Warren Buffett has a humorous way of cutting through all the economic clutter with his folksy summaries of events. He said this recently about the U.S. debt: “Think about it. The U.S., to my knowledge owes no money in currency other than the U.S. dollar, which it can print at will. Now if you’re talking about inflation, that’s a different question.”
I know just enough about economics to be stupid at a slightly more dangerous level than the general public. But Buffett’s summary sounds right. In other words, we never had a default risk, just an inflation risk.
Now if you want to hedge against inflation, what do you invest in? Answer: Anything that inflates. That’s real estate and stocks. Ouch, ouch. And don’t forget gold, canned goods, and ammunition. (And also don’t forget to ignore the financial advice of cartoonists.)
On a related topic, some of your comments to my blog yesterday had me worried. A number of you pointed out that our economy can never go anywhere but down so long as we buy more foreign goods than we sell. Hmm. Is that true?
It sounds true on the surface. If you imagine an island nation where everyone is a lawyer and all they do is sue each other for a living, the system won’t last. Someone has to make something.
On the other hand, is it really that simple? If I ask Warren Buffett, would he say, “We’re doomed unless we sell more than we buy, and that will never happen”?
On the plus side, I recently had a conversation with a small business owner who was buying some robots to compete with Chinese manufacturers. His observation is that the Chinese pay the same amount for robots, and have higher shipping costs, so American companies can actually beat the prices of Chinese goods for stuff made mostly by robots.
And robots are the future. Suck that, China.