Gloom

To put things in perspective, a couple of paragraphs from 18th century French economist Turgot. From the Mises blog

The general freedom of buying and selling is therefore the only means of assuring, on the one hand, the seller of a price sufficient to encourage production, and on the other hand, the consumer, of the best merchandise at the lowest price. This is not to say that in particular instances we may not find a cheating merchant and a duped consumer; but the cheated consumer will learn by experience and will cease to frequent the cheating merchant, who will fall into discredit and thus will be punished for his fraudulence; and this will never happen very often, because generally men will be enlightened upon their evident self-interest.

To expect the government to prevent such fraud from ever occurring would be like wanting it to provide cushions for all the children who might fall. To assume it to be possible to prevent successfully, by regulation, all possible malpractices of this kind, is to sacrifice to a chimerical perfection the whole progress of industry; it is to restrict the imagination of artificers to the narrow limits of the familiar; it is to forbid them all new experiments; it is to renounce even the hope of competing with the foreigners in the making of the new products which they invent daily, since, as they do not conform to our regulations, our workmen cannot imitate these articles without first having obtained permission from the government, that is to say, often after the foreign factories, having profited by the first eagerness of the consumer for this novelty, have already replaced it with something else. It means forgetting that the execution of these regulations is always entrusted to men who may have all the more interest in fraud or in conniving at fraud since the fraud which they might commit would be covered in some way by the seal of public authority and by the confidence which this seal inspires, in the consumers. It is also to forget that these regulations, these inspectors, these offices for inspection and marking, always involve expenses, and that these expenses are always a tax on the merchandise, and as a result overcharge the domestic consumer and discourage the foreign buyer. Thus, with obvious injustice, commerce, and consequently the nation, are charged with a heavy burden to save a few idle people the trouble of instructing themselves or of making enquiries to avoid being cheated. To suppose all consumers to be dupes, and all merchants and manufacturers to be cheats, has the effect of authorizing them to be so, and of degrading all the working members of the community. [emphasis mine]

From an ET interview of former RBI governor YV Reddy-

I think we can see some contrasting situations. While the UK is more transparent on public ownership, the US is somewhat reluctant. There is an increasing reference to the Swedish experience. When Sweden had a banking crisis, its government took over the banks temporarily, cleaned them up and handed them back to the private sector.

But, I think, globally there is no consensus on how these things should be treated. My understanding is that there is a consensus that banks need to be treated as public utilities. Once you term something as a public utility it has to be owned and managed by the government. Otherwise, it has to be intensely regulated. I think the banking industry is likely to be treated as a public utility.

My monopolistic “public utility” managed fourteen power cuts in a single day. The situation is only going to get worse.

I didn’t know Swapan Dasgupta could write like this. He sounds like an out-of-power US Republican discovering the virtues of free markets, and predicts an economic collapse of the UK, and India-

Since they discovered the welfare state as an alternative to Soviet-style Communism, socialists have successfully spread the message that a “caring state” is more important than either families or social communities. In Britain, the state intrudes into every sphere of life from healthcare and education to providing unemployment benefits and pensions. It even tries to prescribe social attitudes. The result is a gargantuan bureaucracy and government spending that equals half the GDP of an economy that shrunk 3.5 per cent last year.

Britain is approaching an economic nightmare. But it is curious that its tax-and-spend profligacy is the ideal of those who tom-tom “inclusive growth” in India. Last week, Rahul Gandhi admitted that 90 per cent of welfare spending is frittered away in waste and corruption. However, rather than balk at this outrage, both he and his economist Prime Minister have preferred a bigger role for government over more incentives to individuals and families. The PM doesn’t believe that a low tax regime is a moral imperative of good governance; to him good economics is mega spending.

In comparative terms, India is still a notch below Britain in both prosperity and economic promiscuity. But if a fragile and self-serving coalition assumes power after May 16, increases budgetary expenditure dramatically – which it surely will do-and adds to the already unsustainable fiscal deficit, Indians may once again experience that sinking feeling of the 1970s. The entrepreneur-driven national exuberance of a year ago may well be subsumed by a sense of helpless decline.

Actually, it will be worse than Blighty. The British state is well-meaning but bloated, plodding and intrusive; India’s will be uncaring, inefficient, corrupt and increasingly criminal.

Cynicus Economicus is angry

Most alarming of all, the greatest and most listened to cynicism is coming out of China – who see the QE policies of Western governments for what they are – harbingers of inflation. How desparate is it when it takes a totalitarian state to ram the truth home?

This is why I am writing an unusually angry post. I am sick of the lies that issuing forth, and I am sick and tired of the way in which the insiders appear to win, regardless of the cost to the rest of the economy. I have watched in horror as these bailouts have chewed up the wealth of the Western economies, both present and future wealth. I have watched in horror as governments have issued ever more debt to support their profligacy and support insolvent banks. I have watched in horror as central banks have commenced monetising government debts, and likely engineering inflationary defaults whilst risking eventual hyper-inflation.

Above all, it really does appear that governments and central banks are willing to sacrifice ever greater swathes of the economy to rescue incompetent and insolvent financial institutions. The only explanation that fits the facts is the grubby clubbiness of the system. It is not the great New World Order conspiracy, but rather the conjunction of interests between well placed individuals. Each, in their own way, moving forwards for their own personal gain. It is not the activity of great conspirators, but rather the collective movement of little men, of people who can think only of their personal gains. Money, vanity, power.

Turgot is right about the government, isn’t he.

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