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Free Markets Are Dead: Fed To Start Buying Junk Bonds, High Yield ETFs

Free Markets Are Dead: Fed To Start Buying Junk Bonds, High Yield ETFs

Back on March 23, when the Fed unveiled it would start buying investment grade corporate bonds, we said “now that the Fed is effectively all in, it will buy stocks and junk bonds next.”

Two weeks later, we were right and this morning the Fed announced it would, as expected, start buying junk bonds (we have to wait for the next “market” – we use the term loosely because it is no longer a market which is terminally disconnected from fundamentals but a giant, Fed-fueled Ponzi scheme – crash before the Fed goes literally all in and starts buying stocks and pretty much anything else).

But let’s back up. A few days ago, we pointed out that the day so many credit bears had been waiting for had arrived, when a record $150BN in investment grade bonds were downgraded to junk, becoming so-called fallen angels, and sparking concerns about what will happen to the $1.3 trillion junk bond market as hundreds of billions of formerly investment grade debt is downgraded to junk and violently reprices the entire high yield space.

Those concerns were answered this morning when as part of the Fed’s expanded $2.3 trillion loan/bailout program, the Fed announced the expansion of its Primary and Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facilities, which will now purchase – drumroll – junk bonds, which were initially investment grade bonds but were downgraded after March 22.

Why March 22? Because Ford was downgraded on March 24, and as a result its bonds are surging.

In the term sheet of the revised term sheet of the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility, the Fed now writes that “to qualify as an eligible issuer, the issuer must satisfy the following conditions”

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

The Fed Detests Free Markets

The Fed Detests Free Markets

Paul Gauguin Tahitians at rest (unfinished) 1891

To be completely honest, I wrote -most of- the second part of this a while ago, and then I was thinking this first part should be part of the second, if you can still follow me. But it doesn’t really, it’s fine. I wanted to write something to address how little people know and acknowledge about how disastrous central bank policies have been for our societies and economies.

Because they don’t, and they have no clue, largely and simply because of the way central banks are presented both by themselves and by the financial press that covers them. Make that “covers”. Still, going forward, we will have no way to ignore the damage done. All the QE and ZIRP and NIRP will turn out to be so destructive for us all they will rival climate change or actual warfare. That’s what I wanted to talk about.

You see, free markets are a great idea in theory. Or you can call it “capitalism”, or combine the two and say “free market capitalism”. There’s very little wrong with it in theory. You have an enormous multitude of participants in an utterly complex web of transitions, too complex for the human mind to comprehend, and in the end that web figures out what values all sorts of things, and actions etc., have.

I don’t think capitalism in itself is a bad thing; what people don’t like is when it veers into neo-liberalism, when everything is for sale, when communities or their governments no longer own anything, when roads and hospitals and public services and everything that holds people together in a given setting is being sold off to the highest bidder. There are many things that have values other than monetary ones, and neo-liberalism denies that. Capitalism in itself, not so much.

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

The Reasons Behind The Relentless Ideological Onslaught Against Free Markets

The Reasons Behind The Relentless Ideological Onslaught Against Free Markets

I sometimes think that the free market concept is treated like The Hunchback of Notre-Dame’s Quasimodo in the long novel of global economic history. It is considered ugly and undesirable by most people who judge it at a mere glance without bothering to understand it. It is a bogeyman; a scapegoat for numerous societal problems that it has nothing to do with. In reality, the only time free markets do cause trouble is when they are manipulated or misused by elitists seeking to turn them into something other than free markets. And, even when free markets display their great value and internal beauty, many still prefer other systems that are intrinsically corrupt but flashier on the surface.

There are many reasons behind this persistent attitude. However, they are not coincidental or natural. Human beings actually tend to gravitate toward free markets over and over again in history, and away from centralized government interference and dominance in economic trade. But whenever they do, they get hammered down by the-powers-that-be. In our modern era, establishment elites have chosen to be more subtle (for now) and dissuade people from free markets through disinformation and propaganda.

To break it all down to a simple observation – Whenever disaster strikes economically, free markets are blamed. Whenever something is fixed, even if that fix is a temporary band-aid on a sucking chest wound, government involvement and socialism are applauded. And so the cycle continues until free markets become a pariah with no place in our world and centralization becomes the prevailing answer to everything.

Free market trade is ever present at a local level and always has been. But, those who favor globalism are hell-bent on putting an end to any and all private unregulated commerce forever.

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

The Psychological Warfare Behind Economic Collapse

The Psychological Warfare Behind Economic Collapse

The concept of using the economy as a weapon is not an alien one to most people. Generally, we understand the nature of feudalism and how various groups can be herded onto centralized plantations to be exploited for their labor. Some people see this as a consequence of “capitalism,” and others see it as an extension of socialism/communism. Sadly, many people wrongly assume that one is a solution to the other — meaning they think that crony capitalism is a solution to communist centralization or that communism is a solution to the corruption of crony capitalism. The reality is that this is just another false paradigm.

What is most disturbing is that the majority of the public have no grasp whatsoever of the true solution to the problem of corrupt or totalitarian economies: free markets.

Free markets have not existed within the global economy on a large scale for at least the past 100 years. The rise of central banking has eroded all vestiges of freedom in production and trade. Crony capitalism with its focus on corporate power and monopoly has nothing to do with free markets, despite the arguments of rather naive socialists who blame “free markets” for the problems of the world. If you ever hear anyone making this claim, I suggest you remind them that corporations and their advantages are a creation of governments.

The protections of corporate personhood, limited liability, unfair taxation of small business competition and legislation shielding corporations from civil lawsuits are all generated by government. Therefore, corporations and crony capitalism are much more a product of socialist-style systems, not free markets.

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

The Myth of Capitalism – A Book by Jonathan Tepper

The Myth of Capitalism – A Book by Jonathan Tepper

Crony Capitalism vs. Free Markets

Many of our readers are probably aware of the excellent work our friend Jonathan Tepper does for Variant Perception (VP)*****, a financial research boutique that really does bring a unique perspective to the table*. Jonathan (with co-author Denise Hearn) has just added a new book to his résumé, which is going to be released on 12 November: The Myth of Capitalism (MoC) – Monopolies and the Death of Competition** (a link to the official site is at the end of this post).

Jonathan Tepper and Denise Hearn: The Myth of Capitalism, an excellent plea for more competition and free markets.

MoC deals with a subject that has increasingly captured the attention of political and economic observers in recent years: the growing quasi-monopolistic powers of a small (and shrinking) number of large corporations that have seemingly succeeded in exempting themselves from competition.

They are often aided and abetted by government imposing regulations certain to suppress competition from less well-funded upstarts and smaller firms. At the same time governments are creating loopholes which only the biggest established firms with international operations are able to take advantage of.

Don’t get us wrong – we have no problem with loopholes as such: to paraphrase Mises, they allow capitalism to breathe. Problematic is only that the benefits granted to the most powerful players are denied to their potential competitors; we wouldn’t want to see these loopholes closed, we would like to see them extended far and wide.

Restoring Consumer Sovereignty 

MoC is not focused on questions of monopoly theory***. The book is actually quite a page turner, at the same time informative, entertaining and infuriating. It is primarily concerned with practical problems and discusses what might be done to overcome them.

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

Misesians gather as ghost of dead economist haunts the planet

Misesians gather as ghost of dead economist haunts the planet

Growing stock market volatility is increasingly reminding investors of downturns that twice crashed valuations by more than 50% since the turn of the century. Many Americans remain perplexed as to why the economy appears to teeter perennially on the brink.

A small group of radical economists, followers of the late Ludwig von Mises, think they know why.

“Conventional economists believe that free markets cause booms and busts,” said George Bragues, an adjunct professor at the University of Guelph-Humber, who will be speaking at the International Conference of Prices and Markets taking place in Toronto this weekend.

“That’s only partially true,” said Bragues . “There is a good argument that governments themselves, more specifically central-bank driven borrowing, are the biggest creators of economic euphoria and subsequent depression.”

Do governments cause depressions?

Von Mises’s free-market ideology— so radical it makes the American Republican party look communist—is almost completely ignored by governments, ivy league university economics departments and central banks.

However, that ignorance comes at a price.

Today, the ghost of Von Mises’s ideas haunts much of the planet, where governments have quietly, often secretly, fostered colossal debt bubbles that will almost be impossible to deflate without calamity.

Von Mises’s suggestion that credit bubbles are the key drivers of booms and depression, broadly known as the Austrian Business Cycle Theory, was first outlined in his 1912 book Theory of Money and Credit.

Murray Rothbard built on this theory in his own 1963 work America’s Great Depression, which provided a convincing case study on how the U.S. government fueled the 1920s stock market expansion, collapse and the ensuing spillover effects.

Mises’s out-of-the-box works are particularly important as the planet inches towards peak debt and what the IMF warns could be an impending depression, because populist socialist politicians such as Bernie Sanders will almost certainly blame the free markets.

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

Disruptive Markets–What Sustainability Really Means For Business

Disruptive Markets–What Sustainability Really Means For Business

Many look around at today’s crises – climate change spinning out of control, inequality driving political instability and our oceans filling with plastic – and despair at the prospects for serious change. Most then try to apportion blame or at least seek to understand why. Business blames consumers. NGOs blame business. Everyone blames politicians.

Almost everyone who is engaged and thoughtful on this, even inside companies, at some level blame capitalism, markets and big business. This is well justified given, after all, it has been the delivery vehicle for all these crises.

But where does that leave us? As a campaigner who has spent 40+ years on these issues, I’m not satisfied with just a problem diagnosis, I need a way forward, a credible path to success. When talking about risks to the future of civilisation, accepting failure is not really a strategic option.

I don’t disagree that capitalism has been the problem. I emphasise capitalism rather than Western free markets – just take a look at China where capitalism took hold and delivered an epidemic of pollution that nearly overwhelmed the country – and still may.

But problem accepted, we have to find a way forward and I would argue that some form of the market system, if guided or constrained by policy, is our best and probably only hope of moving fast enough.

I do not argue this from a love of markets or an inherent belief in the philosophies espoused by many of that system’s advocates. I approach this as a person who lives and breathes the fear of global collapse and I can’t see another viable way forward.

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

The Limits of Free Markets, Both Economic and Intellectual

The Limits of Free Markets, Both Economic and Intellectual

Both in economics and speech, the market is a powerful metaphor.  Free economic markets are efficient, and produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people by the fair interplay of sellers and buyers.  The marketplace of ideas is supposed to produce truth, and maximize free inquiry of ideas through the competition or rival ideas.  Both marketplaces are supposed to support contrasting forms of individual freedom.  Except the truth is that neither work in practice compared to theory, fixing their externalities and preventing one from corrupting the other  is challenge and task of contemporary western politics.

The market is a metaphor of modern western politics.  Belief in the efficiency of economic free markets dates at least to Adam Smith’s 1776 The Wealth of Nations.  For some economists, free markets maximize individual freedom producing both what is called Pareto efficiency (no one can be made better off without someone being made worse off) and Kaldor-Hicks efficiency (overall greatest net wealth for a society).  Government regulation interferes with economic markets, damaging both individual freedom and both forms of efficiency.  Market fundamentalism in the guise of contemporary Republican or neo-liberal politics, ascribes to this belief.

Yet there are limits to this economic market fundamentalism.  The same Adam Smith who wrote The Wealth of Nations also penned The Theory of Moral Sentiments and argued how economic markets are circumscribed by ethical values and virtues.  The Wealth of Nations in book five recognizes an important role for the government investing in infrastructure.  Later on, other economists have described unregulated markets as producing externalities such as pollution or monopolies.  Others see externalities to include the mal-distributions of wealth and income in the world or racial and gender discrimination.  Economic markets are also  plagued by problems such as free riders or collective goods.  These problems necessitate government action.  Even Milton Friedman recognized the need of the government to enforce the rules of the marketplace against force and fraud so that it would work properly.

The point is markets are not architectonic.  Markets are not inherently self-regulating or natural.  Karl Polany’s 1944 The Great Transformation made this point.  It took enormous state power to construct and maintain market capitalism. The logic of both capitalism and human nature is often against free markets, wanting to produce collusion, monopolies, or engage in rent-seeking behavior or political action to favor oneself.  Pure self-interest left on its own, as Nobel Prize economist Kenneth Arrow pointed out, cannot be aggregated to produce collective goods for a society.

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

It’s Time to Retire “Capitalism”

It’s Time to Retire “Capitalism”

Our current socio-economic system is nothing but the application of force on the many to enforce the skims, scams and privileges of the self-serving few.

I’ve placed the word capitalism in quotation marks to reflect the reality that this word now covers a wide spectrum of economic activities, very little of which is actually capitalism as classically defined. As I have explained here for over a decade, the U.S. economy is dominated by cartels and quasi-monopolies that are enforced by the Central State, a state-cartel system of financialized rentier skims that has no overlap with Adam Smith’s free market, free enterprise concept,i.e. classical capitalism.

This is what passes for “capitalism” in modern-day America: the super-rich get super-richer, a thin slice of technocrats, speculators and entrepreneurs advance their wealth and the vast majority lose ground or stagnate:

Here’s another snapshot of state-financier “capitalism” in modern-day America: the centralized organs of the state (the quasi-public Federal Reserve) creates trillions of dollars and hands the nearly free money to financiers, insiders and speculators, all of whom benefit immensely as this flood of cash pushes stocks into the stratosphere:

There are other versions of “capitalism” that are equally rapacious, all of which are iterations of crony-capitalism: gangster-capitalism, theocratic-capitalism, colonial-capitalism, and so on.

The key feature of these forms of organized pillage that mask their predatory nature by claiming to be “capitalist” is they ruthlessly suppress the three core dynamics of classical capitalism:

1. Competition

2. Open/free markets

3. Free flow of capital in all its forms (financial, social, intellectual, etc.)

The only way the few can pillage the many is if the many are denied access to competition, open markets and freely flowing capital.

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

This Is What a True Liberty-Loving Politician Would Look Like

This Is What a True Liberty-Loving Politician Would Look Like

What would a real friend of freedom say if he was offering himself for political office?

In modern democracies, political cycles never end. As soon as one election is over, those seeking office are already running for the next election. Having recently attended a public forum of state-level candidates looking to the 2018 election, I wondered what a real friend of freedom might say if he was offering himself for such a political office.

Liberty Rhetoric, But Interventionist Policies

At a luncheon event several candidates running in the forthcoming Republican Party primary in South Carolina made their pitch as to why they should be their party’s nominees for state legislative offices in the next general election. They answered questions submitted by attendees at the lunch and made opening and closing statements about who they were and what they stood for.

They all clearly believed that growth needed to be harnessed within “reasonable” rules and regulations.

Not too surprisingly they all, in their respective ways, said they were “pro-business,” advocated lower taxes, a freer enterprise market environment, greater transparency, and more accountability for those in power in the state capital.

Why did each say they were running for elected office? They all had been in business but now wanted to “give back” and “serve” their communities.

What were major themes in many of the questions directed at them? South Carolina is a growing state where international corporations are opening more manufacturing facilities, and, as more people move to the Palmetto State, it has an increasing population to match. Those who submitted questions wanted to know what the candidates would do, if elected, to improve and widen road infrastructure to reduce increasing congestion, and how they would “manage” growth in the state?

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

Neoliberalism Was Never about Free Markets

Neoliberalism Was Never about Free Markets

From the beginning, it was about watering down classical liberalism.

One of the most accusatory and negative words currently in use in various politically “progressive” circles is that of “neoliberalism.” To be called a “neoliberal” is to stand condemned of being against “the poor,” an apologist for the “the rich” and a proponent of economic policies leading to greater income inequality.

The term is also used to condemn all those who consider the market economy to be the central institution of human society as being against “community,” shared caring, and concern for anything beyond supply and demand. A neoliberal, say critics, is one who reduces everything to market-based dollars and cents and disregards the “humane” side of mankind.

The opponents of neoliberalism, so defined, claim that its proponents are rabid, “extremist” advocates of laissez-faire, that is, a market economy unrestrained by government regulations or redistributive fiscal policies. It calls for the return of the worst features of the “bad old days” before socialism and the interventionist-welfare state attempted to abolish or rein in unbridled “anti-social” capitalism.

The Birth of Neoliberalism: Walter Lippmann and a Paris Conference

He warned of the complementary danger from “creeping collectivism” in the form of the regulatory and interventionist policies.

The historical fact is that these descriptions have little or nothing to do with the origin of neoliberalism, or what it meant to those who formulated it and its policy agenda.  It all dates from about eighty years ago, with the publication in 1937 of a book by the American journalist and author, Walter Lippmann (1889-1974), entitled, An Inquiry into the Principles of the Good Society, and an international conference held in Paris, France in August of 1938 organized by the French philosopher and classical liberal economist, Louis Rougier, centered around the themes in Lippmann’s book. A transcript of the conference proceedings was published later in 1938 (in French) under the title, Colloquium Walter Lippmann.

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

Upon The Next Crisis, The Rules Will Suddenly Change

Upon The Next Crisis, The Rules Will Suddenly Change

For the benefit of the elites; not the rest of us

We can add a third certainty to the two standard ones (death and taxes): The rules will suddenly change when a financial crisis strikes.

Why is this a certainty? The answer is complex, as it draws on human nature, politics and the structure of societies/economies ruled by centralized states (governments).

The Core Imperative of the State: Expand Control

As I explain in my book, Resistance, Revolution, Liberation, the core (i.e. ontological) imperative of every central state is to expand its reach and control.  This isn’t just the result of individuals within the state seeking more power; every centralized state views whatever is outside its control as a threat.  The way to reduce or neutralize a threat is to take control of the mechanisms that generated it.

Once the state has gained control of these mechanisms, it is loath to relinquish them; to relinquish control is to invite chaos.

There is of course an intensely self-serving dynamic to extending state control: those being paid to enforce this state control have an immense vested interest in the state retaining (or even extending) this control, as their livelihoods now depend on the state doing so.

The higher-ups in the state also have a vested interest in retaining these new controls, as more control means more wealth and power accrue to those at the top of the centralized power pyramid: this extension of state control means private enterprise must now lobby the state for favors, and it gives the higher-ups more perquisites and favors to dispense—for a price, of course.

This vested interest arises throughout the power pyramid, from the bottom functionary with newfound power over common citizens to the managers of the departmental bureaucracy tasked with enforcing the new control to the apex of state authority.

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

“Free Stuff” Isn’t All That It’s Cracked Up to Be

“Free Stuff” Isn’t All That It’s Cracked Up to Be 

To my British and American friends who must deal with the socialist nonsense of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, I found this poem. It was written by Rudyard Kipling, the writer most hated by English Socialists in the 40s and an opponent to the interventionist policies implemented by the Labour Party after the second world war:

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,

By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;

But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,

And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “iƒ you don’t ‘work you die.

This poem is not an exaggeration. At the time, it was decreed by the Control of Engagement Order that “no man between the ages of 18 and 50, or woman between the ages of 18 and 40, can change occupations at will. The Minister of Labor has the power to direct such workers to the employment he considers best for the national interest.” This Order was abolished only in March 1950.

At the time, the consequences of “democratic socialism” were disastrous: no food, no housing, no clothing, no fuel. By 1948, rations had fallen well below the wartime average. At the same date, one could read in The New Statesman, which was by no means a virulent opponent of Planning: “You may have social security, but you cannot go into a store and buy two quarts of milk.” To which an English commentator replied: “You not only cannot buy two quarts of milk. You cannot buy one. You can only get two quarts of milk on your doorstep a week. If you try to get more you are apt to land in jail.”

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

Wilhelm Ropke: The Economist Who Stood Up To Hitler

Sometimes there are men of principle who live their values and not merely speak or write about them. People who stand up to political evil at their own risk, and then go on to say and do things that help to remake their country in the aftermath of war and destruction. One such individual was the German, free-market economist, Wilhelm Röpke.

Born on October 10, 1899, Wilhelm Röpke died half a century ago on February 12, 1966. It seems appropriate to mark the fifty-year passing of one of the great European economists and advocates of freedom during the last one hundreds years.

In the dark days immediately following the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi movement in Germany in January 1933, Röpke refused to remain silent. He proceeded to deliver a public address in which warned his audience that Germany was in the grip of a “revolt against reason, freedom and humanity.”

Nazism as the Destruction of Decent Society

Nazism was the culmination of Germany’s sinking into ”illiberal barbarism, Röpke said, the elements of which were based on: (l) “servilism,” a “longing for state slavery,” with the state becoming the “subject of unparalleled idolatry”; (2) “irrationalism,” in which ”voices” in the air called for the German people to be guided by “blood,” “soil,” and a “storm of destructive and unruly emotions”; and (3) “brutalism,” in which “The beast of prey in man is extolled with unexampled cynicism, and with equal cynicism every immoral and brutal act is justified by the sanctity of the political end.” Röpke warned that, “a nation that yields to brutalism thereby excludes itself from the community of Western civilization.” He hoped Germany would step back from this abyss before its people had to learn their mistake in the fire of war.

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

Do As You’re Told! – The Case For Social Engineering

Do As You’re Told! – The Case For Social Engineering

Wherever we turn we are confronted with politicians, political pundits, television talking heads, and editorial page commentators, all of whom offer an array of plans, programs, and projects that will solve the problems of the world – if only government is given the power and authority to remake society in the design proposed.

Even many of those who claim to be suspicious of “big government” and the Washington beltway powers-that-be, invariably offer their own versions of plans, programs, and projects they assert are compatible with or complementary to a free society.

The differences too often boil down simply to matters of how the proposer wants to use government to remake or modify people and society. The idea that people should or could be left alone to design, undertake and manage their own plans and interactions with others is sometimes given lip service, but never entirely advocated or proposed in practice.

In this sense, all those participating in contemporary politics are advocates of social engineering, that is, the modifying or remaking of part or all of society according to an imposed plan or set of plans.

The idea that such an approach to social matters is inconsistent with both individual liberty and any proper functioning of a free society is beyond the pale of political and policy discourse. We live in a time of piecemeal planning and incremental interventionism.

The Reasonableness of Individual Planning

It is worthwhile, perhaps, to question this “spirit of the times,” and to do so in the context of marking an anniversary. Slightly over 70 years ago, on December 17, 1945, the Austrian economist (and much later economics Nobel Prize winner), Friedrich A. Hayek, delivered a lecture at University College in Dublin, Ireland on, “Individualism: True and False.”

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

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