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Articles (82) 

Turning Argentine

April 03, 2013

U.S stock markets were closed on Good Friday. When they reopened on Monday, investors seemed unmotivated. Neither the Dow nor the price of gold moved appreciably. Gold ended the day right on the $1,600 mark.

Not much to report, in other words.

Here in Argentina, most things were closed on Monday for the Easter holidays... and are closed again today, too.

What do these Argentines think they are? French?

We wandered the streets. Here in the Palermo Soho neighborhood of Buenos Aires, where we are staying, there were thousands of people window shopping, eating in restaurants and drinking in outdoor cafes.

Inflation is running about 30% per year. The government is proposing to use citizens' pension funds to pay off its creditors. You get 50% more for your money if you trade your dollars for pesos on the black market. And experts are predicting another big devaluation of the peso after the October elections.

"The Argentine economy has been supported by strong farm sector prices," reports the local paper. "High agricultural prices should help support the peso and the Kirchner government."

Eager to Spend

People on the streets seem to have money to spend. And they are eager to spend it.

"Are you kidding?" said an Argentine friend. "Nobody wants to save pesos. You get them. You spend them."

"I've seen this show before," said another friend. "I was here in Argentina in the 1980s, when we had inflation of 1,000% per month. And I was in Moscow when the Soviet Union fell apart. Inflation hit about 800% there in 1993. I see signs of a big takeoff in inflation again. Watch out."

But for well-to-do Argentines, the quality of life here must be among the highest in the world. There are dozens of restaurants within a five-minute walk. You can sit outside. The weather is nice. And prices are cheap, if you convert your money on the black market.

But the quality of life is more than just sitting in outdoor cafes sipping a café con leche. Being able to work is important too... and so is being able to keep your money. You need to be able to save money... and then you'll have enough money to be able to hang out in outdoor cafes!

The world is a rich place. It is so rich that it can afford more and more people who don't have to work and more and more people -- such as Ben Bernanke -- whose work reduces standards of living for practically everyone.

The waiter who brings your morning coffee is providing a valuable service. The plumber who makes sure your water flows is also giving you something of value. So is the autoworker who welded together your automobile.

All increase the real wealth of the planet.

But Bernanke? Is there any evidence that any central banker from the dawn of time until April 2, 2013, added a centime or a farthing to the wealth of the world?

Not that we know of!

Instead, Bernanke fiddles with the monetary base... jiggles interest rates... and generally diddles the economy.

You might say, if it weren't for his jiggling and diddling and so on, that the "crisis would be worse" or even that "we would have had a depression." But you might also say that if he hadn't been diddling and fiddling with it, we wouldn't have had a financial crisis in the first place!

Subtracting Value

How about Nancy Pelosi or Lindsey Graham? Do they provide a useful service? Do they make the world richer, or better, in any way at all? Are they productive members of society or bloodsucking parasites?

It seems obvious here: Argentine politicians do not add value. They subtract it. They spend money that is not theirs and sap wealth they never created. They drain away the real wealth of the world by transferring money from those who earn it to those who consume it. Then it is gone.

Is it any different in North America?

"You get what you pay for," said Milton Friedman. You pay for zombies, you get all you want -- and then some.

What about tax lawyers? People on disability? Defense contractors?

Aha! You will say that defense contractors provide a useful service. Without their work, the U.S. would be attacked and invaded.

In the 1930s, major industrial nations were on the march... and there was at least some remote danger that they could march against the USA. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, but it never posed much of a threat to the continental U.S. And Nazi Germany couldn't even conquer Britain, let alone America.

Back then, the U.S. spent 1% of GDP on defense, which was probably more than enough.

Today, the Pentagon consumes nearly five times as much. There are no hostile, aggressive nations endangering the peace of the world — as far as we know. So, for our purposes, we assume that the Pentagon wastes an amount equivalent to about 4% of GDP.

That is to say, it takes wealth from the productive sector and destroys it. Maybe worse. By overspending on "security," the U.S. armed forces may make Americans less secure.

But wait — we're not going to spend our time complaining about the zombies. Instead, we're going to come to the point...

Which is, no matter how rich a place is, it can always be impoverished by careful government planning!

Argentina is a rich country. It has boomed in spite of itself. Thanks to a productive agricultural sector, it earns enough revenue to keep the economy functioning and the government supplied with payoff loot.

But as revenues rise, so does the number of people who want to be paid off: unions, the poor, the rich.

No matter how much they get, the authorities will find ways to spend more. This is how they caused a disaster in the 1980s... and again at the end of the 1990s.

Is Argentina ripe for another financial crisis? Maybe.

The U.S. is an even richer country, but not so rich that a determined government cannot ruin it. Maybe it already has.

Stay tuned...




Rating: 2.6/5 (5 votes)


BEL-AIR - 4 years ago    Report SPAM
I like this article and it is so true, USA spends more on the military then rest of the world combined, in as late as 2006 USA spent 4,000% more on the military than did Russia for example...

Even at 1% GDP USA will spend more on the military the what Russia and China currently spend combined, plus there is the rest of nato...

I know there was alot of opportunities in stocks during the hyperinflation periods in Argentina during those crisis moments, but was it still good in real terms or just hyperinflation currency and that since the currency was going down so fast that the gains in buying low were mostly wiped out?

What happened to the major banks at that time and did they turn out to be good investment if one bought during the panic of those inflationary days, did many go broke?

This good be an opportunity for those who can buy low...

Hope you hear more from you in the future.
Cornelius Chan
Cornelius Chan - 4 years ago    Report SPAM
These are words the Crowd winces to hear. But it is good for us to hear this kind of truth spoken every now and again.

Regarding U.S.A. military spending, I thought that nation has to spend so much in order to keep their military presence worldwide as a show of support for their reserve currency? or as some call it the Petrodollar?

I hear people speculate that China wants the world reserve currency... nonsense. They are not interested in going down the same road as the formerly great U.S.A. China has its own path to trod and it is the way of peaceful economic cooperation for all parties to win. They will not deviate from this historically recorded facts.
Cornelius Chan
Cornelius Chan - 4 years ago    Report SPAM
Regarding Argentina and a looming economic crisis... always remember to have a buy list of high quality stocks to buy low in a crisis environment. And never be so pessimistic to throw in the towel and the moment of greatest gloom. Things always return to normal.

There is always opportunity in the stock market.
LwC - 4 years ago    Report SPAM
"…the formerly great U.S.A."? LOL, you give new meaning the the term "Canadian Loony" [sic].

"China has its own path to trod and it is the way of peaceful economic cooperation for all parties to win." Peaceful economic cooperation? Try explaining that to Viet Nam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, the Philipines and Japan, all of whom are experiencing the sharp point China's "peaceful economic cooperation."

And oh yeah, we mustn't forget China's support for the dictators of North Korea, which has enabled them to consign generations of Koreans to poverty, starvation and in fact abject slavery. Those poor people are the real winners of China's "peaceful economic cooperation.", huh? Luckily for them they just don't know how good they have it. And too bad for those poor South Koreans who have to rely on "the formerly great U.S.A." to just scrape by as a third world country. Just think how far they could have gotten if only they could have relied on China's "peaceful economic cooperation" instead. They must be pining for the opportunity to escape to North Korea or even better, China, where they would be able to enjoy much more productive lives and live in relative freedom.

My guess is you've become a poster child for the success of RT and China Daily propaganda.

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