I have started reading the book, Crashproof 2.0 by Peter Schiff, and I thought I would register some early impressions.
He is a guy who was once mocked for daring to suggest, only a few years ago, that the buildup of debt in the US and parts of the West, and its reliance on what amounts to “vendor financing” from Asia, was bound to end in tears. It did. “Vendor financing”, by the way, relates to the practice of a firm that offers temporary loans to the consumers of its own products. This, more or less, says Mr Schiff, is what happened in the past decade or so: Western consumers bought cheap products from China; Western manufacturers went bust or offshored production to Asia; China used the foreign earnings from its exports to buy up Western debt, enabling even more Western consumer spending, fuelling even more Chinese exports……until the whole process when up in smoke. (This process was aided by an artificially weak Chinese exchange rate, not to mention the recklessly loose monetary policy of the Fed.) So far, so good: Schiff makes a lot of sense in debunking all of this.
But then there is a rather rum argument. Schiff says that somehow, this process was bad because as a result of the low-cost production from China and other parts of the world, US manufacturing jobs were replaced by allegedly lower-paying, crappier service sector jobs. (It is simply assumed that non-manufacturing jobs are worse than manufacturing ones). This sounds a bit like the sort of attack on globalisation I have heard made by such economic illiterates such as Lou Dobbs of CNN. I was a bit surprised that an Austrian-leaning writer such as Schiff should be making it. If the service sector can generate wealth for those who work in it, what is the problem? If, in a proper free market without the distortions of fiat money etc, certain manufacturing jobs were to be done by low-cost nations and other jobs by us, how is this a cause for Apocalyptic treatises?
Another query I have is this: if the Chinese/whoever are earning real income by selling us stuff, and then use that real income to lend us money that is used to fund investment in things that will create wealth in the future, again, how is this a problem? Sure, if that Chinese money is simply fuelling consumer spending and encouraging feckless spending and low savings – which is what did actually happen, I can see the issue. But lending money for productive purposes is hardly an evil. In the 19th Century, for example, the UK, with its wealth generated in the Industrial Revolution, was a net investor into countries such as the US, Canada and Argentina. I guess the trick is to make sure that the money lent for productive purposes is money derived from genuine savings, not funny money.
Maybe Mr Schiff will answer these points later in the book.