Peter Schiff Gets China

Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

Sun Tzu

From Slate:

Slate: Your debate opponent Minxin Pei wrote in Foreign Policy last summer, “Although Asia today may have one of the world’s most dynamic economies, it does not seem to play an equally inspiring role as a thought leader.” Do you agree that China falls short on innovation?

Schiff: No. There’s a lot of creativity coming out of Asia, a lot of patents. The big problem for countries like China and India is that they still subsidize the U.S. They buy our Treasury bonds and lend us all this money so we can keep consuming. That’s a big subsidy and a heavy burden.

Slate: Doesn’t China need to lend us money so we’ll buy Chinese exports?

Schiff: No. They can use their money to develop their own economy, produce better and more abundant products for their own citizens. It’s a farce to think that the only thing China can do with its output and savings is lend it to the U.S. government, especially when we can’t pay it back.

Now I have not always seen eye to eye with Peter Schiff; I am still waiting for the hyperinflation that Schiff told us would hit sometime in 2010 (clue: hyperinflation is not coming without something like an oil shock, a war, a breakdown in the global trade infrastructure). But it’s nice to know that I am not just a lone voice in the wilderness.

It is sad and perplexing how many “serious thinkers” have not understood the fundamental fragility of the present arrangement.

As I wrote over the weekend (and as I have continually thrusted home over the past 6 months):

The truth is that there is no such thing as a service economy. Our economy today (other than in places like, say, North Korea) is truly global. All of those service workers — and every cent of “services” GDP — is supported by real-world productivity, much of which takes place outside the West — the productivity of the transport system, the productivity of manufacturers, the productivity of agriculture.

The continued prosperity of the West is dependent on the continued flow of goods and services into the West.

Schiff concludes the interview by describing what he believes will take place once Eurasia thrusts off America’s demands for a free lunch:

We’d have to immediately cut government spending dramatically. Diminish our consumption. We wouldn’t be going to the malls and buying stuff. The whole U.S. economy would have to restructure along the lines of Americans being frugal, saving their money, and working harder. A lot of government workers would have to lose their jobs. Those who didn’t would suffer big cuts in their pay. People who worked in the service sector — in banking, health care, or education — would also struggle if China stopped subsidizing us.

The first choice America will face is whether she will choose to continue to try to run her foreign military empire, or instead to maintain domestic infrastructure. The greater danger is that furious Western politicians might just go and start World War 3, in the name of trying to maintain American geostrategic primacy.

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