Just a quick Money Morning today. We’re getting stuck into the January issue of Australian Small-Cap Investigator.
And seeing as it’s Friday, we’ll wrap up an old topic. Rather than start a new one.
Let’s be honest. We can’t blame the mainstream economists for claiming the Queensland floods will stimulate the economy.
I mean, they’re just spouting on what university taught them.
And what were they taught?
For a start, they’ve been told the best example of economic stimulus was… the Second World War!
I’m sure you’ve heard the muppets on TV talk about the post-war boom and how fast the economy grew.
How the pre-war world economy was dire. What with all that Depression stuff going on.
But then, like a bolt from the blue, the Second World War came along and stimulated the world to recovery.
And boy what a boom that was. If only we can repeat it, we’ll be laughing all the way to economic nirvana.
Let’s compare a few numbers…
So far in the Queensland floods, an estimated fifteen people have died… now compare that to around 70 million who died in World War 2.
In Queensland it’s estimated 12,000 homes have been damaged by floods. World War 2 wiped out millions of homes. Not to mention the thousands or hundreds of thousands of work places.
Must try harder Queensland. There’s just not enough stimulating going on.
We touched on this silly subject last September after the Christchurch earthquake:
In it we wrote:
“The Second World War was no more of a positive economic stimulus to America or anyone else, than is the current Iraq War or Afghanistan War or the Vietnam War or the First World War or the American Civil War.”
It seems strange to make an economically positive event out of a natural disaster. And to then compare it to the Second World War… a non-natural disaster event.
In all our searching of the Interweb, we’re yet to find anyone say the First World War or American Civil War stimulated the economy.
That can only mean one thing. The Second World War fits nicely into the theory about government spending and economic growth. Whereas the other two wars don’t. They say the Second World War is an example of economic stimulus working… but they ignore the other two.
Mainstream economists have taken one data point and used it as the basis for their entire theories. That’s a mistake according to Sherlock Holmes.
Over the summer holidays we’ve read the adventures of the pipe-smoking and cocaine-injecting sleuth. In the short story, A Scandal in Bohemia, Holmes tells Watson:
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.”
I’m sure your editor has been guilty to this “capital mistake”… but we’ll ignore that! [wink]. We’ll ignore it because we like the quote anyway.
I mean, if the Second World War caused an economic boom, what about the First World War? Did that stimulate the economy?
Our friends over at Wikipedia tell us:
“The post-World War I recession was an economic recession that hit much of the world in the aftermath of World War I… After the war ended… the global economy began to decline. In the United States 1918-1919 saw a modest economic retreat, but the next year saw a mild recovery. A more severe recession hit the United States in 1920 and 1921 when the global economy fell very sharply.”
Hmmm… so much for war stimulating the economy.
These war-mongering economists ignore is that public sector war spending stops the private sector growing.
War sucks resources away from the private sector. Resources that could be used to make cars and appliances and homes. Instead the state uses the resources to make fighter planes, tanks and bombs.
War doesn’t stimulate an economy. In fact, after the First World War it took longer for the economy to recover than it did after the Second World War.
In other words, wars don’t stimulate the economy at all. Rather, they sedate it. They delay economic growth. Which isn’t surprising… I mean, there was a war going on!
Without the wars, the economy would have recovered sooner. Without the First World War the economy would probably have recovered by the late 1910s. And without the Second World War the economy would probably have recovered by the early 1940s.
Of course, we can’t prove that. But we can confidently make the claim.
And in the same way, the floods in Queensland delay economic growth too.
Business that would have happened last week and today, isn’t possible. The local grocer can’t sell groceries because his or her shop is under ten feet of water.
The local bicycle shop can’t sell any bikes because they’ve washed away.
And the local hairdresser can’t cut anyone’s hair because, well, having a nice “do” isn’t on many people’s mind right now. Getting to the hairdresser might be a bit tricky too.
Anyway, we checked on the Interweb to see how the Christchurch earthquake has helped stimulate the New Zealand economy. Turns out it hasn’t. Funny that.
According to the National Business Review: “Another recession for NZ still a strong possibility – economist”.
Of course, that’s according to a mainstream economist. So we should take what they’ve said with a grain of salt. Even so, these are the same mainstream economists that thought the earthquake would boost the economy… yet it hasn’t happened…
And it won’t happen.
Remember: just because an economist says something it doesn’t mean it’s true.
To test this yourself, stop and think about it logically. If thinking about the impact of a large-scale economic event is too daunting, scale it down a bit.
If mainstream economists are right about economic destruction providing a boost to the economy, just consider how economic destruction in your own home affects you.
Imagine smashing your TV with a hammer. Sure, it’ll provide a boost to the TV store because you’ll need to buy a TV. But it’s a drain on your bank account because you’re drawing down on savings.
Well, it’s exactly the same for the broader economy.
The fact is economies don’t grow due to mindless destruction. They grow through Creative Destruction.
That’s where new ideas and new technologies improve lives. Where something new provides a better alternative to something old – like computers replacing typewriters… or cars replacing the horse and cart.
But the destroying a perfectly decent road and replacing it with a similar road isn’t good for the economy. Just as destroying a home and replacing it with an almost identical home isn’t a boost either.
Both result in a waste of resources. Resources that could otherwise be used elsewhere.
Get the picture? I think you do.
Just remember that if something said by the know-it-alls in the mainstream media sounds rubbish, then odds are it is.
If we’re honest, the same could be said for your editor… if you think we’re not making sense just drop us a line to the Money Morning mailbag at email@example.com or post a comment at the Money Morning website.
Anyway, we’ve said just about all we can on this matter. Time to get stuck in to the January issue of Australian Small-Cap Investigator.
For Money Morning Australia