Monday, December 7, 2009

1991 Moneychanger Interview with John Exter

Thanks to Will for passing this along after seeing John Exter quoted in the Op-Ed piece from Jim Grant.

MONEYCHANGER You recognised very early that one major problem with Keynesianism was its reliance on debt.

EXTER That’s what my upside-down debt pyramid is all about. The debt burden at some point becomes unsustainable because too many debtors borrow short term & lend long term, or, worse yet, borrow short term & put the money into bricks & mortar. [Exactly the crisis that erupted in Asia in 1997 – Ed.]

MONEYCHANGER Exactly. Because most people thinking about inflation back in the ‘70s were looking at the models of John Law or Revolutionary France or even Germany after WW I, they saw our inflation ending in a hyperinflation. You have steadily insisted that our inflation would end in a deflation & a debt collapse.

EXTER Yes, that’s very important. I’m sure the collapse that I’m talking about will start in the dollar. (My debt pyramids are always in single currencies: there’s a dollar debt pyramid, a deutsche Mark debt pyramid, a Yen pyramid, & so on.)

This will be a deflationary collapse rather than an inflationary blow-off because creditors in the debt pyramid will move down the pyramid [See pyramid chart -- Ed.] out of the most illiquid debtors at the top of the pyramid -- junk bonds, failing banks, S&Ls & insurance companies, Donald Trump, & Campeau. [Trump has survived until now, 1998, but Long Term Capital Management & other ailing hedge funds fit the same bill. – Ed.] Creditors will try to get out of those weak debtors & go down the debt pyramid, to the very bottom: currency (dollar bills), even though they pay no interest. Next above currency are Treasury bills, issued by the government & backed by the Federal Reserve, which supports the market through its open market operations. They are by far the largest component of Reserve Bank credit, so are really as safe as currency notes, plus they pay interest. Still, you can’t buy anything with Treasury bills; you have to liquidate the bills to get money of some sort to buy something. [The very flight to quality that we are seeing in 1998. – Ed.]

The higher debtors sit in the pyramid, the less liquid they are. At the top are all the least liquid debtors that I’ve already mentioned. This explains why we are headed for deflation. Creditors will move out of debtors high in the debt pyramid as many of those debtors fail through defaults & bankruptcies. That is very deflationary.