Frank Shostak

Frank Shostak

Frank Shostak is an Associated Scholar of the Mises Institute. His consulting firm, Applied Austrian School Economics, provides in-depth assessments and reports of financial markets and global economies. He received his bachelor's degree from Hebrew University, master's degree from Witwatersrand University and PhD from Rands Afrikaanse University, and has taught at the University of Pretoria and the Graduate Business School at Witwatersrand University.

Articles by Frank Shostak

Some Problems with Worker Productivity Stats

According to the US Labor Department, worker productivity in the non-farm sector increased at an annual rate of 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 after declining by 0.2 percent in the previous quarter. For the year, productivity increased 1.7 percent, up from 1.3 percent in both 2017 and 2018. It was the best annual showing since the 3.4 percent increase in 2010.

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Government “Fixes” for the Trade Balance Are Far Worse Than Any Trade Deficit

US Trade Balance, 2000-2019

In December 2019, the US trade account balance stood at a deficit of $48.9 billion, against a deficit of $43.7 billion in November and $60.8 billion in December 2018.
Most commentators consider the trade account balance the single most important piece of information about the health of the economy. According to the widely accepted view, a surplus on the trade account is considered a positive development while a deficit is perceived negatively. What is the reason for this?

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How Keynesian Ideas Weaken Economic Fundamentals

Whenever there are signs that the economy is likely to fall into an economic slump most experts advise that the central bank and the government should embark on loose monetary and fiscal policies to counter the possible economic recession. In this sense, most experts are following the ideas of the English economist John Maynard Keynes.

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Economic Stats Won’t Tell Us What Really Causes Recessions

Most economists are of the view that by means of economic indicators it is possible to identify early signs of an upcoming recession or prosperity. What is the rationale behind this opinion? The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) introduced the economic indicators approach in the 1930s.

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To Be Useful, Data Needs Theory

For most so-called practical economists, information regarding the state of an economy is derived from data. Thus, if an economic statistic such as real gross domestic product or industrial production shows a visible increase, it is considered indicative of a strengthening of the economy. Conversely, a decline in the growth rate is regarded as weakening. It seems that by looking at the data one can ascertain economic conditions. Is this the case, though? The so-called data that analysts are looking at is a display of historical information.

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Good Economic Theory Focuses on Explanation, Not Prediction

In order to establish the state of the economy, economists employ various theories. Yet what are the criteria for how they decide whether the theory employed is helpful in ascertaining the facts of reality?
According to the popular way of thinking, our knowledge of the world of economics is elusive — it is not possible to ascertain how the world of economics really works.

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Why Central Banks Aren’t Really Setting Interest Rates

Mainstream thinking considers the central bank a key factor in the determination of interest rates. By setting short-term interest rates, the central bank, it is argued, can influence the entire interest rate structure by creating expectations about the future course of its interest rate policy.

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Exports: Currency Devaluation Won’t Grow the Economy

Industrial Production, 2000-2019

A visible weakness in economic activity in major world economies raises concern among various commentators that world economies have difficulties recovering despite very aggressive loose monetary policies. The yearly growth rate of US industrial production stood at minus 1.1 % in October, against minus 0.1% in September, and 4.1% in October last year.

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Capital Accumulation, Not Government, Is the Key To Technological Innovation

According to Mariana Mazzucato, the RM Phillips Professor in the Economics of Innovation at the University of Sussex, government is an important factor in the promotion of innovation and thus economic growth. In particular, she challenges the popular view that innovation happens in the private sector, with governments playing a limited role. Many commentators regard her as a revolutionary thinker that challenges the accepted dogma regarding the role of government in promoting innovations and economic growth.

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Don’t Want a Liquidity Trap? More Saving Is the Answer

With interest rates in many countries close to zero or even negative, some commentators are of the view that monetary policy of the central banks are likely to become less effective in navigating the economy. In fact it is held that we have most likely reached a situation that the economy is approaching a liquidity trap. But what does this mean?

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Why Friedman Is Wrong on the Business Cycle

According to an article in Bloomberg on November 5, 2019, Milton Friedman’s business cycle theory seems to be vindicated. According to Milton Friedman, strong recoveries are just natural after particularly deep recessions. Like a guitar string, the harder the string is plucked down, the faster it should come back up.

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Why Government Should not Fight Deflation

For most experts, deflation is considered bad news since it generates expectations of a decline in prices. As a result, they believe, consumers are likely to postpone their buying of goods at present since they expect to buy these goods at lower prices in the future.

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The Money Velocity Myth

For most financial commentators an important factor that either reinforces or weakens the effect of changes in the money supply on economic activity and prices is the “velocity of money”.

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Rising Oil Prices Don’t Cause Inflation

Gusher

A very good visual correlation between the yearly percentage change in the consumer price index (CPI) and the yearly percentage change in the price of oil seems to provide support to the popular thinking that future changes in price inflation in the US are likely to be set by the yearly growth rate in the price of oil (see first chart below).

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Central Banks’ Obsession with Price Stability Leads to Economic Instability

Card house cartoon

For most economists the key factor that sets the foundation for healthy economic fundamentals is a stable price level as depicted by the consumer price index. According to this way of thinking, a stable price level doesn’t obscure the visibility of the relative changes in the prices of goods and services, and enables businesses to see clearly market signals that are conveyed by the relative changes in the prices of goods and services.

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Money Creation and the Boom-Bust Cycle

Murray Rothbard

A Difference of Opinions, In his various writings, Murray Rothbard argued that in a free market economy that operates on a gold standard, the creation of credit that is not fully backed up by gold (fractional-reserve banking) sets in motion the menace of the boom-bust cycle.

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Two Types of Credit — One Leads to Booms and Busts

Factory Shop

In the slump of a cycle, businesses that were thriving begin to experience difficulties or go under. They do so not because of firm-specific entrepreneurial errors but rather in tandem with whole sectors of the economy. People who were wealthy yesterday have become poor today. Factories that were busy yesterday are shut down today, and workers are out of jobs.

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Is there a Savings Glut?

Bakers and Work

In his speech at the New York Federal Reserve of New York on October 5, 2016, the Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer has suggested that a visible decline in the natural interest rate in the US could be on account of the world glut of saving. According to Fischer, both increased saving and reduced investments have potentially significantly lowered the natural rate of interest.

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Does the UK Need Even More Stimulus?

“We are all Keynesians now, so let’s get fiscal.” This is one view according to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard from The Telegraph who believes the time is right for the UK government to loosen its fiscal stance. He suggests that the “Bank of England has done everything possible under the constraints of monetary orthodoxy to cushion the Brexit shock. It is now up to the British government to save the economy, and the sooner the better,” — argues the economics editor of The Telegraph.

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Deflation Is Always Good for the Economy

“Experts” Assert that Inflation is an Agent of Economic Growth. For most experts, deflation, which they define as a general decline in prices of goods and services, is bad news since it generates expectations for a further decline in prices.

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Why a “Dollar” Should Only Be a Name for a Unit of Gold

Once Upon a Time… Prior to 1933, the name “dollar” was used to refer to a unit of gold that had a weight of 23.22 grains. Since there are 480 grains in one ounce, this means that the name dollar also stood for 0.048 ounce of gold. This in turn, means that one ounce of gold referred to $20.67.

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If the UK Economy Tanks, Don’t Blame Brexit

If the process of wealth generation is currently in good shape then Britain’s exit from the EU shouldn’t have any negative effect on real economic growth. This, however, might not be the case.
It is likely that the reckless monetary policy of central banks in the UK and the eurozone has inflicted a severe damage to the process of real wealth formation.

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With Fiat Money, Everything Is Relative

  What Determines a Currency’s Value? At the end of March the price of the euro in terms of US dollars closed at 1.1378. This was an increase of 4.7 percent from February when it increased by 0.3 percent. The yearly growth rate of the price of the eu…

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