Friday, May 23, 2008

When Will They Ever Learn?

Larwyn just forwarded a post by the Dinocrat blog that led me to paraphrase the old '60s anti-war song "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?":

Where have all the conservatives gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the conservatives gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the conservatives gone?
Gone to big government solutions every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Dinocrat links to Mike Masters' Senate testimony and refers to Dan Dicker's article. Masters and Dicker blame speculators for increasing commodity prices and aim to regulate commodities markets. Dinocrat doesn't indicate whether Masters and Dicker are from Wall Street, are long on stocks or short on commodities and are offering self-serving testimony to Congress or whether they just like the Bear Stearns bail out. Wall Street dislikes commodity speculation.

There is a much more accurate explanation for the run up in commodity prices than commodity speculation: Federal Reserve Bank inflation, which is now currently working its way through the economy. If futures prices are higher than the underlying demand warrants, there will be a correction in prices. The index speculators will pay for their errors if commodities are at higher-than-market prices. As well, foreign producers can enter the market and undersell inflated commodity prices.

There is a more fundamental error in the Masters-Dicker proposals. Few people can outsmart financial or commodity markets, and those who can are very rich. Why should anyone believe Masters and Dicker are smarter than the funds who are buying the commodities indexes? Passing a law limiting economic activity because a few observers have a hunch based on limited information that they are right and the market is wrong would be inept.

If limits are put on ways of trading or holding commodities, these will not reduce commodity prices. For example, if pension funds are not permitted to hold commodities, traders outside of pension funds will profit from the Masters proposals. Likewise, if limits are put on commodity prices, then there will be shortages.

It is true that across-the-board price increases are a major public concern, but these have been caused by the Federal Reserve Bank, not by speculators. If the speculators are over-bidding, then farmers and commodity producers from overseas will undercut the speculators and bankrupt them.

We do not need a "Federal Commodity Commission" to create more bureaucratic waste and to rip off the American public to a greater extent than the Federal Reserve Bank already does.

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