Why does the central bank (RBA) need to punish the Australian economy with rising interest rates?

March 4th, 2008

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Today, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) just announced yet another rise in interest rates. There are signs that this is hurting, as many people on the street (especially those who are straining under enormous debts) are screaming at the madness of the RBA for doing so. Many economists are worried that the RBA may accidentally tip Australia’s economic boom into a bust. Why is the RBA spoiling the party by raising interest rates?

Think about this: if raising interest rates is ‘bad’ and cutting interest rates is ‘good,’ then why don’t the RBA set interest rates to zero, thereby putting the economy into a path of eternal boom (plus runaway inflation)? For those who think this is a good idea, then this article will set to let you understand why this is a bad idea.

Now, at this point, we recommend that you read our guide, What causes economic booms and busts? because what follows will not make sense unless you understand the Austrian Business Cycle Theory (ABCT).

Back in February last year, in Where are we in the business cycle?, you can see that we already knew that Australia (and the US) was already at the top of the business cycle:

How can we restore the economy back to equilibrium and ensure that it remains in a firm footing for the future?

The first thing that has to happen is to increase our national savings. As we said in The myth of financial asset ?investments? as savings, we need to restore and rebuild our stock of capital goods to ensure our future prosperity. Already, the quality of our education, health, telecommunication and transport infrastructures are in decline and they are in need of repair and upgrade. This means that the only way we are going to achieve that is to reduce our current consumptions and cut down our debt. When that happens, the economy will slow down and many businesses and investments will fail as a result. Since most of the Australian (and the US as well) is made up of consumer spending, in which much of it is funded by debt, we can see that this remedy will be painful. If the consumers do not slow down and get their act together, we can expect the RBA to impose a restraint by raising interest rates.

The Australian economy was already running at full steam. Accelerating price inflation is a sign that there are insufficient resources in the economy to allow for all investment projects to succeed and all consumptions to carry on. If this trend is not arrested, the economy will run out of resources, resulting in a crash. Therefore, in order to put the economy back into a sustainable growth path, consumptions and investments have to slow down in order to allow for the economy to catch a breather for the rebuilding of its capital structure. The rebuilding of capital structure is necessary for the economy to replenish its resources for the future so that growth can continue down the track. Unfortunately, this rebuilding itself requires resources now. Therefore, current wasteful consumptions have to be curtailed and mal-investments have to be dismantled to make way for the rebuilding. The curtailment of consumption involves consumers spending less and saving more, while the dismantling of mal-investments involves retrenching workers, liquidating businesses, e.t.c. These involve pain for the people of Australia.

That is why the RBA has to raise interest rates to ‘punish’ the economy. What if it don’t? Then the economy will crash, either in nominal terms (e.g. deflationary depression) or in real terms (e.g. hyperinflation)- see Recipe for hyperinflation.

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