Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Paragraphs Worth Reading

Why write long blog posts explicating your point of view, when others have done your work for you (and much more eloquently I might add)?

Here's the always-excellent Interfluidity on "hangover theory":

Proponents do claim that poverty in the sense of diminished consumption, painful financial losses, and “creative destruction” of cherished institutions usually attend the adjustment process, and they recognize all this is usually associated with unemployment. But hangover theorists argue that adjustment is worth doing despite the cost in employment, consumption, and disruption, not because those costs are good things. When they do argue that “pain is good”, it is along very conventional lines of moral hazard. It is not that the macroeconomy “deserves” to suffer, but that foolish lenders and borrowers, specific misallocators of capital and overconsumers, ought to suffer disproportionately pour encourager les autres. Hangover theorists, like smart Keynesians, promote policies intended to shorten depressions when they occur. Austrians ask that bad claims quickly be recognized and devalued, so that economic activity can go forward without a debt overhang. Keynesians urge government action that conjures financial income from thin air, risking devaluation of old claims by inflation. There are different tradeoffs between moral hazard, sharp incentives, and political feasibility among the two approaches, but both seek to repair balance sheets and create a clean slate going forward.

And here's commenter sardonic_sob on the same topic:

I understand completely, and furthermore agree completely, with the idea that if we wiped out all the bad debt etc tomorrow but everybody just got up and went to work and nobody panicked we would have no problem making enough food and housing and cars and big-screen TV’s and so forth for everybody. The problem is that we will not DO that. We will continue to issue massive amounts of real or implied debt to try to keep anybody from losing and the net result is that the malinvestments will not be purged until they grow so large that they just can’t keep the plates spinning anymore. Then everybody WILL panic and nobody will get up and go to work because that’s just how human beings are.

And lurking ahead is the spectre of Peak Commodities, which nobody is worried about because we can just tweak our economy like a big machine, and if prices get too high we can just pull on the pullem and push on the pushem and fix it, right? However, our system requires massive amounts of low-cost energy and materials to fuel growth. (Without growth debt service becomes impossible and see prior paragraph.) You can’t print oil, coal, rare earths, or potassium. Don’t get me wrong: while I find the Olduvai Theory eerily compelling I firmly believe that we have the technical capability to get ourselves out of this mess. But we aren’t using it because we are devoting so much energy to keeping everything the way it is. This will work until it doesn’t, and we don’t have a Plan B. (That last sentence is pretty much my entire objection to economic manipulation in a nutshell.)

Both posts are well worth reading in entirety.


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