The current worldwide slowdown in productivity gains may reflect a combination of decreasing energy returns on energy investments in fossil fuels, and limitations on productivity gains in the early stages of development of renewable energy replacements.
A review of the development process in terms of non equilibrium thermodynamics concepts is in order. The stresses of the upcoming major worldwide energy transitions, accompanied by climate change protections, are likely severely to test national and international coordination systems, and demand insight into the thermodynamic and economic processes involved on the part of those who participate in international diplomacy.
1.The Current Productivity Problem
Numerous publications have been reporting that rates of productivity gain have been declining in recent decades across much of ‘developed world’, and, from higher levels, in many ‘developing’ economies. A recent publication of the highly respected Brookings Institution probes this issue
The National Conference Board in the United States also reports almost imperceptible productivity gains, and some losses, in the most developed economies in the world. The Conference Board’s summation on this is as follows:
Zero or even negative total factor productivity growth suggests that improvements in the efficiency by which labor and capital are used have stalled . . . Ultimately declining TFP prevents companies from improving their competitiveness and profitability, and threatens the ability of countries to maintain or better people’s living standards.
As of this writing, the International Monetary Fund reports low growth prospects across a broad range of economies, and some difficulty in identifying why this should be so.
2. Current Related Financial Policy Actions
Institutions charged with coordinating national and global financial activities have undertaken attempts to encourage a resumption of ‘growth’ (typically measured within States as gross domestic product or gross national product). The conceptual basis for such measures seems to assume that growth rates should be those typical of the late 19th and the 20th centuries.
National governments have considered that they had two principal levers for trying to get economic activity back up to accustomed and/or targeted levels, termed ‘monetary’ and ‘fiscal’.
As to ‘fiscal’ action, the national government is assumed to be able to authorize economic activity directly, and to issue whatever monetary instruments, or forms, will be accepted in the markets supplying goods and services. This may create a current deficit, to be financed over time.
There seems to be more attention given to ‘monetary’ policy, typically managed by central banks, and institutions to coordinate the policies of national central banks.
National central banks have tended to try to stimulate economic activity by actions which make monetary units more amply available for national and international transactions. A part of this strategy is actions to lower the interest rates which generally apply in such transactions. This is thought likely to increase the levels of activity in investing in the production of goods and services (and in consumer purchases) by reducing the levels of yield needed over time from such activities to attract the ‘capital’ which will enable such activities.
At this time, most of the institutions with central bank functions, in the ‘developed’ economies, have been targeting very low interest rates for an extended period of time.
There have been at least two other, external but parallel discussions, with implications for economic activities. This article suggests that these inquiries are particularly significant at this time.
3. Current Awareness of A Need for An Energy Source Transition
It is generally understood that the enormous gains in human populations and activities have come from exploiting the ‘energy’ in fossil fuel, or earth-stockpiled, hydrocarbons. Discussions of productivity gains over time — generally the 19th and 20th centuries — seem to have assumed that the fossil fuel flows supporting such gains will be available at the same levels and costs as have been the case in these last two centuries. But looking ahead a century or two, this cannot continue to be taken as a given.
First, the prospective climate effects of combusting these hydrocarbons, to get the energy yield, has spurred a global search to replace these energy sources.
At the same time, the net energy yields from mining these hydrocarbons have tended to decrease. And, the limits of the most energy-rich hydrocarbon deposits seem visible, given current and prospective consumption rates.
The efforts to develop ‘renewable’ or ‘sustainable’ energy sources have led to a focus on a key measure — the energy returns on energy invested (EREOI) in such renewable technologies. Those tracking the development of renewables are keenly interested in when they will meet or exceed the EROEI of fossil fuels, and whether, and when, such energy yields will be sufficient to support a high energy industrial civilization in the future.
This author suggests that this should lead to shifting the conceptual center of discussion as to economic (and social) activity to the energy flow factors which enable such activity.
4. The Rise Of Academic Understandings of ‘Non Equilibrium Thermodynamics’
This dovetails into a stream of academic thought which has steadily expanded in recent decades, often termed ‘non equilibrium thermodynamics’.
The foundations of this thought go back at least as far as Heraclitus of Ephesus, born about 560 BC, who saw all things as process. However, in recent decades astronomers, physicists and others have expanded, elaborated, and measured these concepts in universally applicable ways.
Re-casting the productivity issues in thermodynamic terms may help answer a key question.
On the one hand, some suggest that the current slowdown in productivity growth in developed economies is just a pause in the realization of gains from innovations in process as to the economic potentials of current developed societies — e.g. ‘big data’ computations, self driving cars, the spread of ‘digitization’ of business and government operations.
An alternative suggestion might be that the combination of restrictions of fossil fuel use, the energy costs of such use, and the energy investment costs of creating and deploying renewable energy sources now imposes or will impose constraints on the rate of productivity gains, if any, which we can project for coming decades.
Given the recent ascent into widespread scholarly discussion of non equilibrium thermodynamics, I should to state at the outset what version of nonequilibrium thermodynamics frames the premises here used in approaching human productivity and ‘finance’.
Briefly stated, this essay proceeds from the premise that all ordered structures in the Universe are manifestations of ordered energy flows. All ‘tangible’ structures are composed of relational systems — systems of correlated elements. Thus, the ‘order’ In the universe arises from correlations among the elements in the structures. In some, as in ‘solids’, the correlations are so stable as to stabilize both spatial dispersion, and radial degrees of freedom, over the periods of observation — or interaction with another ordered structure, or system.
Dynamic systems at the macro scale available to humans — processing energy flows and altering its internal conformation and/or relationships with external systems over time, or process — entail both energy intake and dissipation. Ilya Prigogine condensed this seminal insight long ago. A simple and visible astronomic example is the Red Spot on Jupiter.
Thus, ‘energy’ is in a fundamental sense the sovereign coin of the realm, so to speak, in the creation and maintenance of all ordered systems.
The leading explicant of the underlying dynamic nature of the Universe is Tufts/Harvard professor Eric Chaisson. In a series of exhaustively documented, elegant books and articles, he explains the energy densities, and related complexity levels, of galaxies, suns, ants, plants, humans and human societies. See for example “Cosmic Evolution”, Harvard, 2001, and for beautiful illustrations
A critical metric in Chaisson’s extensive documentation of energy flows is ‘free energy rate density’ (the amount of energy flow through a system per unit of mass and unit of time). Life units, for example, embody higher free energy rate densities than do galaxies or suns: animals higher free energy rate densities than plants, and humans, with their artifacts, like cities and particular elements in cities (e.. Jet planes and computers) much higher free energy rate densities than animals as a whole. In the energy scales of the Universe, human civilization is an extremely rare high free energy density phenomenon.
For a somewhat broader context, though condensed, overview for the interested general public, one can consult an article on ‘relational order theories’
As humans have organized the world around them, they have identified and constructed systems which have, to the humans, the characteristic of yielding more energy to the humans than the humans invest in them.
In agricultural societies, ‘land’ was often used as a conceptual catch-all for an energy yielding asset. (However, I understand the the word ‘capital’ was derived from the indo-european term for cattle, in an semi-nomadic phase of the indo europeans). A fishing resource, or the ocean as a whole, could also be so considered.
Let us focus on a world in which systems other than ‘land’ (or a fishery area) were made to yield energy returns on energy invested in them.
In the fossil fuel era, such a system could be a coal mine, an oil or gas well, etc. where we have accessed energy bound in hydrocarbons by previously living systems, and learned how to liberate and turn to our use that energy. In this world, more types of resource, and energy flows, are organized more flexibly, by entities including the holders of the symbols of ‘capital’.
As we seek to enter a larger scale ‘sustainable’ or ‘renewable’ energy era we consider artifactual photosynthetic systems, wind energy systems, nuclear energy systems, etc. As to all such systems specialized so as to yield to humans more energy than humans organize into them, we have come to seek to measure the ‘energy return on energy invested’.
5. Initial Application of Non Equilibrium Thermodynamics Concepts to Productivity and Energy Transition Issues.
Assuming that ‘productivity’, as to humans, corresponds roughly to the ‘energy’ which the human or the system in which the human functions brings to ‘goods and services’ — the fabrication, transport, communication, etc. which the human becomes involved in ‘producing’ — productivity, as measured by the output of units specified per person work unit, would be enhanced by more energy entrainment, and decreased by less.
Generalizing this, one might posit that in a world of high EROEI, per person ‘productivity’ gains can be high, and in a world of low EROEI, they will be low.
We have noted that some suggest that underlying gains in efficiency — compositional productivity, or multiple factor productivity — are in operation but not yet manifested in ways which register in the statistical identities and measures we now use.
Let us entertain an alternate hypothesis oriented to a nonequilibrium thermodynamics framework, and a simple model which might be used to attempt to test such an hypothesis, over time, with enough data accumulation and analysis.
A candidate hypothesis would be that the energy returns on energy investments in the interconnected global economic systems are now rewarding investment in energy production at lower than historic levels, and at levels which, given all the energy dissipation in cycling energy through the generation and consumption, re-generation cycles does not allow for much increase in the over all activity levels of the societies involved, over time and the continuing cycling process.
Let us consider a simple model in which the key variables are a ‘capital’ sector, the energy return on energy which is invested into the ‘capital’ apparatus, and a population. These elements are arranged in a simple linear cycle, and the result which matters most to humans is designated as per capita wealth, in energy terms, as follows.
Per capita (energy) wealth = ((K*EROEI)-ReinvE)/P
That is, the wealth per person, calibrated in energy units (which have correspondences to ‘goods’ and ‘services’), equals the energy flow into the capital apparatus times the energy return from that apparatus per unit of energy investment, minus the energy reinvested in the capital apparatus, divided by the total population.
The physical system is a cyclical, reiterative one, as follows. The population inputs energy into the capital apparatus, the apparatus returns (and distributes) the energy back into the population, the population ‘consumes’ the energy, building some of it into population and amenities, etc, and returns energy into the capital apparatus. And keep cranking.
Using a model such as this, one can imagine differing endowments in different polities — e.g. higher or lower current capital endowments, populations, EROEI results. Some interesting possible relationships are noted in the footnote.
Malthus’s famous views come to mind. If we were to adapt a Malthusian point of view, the K, or capital, factor was largely seen as land. The yield — the EROEI — of land had not shown great increases in centuries prior to Malthus, and nothing like ‘geometric’, or exponential, or repetitive doubling, would seem plausible at his time. So if one assumed that the total population would increase faster than did energy production from land, using historic forms of agricultural technology, people would live more poorly, or some of them would, or some would have to go — to be subtracted from the equation.
Let us now put in this formula the Industrial (or fossil fuel) Revolution. Suddenly (in historical terms) EROEI skyrockets — let us say up to 50 times the energy input. The population can expand (improving food supply in various energy-fed ways), the energy using apparati generally (goods and services) can expand, and the capital factor can increase. The cycle becomes wonderfully virtuous, and humanity bestrides the Earth beyond its agricultural dreams.
But now let us suppose there are limits to the extent the capital factor can increase, or the EROEI begins to decrease, or both. Depending on how one varies the critical factors of population size, capital stock, and EROEI, many scenarios can be produced, as noted before. But with capital limited or fixed, and no appreciable gains in EROEI, we could be headed back to the Malthus type of calculation.
Let us sketch a more optimistic scenario for a few centuries ahead.
Let us continue to assume that the EROEI on fossil fuels decreases, and/or fossil fuel capacity is capped in order to avoid overheating the whole human complex, with major losses of system function and human welfare.
But our specialists advise us that life on earth taps only a very small fraction of the solar energy impinging on earth, we also tap a small fraction of the wind energy available, and if we are clever, farsighted, and disciplined enough we might replace the fossil fuels, at levels comparable to or above current civilization energy levels, at EROEI ratios sufficient to maintain our population levels and our per capita welfare, and also feed back into the capacity machinery enough energy to keep that machinery, and the whole system, stable and growing.
If humanity is not to go on a severe diet at some point, this is clearly the situation which will have to be managed. We humans have a very big and tricky energy supply transition coming up, and there are many uncertainties involved in it.
We may not know just how rapidly the energy supply transition can occur.
Vaclav Smil counsels that we think in terms of a century or so, and has historical evidence to support his view. Vaclav Smil (2011), Global Energy: The Latest Infatuations, American Scientist.
Others suggest that the coming transition could be managed more rapidly. The current Administration in the United States is pursuing an aggressive program to facilitate adaptation of the electricity system to increased proportions of wind and solar electricity generation.
As of this writing, a 2016 projection of the Bloomberg New Energy Finance group projects that by 2027 renewable electrical energy sources will cost less than operation of fossil fuel plants, and by 2040 renewable technologies will improve their cost levels 40-60% and fossil fuel production will have shrunk to less than 50% of total electrical energy production worldwide. In the advanced economies of Europe and America, the fossil fuel shares will have shrunk to a third or less of total electrical energy supplies. And, as to transportation, electric vehicles would constitute about 35% of new vehicles sold.
We also may not know exactly what system wide EROEI levels are required to maintain the high levels of free energy densities prevalent in highly industrialized civilization. A currently circulating guess is 10/1.
We do not know how well the public in the industrialized areas will understand their situation, and have the patience and foresight to soldier through the required transitions.
Given these uncertainties, we still must attempt to project a path forward.
Let us trace out a scenario reflecting the possibility that we are at or near a difficult point in our energy base transition.
This scenario might be called a ‘valley of disappointment’ scenario. (That is the pessimistic part. The optimism is reflected in the projection that only a valley, not a cliff, looms before us.)
If and as we are now entering a situation in which the fossil fuel energy recovery rates are declining, and the renewable energy yields are increasing, but are currently only a bit above the base rate needed for advanced civilization , account only a small part of energy supply at this moment and need extensive energy-consuming complements to fill out the entire range of energy uses, we might predict that our societies could encounter the following situation.
●A slowdown in global, composite EROEI levels relative to historic fossil fuel boom era EROEI levels,
- and thus widespread, aggregate slowdowns in GDP, or GDP growth
- and related slowdowns in per person productivity gains,
- and thus slowdowns in consequent ‘standard of living’ gains.
●Even if the renewable energy sources were eventually to produce high and reliably increasing levels of energy flows in human societies, efficiently spread throughout our societies, we could see
- lags between investment in the renewable energy sources, and the related complexes which are required to make them broadly and efficiently usable, and their full effectiveness, and thus
- human societies enduring some decades of transiti
●All this leading to
- A lull in standard of living gains, if not a period of decline, and
- slow progress in improving them again. And, consequently,
● as these slowdowns occur, and a resumption of something like historic welfare gains seems remote, considerable dissatisfaction arising in populations which are accustomed to rapid gains in ‘welfare’, or standard of living.
Does this picture resemble what we now may be seeing in the ‘highly developed’, extremely entitled populations of America and Europe?
Were this overview accepted, the 2016 Bloomberg new energy investment scenario seems to suggest that by 2040 renewable EROEI would have increased by 40-60% and even transportation would be moving toward energy efficiency sufficient to service high energy human civilization. Such a rate of progress could make less onerous the ‘valley of disappointment’. We could at least better see our way to a more abundant future, perhaps even more abundant than our fossil fed recent past.
6. Implications For Financial Policy
In this sort of scenario would the roles of ‘finance’ differ from those now prescribed?
‘Policy makers’ may be unclear whether they may just assume that ‘fiscal’ stimuli will draw on an underused and available well of production and productivity-increasing opportunities on which to spend money tokens, or whether their justification rests solely on a judgment that they, better than the market, can discriminate between higher EROEI possibilities and less productive ones. However, they may be inclined to choose to funnel resources to long term thermodynamic gain as well as or better than an unguided or unassisted market. We have done well in the past by encouraging canals and railroads, for two examples.
As to monetary tools, on the face of it, a regime in which low interest rates prevailed would seem to accord with a relative scarcity of thermodynamically fruitful (in customary language highly productive) investment opportunities. That is, low interest rates would appropriately reflect generally low returns to investments.
If one expected that ‘natural forces’ — e.g. ‘innovations’ — would soon replenish the inventory of potentially rewarding opportunities, one might just hold steady and wait — perhaps a few years.
If on the other hand the ‘valley of disappointment’ construct more accurately depicts our situation, the ‘wait’ — the period of low returns on ‘capital’ generally — might go on for some decades. A great deal of adjustments in matters such as annuities, pensions, bond integrity — indeed, public and private finance generally — would be compelled.
Thus, there would seem to be a strong case for monetary policy functionaries and advisors to focus clearly on non equilibrium thermodynamics, EROEI oriented, analyses of economic phenomena. If this work is done thoroughly and well, the ‘valley of disappointment’ hypothesis may be confirmed in whole or substantial part, or disconfirmed. We may learn enough to get a better picture of workable paths through the transition before us.
If the more advanced economies are facing thermodynamic/economic constraints in the upcoming Great Energy Transition, whereas on the other hand less developed venues feel entitled to a great deal of economic catch-up, regardless of atmosphere heating results, we have a continuing difficulty in managing world climate protection and acceptable rates of welfare improvement in some large and ambitious countries.
The oil-laden Persian Gulf area is a continuing management problem. The deepest and most easily accessible pools of liquid hydrocarbons are in the hands of archaic political systems, some of whom — like Iran — have felt badly treated by the industrialized ‘West’. But USA Investment in an order-maintaining military presence in the Persian Gulf area most directly benefits India and China –the US only indirectly. This has not escaped the attention of one of the presidential contenders in the United States.
Diplomacy will be involved in finding ways to reconcile nativist-nationalist impulses in several European countries, and in the United States, with the economic and social advantages of global integration. The recent ‘Brexit’ act highlights the significance of this phenomenon.
Notwithstanding all the above, the hierarchy building imperative evident the hierarchical construction of order in the Universe explains at the most basic level currently available the tendency to global human integration evident in the last few centuries. This integration dynamic is fundamental.
But the equally underlying stochastic nature of the Universe counsels that nothing is guaranteed to we weird, extreme, socialized apes who seek to live like high technology, high energy, densely clustered ants, in a dynamic, promising, but perilous journey through life’s accumulated energy bounty into a new era of energy entrapment on Earth.
Thus the civilized effort to make light out of international heat, and workable coherence out of urgent parochialisms, has fundamental tasks before it in this era of change in the energy fundamentals. An understanding of the currents moving the ships of state, as well as steady hands on the helms, are needed.
The reforms and the current situation of the State budget and accounts
As we have all realized, since the COVID-19 epidemics broke out the number of regulations enacted – especially by the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers – has literally sky-rocketed.
The starting date of the sequence of regulations is certain. It is, in fact, January 31, 2020 with the declaration of the state of emergency connected to the onset of diseases resulting from transmissible viral agents, pursuant to Article 7, paragraph 1, sub-paragraph c) of Legislative Decree No. 1 of 2018 (Civil Protection Code).
The Prime Minister’s Decrees, the many Guidelines, Directives and Ministerial Orders, as well as the many Orders of the Head of the Civil Protection Department and, finally, the many Regional and even Municipal Orders have added to the Emergency Ordinances and the many – probably too many – decree-laws to be quickly converted into laws after the Parliament’s vote, pursuant to the Constitution.
There has never been an exception to the eternal rule – mathematical, at first, and then legal – according to which the greater the number and complexity of rules, the greater the indecision and misunderstanding inherent in their implementation.
Even in such a severe and complex situation, the messy regulatory system created with the Emergency Ordinances and Decrees for the COVID-19 infection is, therefore, a source of ambiguity, indecisiveness and potential conflict between State apparata and Local Administrations.
This is the reason why, even in the State administration, the old maxim of medieval logic, simplex sigillum veri, should apply.
Hence which is the final criterion for solving the inevitable regulatory ambiguity? The criterion is Politics, seen as Alexander’s Sword cutting the Gordian Knot immediately.
This is, in fact, the real function of democratic representation, in a highly-regulated context, as is the case in every modern Western country.
Parliament is always the decision-maker, together with the Government and the Presidency of the Republic, responsible for both budget items and the hierarchy of rules, which should be as simple as possible, as already taught us by Beccaria.
Reverting – after this example – to the issue of Italy’s current Budget Law, what is it, in fact?
As is well-known, the Budget Law is the legislative instrument, provided for by Article 81 of the Constitution, which lays down how the Government – with a preliminary accounting document – communicates to Parliament the public expenditure and revenue forecast for the following year, pursuant to the laws in force.
At first, it should be noted that much of the expenditure is bound to be fully hypothetical – as happens also in private budgets – and cannot be completely organized by means of a single old or new rule. Finally, some budget items depend on cash flows and expenses which can never be fully predictable in the budget.
Again pursuant to Article 81 of the Constitution, unlike what currently happens for the Stability Law, the law for adopting the State Budget cannot introduce new taxes and new expenses.
The structure of the State Budget, namely the network of fixed items, must be only that one.
The reason is obvious but, given this asymmetry, it is difficult to put together the Budget Law and the Stability Law in a reasonable way.
It should be recalled that the Stability Law, also known as Finance Act or Budget Package, is the ordinary law proposed by the Government, which regulates the economic policy of the State (and also of civil society) for three years.
Well, but in three years, as they say in French, chosir son temps, c’est l’épargner.
In three years everything is done and everything can be destroyed or change, especially with the kind of international economy we are dealing with now.
The Stability Law has been so called, almost officially, since 2009 mainly as a result of the introduction of “fiscal federalism”, implemented with the constitutional reform of 2001, which requires that the activity of the “central” State is coordinated with the local one, which has autonomous and different assets – albeit not always – from the “central” State finance.
I believe that the famous “federalism” has been a long-standing illusion from which the sooner we wake up the better.
The distribution of revenue among the Regions – increasingly eager for money, especially after the reckless “Reform of Title V” of the Constitution, invented by the leftist governments in the belief they could take votes away from the Northern League Party – has been detrimental. It has made the Local Authorities increasingly powerful, and therefore large and very expensive, with an efficiency that, except for the Northern regions, which would have been efficient anyway, has plummeted throughout the rest of Italy.
Again as a result of the Treaty of Maastricht – a city previously unknown except for the French siege of 1673, in which D’Artagnan stood out – the Stability Law must comply with the requirements of economic and financial convergence between the EU countries, but also with the criteria regarding the rules of coordination between the local, regional and State levels of public finance of the various EU-27 Member States. Sicily will coordinate with the economy of Finland, all based on cellulose and mobile phones, while Piedmont, with its precious white truffles, will coordinate with the Tayloristic and low-cost factories of the Czech Republic.
Beyond a certain level, the economies are incomparable with one another and there is no single currency that can put them in communication.
If anything, we would need public accounting like the one that is implemented – even at European level – with the Power Purchasing Parity criteria.
For the first time, in the 2009 Stability Law, an additional instrument was added on welfare – which currently, in the European bureaucratic jargon, also means “Health” – in which there are regularly also rules on labour, social security and competitiveness, which have little to do with Welfare and is drafted according to a deadline of missions, multi-year programs and functions, which is very hard, if not impossible, to monetize.
Furthermore, pursuant to Law No. 234/2012, the Stability Law has also provided that, as from 2016, the Stability Law shall be a Consolidated Act together with the Budget Law.
This is anomalous, considering that the latter can regulate and create new taxes and duties, while the former cannot.
However, the Reform of the State Budget, implemented with Law No. 163/2016 adopted on July 28, 2016, was definitively approved with over 80% of votes in Parliament.
The Stability/Budget Law must be submitted by the Government to Parliament every year by October 15 and Parliament must adopt or amend it otherwise by December 31 of the same year. It is too short a lapse of time. Beyond the initial deadline, Article 81, paragraph 2, of the Constitution provides for the subsequent deadline of April 30 – a term which, however, shall be authorized by law.
The Stability Law shall mandatorily include: a) the net balance to be financed; b) the balance of the recourse to market instruments, i.e. the final amount of money in the annual or three-year cycle for which to resort to loans (and this is certainly a vulnus, because the speculative markets know in advance the amount that can be financed); c) the amount of the special budget funds – and this is another vulnus, since all the other countries know how much the Services, the Special Operations, the Off The Record actions, etc. will cost; d) the maximum amount for renewing the public employment contracts – another vulnus, because this allows to calculate the industrial policy and, therefore, the possible effects of the labour cost on public and private markets, with obvious advantages for the E.U. competitors; e) the appropriations for refinancing the capital expenditure already provided for by the laws in force, and hence also the three-year stop of subsequent capital expenditure; f) the long-term expenditure forecasts.
This is another vulnus since this allows to infer the sum available to a State for any E.U. military or foreign policy program, or for any other strategically important program.
Not to mention the reserves for mergers and acquisitions of strategically important companies within the European Union, or even outside it, but permitted by the other European partners.
A “mutualization” of the public budget which creates many dangers, but corresponds to the mental level of many E.U. accountants.
This structure of the Stability Law leads to a situation in which only two choices are possible. Either the so-called austerity policy, when it comes to restoring possible balance to public funds (but this is always decided by others). We may think that a cyclical austerity policy must also be able to spend more on certain budget items, but much less on the others, while here the amount that counts is only the final one, which automatically determines the market behaviour. The only thing that markets have in mind, like conscripts, is the purchase of our public debt instruments at the best price and with the best interest rate, often carrying out trading operations, as also happens to certain States that profit from the difference – often completely rhetorical – between their debt instruments and ours.
Or there is also the possibility of expansionary spending, which resorts always and only to deficit public spending – i.e. by issuing more public debt instruments – which can be “Keynesian” if it regards investment, but simply expansionary if rents, annuities and current expenses are privileged, in addition to investment.
Sometimes even this may be necessary.
The British economist, however, maintained that public spending applies above all to new investment, while for the “old markets” – as he called them – the self-equilibrium of private enterprises is also good.
The childish idea underlying this conceptual duality is that you can be either “big spenders” (especially if “you come from the South”) or “strict” (especially if you are self-controlled and you come from the North), but this is just a vaudeville skit, not a serious economic policy idea.
Thinking – as many people within the EU institutions believe – that “family” rigour has an impact on the State budget is a “paralogism” – just to use an ancient philosophy concept.
The equivalence between households and States – a concept often reiterated by unexperienced economists – would be fine only if households could issue face value money, which could be spent immediately according to their needs. These needs, however, would be linked to the credibility of their private “money”.
People believe in these fairy tales, especially within the European Commission.
However, the European constraints of any Stability Law are the following: 1) a 3% ratio between the actual and the forecast public deficit and the national GDP – a fully specious and abstruse ratio, even in a phase of restrictive policies; 2) 60% of the ratio between public debt and GDP, another bizarre figure, which may also regard non-Keynesian policies when – for example – a “mature” sector has to be restructured or investment must be made in new and promising areas; 3) the average inflation rate, which cannot exceed by over 1.5 percentage points the one of the three best performing Member States in the sector during the previous three years. Are EU experts aware that there is also ‘imported inflation’?
This happens when the prices of goods and services purchased abroad rise – although this formula is already quite wrong.
Inflation is imported when the costs of imported products increase and obviously countries like Italy, which are processing economies, are also great importers. God knows – in these economic phases – how import-related inflation (just think of oil products) is important for the European economies.
Furthermore, the EU has no strategic, military, geoeconomic and financial ability to change the oil and gas producers’ treatment towards it. The same holds true for the other particularly important raw materials.
Let us now focus on constraint 4): compliance with the long-term Nominal Interest Rate, which must not exceed by over 2 percentage points the one of the best performing Member States in terms of price stability.
This is the Taylor Rule. As the U.S. Treasury Secretary Taylor said in 1993, it is an equation in which the interest rate is a dependent variable, while inflation and national income are regressors.
The rule is the following: ii = i*+α(πi- π*) +βγ+εi
The long-term inflationary target is π. It is the inflation rate that will prevail in the long term. Taylor here assumed that the long-term inflation rate should be 2%, as often happens in the United States, but the current interest rate is π that, only for the USA is a GDP deflator. If we were all just stockbrokers, it might also be true.
But there are costs that are included in the GDP and are neither predictable nor changeable from outside.
The actual nominal interest rate in the equation is γ. The rest is easily calculable.
Hence what does the Taylor Rule mean? When inflation starts reawakening the rates are expected to rise.
This is not at all implicit in the Maastricht rules, which also stem from these formulas.
As the Taylor Rule also shows, the increase in interest rates reflects a decrease in the supply of real monetary rates.
Not necessarily so because there may be many balances available, but with a less “attractive” monetary composition.
Again according to Taylor, investment is inversely correlated with interest rates, but this holds true for the economies that live on loans, not for many of our entrepreneurs who use – almost exclusively – “own resources” or bank loans to secure own resources.
Because of this pseudo-mathematical sequence of events, if investment decreases, the national income and also unemployment increase – which is here the only cure for inflation. But where did these guys study?
Another theory resulting from the Taylor Rule is that when the economic activity slows down, the medium-term interest rate must fall.
This has never happened, not even in the recent U.S. history. Just think of the 2006-2008 crisis.
It is also strange – and I say so from a purely analytical viewpoint – that the purpose of economic theory is only to reduce inflation, considering that – as already pointed out above – it does not depend solely on the excess of public spending, of the availability of low-cost capital (which, instead, is considered in the Taylor Rule) and the use of “moderate” budgets, according to the theories of the ignorant economists à la page.
Let us revert, however, to the procedure of the Italian Stability Law.
According to the procedure known as European Semester, the EU Member States must submit their budgets to the European Commission and the European Council by the end of April, which ipso facto limits our legislation, which also provides for a budgetary role until December 31 of the same current year.
For the time being, the penalties envisaged for some delays can be reduced, at most, to the single penalty equal to 0.2% of GDP for the year under consideration.
The principles of the State budget and the related Stability Law are again the traditional ones established by Law 468/1978, including specification, whereby all budget items must be defined analytically so as to avoid ambiguities in their intended use; truthfulness, whereby no revenue overestimations or expenditure underestimations are allowed and, finally, publicity, whereby the budget must be made known with the most suitable means.
There is also the issue arising from the adoption of Law No. 1/2012, which amended Article 81 of the Constitution, thus enshrining the principle of “balanced budget” in the Constitution.
It is a laughing matter: since the invention of the double-entry accounting by Frà Luca Pacioli – Leonardo da Vinci’s friend and sometimes drinking companion – all budgets “break even” by definition.
Otherwise they are not budgets.
In fact, the term “break even” is never used in the rule. The more cryptic term “balanced budget” is used. We all know that, in physics, the balance can also be unstable.
As already noted above, it is an unintended funny rule.
What could we do if the Vesuvius erupted – an event which may be sure in the future, but unpredictable? Would we issue debt instruments, but for ten years at least, so as not to disturb or offend the E.U. accountants and their search for a liquid monetary base for an improbable and incorrectly calculated immediate fiscal liquidity to support debt instruments?
Hence are millions of homeless people to be left in the city of Naples, possibly in the Vomero and Pietanella neighbourhoods, or in the Sanseverino Chapel, waiting for these accountants to decide to study economics and political economy on the right handbooks?
This is a rule that should not only be deleted, but should also be mocked by some famous comedian, better if with some knowledge of political economy.
In addition to the “balanced budget” requirement, as from January 1, 2014, Law 243/2012 provided for the establishment of the “Parliamentary Budget Office”, with the task of carrying out “analyses, verifications, checks and evaluations” – thus replacing the role of politicians who should be the sole ones responsible for distributing the resources available and the forecast ones among the most suitable budget items.
Moreover, in the summer of 2016, Legislative Decrees No. 90 and 93, as well as Law 164, were enacted, which amended Law 243 in relation to the Local Authorities’ balanced budgets.
Another mistake, albeit a partial one: Local Authorities live on a complex mechanism – on which we need not to elaborate here – of remittances and transfers from the Central State and of sums partially withheld by these Authorities, which are then recalculated by the Central State, again in a too complex way that need not be explained here in great detail.
In this case, how can we repay the local administrations’ colossal debt? Just think that the European Court has already condemned us for these matters. If the current legislation remains in force, there is no way out.
In short, the “European cure” on the State Budget has worsened its ambiguities. It has depoliticized the selection of budget items, thus often moving it away from voters’ and citizens’ real needs. It has not allowed a modern solution to the Local Authorities’ financial crisis. It has also devised the funny mechanism of the “balanced budget”, which literally means that there is no longer a provisional budget (hence how can the real items be calculated?). Finally, it forces us into a debt cycle that is both excessive and, at times, burdensome, but always uncontrollable.
Coronavirus: Now a two headed monster
Coronavirus, like a two headed monster killing
people on one side the other side global economy;
The warrior leaderships of rich nations now creating a rain of trillions of dollars to drown one of the heads. Rich nation and their printing machines have just approved trillions of dollars, as this aggressive move will help each other and also less fortunate economies to safeguards global economic order as one global goal.
Most significant is the largest amount allocated to support Small Medium Businesses…
USA alone has allocated 350 billion dollars and many other countries doing similar initiatives, this largest ever, once in a lifetime boost to abandoned and struggling SME of the world may just open a bright new future to transform into pillar of superior performance and a pleasant surprise to all.
Coronavirus is still a global force to reckon while massive shortages may create havocs…uncertainty lingers, the stimulus packages will keep the morale and nations safer. As rightly mentioned by President Trump, the depression and suicides rates are major concerns.
Today, nation by nation, no other local economic power base as strong as the small medium business economy of the land, and increasingly with technology the same sectors in the unfolding future stand like very powerful pillars; a random collection of many, many millions small medium businesses around the globe, like smart entities, globally savvy, technologically driven, block-chained, AI+AR+VR, entrepreneurial centered creating local grassroots prosperity.
Difficult questions: As most of these funding offered as easy loans;if SME wish no more additional loans or create additional debts to further risk their own future; but what if they rather get smart-help, global-age upskilling and re-skilling for their enterprises or global exportability guidance and customer connectivity expertise, how far will the loans concepts work? Like receiving full y subsidized payrolls or full funded digitization to improve market size. Fully funded programs, on special upskilling and skilling grants to make the fields of SME new upgrading and learning battlefields is another option. With loans only format where will they go out and shop what levels of solutions and how will they uplift on performance and exportability? They were already stuck before, now for fears of new debt, they may remain stuck again. Leadership must explore National Mobilization of Entrepreneurialism Protocols
Simultaneous synchronization of national SME base is the novel art and science of the National Mobilization of Entrepreneurialism Protocols. Not to be confused with some MBA curriculum or export promotion agency guidelines. Nations without digital platforms on SME upskilling and reskilling beyond post Coronavirus world would look like nations without Internet in the nineties.
Two steps for Midsize Business Economy to advance on grassroots prosperity:
ONE: Identify 1000 or 1000,000 high potential small and midsize enterprises within a region or a nation, and create a national agenda to quadruple their performance on innovative excellence and exportability.
Deploy digitization of top national trade associations and chambers of commences to upgrade to world-class digital platforms so that their entire membership can skate nationally and globally showcasing their goods and services. This is a global age revolution based on entrepreneurial mobilization… study Pentiana Project
TWO: Upskilling, reskilling million small medium businesses and women entrepreneurs across nation:How do you place 10,000 or 1,000,000 SME owners on digital platforms to boost exports and innovative excellence? Why such ideas are not major funding dependent but mobilization hungry and execution starved? What special skills are required to uplift midsize business economy in 2020, how to transform? How did Alibaba generated USD$39 Billion within 24 hours on 11–11–2019, how to optimize? How Round-tables and Cabinet Level discussions are a good starting point?
Rest is easy…
Anaconda of Incompetency at the Masquerade Ball of Coronavirus
Nations of the world, enthralled in their own custom-tailored masks at the masquerade-ball of Coronavirus struggling to calm restless citizenry already wrapped in colorful flags chanting hymns of survival and populism. What’s not musical is the outdated lips-service, watery promises, putty economical ideas all rejected for composting.
The Masquerade Ball of Coronavirus: advancements on human endeavor neglected, now liberated harshly by Coronavirus; in simultaneous synchronization across the 200 nations a new world-order of new business hierarchy appears, where critically thinking isolated for higher productivity, performance and profitability measured on new digital platforms, remote working, replacing old corporate bureaucracies and global dominance of downtown cores.
No, please, do not blame the national leaderships; expectancy on this special expertise was never there, caught in their own convictions, political agenda and Teleprompter guidance they are doing their best. The political rhetoric is numbing, the ignorance of science and lack of skills to understand managing restless citizenry is unforgiving. The time to face the music has arrived. The time to change the economic values measurement systems has arrived.
Unfortunately, neither required are the photo-ops; nor the regular G50 or G100 lalalands but surely a G200 –a 200 nations gathering, 24-Hour Marathons of collaborations on humanity, global mobilization of Coronavirus medical facts based deployments, interconnected conference via latest circuitry streamed to the world now being critically missed since last 100 days. Political posturing precluded such demonstration of special global level leadership; the collaborative synthesizim to bring all diversity and tolerance under a global umbrella… the bonfires of crumbled egos are now on slow-burn displays. Chaos increases…fears surmounts, failures becoming visible. Credit goes to selected leadership around the world and their medical teams for leading the charge under most difficult and unprepared circumstances.
Nations witnessed extensive overseas mobilizations of armies over decades are now in panic figuring out national mobilization to combat internal crisis. Sadly, if you end up, outside your hospital lying of pavement outside somewhere in the parking lots without help and equipment, no one will help you, the echo of the promises and lingering trials and errors on the down streaming of absolute shut-down and civil order during last 100 days are living proof of incompetency.
Needed is a voice, trusted by nation; professionalism on science, respected by global medical community and national shut down except crucial services. Most importantly, needed a national mobilization of brain-power of working citizenry to optimize from their own quarantined habitats and apply maximum innovative ideas on existing resources via remote working to create a parallel working economy, where connectivity and dialogue will bring normalcy to our national and global structure of continuity.
Wars of Silence:
In a world where economic dysfunctionalities already visible from space, muffled and gagged, the total absence of real truth-seeking authoritative national debates on hardcore issues of small and midsize business economy is where the silent anaconda of incompetency resides. All over the world, silence on these internal economic development issues are now becoming proof of incompetency and further creating increased restlessness. Suddenly, liberated, the Coronavirus has brought the world together, slowly, the silent majority of connected-billions developing a new mindshare…
In Simultaneous Synchronizations a Global Metamorphosis Challenges Corporate Thinking…
Workers of the world; majority with low wages, cannot afford to wake up in hours of darkness, depart away from the huddles of loved ones, commuting till ending up in crowded undergrounds, small elevators, climbing floors to find a lonesome desk to stay strapped till the bell rings at the end of day and drag themselves back to far away home to start the process allover next day… still worshipped today, this work model died decade ago.
Office work declared as cruelty to mankind; eliminate from the global enterprise model and replace by a smart phone backed by smart LIVE face-to-face enterprise systems so that the liberated worker force can create and produce far more via inter-linked global age where smart work is ‘invisible work’ for minds alone processed in their own free moving spaces. A very small percentage of workers may still be required in special places in special settings or so called offices, but too eliminated like manpower lifting millions boxes now done by robotized warehouses.
Manpower concepts declared an outdated optimization model, defined over millennia, term ‘manpower’ needs new definitions, most work touched by manpower now replaced by robotization, now needs new understanding of replacements and compensations.
Human-Power; declared as self-discovered superior state of mind for critical thinkers and complex problem solvers frontiers, identified as masters of robots and automation, while denier of change declared as slaves of robots, mandatory national upskilling and reskilling and national mobilization of entrepreneurial protocols will fix such issues. Without bold debates the muted progress will further decline.
Small Medium Business Economy; all over the world, the SME of the future is a very smart entity, globally savvy, technologically driven, block-chained, AI+AR+VR, entrepreneurial center creating local grassroots prosperity. Nation by nation, this largest economic block will overtake the national productivity performance and assist global financial crisis. Critically needed, the digital platforms on National Mobilization of Entrepreneurialism Protocols offering free upskilling, reskilling and uplifting hidden national talents, especially women-owned businesses, liberated from bureaucracy and traditional anti-SME funding banking systems.
Abandoned art of value creation; declared as mandatory certification requirements to measure economic progress, replacing adding fake value-manipulations totaled as progress. The real grassroots prosperity advancements are principled in real value creation and not value-manipulations.
Global charter of rights; declared as affirmation to global rules of mankind and civility, needs massive revision on civil liberties, human rights and social justice to allow societies to become highly diverse and tolerant and abide national rules. Out we came out of caves not to re-enter.
Education; declared as top quality, free from top to bottom, nationalized and heavily public funded, top pay for teachers and with very real entrepreneurial thinking. Universities recall degrees with apologies, payout refunds with time and opportunities lost.
Alvin Toffler’s concepts of ‘electronic cottage’ spoke volumes on such progress of enterprise by replacing offices with hyper connected devices with staff in highly comfortable leisure zones or common-working-spaces as rainforest themes, as mental-comforting-habitats over four-walled- desk-chair-contraptions. This was eighties. Today, climate change issues demand elimination of billions driving to work, often in most energy dependent and uncomfortable situations while all the latest freely available interconnectivity and face to live actions because the ‘managerial’ concept always seeing an empty desk still considered ‘body missing’ from work, where paper shuffling and rubber stamping mentality have not yet crossed over the idea of hiring of ‘minds’ and not ‘bodies’ and allow 99% mundane work be done via AI. Most neglected all over the world, the upskilling and reskilling of workforce to tackle global age, last three decades leadership assumed YouTube and Universities were doing this, they were unable to decipher the regression. Coronavirus may create such simultaneous remote working global test for millions of enterprises of the world and change office-working forever.
Futurism is workless; as artificially driven technologies cunningly steal all office work, come next 1000 days the global economic chaos may force a march of billion crowding on boulevards of the world. Workless, jobless, and officeless, tired they march…never ever in the history of mankind assembled such number of once mighty, highly skilled, educated and experienced subjected to replacements by their own technological advances.
Mona Lisa Smile: Equally, no nation is safe from the onslaught of Mona Lisa smile gender-fluid robots entering our gender free work spaces and asking us politely, at least the first time, to leave our offices and never return back. Second time their asking labeled as robotic misbehavior.
The world is changing very fast, this is no longer a cliché, and it’s now an explicit warning.
Mirrors on the walls: when fixing obesity demands a life-size mirror, the national citizenry must also find a large enough nation-size mirror. When grassroots prosperity in chaos and small medium business economy crushed without national mobilization of entrepreneurialism on digital platforms on innovative excellence and exportability, nations are simply doomed.
National gatekeepers of midsize business economic agenda must demonstrate global age skills to combat meltdown; Abundances and neglects will not just stir up the big drunk elephant of fake-economy in the china shop but it will directly force anaconda of incompetence to strangle further silence and quietly create demand for big budgets for riot gears. A masquerade ball of populism will start the orchestra.
Is this the worst of times; or the most opportune of times?
That lonesome crave of flying; the caterpillar under pretence of deep sleep unlearns crawling and relearns flying, breaking chrysalis spreads colorful wings and fly out in the new world. The Coronavirus is doing its job, a test of leadership nation by nation, in the short and long run the truth, diversity and tolerance will win, choose wisely and plan precisely the coming 1000 days.
Isolate and stay in safe spaces… unpredictable times ahead
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