The Dow was flat yesterday.
Investors must have been distracted by the latest tempest in the Washington teapot.
Did President Trump say something he shouldn’t have?
He told the Russians that terrorists were trying to make bombs out of laptop computers.
Trump was careful to get the gunmen and the moneymen on his side; he’s stocked his team with generals and Goldman guys.
He’s stayed on the course set by Bush-Obama. But he’s alienated a big part of the Establishment.
They regard him as reckless and unreliable. They’d prefer more of a dull Deep State team player, such as Vice President Mike Pence.
Who knows? Maybe they’ll get their wish.
Progress = learning
Meanwhile, we return to the basics…
Win-win deals get people more of what they want. Win-lose deals — usually imposed by government — bring them less. The few (the insiders) use government to exploit the many (the rest of us).
Win-lose deals also depress economic progress for everybody. Partly, this happens for an obvious reason.
Dropping the atom bomb on Hiroshima was a technical milestone, but not the kind of progress we’re talking about. Progress only makes sense if it means that people are able to get more of what they want.
By definition, when a person is forced into a bad deal, he gets less of what he wants. (Later this week, we’ll look at how Venezuelans are getting a lot less of what they want as a result of their government’s win-lose programs.)
Progress is also a learning process. You try something. You see what works and what doesn’t. As people experiment in this way, they learn…and the economy accumulates knowledge and wealth.
They learn to get to work in the morning, for example…to say please and thank you…to save their money…and to invest it wisely.
Win-lose deals interrupt the learning process. That’s why welfare programs fail: People get money without learning.
Temptation to cheat
That is the real reason the Soviet Union failed, too.
Consumers were forced to buy whatever shoddy products were made available to them; producers had no way to learn how to make good ones.
Toward the end, products available for purchase in the Soviet Union were worth less than the raw materials and labour that went into them.
What do you need for win-win deals?
- People must be free to make choices with their time and money.
- They must have money they can trust.
- They must trust each other to respect their rights and property.
Yesterday, we described how these things don’t happen smoothly and without interruption.
Progress is cyclical. Win-win deals add wealth and move society forward. But they depend on trust. And as trust increases, so does the temptation to cheat. When everyone leaves his liquor cabinet open, for example, who can resist having a drink?
Then trust declines. Barriers go up. Costs increase. Win-win gives way to win-lose. Progress goes into reverse.
Money you could trust
The invention of real money — based on gold — gave a boost to win-win deals…and to progress.
It was money you could trust.
If you are paid a gold coin for a day’s labour, you don’t have to trust the person who pays you. You don’t have to wonder if he has the money in his account to cover his check…or what will happen to his money in the future.
You don’t have to trust him; you put your trust in gold. This allows you to do transactions more freely — and speeds up economic progress.
Gold-backed dollars were trustworthy for nearly 200 years (setting aside Lincoln’s phony ‘greenbacks’).
People became so confident in the integrity of the dollar that they hardly noticed when the gold backing was removed (on 19 March 1968, when President Johnson signed a bill eliminating the ‘gold cover’ for Federal Reserve notes).
But that’s the way it works: The more trusting people become, the easier it is to rip them off.
Set up by the elite
Of course, as trust expands and win-win deals proliferate, some people gain more than others.
The typical Chinese day labourer makes six times as much today as he did in 1999. The typical American day labourer has gained little.
And job competition from overseas made him feel like a loser. Now he wants walls — to keep out foreigners and foreign-made products. He wants win-lose deals that guarantee to make him a winner again.
He has no idea that he was set up by his own elite.
Former Fed chiefs Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan got their pictures on the cover of Time magazine. Most people think they are heroes, not rascals. Most people think they saved the economy from another Great Depression by dropping interest rates and injecting it with trillions of dollars in quantitative easing (QE) money.
Most people — even the POTUS — believe we need more fake money to ‘prime the pump’ and get the economy rolling again.
Almost no one realises it, but it was these stimulating, pump-priming, new credit-based dollars that fuelled the trends that ruined America’s working-class wage earner.
Overseas, his competitors used cheap credit to gain market share and take away his job. At home, the elite imposed their crony boondoggles…their regulations…and their win-lose deals — all financed with fake money.
The average American’s medical care now costs him more than seven times what it did in 1980.
His household debt rose nearly 12 times since 1980.
He blamed the Chinese, the Mexicans, the liberals…the media…and the government.
He wanted change.
But who would have guessed that he had been ripped off by his own untrustworthy money?
After accounting for inflation, the American worker has not had a significant raise in 40 years — almost since the new money system was put into place after 1971.
But the rich — as measured by the inflation-adjusted Dow — are 10 times richer.
Who would have imagined that after 3,000 years, the elite would have come up with money that betrayed his trust…a ‘bezzle’ so subtle that he didn’t even notice?
More to come…including a win-lose deal right here at the ranch.
For Markets & Money