Commentary: Here's The Thing About Deflation

by: Five Thousand Over Libor

It's as organic and natural as anything sold at Whole Foods. As anything sold at any farmer's market. It is a pure manifest of nature. We overconsumed for decades, the overconsumption primarily predicated upon the advent of consumption credit. Like financing a vacation. Or a TV. Or anything you put on your credit card and don't pay down.

Deflation is the correction of that overconsumption. It's the pendulum swinging back on its pivot. Just like the weather you experience every day is nothing more than Mom Earth quixotically attempting to balance the permanent global heat imbalance, deflation is the rebalancing of the overconsumption imbalance.

On net, we consumed more than our incomes amounted to, as the savings at the top of the wealth distribution worked their way down to be invested, for the first time in the history of man, in broadly available lines of credit to those who wished for more than their skills/investments brought in the door. And it all works. Until it doesn't.

On average, over decades, an economy can only support the production and industry that it can demand through organic income. Certainly spasms of imbalance exist, but prolonged imbalances are detrimental, taking decades to accumulate.

The global economy is set to continue its adjustment, begun over four years ago, of the overconsumption that began 60 years ago and really blossomed over the past 25-30 years. There is not much we can do about it. Debt is either paid back -- which necessitates consuming less than you earn -- or it is written off as a loss -- which contracts the available supply of savings that can be invested in future consumption credit lines -- as lenders stay lenders only by avoiding losses. Additionally, these two conditions create a business environment that is very unfavorable to investment, so credit demand among credit-worthy borrowers contracts. Worse yet, being a net debtor in a deflationary environment is paralyzing, as the principal owed is not adjusted for the deflationary developments. It's the other side of the benefit to being a net debtor in an inflationary event. All together, demand has to contract. No amount of witchcraft from the FOMC changes this outcome; it only makes that inevitable outcome more expensive.

We are over four years into this, and right back where we started, only far worse for the wear. Stop the Keynesian attempts. They've never worked. Which is likely why Keynes himself came to understand this in the week or two prior to his death in 1946, explaining to Henry Clay of the Bank of England: "I find myself more and more relying for a solution of our problems on the invisible hand which I tried to eject from economic thinking 20 years ago."

Deflation is eventually good. It's the only thing that will allow us to enter into a new era of economic expansion. But the poor spending decisions, both public and private, have to experience their natural consequence. If that entails suffering, it isn't ultimately avoidable just because it's undesirable.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.