Whores, Crack and Smack — How to Make the US Economy Roar

The US economy didn’t grow last quarter. Instead, it shrank at a 1% annualised rate. The numbers were revised downward at the end of last week.

But who cares? We live in such a strange and exotic era. Threats of war…threats of recession…threats of twerking — it doesn’t seem to matter what happens. As long as the Fed is standing behind it, the US stock market stays up.

The Dow rose 18 points on Friday, as gold dropped another $11, to close under $1,250 an ounce.

Besides, commentators said the fall in first-quarter GDP was a fluke. Consumers were still spending more (though not earning more)…and the weather was bad…blah, blah, blah.

The feds say it was the drawdown of inventories that caused the backpedalling. And who knows? Maybe next quarter will show strong growth.

But here’s a suggestion we guarantee will get the GDP going: Follow the lead of the British. They’ve got the imagination it takes to get GDP up.

We’re not talking about new inventions, innovations, apps or breakthroughs. No, we’re talking about simply jiving the statistics…until you get the figures you want. The changes wrought by Britain’s statisticians will add about $15 billion to the country’s GDP — or as much as 5% more.

America’s number crunchers use cockeyed ‘hedonic quality adjustments’ (in which they imagine that things cost far more than you pay for them)…and ‘homeowner’s rent’ (in which they claim you pay rent to yourself to live in your own house)…and other assorted fudges.

The British have a better way…

According to the Financial Times, ‘Each one of Britain’s roughly 60,879 prostitutes took about 25 clients a week in 2009, at an average price of 67.16 pounds sterling.

We don’t quite get the meaning of ‘roughly’ in that sentence. It appears to modify a precise number. Perhaps it refers to their way of doing business. No matter, the Brits have identified a service industry. They’ve measured its length and girth. Now, they adjust the national accounts to reflect actual output.

But they didn’t stop there. Britain’s Office for National Statistics also said the nation has 38,000 heroin users. Sales of the drug are big business — with the street price of about $50 a gram.

This bold new way of charting the accounts represents a major opportunity, especially for places such as Baltimore. We have seen no official figures. But our private estimates tell us a substantial part of the city’s real GDP has never been reported. Drugs and prostitution are big industries here; the city should get credit for them.

Baltimore’s unofficial motto is ‘The City That Invented Crack’, which is a source of great local pride. Some residents maintain that prostitution, too, was invented in Baltimore. But that claim is disputed.

Between the two vices we could be looking at a 20% increase in GDP. And if other drugs (marijuana, for example) were added…along with illegal gambling, illicit pornography, bribery, racketeering, larceny, and other paying propositions in the underground economy…we would expect to see nearly a 40% boost.

And keep in mind, these are growth industries!


Bill Bonner
for Markets and Money

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Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America’s most respected authorities. Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind Markets and Money.

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