June 8, 2016

Almost anything can be a good investment or a bad investment — it all depends on the price. Relative to the prices of other commodities the gold price is high by historical standards and in dollar terms gold is nowhere near as cheap today as it was 15 years ago, but considering the economic backdrop it offers reasonable value in the $1200s. Furthermore, considering the policies that are being implemented and the general lack of understanding on display in the world of policy-making, there’s a good chance that gold will be much more expensive in two years’ time.

The policies to which I am referring are the money-pumping, the interest-rate suppression and the increases in government spending that happen whenever the economy and/or stock market show signs of weakness. These so-called remedies are actually undermining the economy, so whenever they are applied in response to economic weakness they ultimately result in more weakness. It’s not a fluke, for example, that the most sluggish post-recession economic recovery of the past 60 years went hand-in-hand with history’s most aggressive demand-boosting intervention by central banks and governments.

It’s a vicious cycle that can aptly be called the ‘Keynesian death spiral’. The Keynesian models being used by policy-makers throughout the world are based on the assumption that when interest rates are artificially lowered and new money is created and government spending is ramped up, the economy gets stronger. The models are completely wrong, because falsifying price signals leads to investing errors and therefore hurts, not helps, the overall economy, and because the government doesn’t have a spare pile of wealth that it can put to work to create real growth (everything the government spends must first be extracted from the private sector). However, the models are never questioned.

When a sustained period of economic growth fails to materialise following the application of the demand-boosting remedies, the conclusion is always that the remedies were not applied with sufficient vigor. More of the same is hence deemed necessary, because that’s what the models indicate. It’s akin to someone with liver damage caused by drinking too much alcohol being guided by a book that recommends addressing the problem by increasing alcohol consumption. A new dose of alcohol will initially make the patient feel better at the same time as it adds to the existing damage, just as a new dose of demand-boosting intervention will initially make the economy seem stronger at the same time as it gets in the way of genuine progress.

The upshot is that although gold is more expensive today than it was 15 years ago, the level at which gold offers good value is considerably higher today than it was back then because we are now much further along the Keynesian death spiral.

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