Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Simplifying Econospeak

The following paragraph is an example of how to talk to the average voter about how the economy works, could work, or should work without resorting to economic jargon.

“The federal government is the people's agent, and they have authorized it to issue money so they can have a convenient way to buy things and pay their taxes. Taxes can be viewed as reimbursement for infrastructure, education, research, and defense projects the government has undertaken on behalf of the people. If the economy is so weak that people cannot find employment or resources are being underutilized, the government can either lower taxes or issue more money. If the economy is so strong that production of goods and services cannot meet demand, the government can increase taxes or stop issuing money. That's how the economy can be stabilized.”

Implicit in the above description of the economy, but not required to get the point across, is the fact that government is the sole issuer of money, taxes are not collected and then used, but instead the government can issue money to pay for what has been legislated to be done and then collect taxes after the fact to reflect what goods and services the people have received. In times of a weak economy the government can reduce taxes and defer reimbursement for services rendered, or in times of an overheating economy, the government can accumulate taxes it will need for future projects to take some steam out of the economy.

The federal government is not like an individual, a company, or a state. The federal government is the exclusive issuer of money. Any other entity is only a user of the money. To get money they have to engage in economic transactions, or borrow the money from an entity that has money to lend or grant. If they borrow, it results in debts that must be paid off later.

Any money the government issues increases the money available to the private sector to save or spend. If the private sector elects to spend, it will increase demand for goods and services, which could exceed the economic resources of the country. This will result in a rise in the prices of assets, consumer goods, or labor. At this point the government must increase taxes or stop issuing money to bring demand back into line with supply.

The fact that federal deficits and debt are not mentioned reflects their lack of importance in the scheme of things. The "national debt" is not a debt owed to anyone. It can be viewed as the net amount of money the government has issued over time. It may fluctuate up and down, but it is not something that needs to be paid off or compared to GDP. To think of it that way is to think that football teams need to pay back the scores they have run up in a game.

Over time, the population increases and the economy grows. This requires more money in circulation so it is up to the government to provide it. If it doesn’t, the economy will stagnate.

To the extent that the government issues money to further foreign interests or which results in foreign claims, the amount of money issued in that way could arguably become an important issue.

The average voter doesn't want to hear about economic theories or jargon that only an economist or economic analyst would understand. They just want to know how the economy is supposed to work. If economic concepts are explained in a simple, but factual way, people will start to accept them and turn away from the propaganda and misinformation that currently pervades the national economic conversation, much of which is only applicable to countries that don’t have their own money, or whose money is backed by a commodity like gold or silver.

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