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TheStreet Open House

The Miseducation of Capitol Hill: Currency Devaluation

VANCOUVER ( TheStreet) -- In recent weeks, readers have been listening to one talking head after another proclaiming that we are "trapped" in the monetary game of "competitive devaluation." It's all drivel. For decades, the United States had the world's strongest economy -- by a wide margin. And during those same decades, the U.S. had a strong dollar.

Was the U.S. some sort of economic miracle worker, able to thrive in spite of a strong dollar? Absolutely not. It's economic strength was a direct consequence of a strong dollar. This would be obvious to anyone with a basic understanding of trade and economic fundamentals. And it will be obvious to anyone/everyone without such a background as soon as I explain these concepts -- and the difference between them.

First of all, there is never any long-term "economic advantage" in having a weak currency. This is yet more banker mythology. Allowing one's currency to depreciate (or having it forced upon you) is a form of indirect subsidization, whereby the entire population has an involuntary reduction in their standard of living transformed into a (socialist) "subsidy" for uncompetitive businesses.

When a currency decreases in value, this is obviously the same thing as saying prices go up, which is the same thing as saying that one's standard of living is going down. Is there any reader out there who receives an automatic boost to his or her wages every time the currency loses value? Is there anyone who believes that reducing everyone's standard of living and propping up uncompetitive businesses is the path to economic prosperity?

Thus, we establish the first proposition: devaluing one's currency (even if no one else is doing it) is nothing but a form of short-term subsidization of (inefficient) businesses and long-term economic suicide.

It's funny how, despite living in a society full of "capitalist" ideologues who love to "talk the talk," so few of them want to "walk the walk." We want uncompetitive businesses to fail. This is healthy. It drives capital out of inefficient applications and into more efficient applications.

Yes, this creates hardship. Yes, this requires change and innovation. Yes, this will be scary and unpleasant (for that portion of the workforce). However, it is an unequivocal fact that such positive economic evolution is mandatory for a healthy economy. Is it better that everyone permanently accepts a lower standard of living just so a relatively small portion of society can evade the need to adapt?

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