Instead of reading about hyperinflation and economic collapse in history, you can watch it play out live. Tune in to Venezuela.

ten trillion Zimbabwe dollars. Not the largest currency in circulation, but close.

Ten trillion Zimbabwe dollars. Not the largest currency in circulation, but close. Tragedy of hyperinflation is playing out again, this time in Venezuela.

The hyperinflation in Zimbabwe resulted in a ten trillion Zim note being worth four cents in American dollars. That would be:

  • Zim$10,000,000,000,000  =  US$.04

When that level of financial devastation happens, it is the result of government policy. Usually socialists pull it off, but German also did so before WWII.

Previous posts:

Venezuela

If you are so interested, you can now watch the sad story as it plays out in Venezuela.

2/3 – Wall Street Journal – Inflation-Wrought Venezuela Orders Bank Notes by the Planeload – Usually governments deal with out-of-control inflation by adding two or three zeros to the currency. Instead of the largest bill in circulation being a 100 unit note, the next run of currency is for a 10,000 unit note. In six months or a year there will be a 500,000 or 1,000,000 note in circulation.

Article says the Venezuelan government isn’t doing that because to do so would acknowledge the astronomical inflation. As the saying goes, denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

Instead of acknowledging that inflation is running out of control, the government of Venezuela is flooding the economy with the same denomination note. In the last several months of 2014, the article says there were three dozen flights of 747s into the country hauling nothing but currency. Over 30 cargo holds filled with currency.

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Which group pays more in individual income taxes? The top 1% of earners of the bottom 95%?

If you guessed the bottom 95%, you would be right.

Follow-up question: What is the spread between the percentage of taxes paid by each group?

What do you think it is? A multiple? Something like double or triple what the 1% pays?

Maybe just a percentage more? 30%, 50%, 60%?

Actually the spread is thin.

(Cross-post from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

Check out the following graph:

taxes by top 1 and bottom 95

 

Used with permission of Prof. Mark Perry at Carpe Diem.

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Why I am so optimistic – 3

The future is so bright we need sunglasses. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

The future is so bright we need sunglasses. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

The number of people working in manufacturing has been declining for many years. Those job losses will continue at the same time as technology disrupts other industries causing the loss of more jobs.

This is not a new concept. Technological advances have devastated farm employment over the last 150 years.

(Cross-post from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

Prof. Thomas Tunstall pondered Where the New Jobs Will Come From. Sub headline on his 11/4/15 article said:

In 2007 iPhone application developers didn’t exist. By 2011 Apple had $15 billion in mobile-app revenues.

Consider the percentage of the population employed in agriculture over time: (more…)

Why I am so optimistic – 2

200 years ago subsistence agriculture was the norm across the planet. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

200 years ago brutal poverty was the norm across the planet. Not so today. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Previously mentioned when I look at long-term economic trends I am incredibly optimistic. When I look at the headlines this morning or news from the political world, I am very discouraged.

(Cross-post from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

To see one illustration of why I am so optimistic for the long-term, check out a column by Glenn Reynolds at USA Today: Actually, things are pretty good / Free markets and free inquiry have changed the historic ‘norms’ of poverty and violence.

Earlier post summarized in one paragraph what caused this radical improvement.

Here are a final two points from the article I’d like to highlight:

Second, it is possible for us collectively to turn back history.

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Why I am so optimistic – 1

200 years ago subsistence agriculture was the norm across the planet. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

200 years ago brutal poverty was the norm across the planet. Not so today. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

When I look at the political news or any news in general I get very pessimistic about our future.

In contrast, when I look at the amazing things happening beyond the headlines in today’s newspaper I feel incredibly optimistic.

Consider that private companies are developing the technology for space exploration. Consider the energy revolution created by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Consider radical changes in technology that are making so many things easier, faster, and cheaper. Consider that anyone that wants to do so can publish their own book, distribute their own music, or create a feature movie.

As a tiny illustration, look at my company and pastimes. Technology allows me to run a high quality CPA practice without any staff. In my spare time I am a publisher and journalist. Anyone in Europe or North America or most of Asia could easily do the same and at minimal cost.

(Cross post from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

When I look at long-term economic trends I am incredibly optimistic.

For yet one more explanation of why that is the case, consider a column by Glenn Reynolds at USA Today: Actually, things are pretty good / Free markets and free inquiry have changed the historic ‘norms’ of poverty and violence.

Until relatively recently, an illness-filled short life of dirt-eating poverty was the normal condition for practically everybody on the planet. In the last 100 or 200 years life has gotten radically better for practically everyone.

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Intentional federal policies extended Great Depression by seven years

Hunger sculpture at FRR Memorial in Washington DC. How much earlier could hunger have ended with different policies? Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com.

Hunger sculpture at FDR Memorial in Washington DC. A monument to the man whose policies added extra years to the Depression yet who rarely gets credit for the unnecessary suffering. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com.

An extra seven years.

That is the conclusion two economists published back in 2004: intentional policies from FDR added seven years of suffering for the country.

Yes, that analysis was published back in 2004. Sometimes it takes me a while to catch up on the news.

On 8/10/04 the UCLA Newsroom published FDR’s policies prolonged Depression by seven years, UCLA economists calculate.  Update: The analysis is from Professors Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian

Cause

The cause of extending the Great Depression, according to the economists, was the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) which protected industries from antitrust prosecution in return for adopting collective bargaining agreements. The result was unions drove up wages beyond where the market would have set them, companies were intentionally not prosecuted for collusion, thus companies cooperated in setting prices, which in turn drove up prices to consumers. As a result consumers had much more difficulty affording stuff and therefore actually bought less stuff, which further contracted the economy.

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Everyone everywhere has gotten far richer in the last 200 years. Hmm. I wonder how that happened?

After you celebrate that the average level of income has increased radically in the last 200 years, ponder how that happened.

10/18 – Max Roser – Economic World History in One Chart – Mr. Roser is superb with data visualization. Tweet from Max Roser ‏@MaxCRoser :

  • Economic world history:
  • 1800 Poor & equal
  • 1970 Unequal
  • 2000 Much richer & more equal again.

(Cross-post from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

Click here to see the very cool graph. Keep in mind it is on a logarithm scale, roughly meaning that each marked increment on the horizontal axis is an increase of 50% or 100%.

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More comments from winner of this year’s Nobel award in economics

Cover of Prof. Deaton's book, used under fair use, courtesy of Amazon.com

Cover of Prof. Deaton’s book, used under fair use for this review, courtesy of Amazon.com

Prof. Angus Deaton won the 2015 Nobel award in economics. Mentioned this earlier. (Cross-post from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

His contribution to expanding the frontier of economics knowledge is to study development and poverty from the consumption side instead of income side. This approach looks at what can people buy instead of what income they have.

Fun article talking about some of his ideas was in the Financial Times on October 12: Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton shares 3 big ideas.

Inequality

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Fort Union Trading Post brochure shows the beauty of trade

Photo by James Ulvog.

Photo by James Ulvog.

During our September vacation in North Dakota, we were able to visit Fort Union Trading Post and Fort Buford. Both were a lot of fun to see.

The brochure produced by the National Park Service for the Fort Union Trading Post national historic site 25 miles southwest of Williston has lots of fun comments. I want to focus on the wages at the time and the wonderful beauty of free trade.

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How to shrink the economy – Lessons from immoral policies during the Great Depression

Hunger sculpture at FRR Memorial in Washington DC. How much earlier could hunger have ended with different policies? Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com.

Hunger sculpture at FDR Memorial in Washington DC. How much longer did wide-spread hunger last due to unintended consequences of federal policies? Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com.

Do we want to hurt poor people or help them?

It is always worth explaining yet again that specific federal policies played a massive role in helping cause the Great Depression, deepening the collapse, and extending the pain.

For a brief explanation, check out Arthur Laffer at Investors Business Daily on July 17:  Tax And Tariffs Hikes Crushed 1930s America

Trade restrictions

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Big increases in federal spending and huge deficits started with Pres Hoover, not FDR

I’ve read that President Hoover was just as much an activist, interventionist president as FDR. Popular legend holds that it was FDR that opened up federal spending and started the activism.

Haven’t done my own research until today. Check out page 21 of the 2013 federal budget, found here, to see the info for yourself. That is the 25th page of the PDF. Table 1.1 lists federal receipts, outlays and surplus/deficit by year from 1901 through the 2017 estimate.

Hoover dramatically increased federal spending and started the big deficit splurge well before FDR has a chance to get his New Deal spending plans in front of Congress.

Check out the following data, which is for fiscal years ending June 30. That means the 1929 budget went into effect on 7/1/28, well before the election. Thus, the 1930 budget is the first that we can attribute to Hoover. The 1931 budget is essentially the first that was drafted and approved in light of the developing depression.  The 1934 budget is the first that belongs to FDR.

Amounts in millions of dollars:

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About those raisins – one part of New Deal destruction reversed by Supreme Court after about eight decades

Did you know raisin growers have to turn over a huge portion of their crop to the federal government? Growers get paid whatever is left over after the feds sell at a discount, giveaway or throw in the trash the reasons they collected.

In one year, a particular farmer got back less than what cost him to raise the raisins. In the following year he got zero. Zip.

Well, the good news is that as of today, that one specific New Deal program comes to an end. At least for raisins.

(cross-post from my other blog)

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Brief introduction to the Industrial Revolution

I am increasingly interested in economic history. We are now in a place of prosperity and health that would have been unimaginable 300 years ago and barely comprehensible two generations ago. How did we get to a place of such wealth?

If we can figure out an answer to that question it will be easy to figure out how to sustain what we now enjoy. More importantly, if we figure out how those of us who enjoy prosperity got here, we have a better chance of sharing it with other people living in countries more reminiscent of life 500 years ago.

I’ve been reading a lot of economics lately. You can tell from the blog posts. I want to write more on the topic.

This is cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change.

Here is a great article on how we got here:

3/27 – A Fine Theorem – “Editor’s Introduction to The New Economic History and the Industrial Revolution,” J. Mokyr (1998) – The post describes a lengthy description of the Industrial Revolution. More on the underlying document in a moment.

The linked article gives a great summary. Here are the five major points in the article with a few aha! ideas that registered in my simple brain: (more…)

The source of wealth, as explained by two musicians.

Frank Zappa and Bob Dylan explain where jobs, growth, prosperity, and wealth come from.

Hint: it isn’t from government. (cross-post from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

A Business Lesson by Frank Zappa

He puts out $250,000 of his own money to get a tour ready. He takes all that risk expecting it will pay off later. Here’s the deal: (more…)

Brief introduction to the Industrial Revolution

I am increasingly interested in economic history. We are now in a place of prosperity and health that would have been unimaginable 300 years ago and barely comprehensible two generations ago. How did we get to a place of such wealth?

If we can figure out an answer to that question we might be able to figure out how to sustain what we now enjoy. More importantly, if we figure out how those of us who enjoy the prosperity others created, we have a better chance of sharing it with other people living in countries more reminiscent of life 500 years ago.

I’ve been reading a lot of economics lately. You can tell from the blog posts. I want to write more on the topic.

This discussion is cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change.

Here is a great article on how we got here:

3/27 – A Fine Theorem – “Editor’s Introduction to The New Economic History and the Industrial Revolution,” J. Mokyr (1998) – The post describes a lengthy description of the Industrial Revolution. More on the underlying document in a moment.

The linked article gives a great summary. Here are the five major points in the article with a few aha! ideas that registered in my simple brain: (more…)