Wednesday, July 22, 2009

That's All (Debt), Folks..

GDP growth and credit creation go hand in hand, at least in modern economies that use fiat currencies. The question is, how much additional debt should be created in order to produce an incremental increase in GDP?

Judging by historical data in the U.S.A., the ratio of debt increase to GDP increase was around 100-200% until the mid-1980's. The ratio briefly rose during recessions as GDP dipped faster than debt - a normal and rather benign situation.

Illusion of Growth

But then things got out of hand: the ratio exploded upwards to 700% even as the economy grew (at least by conventional macro accounting). There is only one explanation for this: the economy was artificially "goosed" by massive amounts of debt in order to create the illusion of growth.

The outcome of this piggish force-feeding was inevitable and pre-determined: a massive credit crunch and a doozie of a prolonged recession. Well, let's not mince words: a depression, though with a lower-case "d".

The Fed and Treasury are desperately trying to forestall the fallout (credit destruction via debt default) by furiously replacing worthless private debt with government obligations, but it is all for naught, really, after the first blush of hope is gone. Debt is debt and a pig is a pig, no matter what color you paint it.

In the words of my favorite stuttering porcine:


  1. Great chart hells, didn't know how high the debt-GDP growth ratio actually was! It's amazing compared to where it came from on the left of the chart!

  2. This whole way of life is A Grand Illusion. However, the curtain is about to be pulled back and the false wizard will be exposed.

    This thing goes way beyond depression, this is a total collapse of this grand illusion and everything with it.

    The USD will go hyper as all fiat does. When a country loses its unit of exchange, everything just grinds to a halt.

    Joe M.

  3. Off topic for today, but thought you'd be interested in this post on consumption:

  4. Five minutes of JFK talking about the dangers of secret societies (who just might be behind the ruinous rise in debt/GDP ratios).

    The road to serfdom has never been paved so smooth.

  5. I love this blog. It is an island of sanity in an insane world. I with you posted more frequently, tho. Enjoy your vacation!

  6. The government intervention is not all for not. It will exacerbate the problem when it eventually hits. You are right that the end has already been written. But the government is turning a guaranteed depression into a much worse Depression.
    Funny how they did the exact same thing last time around.

  7. Look, all this is relative. Fiat currency is by definition, an illusion.

    So as long as the US remains ahead of the global pack, the dollar will remain stable.

    There will be no collapse since there's really no where to collapse to! As long as everyone inflates together, everything will be fine.

    You think Japan or China want strong currencies? Of course not. At least for this crisis, it's time to buy stocks on margin.

    Move along, nothing to see here!

  8. I'm going to play devil's advocate on this one, Hell.
    First off, I LOVE pigs, and identify with them. Like us, they are 1) very intelligent 2) omnivorous 3) naturally clean when given the possibility 4) agressive when given the opportunity too. Those old wives' tales about children disappearing in pig pens were TRUE. Pigs will eat almost ANYTHING...
    Paragraph 3 of your text : "things got out of hand..." You do NOT do justice to what's between the brackets "AT LEAST BY CONVENTIONAL MACRO ACCOUNTING".
    Put that in perspective and you get : conventional macro accounting is greatly responsible for the PERCEPTION of growth, AND, WE used the "tool" of conventional macro accounting to ESTABLISH OUR idea of just what GROWTH is/was. The tool in turn continued to reinforce our PERCEPTION of what growth was.
    Just WHAT or WHO gives YOU the authority to DECIDE that this (necessarily arbitrary) definition of growth is an ILLUSION, as you do ?
    I will NOT for one minute follow you into the territory of saying that an "objective" reality out there was being betrayed through an ILLUSION, for the simple reason that "growth" itself is an abstract construct only accessible through language.
    But... WE have historically come to a point where the conventional idea of growth has changed. OUR conventional definition of growth has shifted. And that allows YOU to point this out. (As it allows ME, by the way...)
    And... the graphs will STILL say what you WANT them to, in THIS CONTEXT.
    Nice videa, Yoyo. Thanks. Now THERE was a cultured man...

  9. The government is all about lies and the hiding of truth. They expect people to not understand basic economics and how it affects each and everyone of us. No wonder so many get payday loans and hope for the best.

  10. I think it is called FNMA. There is debt, then there is interest on debt, then there is debt and interest on debt. Then there is the great society and Nixons stuff, followed by Carters stuff and then the greatest crime of all, Paul Volker, hiking interest rates to 20%,meaning debt has to expand 20% to pay the interst on the money. If debt was already 100% of GDP in 1980, it had to increase 20% to pay that interest or the pyramid was going to collapse. Though debt circulates as money, it is to some extent money from the future that has already been spent and cannot cease to exist without threatening the status quo.

  11. "GDP growth and credit grows hand in hand."

    Only if one is brainwashed by the banks. Who of course are the ones who create the credit, which becomes debt to you and I.

    How about this absolutely crazy idea:

    GDP growth and savings, which fund investments, goes hand in hand.

    Worked fine until 1990, when the 'investment' banks took over the sanity of the US of A.


    Joe and Jane are well armed and understand debasement of currency
    is allowed by debased people.
    Asking debased people to fix it and none where found in the land.
    Joe and Jane continue honest standands at home with friends and remember what is important. Joe is the first to die when he refuses to send his sons to save debased standards or so many friends defend joe and a standard