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A Dire Warning

A Dire Warning

Let’s return to our ongoing series on the destruction of capital, and how to identify the signs. Steve Saville posted a thoughtful article this week entitled The “Productivity of Debt” Myth. His article provides a good opportunity to add some additional thoughts.

We have written quite a lot on this topic. Indeed, we have a landing page for marginal productivity of debt (MPoD) with four articles so far. Few economists touch this topic, perhaps because MPoD shows that our monetary system is failing. We encourage you to do a Google search, and you will see scant mention other than articles by Keith and Monetary Metals. This is tragic. Every monetary economist should be bellowing from the rooftops about the falling marginal productivity of debt!

So when Lacy Hunt wrote in the Hoisington quarterly letter about Diminishing Returns – Consequences of Excess Debt (p. 4), several readers forwarded the link to us. And this week Steve Saville wrote a response to Lacy’s discussion.

We have our own concerns with Lacy’s approach. One is his statement:

“In addition to capital, output is a function of labor, natural resources and technology. Thus, one of these latter three factors must accelerate in order to offset the overuse of debt…”

Unless one considers entrepreneurial innovation to be just a type of “technology”, this formulation is missing something even on its own stated terms. But more broadly, it does not address the problem of interest rates. If companies can borrow at 2%, then there will be scant business opportunities that generate more than about 3%. The marginal productivity of the entrepreneur is brought down by the falling interest rate. The same “inputs” of labor, resources, and technology will yield different results at different interest rates.

Marginal Productivity of Debt

However, today we want to address the points raised by Steve. All indented quotes below are his.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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