Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Original Wealth Versus Original Debt

I stumbled upon a very interesting article today discussing the 'devolution' of the American economy from one based on 'original wealth' to one one based on 'original debt'. It gives an interesting perspective one why we are in such trouble today and provides some suggestions on how we may get ourselves out of it. If you have a few minutes it is worth the read.

It's a rather long article but here is a snippet:

Keynes, like most economists at the time, believed that investment runs the economy. The more money made available for investment, the more the economy could grow, even if that investment money was borrowed. “We’re borrowing from ourselves,” the saying went. Unfortunately, what this really meant was that “we the people” would end up owing large sums of money to “we the very, very few people.”

In contrast, the “raw materials economists” like Wilken tried to make the point that no economy could be based on debt. The foundation of a healthy economy, he argued, was “earned income based on the parity monetization of raw materials,” meaning that real wealth comes from the tangible products we bring forth from the earth, AND a fair price paid to those who do the extracting. An exacting mathematician, Wilken came up with a formula that would accurately predict America’s national income fourteen years running: National income was always roughly seven times the farm income.

He explained it this way: The earth is the only producer of “original wealth,” meaning that the earth gives her yield without charging interest. Each season, new wealth is infused into the economy. The farmer is the first earner and first spender of that wealth, which “reverberates” through the economy. The farmer pays the feed storeowner, pays for farm equipment, and buys clothes, etc., fueling the prosperity throughout the local community. Meanwhile, as this new harvest is distributed more people make money and more communities benefit, all the way down to the local grocer or supermarket. Think of it this way. If there were no food to sell, Whole Foods would have to call themselves Whole Nothing. Food is the basic “fuel” for our economy because it is the most constantly and consistently consumed item.

Consider further that if a farmer raises 100 bushels of corn and gets paid $10 a bushel, that infuses $1,000 into the economy. But what if -- in the name of lower food prices -- the farmer only gets $5 a bushel? That means that only $500 is infused into the economy, half as much. To prove his point, Wilken pointed to the farm income in 1929 -- the last year before the Depression -- and in 1932. Farm income dropped from $11 billion in 1929 to $5 billion in 1932, and yet production remained the same! The only difference was a loss in buying power.

No comments: