Power & Market
Not a day goes by when the liberal media don’t telegraph to the world that a “Trumpocracy” is destroying American democracy. Conspicuous by its absence is a pesky fact: Ours was never a country conceived as a democracy.
To arrive at a democracy, we Americans destroyed a republic.
One of the ways in which the republic was destroyed was through the slow sundering of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. The 10th was meant to guarantee constitutional devolution of power.
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
The de facto demise of the 10th has resulted in "constitutional" consolidation.
Fair enough, but is that enough? A perceptive Townhall.com reader was having none of it.
In response to “Whodunit? Who ‘Meddled’ With Our American Democracy” (Part 1), the reader upbraided this writer:
“Anyone who quotes the 10th Amendment, but not the 14th Amendment that supplanted it cannot be taken seriously.”
In other words, to advance the erosion of the 10th in explaining who did our republic in, without mentioning the 14th: this was an omission on the writer’s part.
The reader is admirably correct about Incorporation-Doctrine centralization.
Not even conservative constitutional originalists are willing to concede that the 14th Amendment and the attendant Incorporation Doctrine have obliterated the Constitution's federal scheme, as expressed in the once-impregnable 10th Amendment.
What does this mean?
You know the drill but are always surprised anew by it. Voters pass a law under which a plurality wishes to live in a locality. Along comes a U.S. district judge and voids the law, citing a violation of the 14th's Equal Protection Clause.
For example: Voters elect to prohibit local government from sanctioning gay marriage. A U.S. district judge voids voter-approved law for violating the 14th's Equal Protection Clause.
These periodical contretemps around gay marriage, or the legal duty of private property owners to cater these events, are perfectly proper judicial activism. It flows from the 14th Amendment.
If the Bill of Rights was intended to place strict limits on federal power and protect individual and locality from the national government—the 14th Amendment effectively defeated that purpose by placing the power to enforce the Bill of Rights in federal hands, where it was never intended to be.
Put differently, matters previously subject to state jurisdiction have been pulled into the orbit of a judiciary. Yet not even conservative constitutional originalists are willing to cop to this constitutional fait accompli.
The gist of it: Jeffersonian constitutional thought is no longer in the Constitution; its revival unlikely.
A Court System Centralized
For another example of the endemic usurpation of The People, rendering the original Constitutional scheme obsolete, take the work of the generic jury. With his description of the relationship between jury and people, American scholar of liberty Lysander Spooner conjures evocative imagery.
A jury is akin to the "body of the people." Trial by jury is the closest thing to a trial by the whole country. Yet courts in the nation’s centralized court system, the Supreme Court included, are in the business of harmonizing law across the nation, rather than allowing communities to live under laws they author, as guaranteed by the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.
States’ Rights All But Obliterated
Like juries, states had been entrusted with the power to beat back the federal government and void unconstitutional federal laws.
States' rights are "an essential Americanism,” wrote Old Rightist Frank Chodorov. The Founding Fathers as well as the opponents of the Constitution, the Anti-Federalists, agreed on the principle of divided authority as a safeguard to the rights of the individual.
Duly, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison perfected a certain doctrine in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798. "The Virginia Resolutions,” explains historian Thomas E. Woods, Jr., “spoke of the states' rights to 'interpose' between the federal government and the people of the states; the Kentucky Resolutions used the term nullification—the states, they said, could nullify federal laws that they believed to be unconstitutional."
“Jefferson," emphasized Woods, "considered states' rights a much more important and effective safeguard of people's liberties than the 'checks and balances' among the three branches of the federal government."
And for good reason. While judicial review was intended to curb Congress and restrain the Executive, in reality, the judicial, legislative and executive unholy federal trinity has simply colluded, over time, in an alliance that has helped abolish the 10th Amendment.
Founding Faith Expunged
And how well has First Amendment jurisprudence served constitutionalists?
Establishment-clause cases are a confusing and capricious legal penumbra. Sometimes displays of the Hebraic Decalogue or manger scene are taken to constitute the establishment of a state religion. Other times not.
This body of law forever teeters on conflating the injunction against the establishment of a state religion with an injunction against the expression of faith—especially discriminating against the founding faith in taxpayer-supported spaces.
The end result has been the expulsion of religion from the public square and the suppression therein of freedom of religion.
On the topic of religious freedom, Jefferson was prolific, too. The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was a crowning achievement for which he wished to be remembered, along with the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the University of Virginia.
Jefferson interpreted "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof"—as confirms by David N. Meyer, author of Jefferson's Constitutional Thought—to guarantee both "an absolute free exercise of religion and an absolute prohibition of an establishment of religion."
Yet somehow, the kind of constitutional thought that carries legal sway today prohibits expressions of faith or displays of a civilizing moral code in government-controlled spheres. Given my libertarian view of government’s immoral modus operandi, I find this amusingly apropos. Still, this is not what Jefferson had in mind for early Americans.
Indeed, why would anyone, bar Nancy Pelosi and her party, object to "thou shall not kill" or "thou shall not commit adultery, steal or covet?" The Ten Commandments can hardly be perceived as an instrument for state proselytization.
Nevertheless, the law often takes displays of the Decalogue or the nativity scene on tax-payer funded property as an establishment of a state religion.
"I consider the government of the U.S. as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercise," Jefferson expatiated.
He then gets to the soul of the subject: "This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment, or free exercise of religion but also from the Tenth Amendment, which reserves to the states [or to the people] the powers not delegated to the U.S."
So, dear reader, if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that the Russians didn’t deep-six our republic of private property rights and radical decentralization—we did.
Our friend Daniel Lacalle was interviewed recently by BBC to discuss recent developments between trade negotiations between the US and China.
On his blog, he goes on to further explain why a trade war would be particularly devastating for China.
What the Trump administration was doing was a negotiation tactic. Aggressive, bulldozer-type and, of course, questionable. But a tactic to address the massive trade deficit with China, the largest in the world, at $375 billion. The negotiation tactic is clear, as proven by the tariff moratorium on the European Union, Canada, Mexico and South Korea.
China needs the U.S. surplus more than the U.S. needs China’s trade and finances. And that is why the trade war will not happen. Because China has already lost it.
This is a duel at dawn in which it is most likely that no one will shoot … Because the pistols are loaded with debt, not with gunpowder.
The trade war will not happen for various reasons:
- China badly needs the surplus with the United States to keep its extremely indebted growth model, way more than the United States needs China’s purchases of debt of goods. China added more debt in the first quarter of 2018 than the U.S., Japan and the EU combined, and it has reached an estimated 257% of GDP. If it does not grow exports to its main customer, the U.S., its problem of overcapacity and debt soars, and the economy crumbles.
- China cannot win a trade war with high debt, capital controls and US exports’ dependence. A massive Yuan devaluation and domino defaults would cripple the economy. The U.S. dollar is the most traded currency in the world, and growing according to the Bank of International Settlement. The Yuan is 4% of currency trade.
- China’s currency is not backed by either global use nor gold. At all. It is as unsupported as any fiat currency, like the U.S. dollar, but much less traded and used as a store of value. China’s gold reserves are an insignificant fraction of its money supply. Its biggest weakness comes from capital controls and intervention. However, even with capital controls, capital flight has continued. $51bn outflows in the first quarter of 2018, according to Natixis.
- China does not have a nuclear option on the U.S. debt. For once, it is not the main owner of U.S, bonds, not even close (China is less than 8.6% of U.S. bonds outstanding). The United States can guarantee the demand for its debt issues even if China sells. But, in addition, China has increased its purchase of U.S. bonds by $168 billion dollars since the U.S. elections. If China sells its Treasury holdings, its own currency would massively appreciate and the domestic risks, lower exports, lower growth, outweigh the threat. Even if it sold, the demand for U.S. bonds has increased and when China has reduced Treasury holdings, Treasury yields have fallen. The Federal Reserve and the main U.S. Fixed Income funds could buy the bonds in a very short period of time, a week at most. Remember that 2018 has seen a record pace of inflows to U.S. Treasuries. $3.4 billion inflows in one week, with year-to-date inflows of $18.6 billion (data April 14th, 2018).
- China cannot maintain its growth – based on a huge debt bubble – if its exports fall. And its trade surplus with the United States has been growing while its trade surplus with the rest of the world shrunk. A drop in the growth of China’s exports would mean a collapse of foreign currency reserves. These reserves have been recovering a bit recently, but have fallen 21% since the 2014 highs.
A collapse in the reserves of foreign currency would accentuate the capital flight that is already taking place, which would lead to increasing the already disastrous capital controls in China, and with it, three effects. Lower growth, higher debt and the risk of a very important devaluation of the yuan.
For China, a trade war would be devastating.
Of course, there are important negatives for the U.S. but not as dramatic.
The United States exports very little (12% of GDP), so any threat that leads to a positive agreement is an exponential improvement. But the duel is loaded with wet gunpowder.
Tyler Harrell was found guilty of a charge of aggravated assault today in a case that should concern anyone who cares about the right to self-defense.
Back in 2016, Harken grabbed his AK-47 after being awaken by a loud bang. With him and his mom believing his house was being broken in to, he went on to shoot one of the intruders in the knee. Unfortunately for Harken, the people that broke down his door had government badges. The Austin SWAT team, allegedly responding to Snapchat photos of Harrellwith drugs, guns, and cash, were conducting a no-knock raid on the house. Their search found no drugs, but Harken faced the assault charge as well as an even more ludicrous charge of attempted capital murder, of which he was found not guilty. He now faces thirteen-and-a-half years in prison.
While it's a shame that someone was hurt during the police raid, Harrell is the clear victim in this situation. After all, what is a reasonable person supposed to do when armed men knock down your front door without any sort of announcement? Anyone who favors gun rights must concede that the natural reaction is to defend yourself and everyone else in the home. Unfortunately, the overlap between the Blue Lives Matter and NRA crowds mean we are unlikely to hear many national voices come to Harken's defense.
Unfortunately situations like Harrell's are not all the uncommon, as the government continues to wage its absurd war on drugs. As Tate Fegley noted following the disastrous Utah vs Streiff Supreme Court case:
To read the decisions of the Court regarding the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits the government from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures, is to read of its slow death, with drug prohibition playing a role almost every step of the way.
Consider, for example, one of the most odious developments in modern American policing: the no-knock SWAT raid. There are, on average, over 100 raids per day and the majority of them are to serve low-level drug warrants. Such a dangerous procedure inevitably has led to a huge number of botched raids, resulting in unnecessary property damage and death. It is a common law principle that officers of the law “knock-and-announce” themselves prior to the search of a dwelling in order to give the occupant time to compose himself and answer the door. The Supreme Court has created exceptions to this principle, such as the possibility that suspects could destroy drug evidence, thus providing a necessary condition to the environment that allows a raid-happy style of policing to exist. In consideration of this, it is not hard to imagine how the Strieff decision could lead to widespread pretext stops and ID-checking in order to go on fishing expeditions for evidence.
I almost feel guilty when I criticize the garbled economic thoughts of Pope Francis. After all, he was influenced by Peronist ideology as a youngster, so he was probably a lost cause from the beginning.
Moreover, Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell have already dissected his irrational ramblings on economics and explained that free markets are better for the poor. Especially when compared to government dependency.
But since Pope Francis just attacked tax havens, and I consider myself the world’s foremost defender of these low-tax jurisdictions, I can’t resist adding my two cents. Here’s what the Wall Street Journal just reported about the Pope’s ideological opposition to market-friendly tax systems.
The Vatican denounced the use of offshore tax havens… The document, which was released jointly by the Vatican’s offices for Catholic doctrine and social justice, echoed past warnings by Pope Francis over the dangers of unbridled capitalism. …The teaching document, which was personally approved by the pope, suggested that greater regulation of the world’s financial markets was necessary to contain “predatory and speculative” practices and economic inequality.
He even embraced global regulation, not understanding that this increases systemic risk.
The supranational dimension of the economic system makes it easy to bypass the regulations established by individual countries,” the Vatican said. “The current globalization of the financial system requires a stable, clear and effective coordination among various national regulatory authorities.
And he said that governments should have more money to spend.
A section of the document was dedicated to criticizing offshore tax havens, which it said contribute to the “creation of economic systems founded on inequality,” by depriving nations of legitimate revenue.
In any event, he’s definitely wrong on how to generate more prosperity. Maybe he should watch this video.
Or read Marian Tupy.
Or see what Nobel Prize winners have to say.
Originally published at Dan Mitchell's blog International Liberty
Central banks are shrouded in secrecy and few understand how they operate. These institutions handle economic matters that we’re told are far too complex for average people to understand.
The Federal Reserve’s secrecy originated from its inception, when created by a group of elite men using secret code names at a place named Jekyll Island a century ago. No doubt at least one mustache was twirled mischievously. Of course the day to day of monetary policy is far less thrilling, but that doesn’t mean the consequences of these bankers’ actions are any less dramatic.
A decade after the latest financial crisis — fueled by the cheap money policies of former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan — low interest rates and “quantitative easing” have continued to inflate what Donald Trump once rightly called a “big, fat, ugly bubble.” The monetary policies that the Fed imposes bring significant harm to many Americans who are impacted by the whims of bureaucratic economists with unchecked egos.
For all the secrecy afforded to the Fed and other central banks, most of these decisions are made in plain view of the public, enjoying the protection that comes with dreadfully dull technical language of modern economics. For an example, look no further than the nomination battle going on right now over Marvin Goodfriend to the board of governors.
Read the full article at The Federalist
I've been really enjoying David Beckworth's Macro Musings podcast - a nice, conveniently way of hearing some good econ discussions outside of my own personal bubble.
There was an interesting interview with Neel Kashkari who talks about why there has been very little movement within the Fed to really explore NGDP Targeting or pushing up the inflation target, in spite of the large amount of chatter about those topics among academics. He explains that it's because when Fed officials actually talk to real people in communities, in particularly community bankers, any discussion of playing around with inflation is instantly rejected - in part because the public as a whole has so much inherent skepticism and mistrust of the Fed as it stands now. (I'll also note that while I obviously don't like Kashkari's views on monetary policy, his candor and transparency in his Fed role has been great.)
I think this plays back to the success of Ron Paul's libertarian populist campaign, and a good push back to the argument that he never accomplished anything while in office. While it's certainly true that there aren't many legislative achievements to his CV, he effectively used his platform to push the Fed and money into public discourse and effectively won the argument. The impact isn't limited to simply the "public" either. Fed skepticism has become status quo GOP orthodox - to the point where some Republicans on the Hill have been frustrated with Trump's status quo Fed picks. We've also seen legislation advanced by House Republicans to reform the Fed (even though I don't think that highly of them) and Dr. Paul's Audit the Fed Bill has received the support of the majority Republican legislators when it has come up to vote.
In fact, when you consider that Bitcoin was built on explicitly Austrian origins, it's possible that Ron Paul's impact didn't only help restrain the Fed, but actually inspired very real solutions to government-controlled fiat currency. The grassroots movements to legalize gold and silver at state levels obviously plays into this as well. All in all, by effectively using a populist appeal to engage and educate the public - rather than focus on trying to impose top-down reforms through legislation - Dr. Paul was able to have as large an impact on American monetary policy as perhaps any single legislator since the creation of the Fed.
Bradford DeLong posted a vicious rant on his blog recently accusing the signatories of a letter in support of President Trump’s economic policies of being “both 100% cynical and 100% deluded” as well as "moronic and easily grifted." However, it turns out that Delong himself suffers from the delusion that a president gets to write and pass legislation exactly as he sees fit. In reality, the Washington swamp is under almost complete control of lobbyists and special interest groups. We would wager that very few of our fellow signatories are completely satisfied with these pieces of economic legislation as they were passed. However, Delong claims the signatories are:
1. Cynical and delusional to think the 2017 tax reform legislation is a middle-class tax cut.
Well first you have to understand that nearly half of American taxpayers pays no federal income tax at all while the top 10% of income recipients pay over 70%. The middle class will receive a 1-4% cut in their federal income taxes. That’s not much but it’s a step in the right direction. The corporate income tax represents double taxation of profits, which are taxed again as dividends at the personal level. Most economists recognize that the corporate tax is a counterproductive tax that stifles economic growth and needs to be changed, if not abolished.
2. Cynical and delusional to claim that Trump’s regulatory relief is anything but “Berlusconi-like corrupt advantaging of favored clients.”
It is regulation itself that is corrupt because the regulators are invariably “captured” by the regulated industry. The result is that regulated industries gain protection from competition and government largess and bailouts at the expense of consumers. Thus regulation did not prevent Bernie Madoff's scam or the financial crisis, nor does it protect the American consumers from skyrocketing health care costs. Even a moderate dose of regulatory relief will produce lower prices, more jobs, and economic growth.
Washington has always been a swamp where the political elites and their connected financial and business cronies enrich themselves at the expense of the American people. Unlike the delusional Delong, we fully recognize that Trump's legislative accomplishments fall far short of the ideal but they do represent a step in the right direction.
In the Senate Intelligence Committee secret vote today on whether to confirm Trump nominee Gina Haspel as chief of the CIA, she will likely again be praised for promising to “speak truth to power.” This has recently become one of the favorite accolades in the least trusted city in America. But will Americans be as gullible this time around?
When 7-term congressman and dutiful Republican functionary Porter Goss was nominated in 2004 to become CIA chief, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) endorsed him after he promised to “always speak truth to power.” Fat chance: after he was confirmed, Goss speedily sent a memo to CIA employees muzzling them, declaring that their job was to "support the administration and its policies in our work.” Goss bungled the CIA so badly that the Bush administration heaved him out after less than two years on the job; Goss later became a lobbyist for the Turkish government.
“Speaks truth to power” had a starring role in the 2005 Senate coronation of John Negroponte, America’s first Director of National Intelligence. While working as Reagan’s ambassador to Honduras, Negroponte perennially denied that the Honduran regime was committing vast atrocities, despite its killing of tens of thousands of its own citizens. (Honduras was aiding the Nicaraguan Contras at the time.) But that did not deter Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., and Sen. Mikulski from recycling the “truth to power” phrase in speeches endorsing Negroponte.
When Michael Hayden was nominated as CIA chief in 2006, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) vouched that Hayden would “speak truth to power.” But Hayden profoundly misled Congress regarding the CIA’s torture program and his credibility was demolished in the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report on the enhanced interrogation program.
Read the rest at USA Today
Last month, we reported that money-supply growth accelerated for the first time after a year-long period of falling growth rates, at the end of which money-supply growth fell to a near-ten-year low of 2.6 percent, year over year.
In March of this year growth rates had headed upward, rising to a year-over-year growth rate of 5.1 percent.
In April, however, growth rates lessened again, coming in at a rate of 4.3 percent, year over year.
(The money-supply metric used here — an "Austrian money supply" measure — is the metric developed by Murray Rothbard and Joseph Salerno, and is designed to provide a better measure than M2. The Mises Institute now offers regular updates on this metric and its growth.)
Meanwhile, the more commonly used measure of money supply, M2, continued to experience falling growth rates through the first part of this year. In April, M2 increased 3.7 percent, year over year, making it the smallest increase in M2 since 2011.
Part of what has pushed the Austrian measure of money supply above growth rates from last year was an increase in treasury deposits at the Fed.
The inclusion of deposits at the Fed is a key difference between M2 and the Austrian measure of the money supply, and growth in these deposits has added to the differences seen in growth between M2 and the Austrian measure.
In April, treasury deposits at the Fed hit a 16-month high, rising to $324 billion. The highest level for treasury deposits ever reported occurred in November of 2016, at a total of $394 billion.
What does the trend in money supply indicate?
Historically, a sizable drop in money supply growth rates suggests that a recession is on the horizon — but not on the immediate horizon.
In this graph, provided by RealForecasts.com, we see how dips in the money supply growth rate often precede recessions, but with a lag period of a year or so. In many cases, money supply growth is trending upward again by the time the recession officially begins.
Moreover, if we look at TMS totals (in terms of dollar amounts) we can see that flattening in the money supply has occurred to varying degrees on three occassions over the past 20 years. There was a slight flattening leading up to the 2001 recession, and then another in the lead up to the 2008 financial crisis. And we are experiencing some flattening now — although to a lesser extent. It's unknown if this trend will continue or if growth will pick up again.
So does the recent downturn and subsequent uptick indicate a recession?
It's difficult to say how long the current boom period will last. Home prices continue to sail upward for now, although we do see volatility in the stock market. Unemployment data doesn't point to anything catastrophic at this time.
Some indicators suggest problems, however. Delinquencies in auto-loan debt continue to trend upward, household formation is stagnating, and growth in commercial loans — a factor in expanding the money supply — remains near multi-year lows: