a new school of economic thought. He hoped that his Keynesian economics would bring an end to the decade’s stagnant economy. Keynes’s theory focuses on demand-side economics. Keynesian economics asserts that a mixed-market economy will be the most successful in the long run.
Governments employ this by increasing both spending and the money supply. Keynesians would argue that the government should spend on programs such as infrastructure in order to boost the economy.
The Critical Flaw: Increased Spending
Despite such common adherence, Keynesian economics has a number of key problems. The first of which deals with spending increases. The money for this spending must come from somewhere, and it usually lands on the taxpayers. Otherwise, US debt levels just increase even more.
The wealthy, who play a key role in economic growth, often see the worst of tax hikes. The government taxes those who provide jobs and products, then uses for the money on a bridge, for example. The idea here is that government created jobs and a product. However, they only did so by robbing the same opportunity from a private company, which is more likely to use the money more efficiently to provide a greater number of jobs and better services. Allowing all classes of wealth to have more disposable income will simply lead to more economic growth.
Keynesian Economics and Government Monopolies
Keynes often criticized the free market, claiming it created monopolies. But government is also capable of doing this. In fact, the creation of monopolies is a huge fault of Keynes’s theory. A government, with its reckless spending, can easily create monopolies and ruin private businesses, which only spend more if profits increase.
On the other hand, the government has a tax farm of millions of citizens. Thus, it can take money from any one of them, or simply print more of it. For example, Keynesian economics would have the government spend more on infrastructure. But what happens to the companies that the state does not fund? They will likely lose business, even though they may be the best ones for the job.
On the other hand, government services are usually subpar and inefficient. There are just some things government can’t provide that the market can. Government is not meant to produce, it is meant to protect rights. A business owner, to keep customers, has to make an effective product or service. This forces him or her to improve the quality of service.
State services simply do not work the same way. Don’t like the service? Too bad. They don’t need to rely on supply and demand. Rather, they can tax people or drive further into debt and provide a subpar service. We have established that under Keynes’s model, there will be more state services. This will be an atrocity! Instead, the state should seek to lower taxes and lower spending in order to improve the economy.
The Danger of Increased Money Supply
The last and possibly the most dangerous part of Keynes’s model, increasing the supply of money. Simply printing out more money will not help the economy but will do the opposite, it will cause inflation which hurts the economy. This has happened a lot in history.
Hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic
The most infamous example of this is 1920’s Germany. The problem started when Germany abandoned its gold standard during World War 1. After the war, the Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to pay reparations that they simply could not afford. The government then printed out more marks to pay off these reparations, but this caused hyperinflation. Money became worthless to the point where Germans used it for kindling. Children would use paper money to make toys to play with. If someone went to the store with money to buy two loaves of bread, they would only be able to afford one by the time they arrived. In fact, by late 1923, 1 US Dollar was worth a staggering 4.2 trillion German marks. The German Mark was worthless.
Of course, hyperinflation will not occur every single time money is printed. But history repeats itself with many other examples of hyperinflation. Zimbabwe also tried this and, like Germany, saw hyperinflation in its economy. Keynesian economics would suggest printing more money for the economy during times of recession. However, history shows this does not work.
The Keynesian School of economics suggests increasing spending, debt, and taxes. It also replaces market services with the government and calls for the risky activity of printing money. Most of the last century’s policies have been Keynesian. Without a doubt, they have raised taxes and sent the country further into debt. Hope, however, is not lost. By looking towards more free-market schools of economics, the American people and state may create a freer and stronger economy.
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