The undeniable reality of the 21st century economy is that capital has gained while labor has stagnated. While various critics quibbled about his methodology, Thomas Piketty’s core finding–that capital expanded faster than GDP and wages/salaries (i.e. earned income from labor)–is visible in these charts.
Real wages have gone nowhere for decades. Only the top 5% of wage earners have outpaced inflation’s erosion of the purchasing power of their earnings.
Household net worth has soared $60 trillion while GDP expanded by $9 trillion.Compare the relative growth trajectories of the economy and net worth of assets. Clearly, capital has expanded at rates far above the expansion rate of the economy.
A number of systemic, structural forces are intersecting in 2016. One is the end-game of debt-fueled “growth.”
We can summarize the official “solution” to the Global Financial Meltdown of 2008 in one line: borrow and blow trillions–of yen, yuan, dollars, euros, reals, you name it.
The dragon tail of Marx’s end-game of overcapacity and finance capital is about to shred China’s fantasy that the state can micro-manage both capitalism and financialization with no contradictions or consequences.
Longtime readers know my one expertise is annoying the entire ideological spectrum in 1,000 words or less. Today is one of those days, so strap on your blood pressure monitor and prepare for full-spectrum annoyance, regardless of your ideological leanings.
Marxism is typically considered discredited outside of a few protected fiefdoms of academia which tend to engage in obscure debates over the labor theory of value and other signifiers of membership in the inner circle of deep Marxist thinkers.
Outside these cloistered academic circles, Marxism is dismissed for two basic reasons:
1. the predicted final crisis and implosion of capitalism did not occur
2. the vaguely outlined post-capitalist incarnation of a stateless worker’s paradise not only failed to materialize, but was used to justify destructive, murderous totalitarian regimes.
But those egregious failures of Marxist theory should not blind us to the value of his critique of capitalism.
Financial and risk bubbles don’t pop in a vacuum–all the phantom collateral constructed with mal-invested free money for financiers will also implode.
If there’s one absolute truism we hear again and again, it’s that central banks are desperately trying to create inflation. Perversely, their easy-money policies actually generate the exact opposite: deflation.
Our Fed-fueled lottery-ticket economy will unravel with a vengeance in the years ahead.
Malinvestment–the systemic consequence of the Federal Reserve’s policies of near-zero interest rates and abundant credit–doesn’t just inflate destruction asset bubbles: it poisons productive assets and the entire economy.