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If You Don’t See Any Risk, Ask Who Will “Buy the Dip” in a Freefall?

If You Don’t See Any Risk, Ask Who Will “Buy the Dip” in a Freefall?

Nobody thinks a euphoric rally could ever go bidless, but as Greenspan belatedly admitted, liquidity is not guaranteed.

The current market melt-up is taken as nearly risk-free because the Fed has our back, i.e. the Federal Reserve will intervene long before any market decline does any damage.

It’s assumed the Fed or its proxies, i.e. the Plunge Protection Team, will be the buyer in any freefall sell-off: no matter how many punters are selling, the PPT will keep buying with its presumably unlimited billions.

If this looks risk-free, ask who else will be “buying the dip” in a freefall?Former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan answered this question in his post-2008 crash essayNever Saw It Coming: Why the Financial Crisis Took Economists By Surprise (Dec. 2013 Foreign Affairs):

“They (financial firms) failed to recognize that market liquidity is largely a function of the degree of investors’ risk aversion, the most dominant animal spirit that drives financial markets. But when fear-induced market retrenchment set in, that liquidity disappeared overnight, as buyers pulled back. In fact, in many markets, at the height of the crisis of 2008, bids virtually disappeared.”

For the uninitiated, bids are the price offered to buyers of stocks and ETFs and the ask is the price offered to sellers. When bids virtually disappear, this means buyers have vanished: everyone willing to buy on the way down (known as catching the falling knife) has already bought and been crushed with losses, and so there’s nobody left (and no trading bots, either) to buy.

When buyers vanish, the market goes bidless, meaning when you enter your “sell” order at a specific price (limit order), there’s nobody willing to buy your shares at the current price. The shares remains yours all the way down.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Hazardous Detour in the Road to “Recovery” Few Foresee

The Hazardous Detour in the Road to “Recovery” Few Foresee

As the level of Fed smack and crack needed to maintain the high increases, system fragility increases geometrically.

You know the plot point in the horror film where the highway is blocked and a detour sign directs the car full of naive teens off onto a rutted track into the wilderness? We’re right there in the narrative of “the road to recovery”: the highway that everyone expected would be smooth and wide open is about to be detoured into a rutted track that peters out in a wilderness without any lights or signage.

Oops–no cell coverage out here either. Is that the road over there? Guess not–we just careened into a canyon alive with the roar of a raging river. Our vehicle keeps sliding downhill, even with the brakes locked… this trip to “recovery” was supposed to be so quick and easy, and now there’s no way out… what’s that noise?

You know the rest: the naive, trusting teens are picked off one by one in the most horrific fashion. Substitute naive punters in the stock market and you have the script for what lies ahead.

The “recovery” has an unfortunate but all-too accurate connotation: recovery from addiction. The “recovery” we’ve been told is already accelerating at a wondrous pace does not include any treatment of the market’s addiction to Federal Reserve free money for financiers; rather, the “recovery” is entirely dependent on a never-ending speedball of Fed smack and crack and a booster of Fed financial meth.

The addiction to Fed speedballs had already turned the entire financial sector into a casino of lunatic junkies who delusionally believe they’re all geniuses. Beneath the illusory stability of the god-like Fed has our back, the addiction to free money has completely destabilized America’s social, political and economic orders by boosting wealth and income inequality to unprecedented extremes.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

charles hugh smith, of two minds, fed, us federal reserve, covid, pandemic,

Do We Really Think a Band-Aid Will Heal a Tumor?

Do We Really Think a Band-Aid Will Heal a Tumor?

Borrowing a quarter of the nation’s entire economic output every year to prop up an ineffective, corrupt status quo is putting a Band-Aid over a tumor.

If we misdiagnose the disease, our treatment won’t work. We’re all familiar with medical misdiagnoses, which lead to procedures and prescriptions that can’t possibly fix the patient’s illness because the source has been missed or misinterpreted.

Medical diagnoses are often tricky, as many general symptoms can arise from a variety of sources.

Social and economic ills can also be tricky to diagnose, and the diagnosis is hindered by political polarization and sacrosanct orthodoxies which make it difficult to have a rational discussion in public about many difficult issues.

If we can’t even discuss a problem, then that creates another problem, because problems that can’t be discussed openly cannot be solved.

There’s also a human tendency to choose the diagnosis with the easiest-at-hand solution. This allows us to quickly apply an approved solution and then declare the problem solved.

The current flood of financial stimulus is an example of this misdiagnosis and application of an easy solution which fails to address the underlying disorder.

The conventional diagnosis of the post-pandemic economy is that the only problem is people don’t have enough money, and so giving them money to spend will cure the financial damage the pandemic inflicted. (Never mind that the economy was rolling over in 2019 long before the pandemic, which served as a catalyst in a sick, unstable status quo.)

Creating $1.9 trillion out of thin air and distributing it is painless: who doesn’t like free money? But is a scarcity of cash the source of America’s economic malaise?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Too Busy Frontrunning Inflation, Nobody Sees the Deflationary Tsunami

Too Busy Frontrunning Inflation, Nobody Sees the Deflationary Tsunami

Those looking up from their “free fish!” frolicking will see the tsunami too late to save themselves.

It’s an amazing sight to see the water recede from the bay, and watch the crowd frolic in the shallows, scooping up the flopping fish. In this case, the crowd doing the “so easy to catch, why not grab as much as we can?” scooping is frontrunning inflation, the universally expected result of the Great Reflation Trade.

You know the Great Reflation Trade: the world has saved up trillions, governments are spending trillions, it’s going to be the greatest boom since the stone masons partied at the Great Pyramid in Giza. It’s so obvious that everyone has jumped in the water to scoop up all the free fish (i.e. stock market gains). Only an idiot would hesitate to frontrun the Great Reflation’s guaranteed inflation.

Unless, of course, what we really have is a tale of reflation, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Everyone frolicking in the shallows scooping up the obvious, easy, guaranteed gains is so busy frontrunning inflation that nobody sees the tsunami rushing in to extinguish the short-sighted frolickers. ( When Does This Travesty of a Mockery of a Sham Finally Implode? 3/3/21)

Gordon Long and I discuss The Deflationary Tsunami racing toward the frolickers in a new video program. It’s not that there aren’t inflationary dynamics in play; there are. The issue is that not all the dynamics in play are inflationary, and the deflationary dynamics have been building for the past two decades.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The Global Financial End-Game

The Global Financial End-Game

The over-indebted, overcapacity global economy an only generate speculative asset bubbles that will implode, destroying the latest round of phantom collateral.

For those seeking a summary, here is the global financial endgame in fourteen points:

1. In the initial “boost phase” of credit expansion, credit-based capital ( i.e. debt-money) pours into expanding production and increasing productivity: new production facilities are built, new machine and software tools are purchased, etc. These investments greatly boost production of goods and services and are thus initially highly profitable.

2. As credit continues to expand, competitors can easily borrow the capital needed to push into every profitable sector. Expanding production leads to overcapacity, falling profit margins and stagnant wages across the entire economy.

Resources (oil, copper, etc.) may command higher prices, raising the input costs of production and the price the consumer pays. These higher prices are negative in that they reduce disposable income while creating no added value.

3. As investing in material production yields diminishing returns, capital flows into financial speculation, i.e. financialization, which generates profits from rapidly expanding credit and leverage that is backed by either phantom collateral or claims against risky counterparties or future productivity.

In other words, financialization is untethered from the real economy of producing goods and services.

4. Initially, financialization generates enormous profits as credit and leverage are extended first to the creditworthy borrowers and then to marginal borrowers.

5. The rapid expansion of credit and leverage far outpace the expansion of productive assets. Fast-expanding debt-money (i.e. borrowed money) must chase a limited pool of productive assets/income streams, inflating asset bubbles.

6. These asset bubbles create phantom collateral which is then leveraged into even greater credit expansion. The housing bubble and home-equity extraction are prime examples of these dynamic.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Oil and Debt: Why Our Financial System Is Unsustainable

Oil and Debt: Why Our Financial System Is Unsustainable

How much energy, water and food will the “money” created out of thin air in the future buy?

Finance is often cloaked in arcane terminology and math, but the one dynamic that governs the future is actually very simple.

Here it is: all debt is borrowed against future supplies of affordable hydrocarbons (oil, coal and natural gas). Since global economic activity is ultimately dependent on a continued abundance of affordable energy, it follows that all money borrowed against future income is actually being borrowed against future supplies of affordable energy.

Many people believe that alternative “green” energy will soon replace most or all hydrocarbon energy sources, but the chart below shows why this belief is not realistic: all the “renewable” energy sources are about 3% of all energy consumed, with hydropower providing another few percent.

There are unavoidable headwinds to this appealing fantasy:

1. All “renewable” energy is actually “replaceable” energy, per analyst Nate Hagens: every 15-25 years (or less) much or all of the alt-energy systems and structures have to be replaced, and little of the necessary mining, manufacturing and transport can be performed with the “renewable” electricity these sources generate. Virtually all the heavy lifting of these processes require hydrocarbons and especially oil.

2. Wind and solar “renewable” energy is intermittent and therefore requires changes in behavior (no clothes dryers or electric ovens used after dark, etc.) or battery storage on a scale that isn’t practical in terms of the materials required.

3. Batteries are also “replaceable” and don’t last very long. The percentage of lithium-ion batteries being recycled globally is near-zero, so all batteries end up as costly, toxic landfill.

4. Battery technologies are limited by the physics of energy storage and materials. Moving whiz-bang exotic technologies from the lab to global scales of production is non-trivial.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Presidents Day: Carter’s Prescient Farewell Address in 1981

Presidents Day: Carter’s Prescient Farewell Address in 1981

Regardless of our opinions about President Carter and his legacy, his Farewell Address is worthy of our attention and study.

On Presidents Day 2021, I invite you to read/watch President Carter’s Farewell Address from 40 years ago. As a Washington outsider, Carter was relentlessly mocked and undermined by the Establishment, as insiders’ loathing of outsiders knows no bounds.

In a similar fashion, the loathing of the corrupt and self-absorbed for the faithful aspiring to better world despite our weaknesses and flaws also knows no bounds, and so the establishment insiders that run the nation had no use for Carter other than as a handy whipping post.

President Carter was not the only outsider president reviled by the Washington elites, of course; outsiders of both parties draw the fierce fire of a corrupt Establishment fearful of exposure.

Although many reckon it good sport to make fun of President Carter’s initiatives (along with his grin, hair, accent, etc. etc. etc.), a strong case can be made that he was the first and only 21st century President the nation has elected. Every president since, regardless of party or ideology or canned speeches (Soaring Rhetoric (TM), has been embedded in a continuation of the 20th century economy, politics and Imperial Project.

Carter was the first and only president to address DeGrowth, though the word had yet to be coined: DeGrowth is the idea that resources would eventually become scarce and thus unaffordable, and rather then pursue the insane fantasy of eternal growth on a finite planet, a new arrangement that did more with less would be needed.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The Stock Market, Fatally Wounded by the Truth, Will Stumble and Crash

The Stock Market, Fatally Wounded by the Truth, Will Stumble and Crash

It didn’t have to be this way, but this is the reality we must now face: truth is fatal to fraud, and our entire financial-political system is a fraud.

The stock market has just been punctured by the thin blades of truth. It is fatally wounded but nobody dares notice. The wounds are barely visible, but the internal damage is mortal. The stock market is already stumbling and will soon crash.

The banquet’s participants ignore the faltering market because the rules are we never reveal the truth, or acknowledge it, or discuss it, no matter how obvious, because truth is fatal to fraud. So the stock market’s vital signs are in freefall but the conversation remains upbeat and light: stimulus, rapid growth in the second half, etc., all the patter of a carefully constructed illusion that fraud is forever as long as the truth never comes out.

Alas, the truth has emerged from the shadows, despite the silence of the insiders and the financial media. Here are the truths that have emerged like karmic genies:

1. The stock market is nothing but one giant fraud. The entire market is corrupt and rigged from the ground up. The fraud is systemic, designed into every tendril of the market. It was a useful deception to blame it all on “bad players,” but now the truth has been revealed: the market is nothing but a rigged game enriching insiders.

2. The Fed is a fraud. All the Federal Reserve has accomplished in 13 years of goosing the stock market is unprecedented wealth and income inequality as the fraud of the Fed has boosted the fraud of the market, which has fatally undermined America’s social and economic orders. Please read this short paragraph and let it sink in. Monopoly Versus Democracy (Foreign Affairs):

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

2020 the “Worst Year Ever”–You’re Joking, Right?

2020 the “Worst Year Ever”–You’re Joking, Right?

So party on, because “the worst year ever” is ending and the rebound of financial markets, already the greatest in recorded history, will only become more fabulous.

Of the lavish banquet of absurdities laid out in 2020, one of the most delectable is Time magazine’s December 14 cover declaring that 2020 was the “worst year ever.” You’re joking, right? In history’s immense tapestry of human misery, it’s not even in the top 100 worst years.

Consider 1177 B.C., when many of the great civilizations of the Mediterranean Sea and Mideast collapsed, and the survivors struggled through a pre-modern Dark Ages. This book assembles what is known about this catastrophic era: 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed.

Then there’s 1644 A.D., when the Ming Dynasty was overthrown by the Manchu invasion, a series of self-reinforcing misfortunes stemming from extremes of climate (a.k.a. The Little Ice Age) that left millions hungry and vulnerable to disease and the predation of roving bandit armies.

The Little Ice Age and the famine, conflicts, civil wars, coups, revolts and rebellions it launched killed between a quarter and a third of Eurasia’s population. Entire villages melted away as starvation drove the survivors to desperation. The misery stretched from western Europe to China, and lasted for decades.

This fascinating history lays it all out: Global Crisis: War, Climate Change, & Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century.

Though it is now relegated to a footnote in history, the Antonine Plague of 165 – 180 A.D. decimated the Mediterranean, Mideast, North African and Eurasian regions, toppling regimes that had endured for ages and very nearly brought the Roman Empire to an inglorious end. Roughly one-fourth of the population died as the novel disease was distributed along Rome’s numerous trade routes, which stretched from Northern Europe to Africa and India.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Most Hopeful Scenario for 2021

The Most Hopeful Scenario for 2021

Choose wisely, America, or the options for a positive outcome will vanish like mist in Death Valley on a clear July afternoon.

From the point of view of evolution, the most hopeful scenario for 2021 is the sudden and complete collapse of everything that is obsolete, inefficient, ineffective and sclerotic. When obsolete systems and entities pass away quickly, the cost and pain are processed and absorbed quickly as well: enterprises go bankrupt and their assets are liquidated, failed ventures close, and schemes that didn’t yield the desired benefits are scrapped.

This is the evolutionary process. Whatever has lost its selective advantages will succumb to selective pressures and fade away.

The problem arises when self-serving insiders siphon resources to keep their obsolete, inefficient, ineffective and sclerotic gravy-train protected from selective pressures. Keeping a terminally ill human alive is an analogy: it’s possible to extend the life of a terminally ill person at enormous expense and effort, but the patient isn’t restored to their previous health or vigor–that is no longer even a possibility. They are no longer their previous self, and this is why people choose to avoid extraordinary interventions in their final phase of life.

Economically obsolete / terminal entities, on the other hand, always choose extraordinary monetary interventions to keep their gravy-train alive, even if they bleed the rest of the economy dry in the process.

If the buggy-whip industry existed today, Congress would grant it billions of dollars in low-interest loans, tax breaks and direct subsidies so those who made fortunes in the buggy-whip industry would continue to prosper, not from a productive activity but from subsidies and loans that ultimately weaken the entire economy and society.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Give Yourself a Gift Next Year: Agency

Give Yourself a Gift Next Year: Agency

We think we’re powerless because we don’t have wealth and power over others, but nothing could be further from the truth.

To have agency is to have power over your own life and control of your assets, options and resources. There are a great many things that influence our lives that we do not control, but there are also many things we could influence in our lives but do not.

The conventional view puts great weight on the agency created by money, as an abundance of money enables people to do a number of things that people with little money cannot do: live comfortably in costly locales, buy a larger home, buy a second home, buy a boat, pay for college with cash, pay for expensive medications not covered by insurance, take extended vacations and start enterprises without ceding power to outside investors, to name a few.

Our culture only has eyes for the agency of money, as this narrow band of agency is ceaselessly glorified. Yet what’s striking is how little of importance money can buy. Not only can it not buy love, it cannot buy true friendship, trust, affection, community, emotional intelligence, wisdom, skills, purpose, meaning, health, confidence, creativity, conviction, self-discipline, resilience, self-expression, integrity, authenticity, faith or inner security.

What gift would you want for yourself in 2021? Whatever you identify as the gift you’d want to give yourself, the odds of obtaining it improve if you give yourself the gift of agency first. While money is a resource that can leverage certain kinds of agency, it isn’t the foundation of agency; the foundations of taking control of one’s life are internal.

I wrote an entire book about this process of taking control of one’s life: Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What Would Happen If the Fed Ceased to Exist?

What Would Happen If the Fed Ceased to Exist?

Extremes get more extreme until risk breaks out; then the reversal will be as extreme as the bubble expansion.

What would happen if the Federal Reserve ceased to exist? We all know the answer: global markets would instantly collapse and the global financial system, now entirely dependent on Fed stimulus, intervention, manipulation, free money for financiers and endless printing of trillions of dollars out of thin air, would crash, leaving nothing but a steaming, fetid pile of corruption infested by the cockroaches scurrying around gobbling up the few crumbs left.

What would happen if the Federal Reserve ceased to exist? The Treasury would sell its bonds on the open market, where buyers and sellers would set the yield on the bonds. Private banks would take deposits and lend money at rates set by supply and demand.

We all know what would happen: yields and interest rates would explode higher in response to risk having to be priced in and every flimsy, worm-eaten enterprise that depended on zero-interest rates would collapse in a heap and every putrid, staggering zombie corporation would crumble to dust, and its phantom assets, illusions generated solely by the artificial spew of the Fed, would fall to their real value, i.e. near zero.

Let’s modify the question slightly: what would happen if the Fed’s policies stopped working? In other words, what if the Fed’s spew no longer created the illusion of risk-free gambling in bubble-valuation assets? What if risk raised its Gorgon-like head despite every intervention, every manipulation, and every foul burp of propaganda from the Fed?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

One Little Problem with the “All-Electric” Auto Fleet: What Do We Do with all the “Waste” Gasoline?

One Little Problem with the “All-Electric” Auto Fleet: What Do We Do with all the “Waste” Gasoline?

Regardless of what happens with vaccines and Covid-19, debt and energy–inextricably bound as debt funds consumption– will destabilize the global economy in a self-reinforcing feedback.

Back in the early days of the oil industry (1880s and 1890s), the product that the industry could sell at a profit was kerosene for lighting and heating. Since there was no automobile industry yet, gasoline was a waste product that was dumped into streams.

Why couldn’t the refiners produce only kerosene? Why did they end up with “worthless” gasoline?

The answer is a barrel of oil produces a variety of products. While there is some “wiggle room” to produce more diesel and less gasoline, etc., it isn’t possible to turn a barrel of oil into only one product.

John D. Rockefeller became very wealthy by cornering much of the oil market in the 19th century. But he didn’t become fabulously wealthy until the 20th century, when the rise of automobiles created a market for all the “waste” gasoline.

Rockefeller became super-wealthy when all the products of each barrel of oil could be sold at a premium rather than just a portion of the products.

This reality has been forgotten: the price that can be fetched for a barrel of oil depends on the demand for all the products, not just a few of the products.

Those demanding an all-electric auto-truck fleet as a “green” alternative will re-create the dilemma of what to do with the “waste” gasoline. The world will still want fuel for all those container ships bringing all the goodies of a consumerist society, all those cruise ships visiting ports of call, jet fuel for all those exotic vacations enabled by 550 mile-per-hour aircraft, and oil-based lubricants, plastics and petro-chemicals, and so oil will still be pumped and refined, and almost half of it will be gasoline.

We can either use it or throw it away but we can’t magically turn a barrel of oil into only one product.

This is a topic worthy of your understanding, so grab a vat of your favorite beverage and turn off all distractions.

Longtime readers know I’ve focused on energy-oil markets for 15 years. Despite ups and downs in price, the oil market has been remarkably stable.

This stability is about to transition to chronic instability: wild swings in price, shortages, and social chaos in both producing and consumer nations.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Cycles, Systems and Seats in the Coliseum

Cycles, Systems and Seats in the Coliseum

The idea that debt, leverage, speculation, greed, exploitation and parasitic elites can expand exponentially forever is magical thinking.

Contrary to first impressions, I am not a doom-and-gloomer; I’m a systems-cycles-er, meaning I’m interested in where systems and cycles are heading.

Cycles work because we’re still running Wetware 1.0 which entered beta testing around 200,000 years ago and was released, bugs and all, around 50,000 years ago. Since the processes and inputs haven’t changed, neither do the outputs.

Nature is a mix of dynamic, semi-chaotic systems (fractals, etc.) and cyclical patterns which tend to operate within predictable parameters. Why should human nature and human constructs (societies, economies and political realms) be any different?

So longterm success breeds complacency, hubris, economic and intellectual sclerosis, draining political infighting and the overproduction of parasitic elites, to use Peter Turchin’s apt description. Consumption of resources expands to soak up every last bit of what’s available and then the supply of goodies plummets for a multitude of completely natural and predictable reasons (sunspot/solar activity, El Nino, etc.) and a host of unpredictable but equally natural semi-chaotic extremes (100-year droughts, floods, etc.).

Wetware 1.0’s go-to solutions to all such difficulties are rather limited:

1. Ramp up magical thinking. If a couple of human sacrifices ensured good harvests in the good old days, let’s slaughter a couple hundred now–and if that doesn’t work, then…

2. Do more of what’s failed spectacularly and slaughter a couple thousand fellow humans, because darn it, maybe everything will turn around if we just kill another couple dozen.

This requires ignoring the novelty of the current challenges and clinging to what worked so well in the past even as whatever worked in the past can’t possibly work now because circumstances are fundamentally different.

3. Seek scapegoats. It’s those darn witches. Burn a bunch of them and our troubles will magically disappear.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Welcome to the U.S.S.A.’s Banquet of Consequences

Welcome to the U.S.S.A.’s Banquet of Consequences

The incontestable incompetence of the USSA’s monopolies, institutions and agencies is about to take center stage in 2021.

When I mention that the U.S.A. feels increasingly like the U.S.S.R., a surprising number of people tell me they feel the same way. Welcome to the U.S.S.A.: United Simulacra States of America where everything is an absurdly transparent simulation with little connection to reality and dissent is crushed by an everpresent, ubiquitous narrative police state enforced by the union of Big Tech social media, search and other monopolies and the Savior Statedo what we tell you and you’ll get a piece of our endlessly spewed trillions.

My colleague Mark Jeftovic recommended an insightful book on the unraveling of the USSREverything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation.

It’s an academic book so there are the required servings of jargon and references to suitably opaque academic tropes, but beneath the conceptual clutter lies a profound analysis of how humans adapt to and navigate a system that has lost all authenticity and survives entirely on the ceaseless marketing of artifice: in other words, the USA today.

Of particular interest are the book’s personal accounts of dutiful Party members going through the motions of obedience as a means of enjoying their private friendships and lives. Joining the Party’s machinery was a way to meet friends who you recruited for your committee work. Everyone went through the motions but nobody actually believed any of it: you did homework while “listening” to the endless canned speeches, you went out for coffee while telling the Party functionary that you were on Party business, and you worked on parades and activities that were a bit of fun despite the dreary official purpose which everyone ignored.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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