Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The fallacy of growth

Unwilling to have a bankers' technocrat government imposed, as happened in Italy, the Greek people have rejected the options usually put to the electorate in Western "democracies" to either tighten their belts or tighten their belts even more. By doing so they are challenging the Euro as a common currency for the European Union and with it the political edifice.
To avoid a domino effect from the forthcoming Greek repeat elections, governments throughout Europe have suddenly switched from talking austerity to talking growth. The idea is that rather than returning to living within our means we need to expand our economy in order to sustain our levels of production and consumption. It is the fallacy of growth which has driven Europe, and the rest of the world, to near financial collapse.
Growth is a natural phenomenon for any developing organism. Once the organism reaches maturity, growth slows down and, eventually, stops. Unstoppable continued growth, the dream of economists, is unnatural. It is exhibited, for example, in cancer, and cancer, if not stopped by drastic intervention, always kills the host.
Likewise, the growth-oriented economic model is bound to self-destruct if not stopped in its tracks. The days when countries could go around colonising other countries in order to expand have gone, although some in the power echelons of Western nations still dream of being able to conquer the rest of the world through war and plundering. Within established borders, nations have natural limits to their capacity to produce and consume. There is, of course, the export-on-credit option, but that's yet another fallacy which has landed us with much of the troubles we suffer from today.
So why has growth become the modern idol for politicians, economists and commentators? The need for growth is a result of the interest-based economy where money is not issued or regulated by the state but lent to the state as an interest-bearing debt by private financial institutions. Worse even, those institutions create the money they lend to government without having to put up any tangible collateral in real goods or properties.
In itself, growth is a rather poor indicator of the health of a national economy. Financial scams and pyramid schemes, for example, exhibit enormous growth rates, as do non-profitable internet businesses and other investment bubbles. But for most, growth does not equate profits, and just because a company is growing does not mean it is even breaking even. For the lenders, however, growth is an indicator of how likely they are going to be paid the interest on their loans, as a contracting economy has less capacity to shoulder the tax burden by which the productivity of the general public is translated into private profit. Banks create loans underwritten by government bonds, and hence making a direct claim on taxation, and various treasonous national laws as well as the Maastricht Treaty ensure that they have a monopoly on such money creation, preventing national and local governments from doing the same, thereby saving their subjects the interest and taxation. But the same banks only create the capital, not the means to pay the interest, so the money supply must continually be expanded by artificial means (e.g. quantitative easing) and grow if the system is not to burst at the seams very soon.
There is no doubt that the system needs fixing, but neither more austerity nor more growth are the answer. An abolition of fractional reserve banking, forcing all lenders to back their loans with real tangible securities would be the more likely solution.
For Greece, leaving the Euro and returning to the Drachme, would be a wiser option to being at the mercy of bank-elected technocrats. European integration and the common currency were promising improvements for citizens of Europe being able to cross borders with less formalities and without having to repeatedly change currencies, but all that has long since been mitigated by a stifling bureaucratic central administration with poorly conceived one-size-fits-all rule-making and general political alienation.
If Greece were to go one step further than just leaving the Euro and reclaim her sovereign right to the issue of currency and legal tender, she would soon move from a country drowning in national debt to a country of sustainable prosperity without the need for artificial growth. And maybe, there might even be an incentive for China as the upcoming power, to make more significant inroads into Europe than by trade alone through direct investment to balance the current American world hegemony. Provided, of course, China does not also fall for the banker's lie that money equals wealth.