Monday, January 11, 2010

As Goes Venezuela....

I've written before on the failure of Venezuelan socialism to improve the lives of its citizens. Now they are devaluing their currency, the Bolivar. It's not a stretch to imagine the same for the dollar.

As we continue to plunge ourselves into more debt paying for social programs which we must borrow money for, as well as pay for wars overseas, when our own borders are not secure, we weaken our own ability to repay these debts. As our ability to repay these debts is put in doubt, and we continue economic policies that disincentivize and penalize profit making (and therefore employment) we will not be able to keep the perceived value of the dollar strong. We can see this worldwide as the Arabic OPEC countries are looking for a pan-Arab currency, China is pushing for a currency tied to the values of base metals, and musicians and models ask to be paid in Euros.

Basically, everything is going to cost twice as much in Venezuela.

Wait, update, since I started writing.

Now, Chavez has threatened businesses that raise prices. The simple explanation goes something like this: Pretend you own a store. You bought Widget A for $10. But, due to the devaluation of your currency it now will cost producers $20 to get you a replacement Widget A. The producers aren't allowed to sell you Widget A at $20, they have to sell you it at $10. Neither are you, the shop owner, allowed to sell Widget A at $20, so that you have the necessary money (capital) to buy Widget A at its new production cost. As soon as Widget A is off the shelves, producers must either lose money making Widget A, find ways to make Widget A for half the cost, stop making Widget A and make a profitable Widget, or go out of business.

So, of the 4 choices, price controls guarantee that half the options leave you with no Widget A immediately. Unless the government subsidizes Widget A producers, they will go out of business eventually, once again leaving you without Widget A. And the second choice will likely leave you with a Widget A of inferior quality. Of course, those are the legal options. In reality, as during the American Prohibition Era, you will get a black market, where prices will reflect the actual cost of Widget A, plus a substantial markup for participating in an illegal activity (which reflects the increased risk of secret transportation/incarceration/etc).

As the credit worthiness of the US declines, we will see less purchasing of our debt. Or higher interest rates will need to be paid to entice buyers. That will make it more expensive to repay our debts, just like higher rates on a credit card make it harder to pay off the credit card. As this happens, the government will likely raise taxes which will give you less money to pay for your goods and services.

Then we will be in a situation similar to Venezuela. And, of course, the fewer dollars you have, the more this hurts. If you have $10 you'll effectively have $5. Or more accurately, that $10 item will now cost $20. That $100,000 house will cost $200,000. Your utility bill will be twice as much. Your groceries will be twice as much.

This is one of the few reasons I can think of (as a real estate professional) to buy property. If we have high inflation or a devaluation of the dollar, anything you buy prior to the inflation will be worth more in total dollars than when you bought it. Any credit card debt you have could be offset by buying a house. Suppose you bought a $50,000 house, and a 50% devaluation left you with a $100,000 house. You could sell it and pay off $50,000 of credit card debt with your profit. Of course, if food becomes twice as expensive, having a place to grow your own food might be an economically feasible way to reduce your grocery bills.

Now would be a good time (if you haven't started already) to start thinking about things you'll need for a few days, weeks, months, in case there's a shortage. It's time to be an ant, not a grasshopper.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to express you opinion. Please, no ad hominem attacks, and I heartily encourage people to post without profanity.