As the new Russian state struggles with the transition to a market economy, the need for radical monetary reform becomes increasingly urgent. The choice of reform is crucial, for it will largely determine Russia's future economic performance.
Trump and his trade team embrace the notion that the U.S. trade deficit, something the U.S. has registered every year since 1976, is a “bad” thing, something that should be dramatically reduced (or eliminated) if America is to be First. They also believe that the culprits for this “bad” state of affairs are unfair trade deals and unfair trade practices employed by foreign countries. Their elixir to eliminate the trade deficit is a strong dose of tariffs and other anti-trade policies imposed on foreign exports.
The U.S. trade deficit, is just the mirror image of what is happening in the U.S. domestic economy. If expenditures in the U.S. exceed the incomes produced in the U.S., which they do, the excess expenditures will be met by an excess of imports over exports (read: a trade deficit).
The human condition inhabits a vast continuum between "miserable" and "happy." In the sphere of economics, misery tends to flow from high inflation, steep borrowing costs and unemployment. The most surefire way to mitigate that misery is economic growth. All else equal, happiness tends to blossom when growth is strong, inflation and interest rates are low, and jobs are plentiful. Many countries measure and report these economic metrics on a regular basis. Comparing them, nation by nation, can tell us a lot about where in the world people are sad or happy.
This week, Argentina released its February inflation statistics. Inflation spiked, again. Indeed, the official annual inflation rate jumped to 51.3%/yr. While this spike caught most observers off balance, it didn’t surprise me. In response to Argentina’s inflation surge, the Banco Central de la República Argentina (BCRA) did what all central banks with no credibility and junk currencies do. It jacked up interest rates in an attempt to keep the peso from plunging and generating more inflation. The lesson from this is clear: Argentina’s 22nd program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is not working.
The word “hyperinflation” is sprinkled throughout the press each day. We read that Iran is hyperinflating. The same is written about Zimbabwe and Venezuela, as well as a potpourri of other countries that are experiencing inflation flare ups. While Iran came close to a hyperinflation in the fall of 2012, it has never experienced an episode of hyperinflation. And, while Zimbabwe experienced hyperinflation episodes in 2007-2008 and 2017, it is not hyperinflating now. At present, Venezuela is the only country experiencing a hyperinflation. It’s clear that journalists and those they interview tend to play fast and loose with the word “hyperinflation.”
On February 11, Supreme Leader Khamenei and the mullahs celebrated the 40th year of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. With the exception of the Revolutionary Guard and “the beards,” as the hard core have been dubbed, few in Iran have much to celebrate. In the economic sphere alone, Iranians have been in a forty-year death spiral. And, let us not forget the estimated 750,000 Iranians who were slaughtered in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988).