Financial Planning Requires a “Concrete” Unit of Accounting

Financial Planning Requires a “Concrete” Unit of Accounting

If you want to see a financial system that promotes savings and investments, a society needs a “concrete” Unit of Accounting. Economists have taught for 100 years that “money” is just worth the trust people put into it. What happens when such trust fades?

    The conceptual “concrete” detail of this idea is that it makes the financial paper (bonds, deferred payments), which could use this Unit of Accounting seem “more trustworthy.”

Visualize the problem most people face when challenged by financial planning decisions, such as for a distant retirement. What is the frame of reference in which someone is supposed to weigh some future value (in “dollars”)?

    [ Pretend you are not as well-informed about finance and economics as the professionals you are consulting. How well can they predict the future?]

A lifetime of retirement beginning in 20 years, planned in “dollars,” cannot be compared to any standard of living referent (rental costs, food costs, taxation) in terms of familiar “dollars” today. The numbers do not allow a comparison of values because they have no relation except as the passage of time may reveal. You have to predict the Consumer Price Index 20-40 years from now.

    What will a dollar get you next year? Less?

No one can successfully do financial planning today in terms of “dollars.”
A gold coin would remain a gold coin and whatever your deferred-payment contract says, it would promise to pay you that equivalent way (in the same kind of gold coinage). Creditors could be paid in a gold coin, but more likely in some transfer of ownership of other paper assets to discharge the debt, but denominated in the gold coinage. Final settlements could be done by any other, different paper-credit methods (at the option of the obligee).

The supposed “stable price level” objective of measuring, would be knowing or trusting the relative value of something you want/need, and what you can trade to obtain it. We might not be able to predict the exchange rate of an ounce of gold vs. a pound of beef in 25 years, but it would not be a whim of imagination.

    I would be more comfortable thinking about coin vs. beef than about $100 today vs. $1,000,000 in 25 years, and wondering which would be more valuable?

Net present value calculations collapse to the shortest time horizon when future money values are uncertain. “Uncertainty” is subjective.

The “unit of accounting” in your mind should possess some “object permanence.” It ought to be a foundation of “Constitutional Money” to have the government’s Unit of Accounting be a concrete thing. In the old days of 1785 and 1792, the “dollar” was an object – a silver coin. Your property is your private ownership; so would a coin-object be;

    . . . but what is the status of the “account balance” your bankers owe you in promised bank-draft credit to pay your expenses? Do you use direct debits or checking? If your “account balance” happens to be denominated in government-accounting units ( “d-o-l-l-a-r-s” ), you should have a right to know if those are not shrinking or “melting away” as a matter of government (or Federal Reserve “central planning”) policy?

Your banker relies on Federal Reserve Accounting-Unit U$D, his reserves on deposit with the Fed.
“F.R.A.U.D.s” would be an insulting acronym for those accounting units.

See also Gold As a Parallel Currency.

How to ‘Manage’ a $15/hr. Minimum Wage

The primary “practical” reason why a statutory Minimum Wage of $15.00/hr. is a bad idea is because some workers are “not worth” that much to some employer, who has to use the workers’ productivity somehow to get paid by a customer.

Employers discriminate against “losers.” They shun workers who do not meet minimum “qualifications,” which mostly the employers choose (barring race, et al.).

How to ‘Manage’ a $15/hr. Minimum Wage

Employers are not going to pay and continue to pay, after perhaps a trial probationary period, for an employee who “is not worth it.” But the “social welfare” aspect of the Minimum Wage seems to be outweighing, politically, the logic of economics.

How might a Political Economist solve this problem? It is clearly a problem for the School of Public Choice economists, of whom I am proud to have known some personally (Coase, Buchanan). A simple institutional structure might work here, to divide the “employment” part from the “welfare” part of the costs.

Under current law, every State has a “work training and unemployment compensation” system of some sort. Workers who apply for unemployment compensation after losing a job can apply for it but they have to attend training programs in most jurisdictions. It is a subsidized process.

Proposal for Handling the Minimum Wage

Perhaps the solution is a structural reform, replacing the current Unemployment Insurance and job training programs.

Those old and sub-functional State agencies should be operated as strictly Temp Agencies for employers looking for workers at the low end of skill.  The difference is this “temp agency” is subsidizing those workers who use it for their employment, and the employer does not pay the full $15.00 plus overhead for other taxes.  The low-skilled workers and the employers all win; the American economy wins.  And the “social justice warriors” cannot keep complaining about underpaid poor workers.

Let the Minimum Wage be paid to the workers directly by the State labor exchange, if they get their jobs that way. Otherwise no Minimum Wage shall be mandated. Employers do not have to pay any such thing any more, and we ought to hope the State governments follow this deregulation, and repeal their implicit excise taxes on hiring sub-par workers.

The Federal and State minimum wage laws will be repealed.  Employers could hire anyone at any wage the worker would agree to.  If the worker wanted to receive more, he can go to the State labor exchange and sign up and return directly to the same employer who already wants the worker at less than $15.00.  But the worker would get the higher payments as “wages” and not as “welfare” such as Medicaid and food subsidies.

Employers Decide how much to Pay

Employers would submit a “bid” for workers, and the labor exchange would choose which ones to send for an interview, based on whatever they do “to train” workers about job-finding skills, and assessing their level of skill.

If the workers and the employer do find each other first (the old-fashioned method), then the workers themselves can come to the State labor exchange to start receiving their subsidy.  This would require less bureaucratic administration by the government supervisers, responsible for sending the workers around for interviews.

    1. Let the employers come to the State labor exchange to interview workers, or workers can be sent to interviews, and the employers would be inviting them. Guaranteed interview, and possibly a guaranteed job.

The employer would reply directly to the State labor exchange whether s/he wanted to take on that employee for a trial 30-days and option to renew the worker for a year at an agreed fee (like a temp agency contract). The wage will be paid to the State labor exchange and the State would pay the worker his or her $15/hr. It would also do all the Social Security withholding, etc. including ACA compliance (Medicaid) and workers compensation, and any other local taxes on employers who hire workers.

The implicit Excise Tax on an employer, who hires workers whose productivity may be sub-par with experienced and better trained workers, would be eliminated – and paid by the taxpayers through the labor exchange “minimum wage” – as all welfare payments ought to be paid, not mandated on others to pay.

And . . . the Moral Argument

Finally, the primary “ethical/moral” reason why a statutory Minimum Wage of $15.00/hr. is a bad idea is because the government does not have any legitimate right to command an employer to pay any particular worker any particular amount that the worker has not earned that day.

But retired intellectuals like me can understand why most people want to survive in a world dominated by State laws. This “compromise” idea would give everyone a way out of the Minimum Wage issue, and separate (i) the “welfare” part from (ii) the wage an employer pays. [The social democrats get their “living wage” paid (social justice?) and employers get a more free labor market with no wage controls.]

The Philosophical Argument (phronesis)

It is precisely that “wedge” from the elementary supply & demand graph (the “burden” of welfare), imposed by the government on the private employer; this causes “unemployment.” Since the employer can choose not to hire, that law causes unemployment. [law of demand – demanders move upward on the curve, for a smaller quantity demanded] It is an implicit Excise Tax on employers who hire sub-par workers, thus fewer of those workers are hired.

Yet if we could divide the welfare payment from the wages paid by an employer, then “unemployment” goes away. Taxpayers would pay the “welfare” part of $15/hr. and the employer would pay to the State labor exchange what the employee is worth. The employer’s payments would be under a contract with the State labor exchange; it would pay $15/hr. to the formerly “unemployed worker.”

“Unemployment” goes away. That’s a good result. Employers might figure out how “to chisel” the system by bidding low to get a good worker, and pay the employee less than the $15 the taxpayer is stuck with, but why care about that? Workers get jobs, employers get workers to train, and social democrats get higher taxes “to redistribute wealth” without requiring employers to pay all those taxes themselves, which a mandated Minimum Wage like today’s does do.

Today’s Minimum Wage laws are just a form of Excise Tax on an employer who might hire workers whose productivity is sub-par compared with experienced and better trained workers. When we tax something, we get less of it. Stop taxing job creation.

Note: Nothing in this proposal would restrict direct employer hiring of a worker, and no minimum wage laws would apply when such “Excise Taxes” have been repealed. Workers who do not want the State $15/hr. wage could work for less directly with an employer.

Creating a New Currency

THIS IS THE PRIMARY ARTICLE

    Link: A review of Warren Coats’ new book.
    (see a list of his articles and books)

ADDITIONAL LINKS of Interest:

Stronger currencies despite central bank policies to weaken

Gold as a Parallel Currency Shows Promise in Foreign Exchange transactions, using the technology of a Blockchain.

Why Dollar-Alternatives Are Non-Starters, e.g. the SDR.

The Appeal of the Gold Standard

The appeal of the Gold Standard is that classic image of the Gold Coin in the minds of people. It is a concrete mental picture. Our paper money system is something else. People know the Federal Reserve dollars are slowly losing value (“inflating”). The gold coin you see in your mind’s eye is more than just a physical object; it is a belief in permanence, a belief in objective reality (and in some sense, “natural law” i.e. chemistry, mechanics).

31.1g AU coin
31.1g AU coin

Economists would want to promise a “Stable Price Level” as a monetary standard. It is not believable. The Federal Reserve cannot even “manage expectations” about their plans for interest rates in 2016. Seeking this elusive ideal, government “planning” crowds out financial planning by individual families and businesses, because “the language of future prices/values” becomes fuzzy. The ideal of their success – a “stable price level” – is not believable (another example, perhaps, of believing in unicorns).

    [ from the page on this site, “Gold as a Parallel Currency,” — continuing to “A Modest Proposal” — Gold kilogram 50-yr.Treasury bonds. ]

US Economic Growth vs. Rest-of-World

The graph below shows with a RED LINE the relative growth rate of the U.S. Economy and the BLUE LINE shows the relative growth rate of the Rest of the World’s economies. The connection is that foreign demand pulls exports from the United States for use in foreign countries. Imports are what Americans demand to add to domestic production to create U.S. economic growth. Imports increase when the economy grows, and they increase faster when the USA grows faster. (“Production” is an inclusive term meaning whatever increases individual standards of living and personal flourishing, even if it is a cheap toy from China “to produce” your baby’s smile.)

The RED LINE also shows what has happened to the CAPITAL ACCOUNT in the Balance of Payments. The Capital Account has been in consistent SURPLUS both because the Rest of the World demands U.S. Dollars in the form of U.S. Treasury bonds, but also because foreign nationals need to buy real estate and build factories in a country where the government does not confiscate wealth and infringe liberty as much as in, e.g., China.

The graph on the left side begins with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1929-30. The stock market crash happened when the House of Representatives passed the bill in October 1929 and the Great Depression began (after a stock market recovery) the following spring of 1930 when the Senate passed and President Hoover signed the Tariff Act, dramatically increasing the tax Americans had to pay for anything imported.

Since the Rest of the World, particularly Europe, in 1930, could not so easily sell goods to Americans (who had to pay the tariff-tax on imports), they stopped buying large volumes of agricultural exports from the Midwest.

SAY’S LAW: Foreign buyers need to raise money to buy US goods, and if their own sales have been taxed to minimal, they no longer can pay US farmers.

That caused small banks in those small farm towns to collapse, which rapidly spread to collapse in the money-center banks. The rest of the story is well known. The Great Depression lasted over a decade. Thank you, government policy Hoover-F.D.R. “admininstrative state.”

How long will the Great Trump Depression last?

A Floating Exchange Rate World

I think we are living in a “floating exchange rate world,” in which we have lost visual control over what we might believe our assets and liabilities are “worth.” Value is hard to measure, and we Americans normally think about how many “dollars” each value might be. It is a yardstick.

I am studying how to trade in the foreign exchange spot market. It is interesting to me as an economist, to play with the numbers. I like to make lines and colored boxes on charts of daily movements in currency pairs. I watch the dollar-value of the gold and silver ounce, and also some curiosity items like bitcoin, oil, junk bonds, and the DXY. Then I look seriously at the currency pairs, and some of them are paired so we say one euro is $1.0624 (11/25) but others are priced inverse, just for convention and trading such as the Chinese 6.421 (11/25) for $1.00 USD. [update: 8/22 EURUSD $1.1320 and USDCHN 6.659]

What is your house worth? How would you find out? Is that a “hard number” or just a guess? What would a Chinese person think about the price of your house, if they wanted to buy real estate in the United States? We can see if you went to Europe everything would seem about 6 percent more expensive, generally.

We live in a floating exchange rate world, but “one dollar” is not like the “inch” on a yardstick, nor a “meter” in the SI. It is like rubber, and we know the dollar is shrinking continuously in value. The Fed says it is trying to diminish the value of dollars at 2% annually. So far their theory seems not to work very well. I believe the strong overseas demand for the USDollar is having a dominant effect; the USD as a unit of accounting, is strong as a safe haven, and because US Treasury bonds are payable in USD.

The great unified “Accounting System of the universe” has chosen the US Treasury bond as its new gold. But never take your eyes off of gold, because you have few other true references. Perhaps also oil, due to its importance and it is priced in USD. Watch OPEC for any discussions of using a different international Unit of Accounting for oil barrels, but so long as the trading in New York is leading the commodity-price methodology, the USD will remain “reserve currency” and the US Treasury bond will be the ultimate “reserve asset.”

What do they say at the end of some 1950s scary “invaders from Mars films? “Watch the skies.”  The danger of another 2007-08 can come again, in this puzzling financial universe of Federal Reserve interest rates near Zero for more than 7 years and quantitative easing, seemingly not to very much effect.

I claim the foreign exchange phenomenon explains much of the picture, but it could change very quickly. Watch the horizon for scary events. What if Donald Trump were sworn in as the 45th President of the United States in 2017?