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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Alt Investors interview

Rahul interviewed Vox Day on December 14, 2011

Rahul: The first thing I wanted to get into is the argument of inflation vs deflation. I believe that we agree on many issues, but I know for sure we disagree on this topic. Why do you believe we're going to face a deflationary depression.

VD: Because I believe the amount of credit created money, which is stored up in notional derivatives, and loans and that sort of thing, are going to decline faster than the central banks of the world are able to create money through the banks and push them out of the system.

Rahul: So what about the U.S. dollar then. We have Peter Schiff saying that the dollar is garbage. Since we artificially have low interest rates, a huge debt, and a trade account deficit, that will cause a run on the dollar.

VD: Because Peter Schiff has an amateurish understanding of the technical economic aspects of inflation as they relate to a debt-based currency. I was on his show; I like Peter and have a lot of respect for him. When it comes to the detailed aspects of economics, he doesn't know what he's talking about. He's an investor and a good one. Everyone says look they're printing money, and look at M2. They're right, and M2 has increased. However, that's only part of the equation. The unsophisticated way to look at the inflation/deflation question is to erroneously assume that money is paper. The central bank can print paper, and sophisticated people would say it's all electronics (Fed would just flip a switch). What money really is, you can find this in Mises, is that money is the combo of paper money and bank credit. When you buy something, do you have to pay in paper?

Rahul: No.

VD: Off course not. How are you paying for it. You're paying for it in credit. That's an invented currency. It trades completely fungible. It's completely fungible with paper currency and the electronic bank money. If you look at the data for the past 3.5 years, the total credit debt outstanding is flat at 53 trillion. M2 has increased a bit, but that's 9 trillion. The amount of M2 has dwarfed by the outstanding bank credit. That amount, if it increased at its 50 year historical rate of 8.8%......known as Z1, we would have 72 trillion. We don't. It's still stuck at 53 trillion. That means it's an active form of deflation. The only reason that this isn't visible to everyone is that most of the deflation is hidden off the books in the financial institutions.

Rahul: Ok then. So what do you think about gold then? We have all these libertarians saying that gold will go to 10K /oz because we're going to go back on some sort of gold standard. What's your take on that?

VD: My take is that gold is much better as a wealth protector than it is than an investment. People think gold is good in inflation and bad in deflation. We had inflation throughout the 1980s at the same time that we had plunging gold prices. Now we've been seeing deflation.....even the inflationistas admit that there was deflation in 07-08. And yet gold prices went up. Gold, in some ways......for those who consider gold true money, then they should view it as anything that makes gold valuable is deflation. I think gold is a good safeguard of wealth even if you believe in inflation or deflation. Gold will still hold its value. The currency can disappear in either inflation, because it becomes worthless, or in deflation, where the financial system collapses because the debts can't be paid off.

Rahul: Ok. Switching topics. Let's look at Europe. Do you believe that the Euro countries will go back to their original currencies, like the Greeks going back the Drachma, or do you see a EuroTarp situation?

VD: Well I think they're going to try a EuroTarp and it will fail. The Euro will break apart. I've been saying this for 10 years. I'm not surprised by the problems of the Euro. The only thing that surprises me that it's 1.30 against the USD. 2.5 years ago, it was 1.15. It should be below .88 against the dollar.

Rahul: Why do you think it's that high?

VD: I believe that the Fed is sending a lot money to Europe to prop up their currency.

Rahul: Allright. One last question. How will the U.S. get out of the depression? Krugman always talks about WWII getting us of the last depression. Will we have WWIII to bail us out or a Reagan style candidate to get us of this mess.

VD: Well, first of all, Krugman has no freaking clue what he's talking about. He's an absolute ignoramus on this matter. Before I got into economics, I was into military history. My grandfather fought in the south pacific. What got the U.S. out of the depression was that the rest of the industrialized world was blown to pieces. The US was the only country to have a functional industrial infrastructure. Therefore, we had 10 years to sell them consumer and capital goods to rebuild their infrastructure. It's not even worth discussing. WWIII won't get us out because WWII didn't.

Rahul: So what will get us out of this mess?

VD: Collapse. What most likely going to happen is the financial system will collapse. The societal system will hopefully hold up. Currencies usually have a life of 70 years. It's not the end of the world if the Euro dies. This isn't the first attempt of a European monetary union. There have been at least five. This will collapse. The dollar will eventually collapse. This always happens. They will end up putting this back together.

Rahul: Will the SDR be the world's reserve currency?

VD: It's hard to say. I wouldn't think so. What else is there? The central banks are allergic to a gold standard for the obvious reason that they can't run their credit boom game very easily on a gold standard. They can do it, but they can't do it to the same extent. Gold isn't a magical cure all. We had a depression on a gold standard and we had problems with it. That doesn't mean I'm against it. It's much better and I'm for it. It isn't a magical panacea that is going to usher us into unending prosperity. We still have to make stuff people want and sell it. That's where wealth comes from. The whole idea that we can play games with money and that sort of thing, and somehow live off of that, is absurd. It's a hangover from 40 years of a large credit boom. Since we've had a large credit boom, the bust will be magnified.

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