Friday, October 12, 2012

Inter-Generational Borrowing



Nick Rowe addresses the problem of inter-generational borrowing at:


If I read Nick Rowe right, he assumes (using a toy economy based on apples,) that A: Apples don’t last.  And concludes:  B:  Each generation, in borrowing apples from their children,  consumes an increasing share of the apples produced by their children.  That is, each generation consumes more than they themselves produced, taking from the production of their children. (The second generation gives to the first, but borrows even more from the third, etc.) I think this is correct, and is Nick’s point: Inter-generational borrowing is not neutral. Succeeding generations end up short. And Dean Baker, who claims that there is no transfer of wealth with inter-generational borrowing, is wrong.

If I read this right, then the only moral position is to grow the economy at a rate greater than the increase in (real) inter-generational borrowing. ( Of course, this eventually comes up against physical limitations.) That is, plant apple trees at an increasing rate, greater than the increase in inter-generational borrowing. But this requires (it seems to me) that the present generation consumes less than they would if they hadn’t borrowed in the first place.  That is, the present generation must invest more than they borrow.   

But in terms of the present, real value, this just means the present generation should consume less than they produce, and invest the rest. The borrowing of money is irrelevant, except where it affects this. 

In fact, the borrowing of money is rather inverted, because the younger generation is forced to borrow money from the older, established, wealthier generation, pay that older generation back with interest, and thus end up with a diminished share of the  real pie. 

So this is what the government is doing.  It is the younger generation borrowing from the older, who refuse to pay their taxes, and instead consume more than they produce.   Social Security and Medicare notwithstanding,  (Who, after all, will be cheated, if Social Security and Medicare are not adequately funded in the future?) the government, in principle, represents the interests of the young. Its proper purpose is to invest in the future, which is more the younger generation's than the older.

But the government has been co-opted by the older generation, who, instead of holding it in trust, exploit it to their own profit. 

The Republicans’ stated goal, then, and that of Austerians in general, the shrinking of government, (especially those parts of government that pertain to investment,) is to cheat the young out of their interests.   This is what we are seeing in youth unemployment across the globe, so much being taken away that the younger generation is even being decapitalized.  Here in the US, it is seen as higher costs of college, and lower investment in primary education, the neglect of infrastructure, etc.  (Infrastructure is of greater benefit to  the young, since they can expect to use it longer.)

So not only is it the 1% vs the 99%, but it is the old vs the young.  

The problem for the old, of course, is that by decapitalizing the young, they are decapitalizing themselves.  Because it is on the backs of the young the old hope to take their ease.  

 Running a trade deficit is also borrowing from future generations, and is thus also immoral, unless it is done for investment.

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