“Austrian” Business Cycle Theory – an “Easy” Explanation
By Duncan Whitmore
Compared to the simple and straightforward siren songs of “underconsumptionist” and “underspending” theories of boom and bust, “Austrian” business cycle theory (ABCT) can seem unduly complex. The former types of theory, associated with “mainstream” schools of economics, at least have the advantage of the veneer of plausibility, in spite of their falsehood. A glut of business confidence and spending will, it seems, naturally lead to an economic boom, a boom that can only come crashing down if these aspects were to disappear. For what could be worse for economic progress if people just don’t have the nerve do anything? Add in all of the usual traits of “greed” and “selfishness” with which people take pride in ascribing to bankers and businessmen (again, with demonstrable plausibility) and you have a pretty convincing cover story for why we routinely suffer from the business cycle. ABCT, on the other hand, with its long chains of deductive logic, can seem more impenetrable and confusing. Is there a way in which Austro-libertarians can overcome this problem? Read more
Will Hutton presented a Dispatches documentary recently on Channel 4 about the British banking cartel system.
The extent of Mr. Hutton’s connections with the previous Government were plain to see, as he treated us to an hour of breast-beating to the tune of “Why oh why do the noble politicians not rescue us from the greedy bankers?” This seems more than a little rich (in irony only, you understand). As I recall, the recent banking crisis would have lawfully removed large numbers of greedy bankers from the UK economy – but for Labour’s insistence on debasing the money supply still further to try to prop them up.
Perhaps the most informative snippet came towards the end when Mr. Hutton revealed that British banks currently lend out fifty times more money than they have on deposit, and five times more than the value of everything else the UK produces. No wonder our glorious leaders are worried about a repeat performance. Mr. Hutton’s solution? To try to force the banks to stop inflating residential property prices by switching the focus of their lending activities to (British-based?) businesses.
Sadly, Mr. Hutton didn’t tell the viewers how his proposals would avoid inflating the prices of business “assets” (commercial property, plant and machinery, R&D, properly skilled and experienced labour, etc.). Nor did Mr. Hutton explain how artificially stimulating productivity could be compatible with any conceivable form of environmental responsibility (so much for the alleged anti-environmentalism of decision-making in a free market). In fact, Mr. Hutton didn’t even tell us why businesses should apply for his proposed extra loans if they can’t be sure there are enough additional customers able and willing to pay for all the proposed new supplies of goods and services.