Widespread price controls are introduced to cap official inflation
Chief Investment Officer
Summary: "In a war economy, the government hand will expand mercilessly as long as price pressures threaten stability." - Steen Jakobsen.
Inflation will remain a challenge to control as long as globalisation continues to run in reverse and long-term energy needs remain unaddressed.
Nearly all wars have brought price controls and rationing, seemingly as inevitable as battle casualties. The list of precedents stretches at least as far back as the Roman emperor Diocletian trying to set maximum prices for all commodities in the late third century AD. Over the last century-plus we saw comprehensive price controls and rationing in the two world wars. And even without the context of war, price and even wage controls were implemented during the peak statist years under UK Prime Minister Wilson and even US President Nixon.
2022 has also seen early and haphazard initiatives to manage inflation. Taxes on windfall profits for energy companies are all the rage while governments are failing to use the classic tool of rationing supplies. Instead, they are actively subsidising excess demand by capping heating and electricity prices for consumers. In France, this simply means that utilities go bankrupt and must be nationalised. The bill is passed to the government and then to the currency via inflation. Then we have the likely doomed effort by western officials to cap Russian energy prices from December 5. The intent is to starve Russia of revenue and hopefully cheapen crude oil export prices everywhere, but it will likely do neither.
In a war economy, the government hand will expand mercilessly as long as price pressures threaten stability. The thinking among policymakers is that rising prices somehow suggest market failure and that more intervention is needed to prevent inflation from destabilising the economy and even society. In 2023, expect broadening price and even wage controls, maybe even something like a new National Board for Prices and Incomes being established in the UK and the US.
But the outcome will be the same as it is for nearly every government policy: the law of unintended consequences. Controlling prices without solving the underlying issue will not only generate more inflation but also risking tearing at the social fabric through declining standards of living due to disincentives to produce, and misallocation of resources and investment. Only market-driven prices can deliver improved productivity and efficiency through investment. Looks like we’ll have to learn the lesson all over again in 2023 and beyond.
Market impact: please see Outrageous Prediction on gold rocketing to USD 3,000.
Latest Market Insights
Outrageous Predictions 2023: The War Economy
- The constantly growing global need for energy drives the world's richest to huddle up and launch a R&D project in a size the world hasn't seen since the Manhattan Project gave the US the first atomic bomb.
French President Macron resignsThe political stalemate in France and the rise of Marie Le Pen following the 2022 elections corners President Macron, forcing him to give up on politics and resign from his position. At least for now.
Gold rockets to USD 3,000 as central banks fail on inflation mandateAs markets and central banks realise that the idea that inflation is transitory is wrong, and that prices will remain higher for longer, gold is sent through the roof, hitting a price tag of USD 3,000
EU Army forces EU down path to full unionWith continued challenges in the region and a US military that isn't aggressively enacting its former role as global policeman, the European Union agrees to create its own armed forces, bringing the whole region closer.
A country agrees to ban all meat production by 2030In an effort to become one of the global leaders on the path to net-zero emissions, one country decides to not only put a heavy tax on meat, but to ban domestic production entirely.
UK holds UnBrexit referendumFollowing a recession and domestic pressure, the United Kingdom is thrown into political turmoil that will end with a vote to wind back Brexit.
Widespread price controls are introduced to cap official inflationHistory tells us that with the war economy comes rationing and price controls. And this time is no different, as policymakers introduce strict price controls that lead to a range of unintended consequences.
OPEC+ & Chindia walk out of the IMF, agree to trade with new reserve assetSanctions against Russia have caused widespread turmoil due to US Dollar moves in countries across the globe that don't consider the US an ally. To relieve themselves from this, they leave the IMF and create a new reserve asset.
USDJPY fixed to the USD at 200 as Japan overhauls financial systemFollowing the challenges that faced the Japanese Yen in 2022, the Bank of Japan attempts to keep the currency from sliding. Unsuccessful on the long-term, Japan will launch a reset of its entire financial system.
Tax haven ban kills private equityWith the war economy comes an increased focus on national interests and sovereign nations' ability to assert themselves. In that regard, the OECD countries turn their attention on tax havens and pull the big guns out, banning them altogether.