Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Inflationism and the Senkaku Islands Dispute

At the Minyanville Jonah Loeb postulates 5 factors behind the intensifying Senkaku Island dispute between Japan and China, particularly history, resources (vast oil reserves), economic stakes, provocation by both governments and impact on US presidential elections.

First below is the an abbreviated timeline of the Senkaku Dispute, the complete timeline can be seen at the Globe and Mail here

-1996: The nationalist group builds another lighthouse on another of the islands. Several activists from Hong Kong dive into waters off the islands on a protest journey. One of them drowns.

- 2002: The Japanese ministry of internal affairs starts renting three of the four Kurihara-owned islands. The other is rented by the defence ministry.

- 2004: A group of Chinese activists lands on one of the disputed islands. The then prime minister Junichiro Koizumi orders their deportation after two days.

- September, 2010: A Chinese fishing boat rams two Japanese coastguard patrol boats off the islands. Its captain is arrested but freed around two weeks later amid a heated diplomatic row that affects trade and political ties.

- April 16, 2012: Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara announces he has reached a basic agreement to buy the Kurihara-owned islands.

- July 7, 2012: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda says his government is considering buying the islands.

- August 15, 2012: Japanese police arrest 14 pro-China activists, five of them on one of the islands.

- August 17, 2012: All 14 are deported.

- August 19, 2012: Japanese nationalists land on the islands without permission.

It is important to point out the current geopolitical troubles on Senkaku essentially got resurrected in 2010-2012 when Japan’s fragile post-Lehman economy got slammed by the triple whammy natural disaster (earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power meltdown) and as China’s economy has turned south in response to the diminishing returns of the 2008-2009 stimulus as shield to the post Lehman crisis.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan has resorted to ever increasing amounts of quantitative easing to save the beleaguered crony banking and finance, the nuclear industry and other zombie crony firms.

Yet like the Scarborough-Spratly’s island dispute I do not believe that this has been about history nor has this been about resources, but both ideas have been peddled as popular rationalizations for the standoff.

Jonah Loeb writes,

4. Both countries' governments are being provocative. Tokyo Governor Shoharo Ishihara, an outspoken character with a long history of anti-Chinese comments, sparked the dispute by launching a public fundraiser to buy the islands from their private owners, forcing the Japanese government’s hand as China fought back against Ishihara’s bid…

5. It could have a major effect on the US presidential race. More and more American politicians, especially those on the right, have been spinning some pretty harsh anti-Chinese rhetoric for a while, and that’s only increased since this dispute started. Mitt Romney claims that he will declare China a “currency manipulator” if he’s elected, and China is therefore as suspicious of the United States as it is angry at Japan.

It is true that politicians have been stoking inflammatory statements; a Chinese general recently said that China’s military should “prepare for combat”.

In reality these are most likely smokescreens to the worsening internal problems experienced by both countries and to the mounting interventionism being applied by the increasingly desperate political authorities.

In a speech Professor Joseph T. Salerno made this very important point. (bold highlights mine)

War has a number of advantages for the ruling class. First and foremost, war against a foreign enemy obscures the class conflict that is going on domestically in which the minority ruling class coercively siphons off the resources and lowers the living standards of the majority of the population, who produce and pay taxes. Convinced that their lives and property are being secured against a foreign threat, the exploited taxpayers develop a "false consciousness" of political and economic solidarity with their domestic rulers…

The war rhetoric have been used as opportunity to deflect public opinions to a foreign bogeyman as greater interventionism are being applied to the economy

Again from Professor Salerno

A second advantage of war is that it provides the ruling class with an extraordinary opportunity to intensify its economic exploitation of the domestic producers through emergency war taxes, monetary inflation, conscripted labor, and the like. The productive class generally succumbs to these increased depredations on its income and wealth with some grumbling but little real resistance because it is persuaded that its interests are one with the war makers.

The point being:

We thus arrive at a universal, praxeological truth about war. War is the outcome of class conflict inherent in the political relationship — the relationship between ruler and ruled, parasite and producer, tax-consumer and taxpayer. The parasitic class makes war with purpose and deliberation in order to conceal and ratchet up their exploitation of the much larger productive class. It may also resort to war making to suppress growing dissension among members of the productive class (libertarians, anarchists, etc.) who have become aware of the fundamentally exploitative nature of the political relationship and become a greater threat to propagate this insight to the masses as the means of communication become cheaper and more accessible, e.g., desktop publishing, AM radio, cable television, the Internet, etc. Furthermore, the conflict between ruler and ruled is a permanent condition. This truth is reflected — perhaps half consciously — in the old saying that equates death and taxes as the two unavoidable features of the human condition.

This leads us to central banking inflationism. Today’s interventionism has become more pronounced through central bank inflationism. And war financing has intrinsically been tied with inflationism.

As Mises Institute's founder Lew Rockwell recently wrote

Through this convoluted process – a process, not coincidentally, that the general public is unlikely to know about or understand – the federal government is in fact able to do the equivalent of printing money and spending it. While everyone else has to acquire resources by spending money they earned in a productive enterprise – in other words, they first have to produce something for society, and then they may consume – government may acquire resources without first having produced anything. Money creation via government monopoly thus becomes another mechanism whereby the exploitative relationship between government and the public is perpetuated.

Now because the central bank allows the government to conceal the cost of everything it does, it provides an incentive for governments to engage in additional spending in all kinds of areas, not just war. But because war is enormously expensive and because the sacrifices that accompany it place such a strain on the public, it is wartime expenditures for which the assistance of the central bank is especially welcome for any government.

In short war gives political cover for authorities to inflate the system.

Of course, again as I previously argued, the territorial disputes could be used as an election campaign propaganda.

War has always been used as opportunities to exploit society (through financial repression) and suppress internal political opposition in order to advance the interests of the ruling political class whose interest are interlinked with the politically favored banking class, the welfare and the warfare class.

The Senkaku Island dispute has been no different.

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