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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Europe's Road Towards Regrowth

This post is obviously a continuation of some work in my 'Convergence' report as well as some other blog posts.

My fundamental belief is that people should have the ability to work hard and ultimately choose the life that they desire for themselves. However, I also believe that at times capitalism works against itself. For it to be a self-sustaining system that will continue to endure there needs to be enough wealth throughout the network/system that the cycle of production and consumption of (finite) goods and services can continue. If the majority, (often the middle and lower classes) can not feed themselves or deal with their own needs then at some point those at the top will have nothing of worth that they can sell to those in the lower classes (think about a the process of photosynthesis. If at some point all sunlight were taken out of the equation then suddenly everything breaks down. The same thing is likely to happen here at some point. Take a little over time rather than a lot at one time. Capitalism works but it has it's limits much like Communism and many other ideologies.). Social instablity can result and strange/extremist perspectives can begin to take root.

From a personal perspective, what's been interesting is that in theory the the injection of capital into global markets should have led to growth but somehow they've mis-managed the re-structuring process. In reality what's happened is that what's basically been done thus far is shifting debt burden from the banks towards the taxpayer with the likelihood of it being paid back in the medium to long distant future. This has been due to a number of different factors but ultimately I believe that it partially comes down to complacency but also due to the fact that the policies that have been part of the 're-structuring' component have been too extreme (cut too quickly or too much and you're guaranteed to end up in a cycle of recession/depression) or just simply 'wrong' (make cuts to critical infrastructure and services and you may have other serious problems down the line. More thought needs to be put into individual country's needs.). More thought needs to be put towards how to not only becoming more competitive but not only through short cuts such as cutting back on spending, but also on how to do things 'smarter'. Make the process of business easier for people by cutting back on excessive 'red tape', streamline government process so that people can do things more quickly and easily, and pare back on non-critical services. The savings that can be extracted can be re-invested into more important areas. For instance, if you can calculate the weakest points (the points where the least amount of money will do the most) and inject it there then you can grow whilst also being relatively 'frugal'.

Another alternative is that we attempt to ride this situation out (let capitalism do it's thing). At some point, markets will realise just how much more competitive goods/services are in those weakest economies and will inject capital back into the system which 'should' lead to growth. The only concern is that I fear that by that point it will be too little, too late (youth unemployment is already at unusually high levels with no indication that they are going to come back down soon). Governments need to be more pro-active and co-operative with business when it comes to 'spruiking their wares' and make it easier for them to exist (much work with regards to FTA's being done behind the scenes worldwide at the moment. If they can't agree they could simply try/buy. Namely, implement temporary FTA's to see whether or not it would work over the medium/longer term. Ultimately, this allow for foreign investment without necessarily destroying local industries if carefully constructed.).

Something I've previously considered and am re-iterating is 'bottom-up stimulus'. Clearly, stimulus in at the top doesn't always filter all the way down so we can either manufacture methods (rules, regulations, governance) to ensure that it does filter down or else we can attack the problem by starting at the bottom and moving back up. After all, the purpose of business is to make a profit. The purpose of government is to ensure that the interests of the populace are represented and expressed (that's the theory). For this reason, I've always believed that the job of government should be to make it easier to for private business to grow (within limits obviously). Only when/where it is not commercially viable (or there are simply no takers) should government step in. This allows governments to maintain a relatively balanced budget whilst also ensuring that the needs of their citizens are met (they have a lot of options available with regards to governance in most cases). A good example of this would be Australia's NBN project. My belief is that it should have only connected major capital cities with most of the commercially unviable areas to be handled by government. Private industry should have funded the rest of it (and decided whether it was to be FTTH, FTTN, etc...). This would have allowed for a significantly less costly NBN whilst gaining many of the same benefits.

Where is this leading? One thing that many governments have been involved are shared public/private enterprises. Namely, enterprises where the initial risks, capital, and burden are shared by both private and public industry which can have often much broader benefits than you would normally think.

Moreover, if we think about this further there's also the chance that we can bring about other benefits as well. For instance, dealing with inflation artifically. For instance, if houses and office buildings are built to a known and fixed cost up front (obviously, we're targeting a lower cost than the current market price. If locally production can not result in adequate costed options than we import workers and goods which will allow us to do so.) this will also help to alleviate issues with a real estate shortages/bubbles, create extra jobs, whilst also allowing for economic growth (in general over the long term real estate growth outpaces inflation). Ideally the projects will either break even or make only a minor profit.

Another option is to simply directly feed money (controlled/measured to help avoid inflation) into taxpayer's bank accounts instead of giving it to banks who will then lend out (they are under multiple pressures at the moment with regards to general global economic conditions, reporting to shareholders, and facing increasing strain anyhow especially with regards to the implementation of Basel and Frank-Dodd and their greater need for capital). This will allow people to pay their bills, keep their businesses going and so on...

One thing that needs to be stressed is that if we continue to make mis-steps is that we may end up in a situation that is likely to be similar or even worse than the one we currently face further down the line. Be wise...

Something I've considered/proposed in the past is a second currency within the European Union which would give nations greater flexibility with regards to fiscal/economic policy. An idea which is actually gaining some traction in the Northern (generally richer countries) What needs to be stressed is that this is most definitely not a breakup of the EU. It is reform that helps Europe modernise, become more flexible, and help it deal with the pressures that come part and parcel of modernisation/globalisation. It also gives the Southern (generally poorer) countries increased flexibility with regards to devaluation to kick start their economies once more.


Recently, there was a local story about what basically amounted to a permanent line of credit/facility to help banks should they get themselves into trouble. I say that this is fundamentally wrong. We should only ever step in if it can be guaranteed that we can get value for money. If they have an 'open tap' (so to speak) I believe that they may be more willing to take risks knowing that there is always a line of credit that they can rely on should they get into trouble (even if there are rules/regulations to curb it). Even if we do have have such a facility we should not make it known to the banks.


- as usual thanks to all of the individuals and groups who purchase and use my goods and services

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