Professor Herman Daly is a well known economist who wrote a recent post on theoildrum.com dealing with among other things steady state economics, a concept of real wealth and the unfolding disaster in our financial system. He is a former senior economist at the World Bank and he wrote a seminal book on the emerging field of ecological economics entitled “Steady State Economics”. I think his post in the oil drum is excellent and I will provide the link here:http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4617#more.
I wrote a comment to his article in response to a comment by Gail the Actuary who is one of the fine staff members on the Oil Drum in which she mused on possible consequences of Daly’s ideas. My response follows.
Gail points to some consequences of Herman’s ideas. It does seem obvious that there will be less credit but it will take VASTLY less credit and debt to bring the system back toward a steady state. It is the sheer huge size of our combined government, corporate and individual debt about $50+ trillion vs our GDP $13 or $14 trillion) that daunts me.That is a ratio of over 3.5 to 1. At the nadir of the Great D that ratio had soared to only 2.5 to 1. Most TOD ers believe that cheap energy has allowed the kind of productivity that has converted that oil drum into a drum of something more valuable but if that cheap drum of oil isn’t replaced with another cheap drum of a different energy, then where will the productivity emanate from? If growth slows or stops or becomes negative, that debt will never be repaid unless the currency is expanded, ie inflation. I think we have here not a problem but a “predicament” as JM Greer has pointed out in his latest book,”The Long Descent.” Greer points out that problems may have solutions but predicaments do not.We know what expanded debt and credit did to the economy when the expansion was out of phase with real wealth creation and we fear what the consequences of pulling the plug on debt and credit might be, but what other choices are there? The huge majority of the nation opposed the banking bailout by a treasury secretary who was a Goldman Sachs former CEO. The problems were created and advanced by investment banks and bankers such as Paulson and his tribe so here we had the ludicrous spectacle of a banker bailing out himself paid by us using a hurry up offense. He promoted the banking bailout to prevent something worse.But he advanced no evidence to support his assertions that something worse might happen. Something worse may happen anyway but at least his former bank and his former tribal members are sleeping better.The morons and crooks who devised and promoted this debacle are not being punished but most of their employees are, as well as most of the country. The wall street banking industry owned the government and now the positions are reversed. They have the cash and we have the trash. As to How Prof Daly would handle a transition……well how can we transition from a situation of debt and credit created wealth to wealth? We can’t. There is no easy way to erase wealth. Most of our wealth was chimera. It was never there anyway. Should we punish the banking axis of evil? Of course. Would it yield much money? of course not but sending a horde of these bankers and buffoons to the guillotine would send a message.This hurried and poorly thought out propping up of a failed financial system just delays the inevitable collapse. The investment banks should have been allowed to fail. There would have been huge financial harm to all manner of people and not just the investment banks who were leveraging and trading their own securities but innocents like the Norwegian Teacher’s union and pensioners in Japan and Korea and other banks and insurance and pension funds and even governments worldwide. But they bought those securities. I didn’t nor did 99% of my citizens. You choose. You lose. Will the world ever trust the US financial system again? Not in my lifetime, with or without a bailout. Daly points out the obvious that for wealth to be real, it has to be real. Real wealth is created by people doing real work not pushing paper oops! I mean hitting a keyboard to create a CDS to insure against a default which the bogus insurer can’t pay anyway. GDP will fall and fall hard. There will be no way to balance a trade deficit that is 70% due to our purchase of imported oil any more than we can have energy independence by drilling off Virginia or California. YOYO folks. You’re on your own. Hugh in Jackson Hole.