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Todo un hombre de Estado: Junio 2010

30 de Junio de 2010

El oro, la inversión que no era
En el último número de la revista Índice, editada por la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid en colaboración con el INE, he publicado un breve artículo sobre las fuentes básicas que pueden emplear todos los interesados en invertir en oro. Podéis leerlo aquí

29 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 29-VI-2010
Supposing that a problem of capitalistic accumulation really exists, it is not conceivable that imperialistic expansion into the undeveloped regions of the globe can ease the pressure of over-accumulation. To realize this, one has only to examine how the capitalistic countries dispose of their "surplus production" by exporting to undeveloped countries. We have then to contemplate the following possibilities: 1. The additional export may be paid for immediately in cash so that the exporting country comes into possession of more gold or foreign exchange. These may be used: (a) For augmenting the volume of currency, i.e., other things being equal, for inflation. Besides the fact that this—via the production and exportation of goods and the fight for foreign markets—is a rather cumbersome and roundabout way to start inflation, it is difficult to see how the problem of over-accumulation can be solved in this way. On the contrary, inflation is, as we shall see later, sure to lead to a real and not merely imaginary over-accumulation, so that imperialism would be apt to intensify over-accumulation rather than to ease it. (b) To pay for additional imports, with the sole result that home goods are now replaced by foreign goods, without the problem of surplus production being brought any nearer to solution. 2. The additional export may be made on credit. So long as nothing is paid for interest or amortization, the exporting country has, indeed, got rid of the surplus production, but in no other sense than as if it had given it away or destroyed it. If this is the end of the matter, it becomes again legitimate to ask whether such a dangerous and roundabout way, with its political entanglements, is necessary in order to get rid of embarrassing goods without anything to show for it. But as soon as payments are being made for interest and amortization, this case differs in no way from the first case where the additional exports were paid for immediately. It has to be remarked, moreover, that if additional exports on credit (foreign investments) really offer a way out of the plight of overaccumulation, there is no reason why the same should not be done, and with less trouble, inside the country.

We may conclude then, that imperialism offers no solution of the problem of overaccumulation, whatever this may mean.

Wilhelm Röpke, Crisis & Cycles, 1936, p. 87-88

28 de Junio de 2010

Escolar y el Stiglitz que nunca existió
El último post de Escolar sobre Stiglitz es simplemente delirante. Dice:
Conviene escuchar a Stiglitz, ex asesor de Bill Clinton, ex vicepresidente primero del Banco Mundial. Este economista fue casi el único que predijo la tremenda crisis económica que ahora sufrimos, el primero que advirtió del riesgo de un colapso del sistema financiero internacional. También fue él quien avisó, hace ya 20 años, del peligro de revender las hipotecas como títulos de inversión, ese genial invento que estalló con las subprime.
Supongo que se referirá a este paper de Stiglitz avalando la solvencia de Freddie Mac y Fannie Mae, esos monstruos semipúblicos dedicados a emitir hipotecas como "títulos de inversión" y cuya quiebra desató el desastre que culminó en la quiebra de Lehman, ¿no? Atención a lo que opinaba el bueno de Stiglitz:
These results regarding the risk-based capital standard are striking: They suggest that on the basis of historical experience, the risk to the government from a potential default on GSE debt is effectively zero.

The probability of a severe interest rate shift, sustained over ten years, combined with high credit loss rates, is effectively zero.
Desde luego, fue de los pocos en ver venir la crisis y en criticar los riesgos de la titulización hipotecaria. 

27 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 27-VI-2010

It I not the obligation that creates the safety, nor is it the legal remedies of the bondholder in the event of default. Safety depends upon and is measured entirely by the ability of the debtor corporation to meet its obligations.

Security Analysis, Benjamin Graham & David Dodd, 1940, p. 70

26 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 26-VI-2010
The greater and the more important is the country the more disastrous will be the effect on the world as a whole. This is precisely what the break in sterling did. Undoubtedly, England could afford to devaluate its currency together with the Empire, but we must remember what terrific shock it was for the whole world to find even the pound and the Bank of England were no more the proverbially solid rock. All lenders and investors became scared. Nothing, it seemed, could be trusted any more except gold, and thus the effect on the whole world of the devaluation of the pound and the other currencies was an all-round international contraction of credit and a general scramble for gold. Gold, as the last anchor of confidence, rose in value everywhere, which was equivalent to a further decline of prices measured in gold.

Wilhelm Röpke, Crisis & Cycles, 1936, p. 189

24 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 24-VI-2010

Strictly speaking, there can be no such thing as an “investment issue” in the absolute sense, i.e., implying that it remains an investment regardless of price.

Security Analysis, Benjamin Graham & David Dodd, 1940, p. 64

23 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 23-VI-2010
There is another characteristic of Austrian economics that distinguishes it from the Lausanne school in particular: Austrian contributions could not be subsumed into what Shackle described as the “Grand System” because they focused attention on the element of adjustment time and consequently adopted the causal-sequential analysis of classical economics rather than the technique of mutual determination. This rejection of mutual determination has been taken as evidence that their intellectual contribution was outdated. Furthermore it has led to the spurious claim that they ignored the mutual interdependence of economic factors. To the contrary, their approach was a by-product of a concern with market processes rather than equilibrium states, a concern that attained its fullest development in the writings of Mises and Hayek.

Gerald O'Driscoll, Economics as a Coordination Problem, 1977, p. 7

22 de Junio de 2010

Teoría austriaca del ciclo y recursos ociosos
En mi último artículo en el Instituto Juan de Mariana reflexiono sobre si la Teoría Austriaca del Ciclo Económico es aplicable a una economía con recursos ociosos:
La expansión del crédito lo único que provoca cuando existen recursos ociosos es concederles a éstos las rentas que necesitan para añadir mayor presión todavía sobre los bienes presentes de los que querían disponer. Lejos de generar con su producción el ahorro que necesitan para financiar la nueva inversión, recalientan más el precio de los bienes presentes, encareciendo el coste de destinar estos bienes presentes a la obtención de bienes futuros (es decir, los tipos de interés aumentan, con lo que los posibles planes de inversión se vuelven menos atractivos).

Lo que quería señalar era simplemente que la descoordinación entre ahorradores e inversores no sólo se produce cuando existe pleno empleo de los recursos, sino también ante la existencia de recursos ociosos. Es cierto que cuando no hay desempleo los problemas se manifiestan antes, pues los costes de los factores aumentan más rápidamente que lo que los receptores del crédito fiduciario pueden irse permitiendo pagar.


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Cita económica del 22-VI-2010

In proudly applying the designation “blue chips” to the high-priced issues chiefly favored, the public unconsciously revealed the gambling motive at the heart of its supposed investment selections. These differed from the old-time bank stocks purchases in the one vital respect that the buyer did not determine that they were worth the price paid by the application of firmly established standards of value. The market made up new standards as it went along, by accepting the current price –however high– as the sole measure of value.

Security Analysis, Benjamin Graham & David Dodd, 1940, p. 62

21 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 21-VI-2010

A marked rise of the general price level consequent on an inflationary credit expansion is the necessary pre-requisite of the boom ending in the subsequent crisis, but no rise of this kind is necessary in order to put an end to the depression by reabsorbing the idle reserves of productive capacity and man power. The contrary view rests on a confusion of the compensatory credit expansion necessary for overcoming the depression with the inflationary credit expansion responsible for the later boom. As the example of the New Deal shows, any attempt at overcoming the depression by spasmodic efforts of raising the price level is only apt to give a misleading and dangerous turn to trade-cycle policy. In so far as the Gold Standard hinders these attempts so that there does arise a real alternative between this kind of trade-cycle policy and the Gold Standard, it means that it places difficulties in the way of an ill-advised sort of trade-cycle policy, which is hardly a reason for regret.

Wilhelm Röpke, Crisis & Cycles, 1936, p. 170-171

20 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 20-VI-2010
It is most dangerous to regard the bond form as possessing inherently the credentials of an investment, for a poorly secured bond may not only be thoroughly speculative but the most unattractive form of speculation as well.

Security Analysis, Benjamin Graham & David Dodd, 1940, p. 59

19 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 19-VI-2010

When the exchangers are not only unknown to one another, but in addition are unlikely ever to meet again, obviously any exchange they want to enter into must be immediately completed! Now this, more or less, is the condition of affairs under which most exchanging in consumer’s markets takes place. Most of those who are trading do not know one another or if they do, only in a casual way. Moreover, the transactions are occasional; they may never recur. But, as we have seen, the prime prerequisite of any deferred exchange is dependability demonstrated by past performance on the part of the person who is being trusted.

Harry Scherman, The promises men live by, 1938, p. 54

18 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 18-VI-2010

The Banks are certainly right in refusing to lock up their depositors’ money, for which they may be asked at any time; but their no reason why they should not increase their capital, by the issue of more shares or o terminable debentures, and so have funds available, which would not be repayable on demand, for the long-term requirements of industry.

Hartley Withers, The meaning of money, 1932 (primera edición 1909), p. 125

17 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 17-VI-2010
It cannot be too often emphasized that the combating of the depression must take place in the preceding boom and that once an over-investment has been allowed to develop in the boom we cannot evade the depression and must accept it as a necessary reaction to restore equilibrium. It would be radically wrong to combat this reaction by means of new injections of credit inflation: this would only postpone and make more difficult the recovery of the destroyed economic equilibrium.

Wilhelm Röpke, Crisis & Cycles, 1936, p. 146

16 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 16-VI-2010

From the nature of the business, bankers and their customers must always differ as to the amount of credit that the latter ought to have. Most enterprising and energetic business men want, and ought to want but ought not to get, more credit than they are good for. But if they got it, both they and their bankers would probably be sorry some day. When, as usually happens, they do not get it, they cry out against bankers as a set of stingy curmudgeons who starve enterprise. If there were no such criticism and all borrowers got what they wanted, it would be time to sell a bear of banks shares.

Hartley Withers, The meaning of money, 1932 (primera edición 1909), p. 124

15 de Junio de 2010

Los extraños cálculos de Escolar
Dice Escolar que Alemania está propagando rumores falsos sobre el estado de quiebra en el que puede encontrarse España para que se reduzca el coste de su deuda. Algunos por lo visto no pueden admitir que nos encontramos en una situación crítica precisamente porque durante años aplaudieron el monopolio público sobre el dinero (años del boom) y más adelante apoyaron las políticas keynesianas y de rigidez laboral que nos han abocado a una situación cercana a la bancarrota.

Así, concluye Escolar que Alemania en el último año se ha ahorrado con esta operación 35.000 millones de euros, es de suponer que en intereses. Estaría bien que el periodista aclarara de dónde sale ese cálculo. Los tipos de interés de Alemania han caído durante el último año unos 60 puntos básicos. Eso significa que para ahorrarse 35.000 millones Alemania debería haber emitido durante el último año alrededor de 6 billones de euros en deuda, lo cual obviamente no ha hecho (su PIB es de 2,3 billones). Entonces, ¿qué son esos 35.000 millones?

Actualización: Random Spaniard también expresa otras dudas sobre el post.

14 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 14-VI-2010
Once one admits that money is not neutral in the short run, and that there are relative price effects of sufficient duration that time-consuming production processes are altered, one is virtually compelled to accept the plausibility of the self-reversing features of a monetary disturbance; that is, one must, so long as one believes that the absolute quantity of money is of no significance in the long run and that the economy cannot be in neutral equilibrium for any conceivable set of relative prices.

Gerald O'Driscoll, Economics as a Coordination Problem, 1977, p. 82

13 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 13-VI-2010

Good banking is produced, not by good laws, but by good bankers. Just as the most carefully planned constitution will inevitable break down if the men at the helm of government are incompetent or dishonest, so no skillfully devised banking system will make banking good, unless the banking is conducted by straight and able managers, or defend banking from suspicion by its customers, if other wheels in the financial machine have been proved to be unsound. In the United States, before the Federal Reserve system was established, the national banks in the chief cities were compelled by law to keep a cash reserve equal to twenty-five per cent of their deposits, and were liable to inspection by Government officers whose business it was to see that the cash was duly there. And yet, the panic of the autumn of 1907 saw the banks of the United States obliged to suspend payments because of mistrust on the part of the American public.

Hartley Withers, The meaning of money, 1932 (primera edición 1909), p. 77-78

12 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 12-VI-2010
The emphasis must be laid not on the supply of capital, but on the demand for capital. The evil is not that too little has been saved but that too much has been invested. The shortage-of-capital theory distorts the causal sequence, limits itself to the surface and places the accent in the wrong place.

Wilhelm Röpke, Crisis & Cycles, 1936, p. 101

11 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 11-VI-2010

The importance of the bill of exchange thus lies in a merit and a danger attached to it. The merit is the fact that in its genuine form it facilitates trade by creating credits and so supplying cash against produce not yet marketed, and is also an ideal form of investment for those whose investments must be liquid, or certain of easy realization. The danger is the ease with which it can be created against securities which may not be readily marketable, or by being drawn on firms by themselves, or by correspondents, in order to provide cash for speculative enterprise.

Hartley Withers, The meaning of money, 1932 (primera edición 1909), p. 51-52

10 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 10-VI-2010

Hayek deplored the lack of attention paid by quantity theorists to relative price changes. The title Prices and Production was surely chosen to emphasize this argument. Relative prices are what guide production, but, in the divorce of monetary theory from value theory, money is assumed to have no effect on relative prices. Thus by hypothesis money is viewed as having no influence on production. Such was the blind alley into which, Hayek argued, the quantity theory had led economists. Vestiges of the long-run, comparative static approach of classical value theory remained embedded in the quantity theory. It was to this barter model that ignored financial markets that Hayek objected.

Gerald O'Driscoll, Economics as a Coordination Problem, 1977, p. 47

9 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 9-VI-2010

Finance bills being based on securities which are less readily realizable, especially in times of apprehension and uncertainty than genuine produce of general demand, are obviously more likely to land their acceptors in difficulty if they have been accepting too many of them. And it is thus easy to understand why, when there was any strain on credit, Lombard Street used in bygone days to talk seriously about the number of finance bills that were passing.

Hartley Withers, The meaning of money, 1932 (primera edición 1909), p. 49

8 de Junio de 2010

Réplica al Grupo Promacos

Me pasan un curioso artículo del Grupo Promacos titulado El anarcoliberalismo y el Día del Juicio Final. Básicamente es una crítica al diagnóstico que la Escuela Austriaca de economía efectúa sobre la crisis actual. Los argumentos no me resultan novedosos porque ya se vienen repitiendo desde hace un tiempo en los frentes más variopintos. La última vez que me insistieron en ellos fue en el interesante ciclo de conferencias de la Fundación Gustavo Bueno, en la que tuve la ocasión de participar.

Básicamente, las críticas son: a) no existe una economía desligada del Estado y por tanto este no puede verse como un disruptor del orden natural del mercado y b) dado que cada parte de la sociedad presta servicios que van más allá del beneficio continuado, no tiene sentido reclamar que las empresas ineficientes quiebren pues entre otras cosas originarían una insuficiente demanda para absorber toda la producción de EEUU, lo que degeneraría en una crisis de civilización.

No voy a extenderme pero:
  1. La primera crítica es una finta para no entrar en el debate económico de fondo. Para ocultar que el Estado puede crear –y de hecho crea– ciclos económicos recurrentes, se argumenta que no es concebible una sociedad sin Estado ni una economía sin política. Un completo non sequitur. La economía del ciclo económico de la Escuela Austriaca no arguye que la existencia del Estado genera crisis (en cuyo caso, quien opone que el Estado es indispensable en el capitalismo podría argumentar que las crisis son una consecuencia de nuestro orden social capitalista), sino la interferencia del Estado con la moneda y con el crédito y, muy en particular, la interferencia de tipo inflacionista. Negar que el Estado haya podido causar la crisis porque se vea al Estado como imprescindible es idéntico a negar que un Estado pueda causar una devastación nuclear si decide bombardear un territorio porque se vea a la Defensa como indivisible del Estado. Con estos mismos argumentos, tampoco se podría decir ni que la crisis es consecuencia de la desregulación, ni de la avaricia, ni de las decisiones financieras erróneas de los agentes ni de nada, porque el sector privado, el crédito, el dinero, los bancos y las empresas también son parte esencial del orden económico y político. Es decir, nos atamos de manos para explicar cuáles son las causas de lo que observamos y de lo que no observamos. Siendo verosímil que no sea posible economía sin política, desde luego es inverosímil que no sea posible economía sin inflación del crédito. He ahí el quid de la cuestión para refutar o validar la teoría austriaca en el que no se entra.
  2. Y quizá no se entra porque la teoría económica que subyace a estas críticas es bastante pobre, apenas un destello intuitivo de la vulgares teorías de la sobreproducción marxista y del subconsumismo keynesiano. Tanto caricaturizó Keynes a la Ley de Say que parece que la inmensa mayoría de la profesión económica se ha olvidado de lo que tenía de válido. Por resumir: los españoles compramos a Estados Unidos pagándole en última instancia con lo que producimos hoy o con lo que produciremos mañana (deuda). Y viceversa: Estados Unidos compra a España con lo que produce hoy o mañana. ¿De verdad seguimos pensando que conservando la estructura productiva actual de España (ladrillo, ladrillo y más ladrillo), es decir, evitando cualquier quiebra, conseguiremos seguir comprando la mercancía de Estados Unidos? ¿A cambio de qué, exactamente? Porque para poder comprar su mercancía, antes, durante o después tenemos que venderles la nuestra. ¿Acaso los estadounidenses quieren comprarnos nuestra mercancía? Tengo serias dudas, ya que precisamente por eso, precisamente porque no la quieren comprar, muchas de nuestras empresas pierden dinero y están al borde de la quiebra. Si quisieran lo que les ofrecemos, lo comprarían y entonces ni tendríamos pérdidas, ni empresas al borde de la quiebra ni, vaya por donde, crisis. De hecho, porque no pasan estas cosas es por lo que estamos en crisis y por lo que nuestras empresas deben quebrar y reestructurarse: para poder producir lo que los estadounidenses (u otros potenciales compradores) quieren y así poder comprarles con nuestra mercancía, su mercancía (esto es, no hay ni puede haber una sobreproducción general de mercancías, sólo una sobreproducción de mercancías en generales, esto es, una mala o incorrecta producción de mercancías que debe ser corregida y readaptada). De otra forma no funciona la división del trabajo. Pero sostener que la crisis se soluciona manteniendo la demanda es un puro razonamiento circular: nuestras empresas quiebran porque no nos compran desde fuera; como no nos compran no podemos comprarles; como no les compramos no nos pueden comprar; y por tanto hay que comprarles su mercancía vendiéndoles aquella mercancía nuestra que desde un comienzo no nos querían comprar. Tal vez el problema esté en que hay que cambiar el tipo de mercancía producida y, sobre todo, la manera de producirla (estructura de bienes de capital). Pero aquí ya entramos en una rica teoría del ciclo económico en cuyos razonamientos, por principio, para muchos es mejor y más prudente no entrar.
Cita económica del 8-VI-2010

Is the wisdom of the State so much superior to that of the private sector that it will make no mistake in diagnosing the different phases of the cycle and in deciding when to restrict and when to expand? If even the central banks are known to be not infallible, will not those persons, parties, pressure groups, and institutions that are responsible for the budget policy, fall even much below the rather modest standard of the central banks?

Wilhelm Röpke, Crisis & Cycles, 1936, p. 157

7 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 7-VI-2010

Bills drawn against wool, cotton, hide and other raw materials of the principal industries which are turned into articles of universal consumption are, for practical purposes, equally good; for the goods behind the bill, being certain of a market, and likely if anything to rise in value in time of war or political scare, secure the acceptor against the chance of being “locked up”, as it is called with an asset which he cannot realize. It is this quality, inherent in a genuine bill, which gave rise to the saying that banking is the easiest possible business to conduct once the banker has grasped the difference between a bill of exchange and a mortgage.

Hartley Withers, The meaning of money, 1932 (primera edición 1909), p. 43

6 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 6-VI-2010

It is apparent that the very reason why he [the farmer] produced his wheat or his pigs in such quantity (instead of producing only things which he and his family alone would consume) was because he knew that thousands of other persons than himself were organized into a system, all contributing their labor and quite a few large sums of money, in order to deliver his product to those who wanted it, at the moment and in the form they wanted it. He knows this so well that he takes it for granted as part of human environment. He bases all his actions upon it. But then he proceeds to forget it in his reasoning. Now, is it not a fair part of the entire truth to say that the distributors of goods are as much responsible for their existence as he? For first, without these distributors, the goods would not have been produced. Second, without the distributors, even if produced, they are ordinarily valueless to the producer himself.

Harry Scherman, The promises men live by, 1938, p. 41

5 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 5-VI-2010

The present economic depression shows in other spheres also, how, under the pressure of necessity, Government intervention is undertaken which changes the structure of the economic system so radically that the traces will still be visible long after the depression itself has been overcome. We need only to think of the important changes which the banking system has experienced under the measures of State support in Germany, Italy and Austria.

Wilhelm Röpke, Crisis & Cycles, 1936, p. 145

4 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 4-VI-2010

A bill, such as this one we have imagined, drawn against the actual shipment of actual produce, and especially of produce of universal demand and immediate consumption, such as wheat, obviously possesses the great advantage of “paying itself”, according to the common phrase in Lombard Street. The wheat comes to market and is sold, and cancels the debt created against it.

Hartley Withers, The meaning of money, 1932 (primera edición 1909), p. 42

3 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 3-VI-2010

When one compares two countries and finds the one well stocked with roads, buildings, machines and unfinished goods inventories, while the other is relatively poor in these tangible things, one does feel that one knows which country will enjoy the greater volume of output. It may be noted that our tendency to make this kind of judgment about a nation’s economic futures rests, if it is to be at all valid, on an implicit faith in the past and future ability of a market economy to coordinate plans.

Israel Kirzner, Essays on Capital and Interest: An Austrian perspective, An essay on capital, 1966, p. 42

2 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 2-VI-2010

The willingness of the banking system to give new credits does not in all circumstances suffice to bring about a credit expansion. To this end, a second condition must be fulfilled, viz., the existence of entrepreneurs who are willing to take new credits for investment purposes so as to render the credit expansion really effective by enlarging the volume of circulating media instead of merely enhancing the liquidity of somebody.

Wilhelm Röpke, Crisis & Cycles, 1936, p. 125

1 de Junio de 2010

Cita económica del 1-VI-2010

Once it is realized that complete market coordination would involve complete knowledge by each actor of every other’s actor plans, “imperfect” coordination is seen as an inevitable result of the fact that individuals differ. What remains to be explained by those enamored of such language is why the inevitable consequences of individual differences should be called “imperfections”. Would a world in which we were all alike be perfection?

Gerald O'Driscoll, Economics as a Coordination Problem, 1977, p. 28

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