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The Impending Collapse of the Global "Bernanke Bubble"

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The flood of dollar-denominated debt has risen in Turkey, Brazil, India, and South Korea since Bernanke turned on the monetary spigot in 2009. Now it appears, according to a perceptive article by Landon Thomas, Jr. in the New York Times, that the end of the boom may be in sight as rumors swirl that the Fed will soon be tightening money. As Tim Lee of Pi Economics remarked: “What we are witnessing is a huge bubble, a Bernanke bubble if you will.” And he believes that it is nearing it bursting point.

In recent days nervous investors have begun to pull funds out of developing Asian economies in anticipation, jolting stock and currency markets in India, Indonesia, and Thailand. In the pst few months, the Turkish lira has depreciated by 4.5% against the dollar, while Turkey's dollar-denominated debt stands at $172 billion or 22% of its GDP. Goldman Sachs forecasts a further 15% fall in the Turkish lira, spurring a financial crisis as it becomes more and more expensive to buy dollars to service these loans, most of which are short term. Other previously fast-growing economies with large accumulations of dollar-denominated debt such as Brazil, India, and South Korea are also struggling right now and will likely be caught up in the impending financial crisis.

Furthermore — and not at all surprisingly — the real assets created by these loans were malinvestments that will not lead to sustainable growth and prosperity in the recipient economies and therefore will not generate a sufficient flow of income to service the loans. As Mr. Thomas points out,

Some of the biggest beneficiaries of the Fed’s largess were . . . among the politically connected elite in emerging nations like Turkey, where vanity towers, glitzy shopping malls and even grander projects to come — a third bridge across the Bosporus and a vast new airport — have become representative of the nation’s new dynamism, economic as well as geopolitical.

The silver lining in all this doom and gloom is that another global financial meltdown will deal a heavy, and possibly fatal, blow to both the Fed and the credibility of Ben Bernanke's work on crises and depressions which has become the centerpiece of modern macroeconomic orthodoxy. This will clear the field for the return to prominence of the Austrian theory of the business cycle of Mises, Hayek and Rothbard.

Joseph Salerno is academic vice president of the Mises Institute, professor emeritus of economics at Pace University, and editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.

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