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A Response to Alan Harvey's Demand Side Podcast

A Response to Alan Harvey's Demand Side Podcast
by Alex Merced

This is a Response to THIS episode of Alan Harvey's Demand Side Podcast

 As an anarcho-capitalist aspiring austrian economist, one may ask why would I bother consuming such media such as the Rachael Maddow Show or Alan Harvey's Demand Side podcast which are the antithesis of my own personal opinions and belief structure. Of course, in order to be effective in debate one must be able to empathize and understand the opposing view or debates end up being a shouting match without any progress towards any consensus.

Much of the time our opinions across many spectrums come from similar values and virtues so a consensus can be achived by merely repositioning an issue in a way to reflect that. When Values and Virtues underlying our opinions on an issue differ greatly then of course conclusions will vary in a non-reconcilable way, so being able to recognize this helps one realize that the current debate is useless that the debate must be shifted a step back to a more fundamental ones of which values, goals, and principles should take priority before moving foward. This is important cause if you and your opponent to agree on the underlying assumptions then you debating two completley different issues.

So listening to the views and ideas of your opponents help identify these important variables in debate. Although aside from this reason while I often disagree with the conclusions Maddow comes to, I do appreciate the research and ability to identify problems or symptoms of other problems even if her insinuated solutions are often worse than the problem. As far as Alan Harvey I can't say the same, he's staunch defender of the Keynesian stronghold and it's amuzing to listen to a show that positions itself to the LEFT of Krugman who is pretty far left as it is.

So what is it I want to respond to? Well in his most recent podcast he was makings some critiques of Reinharts and Rogoffs new book "This Time It's Different". While I'm not here to defend the conclusions of this book, since I have no read the book as of yet I do want to address many of the bizzarre insinuations on behalf of Harvey in his critic.

#1 The Government can Never go Bankrupt

 For the most part, to an extent this is true. If a government has control over it's money supply it can always increase the money supply in order to tender it's debts. For example if you can always just print money to make your monthly credit card payments, no matter how much debt you have you won't technically go bankrupt. Although this is not a good thing, cause this means politicians have no incentive to make difficult political decisions and will generally lean towards spending as a solution (which a keynesian would say is good, cause they believe consumption is THE economic driver).

 Although this is not the only problem since an ever increasing money supply leads to inflationary pressures and mal-investment as an increased money supply leads to less saving since interest rates drop yet more investment in capital intensive long term projects which will have no consumer base when completed since there is no savings to purchase them (how many high rise condo were planned but never completed in las vegas). So overall even though the government won't go bankrupt this has been little solace for Zimbabwe and their inflationary problem (everyone in Zimbabwe is a Millionaire... but they still can't buy a cup of coffee). Although if you bring up the inflationary argument it leads to Harveys next ridiculous statement...

#2 that for Developed economies there is little relationship with debt from inflation

The argument Alan Harvey is trying to make is that high debt levels have little to do with inflation if the economy is advanced enough. I would disagree that the size of the economy just eliminates the relationship but that it has more ability to mitigate the conditions that lead to dire consequences in the short run. A larger economy with lots of imports and trade deficits such as the US sends it's dollars abroad as the money supply increases, mitigating the supply increase (although this would still devalue the dollar vs other currencies since people are essentially selling off the dollar to buy foreign goods, but it prevents the domestic flood of dollars). So while a large economic importer economy like the US has this mechanism to deal with money supply increases the result of this is that business and industry follows the money abroad (why be in the US if US dollars are going abroad?).

Although if perpetual money supply increases are perceived then foreign exporters will begin to refuse to take dollars cause of expected supply increases, increasing their currency risk. If enough foreigners refused to take dollars there would be nowhere to soak the growing supply of dollars which would be the trigger for hyperinflation. Although we've been able to buy time cause the US is currently the reserve currency of the world so for the time being for foreign exporters will take dollars despite the currency risk but already many countries are divesting from the dollar.

So will the debt essentially lead to overnight price inflation... maybe not but it eventually will and in the meantime we'll just have to watch all our industry leave first.

#3 Bad Economics Times cause runaway government debt, not the other way around

Once again, on the surface like most Keynesian talking points is very plausible and has a sort of logic to it. The argument that Havey puts forth is that much of thes stimulus spending and deficits wasn't the cause of the 2008 recession but a response to it, which is totally true. Although he tries to pidgeon hole the correlation between government debt and economic difficulties in one direction where the former is caused by the latter. In all reality you have a feedback loop, a viscious cycle.

Government Spending on things like oh say the Iraq War leads to deficits -->
Which Leads to increases in the money supply -->
which leads to lower interest rates -->
which leads to mal-investment -->
which leads to a boom -->
which leads to a bust -->
Government then increases Spending as response... and the cycle begins again....

So yes the current recession wasn't caused by the stimulus but can definetly be tied to Greenspans monetary policy and Bushs deficit spending which sowed the seeds for the mal-investment in the housing sector which allowed for a lack of worker mobility an over commitment of labor in construction which I don't have time to get into. So yes bad economic times can prompt government spending, but government spending can also lead to tough economic times. The answer to this feedback loop is to break the cycle and not spend similar to what was done in the recession of 1920. To anyone who's been following this in depth can see we're making the same mistakes we did in 1929.


At the end of the day Keyensians love to flip-flop causality sometimes just out of the academic challenge of doing so, but if the question is which begets which (production -> consumption) or (consumption -> production) it's easily visible with the following the anology.

(Production -> Consumption)

I baked a cake (production) so now I can eat the cake (consumption)

versus (Consumption -> Production)

I eat the Cake (consumption) so now I can abke a cake

As you can see in the second example the person ate a cake which did not exist, so it's essentially a non-sensical statement since cake MUST be baked first for a cake to be eaten. Consumption is the result of production processes being developed in an economy, although if you focus on getting everyone to consume like Keyensian economics does without disregard if the work people do actually produce (work programs, public sector jobs). Production must occur in order for their to be something to consume  and if not then you'll just find people fighting over more fiercly over a shrinking pie in which everyone has developed an insatiable appetite (Imagine an all you can eat buffet that never gets replenished).

Bottom Line... as much as I try to empathize and understand, the flaws in Keynesian Economics are too obvious and too many to ignore.

Posted Aug 24 2010, 11:48 AM by Alex Merced