“The People’s Bank of China, the central bank, has just ordered commercial banks to halt cash transfers.”
Could we be seeing the start of total economic collapse? The answer, ceteris paribus, is yes and the Austrian Business Cycle Theory (ABCT) explains why.
To quote Ludwig Von Mises’ explanation of the final act of the ABCT:
“Ludwig von Mises stated that the “crisis” (or “credit crunch“) arrives when the consumers come to reestablish their desired allocation of saving and consumption at prevailing interest rates.[“
This means that when consumers finally realize that the money they have invested has actually been malinvested in the economy they then seek to acquire as much of their money as possibly from said investments. Most of which take the form of bank deposits.
The linked article reminds us that this is the numerous such time that China has adopted this policy saying:
“So what’s really going on? This crunch follows similar incidents in June and December of last year. In June, for instance, the central bank used the excuseof a “system upgrade” to allow banks to shut down their ATMs and online banking platforms. As a result, they conserved cash and thereby avoided a nationwide meltdown.”
Other instances, such as this one in England where “[s]ome HSBC customers have been prevented from withdrawing large amounts of cash because they could not provide evidence of why they wanted it,” show that this problem may not be contained to China and may be spreading to the international market.
What does Murray Rothbard say will happen when this “credit crunch” inevitably occurs?
Wasteful projects, as we have said, must either be abandoned or used as best they can be. Inefficient firms, buoyed up by the artificial boom, must be liquidated or have their debts scaled down or be turned over to their creditors. Prices of producers’ goods must fall, particularly in the higher orders of production—this includes capital goods, lands, and wage rates […]
this means a fall in the prices of the higher-order goods relative to prices in the consumer goods industries. Not only prices of particular machines must fall, but also the prices of whole aggregates of capital, e.g., stock market and real estate values. In fact, these values must fall more than the earnings from the assets, through reflecting the general rise in the rate of interest return […]
“Since factors must shift from the higher to the lower orders of production, there is inevitable “frictional” unemployment in a depression, but it need not be greater than unemployment attending any other large shift in production. In practice, unemployment will be aggravated by the numerous bankruptcies, and the large errors revealed, but it still need only be temporary […]
Another common secondary feature of depressions is an increase in the demand for money. This “scramble for liquidity” is the result of several factors: (1) people expect falling prices, due to the depression and deflation, and will therefore hold more money and spend less on goods, awaiting the price fall; (2) borrowers will try to pay off their debts, now being called by banks and by business creditors, by liquidating other assets in exchange for money; (3) the rash of business losses and bankruptcies makes businessmen cautious about investing until the liquidation process is over.
With the supply of money falling, and the demand for money increasing, generally falling prices are a consequent feature of most depressions. A general price fall, however, is caused by the secondary, rather than by the inherent, features of depressions.
So is the massive failure of all economies imminent? Well not necessarily because the government can take some steps to prevent the immediate failure.
According to Mises:
“Continually expanding bank credit can keep the borrowers one step ahead of consumer retribution (with the help of successively lower interest rates from the central bank). In the theory, this postpones the “day of reckoning” and defers the collapse of unsustainably inflated asset prices. It can also be temporarily put off by price deflation or exogenous events such as the “cheap” or free acquisition of marketable resources by market participants and the banks funding the borrowing (such as the acquisition of land from local governments, or in extreme cases, the acquisition of foreign land through the waging of war).
The “false” monetary boom ends when bank credit expansion finally stops – when no further investments can be found which provide adequate returns for speculative borrowers at prevailing interest rates”
These steps only “kick the can down the road” and delay the inevitable since “the longer the “false” monetary boom goes on, the bigger and more speculative the borrowing, the more wasteful the errors committed and the longer and more severe will be the necessary bankruptcies, foreclosures and depression readjustment.”
We may be seeing the beginning of the next great depression here but only time will tell. One thing is certain though, a massive economic readjustment is coming and the central banks of the world have only been aggravating the problem. When it will hit is anyone’s guess but in this author’s opinion we are either looking at a repeat of the early 30’s or a repeat of the early 40’s and I can only hope we can avoid going through both.