With the stock market plunging and the bond market hitting the skids, gold prices are surging again, jumping nearly 4 percent on Thursday. As Reuters reports, all of this is due to “fears about financial instability, a lower dollar and US Treasury yields.” Investors fear that the government will not raise interest rates again in the near future thanks to the fragility of the economy, and will keep pumping cheap money; with that in mind, they’ve been moving their money toward long-term bonds and gold. “Investors are concerned that central banks’ solution (is) negative interest rates or at least not raising rates – and that is gold friendly,” said Macquarie analyst Matthew Turner. “The key risk to gold is that the US economy manages to put in a good performance, like it did last year.”
Betting on the US economy looks increasingly risky as the continuing effects of the Obama administration’s regulatory and tax regime hampers growth. Commentator Allister Heath writes at The Telegraph (UK), “no developed nation today could possibly tolerate another wholesale banking crisis and proper, blood and guts recession.” He sums up:
The public, whose faith in elites and the private sector was rattled after 2007-09, would simply not wear it. Its anger would be so explosive, so-all encompassing that it would threaten the very survival of free trade, of globalisation and of the market-based economy. There would be calls for wage and price controls, punitive, ultra-progressive taxes, a war on the City and arbitrary jail sentences.
He’s right – and this is exactly what we’re seeing from Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Both have called for heavier taxation on Wall Street. Both have suggested that capitalism is a rigged game. Clinton and Sanders have called for cracking down on the banking industry – Sanders says he wants to “break up” the big banks, although he has no details on how to do this. Sanders says outright that capitalism is an evil, and talks about how he wants to fight “the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little.” Clinton characterizes capitalism as a sort of tolerable evil that if left unchecked becomes a rapacious monster: “It’s our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok and doesn’t cause the kind of inequities that we’re seeing in our economic system.”
The American left has always despised capitalism. And so they’ve perverted it with massive government intervention. Meanwhile, a significant contingent on the right is uncomfortable with the supposed brutality of capitalism; that’s why the establishment Republican Party has demonstrated a willingness to enshrine the welfare state, as well as significant regulatory controls on capitalism, including tariffs (see Donald Trump’s economic campaign, for example). It’s why members of the right have embraced big business – they want to tout the success of government-sponsored companies as a success of capitalism, even though they’re not. The result: a hybrid system that people think of as capitalism but really functions more like economic fascism, with the government picking winners and losers, relieving some companies of their bad decisionmaking, and stacking the deck against the politically unconnected.
When the Soviet Union fell and European socialism began to collapse, when American leftism hit its downtrend in the 1980s, what replaced all of it wasn’t a pure, unbridled capitalism – it was a government-subsidized system of half-capitalism that worked better than socialism, but didn’t grant the same luxurious feeling of moral rectitude. During uptimes, most citizens were willing to live without that feeling. During recessions, however, citizens blame capitalism for a non-capitalist system, and pray for a return of the old, supposedly virtuous, government-run system. Conservatives criticize the failing system as “crony capitalism,” but that’s oxymoronic – true free market capitalism forecloses the use of government sponsorship. By granting the premise of the left that capitalism itself is to blame -- even a perverse form of capitalism -- for the actions of the government, the right hands the left an argument with which to club capitalism itself into submission.
The right’s failure to stand up for true free market principles in opposition to economic fascism will end with the left victorious again – and once again, the only true cure to the boom-bust cycle of economic fascism, actual capitalism, will be left in the closet, gathering dust.