Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is always a must-read. In this article he analyzes solutions to the debt crisis and the realities the politicians face when dealing with it. At this stage they try to spin the good news as long as possible and try to save time. As if it will help. The day of reckoning will come soon after which they have to come clean with the debt situation.
My take for what is worth: no, countries are not going to pay off their debt, they will default: punish the saver and save the spender.
Does the world have the courage to deal with its debts
Deflation is spreading from the core of the global system to the most unexpected regions of the world. It has even reached Latin America. Prices are sliding in Peru, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and El Salvador, to the consternation of everybody.
Enough of the world has already fallen so far into pre-deflation conditions that any misjudgment by the big central banks from now risks setting off a chain-reaction that may prove very hard to stop.
CPI inflation has dropped to –2.2pc in Japan (a modern record), -2.1pc in the US, -1.8pc in China, -1.4pc in Spain, -0.7pc in France, and -0.6pc in Germany.
This was not anticipated by the authorities anywhere, so we should be wary of their assurances now that we face nothing more than a brief dip in prices before rising energy costs bring inflation back into familiar and safe territory. No doubt prices will rebound as the "base effect" of oil prices kicks in. But by how much; for how long?
The sum of economists in the world (outside Japan) familiar with the cultural and psychological dynamics of deflation can fit into one London bus, and most are historians of the 1930s.
If PIMCO guru Bill Gross and hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones are right in fearing that the US economy will tip back into a "W-shaped" recession as the sugar rush of fiscal stimulus fades, we may wake up to find that we have baked deep deflation into the pie for 2010 and 2011. The G20's talk of "exit strategies" and rate rises will seem surreal.
White House aides are already mulling another blast of spending. It won't fly. We have hit the political limits of such extravagance almost everywhere. The fiscal crutches of recovery are going to be knocked away, with outright tightening in a slew of states nearing the danger point of debt-compound spirals. This will occur in a world where excess capacity is already at post-War highs. It reeks of deflation.
Irving Fisher explained why the self-correcting mechanism of economies breaks down in his Debt Deflation Theory of Great Depressions in 1933: "Over indebtedness to start with, and deflation following soon after". Most of the West has exactly that, but worse – debt is much higher.
He coined the term "swelling dollar" to describe how falling prices and incomes raise the real burden of debts, leading to asphyxiation. There is a "swelling yen" in Japan today. Earnings were down 4.8pc in July from a year earlier. Bonuses fell 11pc. Wholesale prices fell a record 8.5pc.
Yes, Japan rebounded in the second quarter as shipping finance came back from the dead. The free fall has stopped. That is all. Industrial output was still down 23pc in July year-on-year.
What matters for debt service is that Japan's economy has shrunk by a tenth. Debt has not shrunk. It is rising. The public debt will rocket to 215pc this year.
China is in better shape but it is remarkable that there should be any deflation at all in a year when banks have let rip on credit, doubling lending to $1.1 trillion in the first six months.
The money has leaked into property and the Shanghai stock market; or worse, it has been spent building yet more excess plants to produce goods the world cannot yet absorb. This is much like the late phase of America's Roaring Twenties when asset prices reached their crescendo even as the underlying economy – burdened with over-capacity – tipped into deflation.
Beijing is at last tightening credit, mostly by stealth. We will learn soon whether Market Maoists are better at pricking asset bubbles than Ben Strong's Fed in the 1920s, or Ben Bernanke's Fed today.
I suspect that Dr Bernanke is more worried about deflation than he dares to let on. His ex-colleague Frederic Mishkin let slip last month that the Fed would be showering more money on the economy (buying US Treasuries), not less, were it not for market angst over the monetization of US deficits.
Bernanke is learning that he cannot in fact administer the anti-deflation medicine he talked about so confidently seven years ago. He can act only if and when the danger is so blindingly obvious that resistance crumbles.
There are three ways out of our mess. We can pursue 1930s liquidation that purges debt through mass default. Such Calvinist destruction cannot be imposed on a modern democracy.
We can devalue debt by deliberate inflation. This will backfire as bond vigilantes boycott government debt - unless rigged by capital controls or "administrative measures". You see where this leads.
Or we can try to right the ship by paying down our debts, very slowly, by sweat and toil, navigating a treacherous course between the Scylla and Charybdis of the twin-flations, for as long as it takes. This is the only responsible course left we as we face the devastating consequences of our own credit delusions. Are we up it?