Who is that economist working for?

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If you believe that . . .

Economics has been called the dismal science. Well, “dismal” it may be, certainly in the way it is used to justify the gross inequalities in the distribution of our planet’s wealth – but “science”? Possibly a “human” science, ranking with other notoriously imprecise fields of human knowledge such as psychology and sociology.

I have noted previously that Alfred Nobel did not include economics in his list of prizes. Not only did he think it unfit to sit alongside the true sciences (physics, chemistry, physiology, medicine), he didn’t even consider it as objectively assessable as Literature and Peace!

Bearing that in mind, then, it seems to me that I have as much right as anyone to have my ideas on the subject taken seriously. It could even be argued that the views of a high profile rugby player in New Zealand have greater validity than those of a former Governor of my country’s Reserve Bank.

We are all aware that high-level sport these days is mostly about money, and economics has inserted its dismal finger so that honesty, fair play, clean living and sportsmanship now rank well down the list of priorities. The home ground of Istanbul’s Beşiktaş football club, formerly commemorating the republic’s second president and close friend of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, has recently been rebuilt and reopened as the Vodafone Arena, commemorating . . . the power of money.

banksters-300x199It’s a brave sportsman or woman these days who can cite moral principles to his or her paymasters as Sonny Bill Williams has done in New Zealand. Williams has the advantage of being an extremely valuable property, moving seamlessly between two rugby “codes” (league and union) in a way that would once have been frowned upon. So, when he announced that he would not wear a team strip emblazoned with the logo of the Bank of NZ, he opened a can of worms. Williams is, apparently, a Muslim, and follows that religion’s injunction against usury – the lending of money at interest.

A columnist for the NZ Herald, Brian Gould, picked up on Williams’s moral stand, writing an opinion piece entitled “Banking should be under closer Government control”. Supporting the Muslim rugby player’s position, Gould said, Most people believe, and it is a belief assiduously promoted by the banks themselves, that the banks act as intermediaries between those wishing to save and those wishing to borrow, usually on mortgage. . . But this benign view of their operations is inaccurate and misleading. The banks do not lend you on mortgage money deposited with them by someone else. They lend you money that they themselves create out of nothing, through the stroke of a pen or, today, a computer entry.”

The next day, the Herald published a reply from a gentleman by the name of Don Brash insisting that both Williams and Gould were wrong.

“Mr Gould is not alone in peddling this nonsense, but that certainly doesn’t make it correct.

How the Fed works

How the banking system creates MONEY. Money is not wealth, especially if you have to borrow it at commercial interest rates. (Source: Time Magazine)

“The banking system does create money. When Bank A lends money to one of its customers, the customer may use those funds to buy something from somebody who banks with Bank B. Bank B then finds itself with an additional deposit, a part of which it can lend out to its customers (keeping some of the additional deposit as a liquidity reserve). So an initial loan may end up considerably increasing the total lending by the banking system.

“If individual banks really could create money by “the stroke of a pen or a computer entry”, as Mr Gould contends, why do they bother paying interest on deposits, why do they borrow funds from parent banks overseas, why do they borrow funds in the international market, why do they need to hold some funds in government securities as a liquidity reserve, why do some banks occasionally run out of money when customers lose confidence in them?

As well as being a former Governor of the Reserve Bank, I now chair the small New Zealand subsidiary of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the largest bank in the world. It would certainly make life very much easier if we could, “by the stroke of a pen or a computer entry”, simply create the money which we lend out to New Zealand borrowers. Unfortunately, we can’t.” (My highlighting)

Pinocchio

Would I lie to you?

So, according to Brash, Gould and Williams are wrong – but the banking system does create money. Huh? Look at the weasel words in the last sentence. OK, that’s not how they do it exactly, Don. And Bill Clinton did NOT have sex with that woman.

As I hinted above, Don Brash was Governor of New Zealand’s Reserve Bank from 1988 to 2002. He has held academic positions at several universities at home and abroad, sat in big chairs in large offices in several well-known banks, and even been involved in politics at the highest level. Clearly he, and the editor of the NZ Herald, and other naïve souls too for all I know, believe his words carry the power of gospel truth in matters of economics.

Look closer, though, and ask yourself if a guy who works at the upper levels of banking administration can possibly express publicly an unbiased view of the workings of the banking system.

Check the guy’s record, and you’ll see that he is a loser from way back. His first foray into politics was in 1980 as National Party candidate for the “safe” National seat of East Coast Bays. He lost, not to the main opposition Labour Party, but to an opponent representing Social Credit, a party whose main platform was exactly the view of banks expressed by Messrs Williams and Gould. That was a by-election. He failed to win the seat back in the General Election of 1981 and was dumped.

es514f00bfSomehow he managed to get himself elected as leader of the parliamentary National Party, despite his inability to actually win an electoral seat – holding the position from 2003 to 2006, then resigning from Parliament in 2007 to take up another academic post as economics guru.

He returned to politics in 2011 as leader of the right wing ACT Party, holding the post for seven months before resigning again after failing to make any impact in that year’s General Election. Clearly the average New Zealand voter is more perceptive than those who appoint general managers in banks or professors of economics at universities.

Brash is a hired lackey of the capitalist establishment, and a loser whenever he has offered his services to the New Zealand public. I’m not going to stoop to discussing his private life. If you’re interested you can get an overview on his Wikipedia page.

How the US Uses War to Protect the Dollar

I’m reblogging this because it’s crucial that we all know how US Money Power is manipulating the entire world:

The Gods of Money William Engdahl (2015) The first video is a 2015 presentation by William Engdahl about his 2010 book The Gods of Money. It focuses on the use of US economic and military warfare to maintain the supremacy of the US dollar as the global reserve currency. As his point of departure, he […]

512-I1WyqFL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In 1971 when Nixon was forced to end the gold standard,* the gold-backed US dollar was replaced by the “petrodollar.” According to Engdahl, it was so named because of a secret agreement the US made with Saudi Arabia – in return for a guarantee that OPEC would only trade oil in US dollars, the US guaranteed the Saudis unlimited military hardware.

In this way, oil importing nations (most of the world) were forced to retain substantial US dollar reserves. This was the only way they could provide their economies with a continuous supply of oil.

In 1997 the US Treasury and Soros made a a similar attack on economies of Southeast Asia (Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines) that attempted to use currencies other than the dollar as their reserve currencies.

The second clip is a Guns and Butter radio interview with Engdahl. It focuses on a second area the Gods of Money covers, namely the long US battle to abolish their private central bank (aka the Federal Reserve) and end the ability of private banks to create money out of thin air (see How Banks Create Money Out of Thin Air).

via How the US Uses War to Protect the Dollar — The Most Revolutionary Act

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics (Part 2)

I’m not a hundred percent sure who said it first – Mark Twain, Benjamin Disraeli or the first Duke of Wellington. Whoever it was, they drew our attention to the sad truth that “facts and figures” can be manipulated, distorted and misinterpreted to prove just about anything.

I want to share three items I came across recently, all circulated by people with Turkish names, but seeking to present Turkey in an unfavourable light. Two of them were posted on the business network LinkedIn, and the other, in our local English language news site, Hürriyet Daily News.

Turkey & ChinaThe first item is a graph purporting to compare the “productivity” of Turkey and China over a 25-year period. The two countries were, allegedly, neck-and-neck in 1990. By 2014, China’s “productivity” had grown exponentially to ten times that of Turkey, which had clearly languished in a state of economic inertia.

Well, several questions arose in my mind as I studied the graph. First, what was the source? No sign of that, and the gentleman who posted it online was unable to provide an answer. Second, given that China’s population is twenty times that of Turkey, is it fair to compare their economies in absolute terms, rather than, say per capita GNP? Moreover, is it likely that their “productivity” was equal in 1990? A more serious question, however, is, what, exactly, does the y axis of this graph measure? 500,000 what? 2,000,000 what? Dollars? Automobiles? Chinese noodles?

bi_graphics_middleeast-3The second item is a graphic listing the fifteen most powerful militaries in the Middle East. Leaving aside the debatable matter of whether Turkey is in the Middle East, at least we know the source of this graphic: globalfirepower.com via Business Insider. The figures are not up-to-date (2014) but leave that aside too. What interested me was that Turkey is said to be Number One on the list despite the following:

  • Saudi Arabia’s military budget is three times that of Turkey – though admittedly the Sauds don’t seem to have got much for their money.
  • Israel has 80-200 nuclear warheads (its neighbours have none) and (which the table doesn’t show) an “Iron Dome” (provided at stupendous expense by the United States government) so that no other country can actually attack them.
  • Iran and Egypt both have more active personnel than Turkey, and Egypt also has more aircraft.
  • Syria has more tanks and Iran has more submarines.

Of course, Turkey’s military capabilities should not be underestimated, as Britain, France and Greece learned to their cost after the First World War. However, the figures suggest they wouldn’t be wise to start throwing their weight around in the region, even if they did have the inclination.

Graph 1Finally, there was a graphic in our local daily showing the world’s “Top 15 Manufacturing Countries”. The writer’s main focus was on “Turkey’s relative performance [which] says a lot about Turkey’s transformation. Turkey entered [the list] in 1990, hung on until 2000, but dropped out afterwards. Today, we are muddling around between number 16 and 17.” (My highlights)

The first thing that struck me is, the global economy is a competitive market, and to be ranked in the top 20 out of 200 is not a bad achievement for a country that was an economic basket-case less than a century ago. Then, once again, the unit of measurement puzzles me. What exactly is “global nominal manufacturing gross value added”?

Moreover, let’s take a look at the other economic powerhouses. The United States has lost its Number One ranking, and anyway I’d be interested to know how much of their manufacturing actually takes place on home turf? Australia, the Netherlands and Argentina, in the Top 15 in 1980, had all “dropped out” by 2013. The United Kingdom, Spain and Canada had fallen from fourth, ninth and tenth, to eleventh, fourteenth and fifteenth respectively. On the other hand, South Korea, Russia and Indonesia, out of the running in 1980, had powered up to fifth, ninth and thirteenth places by 2013.

So what do we understand from this? One thing is certain, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Do these figures take any account of the proportion of a country’s population living in abject poverty, eg China and India? From a purely subjective point-of-view, the situation in Turkey doesn’t look too bad to me. Without getting into detailed comparisons, levels of air pollution are far below those of China. Destruction of the natural environment by rapacious business interests is nowhere near as bad as in Brazil or Indonesia.

In the final analysis, comparisons are odious (not sure who originated that one either) but one other thing is certain, we should treat statistical evidence with caution.


PS – For Part 1 click here

Human Development in Turkey

More sad news for Turkey. The United Nations Development Programme released its latest global report last week, placing Turkey 71st out of 188 countries on its Human Development Index. “71st! How bad is that!” I thought.

But then I looked a little closer. The first thing I noticed was that Turkey had actually moved up one place from the previous year. In fact, from 1990 to 2015, the country’s HDI value had increased by more than 33%.

The UN uses three factors to determine its HDI value: Life expectancy at birth; expected years of schooling and mean (average) years of schooling; and per capita Gross National Product. Over that period since 1990, life expectancy had increased by 11.2 years. Average years of schooling had increased by 3.7 years. Per capita GNP increased by 78.2%.

slaves_of_dubia_coverIt is also important to recognise that, as a country moves higher up the rankings, it becomes increasingly difficult to overtake those ahead on the list. The top five countries are Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark. The USA ranks 11th, and the United Kingdom, 16th; Japan is in 17th place, and Finland, 23rd. Even if Turkey’s standards improve markedly, how is it possible to overtake countries that have such a head start? Turkey is, however, well placed in the second category of countries, labelled as having “High Human Development”, its HDI index placing it in the upper half of this group.

Then there are other countries ahead of Turkey on the list whose high rankings are open to question. How does Greece, for example, with its economy in tatters, manage to slot in at number 29? Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have healthy rankings of 39 and 42 respectively, yet many of their residents are poorly-paid migrant workers, without the benefits of citizenship and, one assumes, not counted for statistical purposes.

Kazakhstan (57), Cuba (68) and Iran (69) all have higher rankings than Turkey – which makes me wonder how much credence I can give to the UN report.

I suspect that few people will actually read the report’s 288 pages. Most likely, those in countries at the higher end of the list will wallow in unjustified complacency. One point the report writers make is that average figures can hide wide discrepancies in internal standards. This is a concern in developed countries,” they say, “where poverty and exclusion are also a challenge, with over 300 million people – including more than one-third of all children – living in relative poverty.” This is undoubtedly true in New Zealand, despite its HDI ranking of 13.

one+percent_vectorized“Legal and political institutions can be used and abused to perpetuate group divisions,” the report says. It cites the LGBTI demographic as an example – but what about the broader situation in the United States, where Wall Street financiers buy political influence with professional lobbyists, and 45% of eligible voters do not even bother to participate in presidential elections?

“The top 1 percent of the global wealth distribution holds 46 percent of the world’s wealth.” Well, we knew that. So what does that mean in reality? Those Western First World countries may have high per capita GNPs, but clearly the average figure is distorted by a small number of multi-billionaires. Far more than half of their population exists well below that per capita average GNP.

The report goes on to make a number of recommendations which, sad to say, are unlikely to receive much serious consideration in the corridors of global power:

“Measures are needed to strengthen strategies that protect the rights of and promote the opportunities for migrants, to establish a global mechanism to coordinate economic (voluntary) migration and to facilitate guaranteed asylum for forcibly displaced people.” Can you see the Saudi royals or those United Arab emirs taking much interest in rights and opportunities for those indentured labourers from Asia and Africa who do most of the unskilled work? As for rich countries in Europe “facilitating guaranteed asylum for forcibly displaced people” from Syria, for example – Dream on!

“Accountability is central to ensuring that human development reaches everyone, especially in protecting the rights of those excluded. One major instrument for ensuring accountability of social institutions is the right to information.” The people at Wikileaks are doing their best here – but it’s also clear that Western governments have little interest in transparency, and deal harshly with whistleblowers who challenge their right to withhold information.

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Work harder, and you too can have one of these 😉

Sustainable development activities at the national level must be complemented with global actions. Curbing global warming is possible. Continuing advocacy and communication on the need to address climate change and protect the environment are essential.” It may be possible – but to me it seems that the forces of conservative capitalism are working to undo most of the progress that had been made in protecting the fragile ecosystem of Planet Earth.

“Reforms should focus on regulating currency transactions and capital flows and coordinating macroeconomic policies and regulations. One option is a multilateral tax on cross-border transactions; another is the use of capital controls by individual countries. To move towards a fairer global system, the agenda for global institutional reforms should focus on global markets and their regulation, on the governance of multilateral institutions and on the strengthening of global civil society.” Don’t hold your breath waiting for Wall Street and the puppeteers of global finance to “regulate currency transactions and capital flows” and “move towards a fairer global system”.

Once again we see the need to view all published statistics with a healthy measure of scepticism.

How banks create money out of thin air

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AND loaned out at interest! AND the depositor can still ask for his/her money back!

Let’s not get sidetracked. There’s actually more to the world’s problems than just Donald Trump and Turkey’s RT Erdoğan.

This is clip is from a NZ source – but the same situation exists the world over:

http://tvnz.co.nz/seven-sharp/paying-interest-loan-never-existed-video-5336329

The ending is a bit weak – so you only need to watch the first few minutes.

“NZ at the Crossroads” – A somewhat overdue book review

Well first up, I want to apologise for the lateness of this review. In mitigation, I will offer the excuse that my birth was still some years in the future when the book itself was published in 1936. I managed to get hold of a copy recently after a search on the Internet turned up a signed first edition at a bookshop in Symonds Street, Auckland.

nz-xroadsWhy was I searching? I’m a long-standing proponent of monetary reform – a firm believer that most of the world’s ills stem from the fact that ninety per cent of the money governing every aspect of human life on planet Earth is created as interest-bearing debt by private bankers. And not until the power to create money is removed from private interests and vested in the state, the government and the people who elect them, will true social justice ever become an achievable goal.

Back in the late 70s and early 80s in New Zealand I was actively involved with a political party/pressure group arguing for monetary reform. I stood twice (unsuccessfully) as a candidate for parliament in 1981 and 1984. I saw close up the dirty tricks the forces of reaction would stoop to ensure the Social Credit Political League was wiped out as a voice of reason in a system designed to maintain a corrupt and unjust financial structure.

Recently I have been heartened to see a re-emergence online of individuals and organisations arguing for Positive Money. It’s long overdue. The case is irrefutable. The main stumbling block is public ignorance about how money actually works. The Money Power Elite use this ignorance to maintain a grotesque system that keeps most of the world’s population in poverty and slavery.

The author of “New Zealand at the Crossroads” was Henry J Kelliher, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1963 for his “services to Philanthropy”. It may have helped that he was one of the country’s richest men as a result of being owner/founder of Dominion Breweries, one of the two companies that produced most of NZ’s beer. Nevertheless, the case for Sir Henry’s philanthropy may have a better foundation than other mega-rich claimants to the title in our days.

In 1956 he set up a trust to administer an annual award for promising painters, and some of the NZ art world’s biggest names were early recipients. The award was discontinued in 1977, but a second foundation continues to present annual prizes for essays written by young students of economics.

I’ve searched online and I’ve been unable to turn up any of the subjects these young economists have written about. It also possibly detracts a little from Sir Henry’s reputation for philanthropy that his knighthood was put forward by a National (conservative) government at the time. “New Zealand at the Crossroads”, however, provides firm evidence that its author had a strong social conscience, and was at the forefront of the contemporary movement for monetary reform.

In fifteen chapters and 184 pages, Kelliher covered such topics as:

  • The nature and function of money
  • The social and economic disaster of unemployment
  • The importance for all of economic security
  • The urgent need for monetary reform
  • The influence of the press in resisting reform
  • The hypocrisy of the church in failing to fight for social justice

His first sentence announced that his book was “intended for those men and women who prefer to do their own thinking,” and he made a clear statement of intent in his introduction:

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Arresting “Communists” in Auckland, 1932

“It must be evident that a government which does not recognise as a fundamental duty the function of issuing all new money, and of controlling and regulating all money in circulation does not control the affairs of the country, nor is it safeguarding the welfare of the people. Such a government may govern but does not rule, because the real control of the country is in the hands of the ‘Invisible Government’ – the Money Power.”

In November 1935, in the depths of a global economic depression, and suffering more than most its socially destructive effects, New Zealand voters overwhelmingly elected the country’s first Labour Government. The main reason for Labour’s broad appeal, to farmers and owners of small businesses as well as wage-earners and the unemployed, was its “pledge to the people of New Zealand to take control of its own money and credit.” And they were not alone. According to Kelliher, “In Italy, Germany, Russia and Japan money [had] recently been put completely, or almost completely, under control of the governments of those countries.” Such a claim might cause one to wonder whether there was a more sinister agenda behind the demonisation of those countries in years to come. Whatever the case, Sir Henry argued that “There [was] ample evidence of a deliberate and well-planned conspiracy to keep this truth and knowledge from the people by those who hold this all-powerful monopoly to manufacture money and to conceal or disguise the unsoundness and iniquity of the existing system.”

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Mickey Sav – The portrait that hung on many a domestic wall in NZ for years afterwards

That New Zealand Government after 1935 did indeed attempt to implement its pledge first and foremost by converting the NZ Reserve Bank into an entirely State institution, then using credit provided thereby to carry out a programme of house building that provided a stimulus to industry, jobs for citizens, and low-cost, high quality housing for the needy. The results of the programme saw that Labour Government beloved by the people, and its Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage, elevated to a status bordering on, or possibly exceeding, sainthood.

Sad to say, that programme was a one-off. Kelliher wrote prophetically in his conclusion, “The great privilege, and the still greater responsibility to carry out the wishes of the people, and to bring to full fruition the possibilities and potential effects of this momentous piece of financial legislation [the Reserve Bank Act] rests entirely with the Government. The machinery has been provided, and the future will depend on the full and effective use and wise direction of this machinery in the service of the people.”

The Government reneged on its pledge. Some argue, and it is indeed highly probable, that the supra-national “Money Power” cajoled and threatened Labour’s leading politicians into dropping their programme. Those in the government who argued for its retention were sidelined or driven out. Within a couple of years, the British Empire had launched itself into a horrendous global war, financed by traditional private sector-created debt. New Zealand took the wrong turning at those crossroads, an epochal chance was lost – and the world settled comfortably (for some) back into hands of the blood-sucking money monopolists.

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The dedication in my copy of the book

As a footnote, my copy of this little book, signed by HJ Kelliher himself, 27 years before his knighthood, is dedicated to CG Scrimgeour Esq. Colin Graham Scrimgeour, popularly known as “Uncle Scrim”, was a hugely influential personality in New Zealand in the Golden Age of radio broadcasting. Under the guise of religion, “Scrim” broadcast regular weekly programmes during the Depression years giving voice to the concerns of the common people and “pushed the rigorous censorship of broadcasting to the limit”. He was a strong supporter of the Labour Party in the lead up to the 1935 election, and some say, an important contributor to its electoral success.

In spite of that, however, he was not given the commercial licence he was expecting to operate his own radio station. Savage’s Government in fact nationalised broadcasting – before later re-privatising the creation of money. As the Labour Government moved away from its financial reform pledge, Scrim became an increasingly outspoken voice of conscience. After Savage died, he was succeeded by the newly conservativised Peter Fraser, who led New Zealand enthusiastically into the Second World War, and reintroduced military conscription, against all his one-time principles. Fraser did not conceal his hatred for Scrim, had him called up for military service at the age of 40, and dismissed from his position as Controller of the National Commercial [sic] Broadcasting service.

I’m sorry to say, you are unlikely to find a copy of Kelliher’s book. I consider myself inordinately fortunate to have found this one. Call it fate or coincidence. HJK was once upon a time my grandfather-in-law – though I only met him once when he had long-since given up his reforming zeal. I do encourage you, though, to click on this link to Positive Money, and do your best to draw aside the veil of ignorance covering this all-important of subjects. Eighty years on, it’s more important than ever!

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Postscript: You may wonder why I’m posting this seemingly irrelevant book review on my blog site about Turkey. It occurred to me that these ideas on financial reform were very prevalent in the 1920s and 30s, around the time Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was trying to build a modern viable republic from the economic and social ruins of the Ottoman Empire. I can’t help wondering if he managed to finance some of his rebuilding projects by intelligent use of the new nation’s credit.

I haven’t yet turned up any corroboratory evidence – but neither have I found any serious discussion of where the money actually did come from. It’s equally true that you will search hard through any histories of New Zealand in those days before you find even the most oblique reference to how Labour financed its state housing project. So I’m not ruling it out.