My goodness. You'd have thought the world was coming to an end with all the media focus on drugs in sports. But the Australian economy has been doped up for years by credit peddlers, criminal bankers and unscrupulous politicians. There hasn't been a single inquiry to this epic theft, or its effect on society and values. Until today!
If you missed yesterday's report from the Australian Crime Commission on organised crime and drugs in sport, it makes for scintillating reading. In fact, this is not a politically correct point of view, but after a quick glance, we came away quite optimistic. Science is making some serious advances in improving recovery from injury and promoting human longevity.
Of course many of these advances come with the help of drugs that are illegal. The fairness issue rears its head once again in Australia. Some athletes gain an unfair advantage using banned or illegal substances. Athletic competitions lose their integrity and we lose our faith in the idea that sport is a great test of character as well as ability.
But really the solution to all this simple: all those drugs should be legal and everyone should be able to take them if they want. The testing regimes are always outflanked by the ways to evade them. If we want to see what the human body is really capable of in elite athletic competitions aided by the best drugs, let's be fair dinkum about it and let people choose if they want to dope.
Otherwise, let's be realistic about our expectations of athletes. We love to see them suffer and then triumph because it's great theatre and it confirms that idea that great achievements can only come through hard work and adversity. If only that were true.
Drugs appear to help average athletes get better and elite athletes become great. It reminds us of the old slogan for the biotechnology company Monsanto: better living through chemistry! We use chemicals and drugs to enhance our quality of life in many different fields. Why should athletics be different? Because it's supposed to a pure test of ability, desire, and commitment?
But we're not really here to defend using human growth hormones. We're here to ask a question: if people have a natural sense that using drugs is unfair in sport, why aren't they equally up in arms about the effects of performance enhancing credit in the Australian economy? We use monetary drugs all the time to make ourselves feel richer, better, smarter, and most importantly, to get something for nothing.
What is inflation if not an attempt to get something for nothing by printing more paper to buy more stuff? The whole ethos of modern central banking and Keynesian economics is the equivalent of an organised monetary doping program. It's not run by criminals, unless you consider bankers and politicians to be criminals.
Take a look at the three charts below and see if you agree. We'd make the claim that from the household level to the government level, Australia's been fraudulently boosting its prosperity levels by borrowing money. It's been going on for years. The signs are all around you. But has anyone called the anti-doping authorities yet?
You had double digit credit growth for the better part of ten years. That growth led to an increase in debt to foreign lenders, expressed as net foreign liabilities as a percentage of GDP. Household debt levels went through the roof and kept on going. It's called the housing boom. And not to be outdone, the government has finally entered into European-style structural deficits where expenses always exceed income and the taxpayers of the future are asked to pay for it.
These are all the indicators that prompted our mate Greg Canavan to say that, 'The fuse is lit.' Face it Australia, you have a doping problem. And we'd contend it begins with funny money. Paper money is the great Keynesian stimulant. It feels good for a while. But coming down is the hardest part.
When you mess with monetary values, you mess with societal and personal values too. We've quoted it before, but we've never seen this idea better expressed than in Paul Cantor's essay: Hyperinflation and Hyperreality: Thomas Mann in Light of Austrian Economics. Cantor writes (emphasis added is ours):
'If modernity is characterised by a loss of the sense of the real, this fact is connected to what has happened to money in the twentieth century [and the 21st].Everything threatens to become unreal once money ceases to be real...Hyperinflation occurs when a government starts printing all the money it wants, that is to say, when the government becomes a counterfeiter. Inflation is that moment when as a result of government action the distinction between fake money and real money begins to dissolve. That is why inflation has such a corrosive effect on society. Money is one of the primary measures of value in any society, perhaps the primary one, the principal repository of value. As such, money is the central source of stability, continuity, and coherence in any community. Hence to tamper with the basic money supply is to tamper with the community's sense of value. By making money worthless, inflation threatens to undermine and dissolve all sense of value in a society.'
Sport is just another part of society. And if there's a problem with the money we're using, if it encourages cheating, theft, fraud, deception, and crime - and we're just talking about the financial sector here - why would it not have the same effect in other aspects of life?
If wealth and status are measured by how quickly you get something for nothing, what you see in sport is what you see in political and corporate life too: a vast, organised effort to get the most you can, by any means necessary.
You can redefine the rules so that cheating is not cheating. After all, this is what was done with the Greek sovereign debt default. But if a performance enhancing substance is fundamentally unnatural, and if it leads to long-term irreversible damage to the user, you can't hide it forever. Just ask Dorian Gray or Lance Armstrong. The day of reckoning always comes.
for The Daily Reckoning Australia
From the Archives...
The RBA's Interest Rate Bait Isn't Attracting Many Bites
1-02-13 - Greg Canavan
A Prediction for 2013: Days of Abundant Natural Resources to Continue
31-01-13 - Chris Mayer
The Evolutionary Path of Boobus-Politicus
30-01-13 - Joel Bowman
The Unbalancing Act Happening in China's Economy
29-01-13 - Greg Canavan
Marginal Utility: Steps Toward a Better Life
26-01-13 - Jeffrey Tucker
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About the Author
Dan Denning is the author of 2005's best-selling The Bull Hunter (John Wiley & Sons). He began his financial publishing career in 1997 and has covered financial markets form Baltimore, Paris, London and, beginning in 2005 Melbourne. He’s the editor of The Daily Reckoning Australia and the Publisher of Port Phillip Publishing.