After World War II, America settled down to a comfortable life and much of the world started to rebuild. Using the industrial models that defined the times, including the war, the entire process was described in terms of developing a “consumer economy.” The main economic function of people was to consume what industry produced, guaranteeing profit and growth. It was dynamic in that money changed hands rapidly, yet static in the view of where capital comes from and how it was used.
As more nations developed the process was expected to continue. But it did not. Societies, particularly in Asia, found many reasons to save money and develop themselves and their families for the long haul. This has been a critical change which, when applied properly, makes market based systems work even better.
This is also why a true market based system focused on people has to emphasize investment over consumption. It is a big part of the definition of People’s Economics, as this continues.
The dust is settling. After the various panics that rocked the early part of the year, mainly due to a slow-down in China and the developing world as a whole, Brexit put another shock to the system. Markets panicked and everyone became even more risk averse. But with just a little bit of time we can see that even more than we predicted at the start of the 2016 one thing has become obvious by mid-year – the United States is the only solid place for any kind of investment in the world.
It’s still a tough fight to get the money to where it does the most good, at the risky start-up end of the economy. And there are plenty of signs of fear running amok more generally, expressed in the price of gold. But there is little doubt that the US is the place to be – all the moreso with Brexit.
The “Panama Papers” were a delight for conspiracy theorists, who have long contended that the global monetary system is fundamentally corrupt and that world leaders are skimming huge amounts of money off the top of it. They are, of course, correct.
But lost in the salacious details of the story has been the real business of Mossack Fonseca, which is moving money out of China. We’ve covered this story before when the official estimates were that half a trillion left China last year alone. That number, it turns out, was off by at least as much again – and possibly much more.
At least a trillion dollars left China last year through a wide variety of creative means. Mossack Fonseca’s offices in Hong Kong handle a third of their total business, moving money around the globe through over 60k shell companies at an incredible pace. How much? That’s the multi-trillion dollar question.
The stock market has rallied for two days, with the S&P500 back at 1987 from its low of 1869. It’s still down 6.8% from its peak of 2130, set in May, (and nearly matched just a month ago) and down 3.5% for the year. It’s almost like the crash never happened, right?
Well, no. But there is a lot of good news for the underlying economy, some of which came in this week. The really good news is still out into next year, which is essentially forever to this market. We have to get over an interest rate hike, which will definitely come this year no matter what you read elsewhere, and a lot of jitters.
“All money is a matter of belief.”
– Adam Smith
Gold is taking a solid beating these days. It’s been slipping for a while, but when China revealed that it’s reserves were less than believed it really fell – quickly slipping below $1,100 per ounce when one mysterious trader dumped everything. It’s now more than a third off its 2010 peak and nearly everyone believes that it’s doomed to slip below $1,000 per ounce by the end of the year.
What happened? Isn’t gold the ultimate money in an unstable world? The short answer is no, and this has as much to do with the rise of the US Dollar as anything. But in the end gold is not as much a form of money as it is a barometer of fear – a commodity that appears to be in much shorter supply today than it was just a few years ago.