Friday, June 21, 2013

How To Avoid The Cyclical Trap Of Arbitrarily Constraining Real Growth In Order To Make Nominal Numbers Look "Good"

Warren Mosler has another useful missive, from his extended rabble-rousing tour of Italy, trying to explain existing currency operations to more people.

Yet we can't succeed only by further explanation of ANY tactics, strategies, policies or even goals - not even by explaining seemingly rarely understood currency operations.

Warren's incredible efforts are a necessary but not sufficient step. He can't save us from ourselves by himself, and needs help - actually, a lot of help - from diverse sources. The helper of our helper is ... our self-help?

Nonetheless, Warren's exposes of key fiat currency operations are pulling down a significant barrier and enabling all of us to more easily break through and see a larger, recurring pattern (arbitrarily described here in 7 steps).

The next key observation is that most economics discussions - no matter how erudite - are stuck on steps 1&2, & never even get to parts 3-7! Understanding currency operations may open a door, but it's involvement of everyone - and all disciplines - that will determine how quickly we explore what's available on the other side. To that note, Warren's dead on in saying that "the entire finance industry is more trouble than it's worth." We need to get beyond arbitrary finance and economics, and back to exploring our real options. If mismanaging fiscal operations is how we are arbitrarily constraining ourselves currently, then we have to address it. Yet we certainly can't stop there. The deeper problem is that we'll just find other, equally arbitrary methods for getting in our own way! Let's look into why, and how to avoid that.

To paraphrase Warren, how do we get a huge population to simply explore their endless options? Here's my candid suggestions, based on feedback from people in diverse disciplines.

7 steps to achieving Situational Awareness of our current dilemma in the USA.
Note that the first three are entirely circumstantial and unique to our times, while 4-7 represent more general principles applicable to unpredictable situations yet to appear.

1) Modern "fiat" currency = financial liquidity units first, and a stable store of only very temporary value (i.e., liquidity) only secondarily.
[In clumsy cultures, policy space & agility may be yoked to currencies pegged to static-values (commodities).
Cultures demanding increases in both policy space & policy agility will always require fully fiat currency, yoked only to dynamic-values such as Public Initiative. It's that simple.]

2) "Deficits" in fiat currency issuance are simply one zone in a time-variant plot of automatic liquidity maintenance. To be an agile culture, our net liquidity - i.e., our fiat currency supply - has to automatically track any and all swings in net economic activity, no matter how dramatic. Thereafter, our remaining job is to FOCUS on managing & regulating how we SELECT the targets and distribution of that increasingly dynamic liquidity pool. Don't conflate those two, distinct, processes.

3) What initiates and dictates the cascade of organizational growth? All of our SELECTED national patterns of fiscal injection, liquidity distribution, and demand leakages will ALWAYS track, not dictate, our selection of national goals - including both QUALITY and TEMPO of that selection process.

4) Without steady introduction of worthy challenges, ANY institutional structure - such as our current one, which Warren describes in depth - regresses into a distributed competition to hoard unspent liquidity.
Without national purpose, we can't grow as a nation. It's that simple.

5) To smooth out the supposed business cycle, we need fiat motivation and fiat goals just as much as we need fiat currency? If outside demands aren't imposed, how do we counter our own tendency to regress, and keep evolving? Barring outside demand, we must create our own aggregate demand, and not just the little ones imposed by regressive capitalism, but really big ones supplied by the compounding return on collective capitalism - i.e., coordinated capitalism. To accurately name our chief cultural method, call it what it is, outcomes based collective capitalism - where all forms of capital, dynamic as well as static, are co-developed in unison, including coordination. To do that, requires preparation. To prepare, we must actively manage the rate & quality of the methods we use to generate our national imagination & drive. We made primary education mandatory, but we haven't yet made it mandatory to improve primary education fast enough! Like fiat currency, education must also be fiat, and AUTOMATICALLY TRACK ongoing outcomes. An informed electorate is the fallback method we're stuck with, when it comes time to invent our own goals (we either find outlets for new levels and patterns of consumption, or we degrade to consuming one another).

6) Methods have to flow bottom-up, but selection of organizational goals has to flow top down - as the response to ALL bottom-up feedback. Organization is just recursive coordination in response to feedback, analysis, probe and experience. Without strategy, diverse tactics of our subgroups and individuals eventually get in their own way, and descend to to gridlock. Further, without policy, our diverse strategies also produce gridlock. Similarly, without goals, policies grow into gridlock. Finally, diverse goals eventually bump and also produce political gridlock. Then what's the solution? What is beyond goals? It takes concerted imagination to construct the next HIERARCHICAL step, a newly DESIRED OUTCOME STATE big enough to encompass all existing goals. The very concept of evolution is that it is outcomes based.  If there's no challenge, supplied by circumstance or imagination, then there's no way to drive further organizational evolution. Once yet another outcome state is visualized by enough people, it's only a matter of recycling old tactics to newly standardized, automated tools, and bumping everything else down an organizational level, so that we can collectively reach even higher.

7) Yet without improved national DISCERNMENT, we as a people will never see these cycles coming, nor protect ourselves from falling into nationwide funks where we limit our growth just in order to make completely fiat accounting numbers look good. National depressions only happen when we take our collective eyes off the next real, emerging prize or option. If we're not actively exploring, we'll be late to see surprises coming from unexpected directions. If we're late seeing it, it's tougher to get out of the way of the next truck coming down the road - or the next collective outcome option.
This ain't rocket science. It's just continuing to have a big enough proportion of people see the big and growing picture. Since our situations are NOT in equilibrium, it's deadly to let our policy space & policy agility stall. When there are enough uninformed inmates to take over the cockpit and start flying blind, toying with stall speed will, sooner or later, prove to be fatal.

Analogy: network exercise, or "exercised" systems.
Individual mood follows behavior.
(Literally no one can remain depressed during serious exercise.  Our physiological processes have ranges allowing them to all rise to levels serving as adequate checks and balances on one another. You just have to know how and when to trigger them all, to re-gear yourself for any circumstance.)

National mood follows goal-directed behavior?
(Limit aggregate activity ==> limit & skew liquidity ==> degrade innovation ==> depress quality of distributed decision-making. As Warren points out, there's no economic situation we can't handle by adjusting available policy tools WITH ENOUGH AGILITY! Policy agility - and awareness of our existing policy space - is our chief limitation, not our available policy tools. That and willingness to utilize that policy space, of course. That's where innocent and/or other fraud comes in.)

Conclusion on causality flow? Numero Uno, pick a desired outcome, any big enough outcome, to initiate mobilization (national mood) ... and then keep selecting even better outcomes ... forever. Everything else - every aspect of an evolving culture - automatically falls into place as incidental to achieving our endlessly emerging, desired outcomes.

And don't stop doing Numero Uno! Otherwise, no amount of theoretical details or tactical responses will restart the stalled cycle of net cultural evolution.  We cannot do this by further explanation alone, of ANY tactics, strategies, policies or even goals. We can succeed ONLY by enabling a threshold proportion of the citizenry to co-envision the next Outcome big enough to satisfy and exceed all our existing goals - and making sure they're always pre-prepared with enough audacity to go for it. If we just do that, we'll ALWAYS amaze ourselves with our own ingenuity.  It takes national practice at Outcomes Based Training and Education. It's that simple.