A SYSTEM UNRAVELS
As everyone surely knows by now, the global economy has entered a recession which is likely to be both severe and protracted. For the most part, governments and central bankers are concentrating on the task of trying to tame inflation.
Their critics tend to argue for more expansionary fiscal and monetary policies, contending that stimulus could soften or shorten the recession. They claim, in defiance both of experience and of logic, that expansionary monetary policies needn’t contradict the effort to bring inflation under control.
Where almost everybody is in agreement is that, however long it takes, the recession will end. But there’s a striking absence of explanations for how or why growth is supposed to resume. The fall-back position is no more than an assumption – a recovery will arrive for no better reason than that all previous economic downturns have been followed by rebounds.
The underlying presumption here is cyclicality, a process accepted as routine, not just by policy-makers and central bankers, but by investors, business leaders and the general public alike. It is well understood that the Big Numbers – like economic output, and the aggregate value of the markets – oscillate in sine-wave patterns around central trends.
It’s further assumed that these secular trends are always positive – each recovery exceeds the preceding recession, and each market rebound more than cancels out the latest dip.
This latter assumption has reached the point of invalidation. What economies and markets are now experiencing is trend-inflexion. Cyclicality may indeed continue but, from here on, it will do so around downwards-inflected trends. This process of reversal can only be managed if it is recognized.
The consequences of trend inflexion are readily summarised. On an ex-inflation basis, economic output will deteriorate, whilst the real costs of necessities will carry on rising, even if there are some retreats from the severe spikes experienced in recent times.
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