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Once “Prosperity” Falters, the Legitimacy of the Status Quo Evaporates

Once “Prosperity” Falters, the Legitimacy of the Status Quo Evaporates

All we’re doing is waiting for the fake “prosperity” to crumble, and the resulting loss of credibility and legitimacy will follow like night follows day.

The citizenry of corrupt regimes ruled by self-serving elites tolerate this oppressive misrule for one reason and only one reason: increasing prosperity, which we can define as continual improvement in material well-being and financial security.

The legitimacy of every corrupt regime ruled by self-serving elites hangs on this single thread: once prosperity fades, the legitimacy of the regime evaporates, as the citizenry have no reason to tolerate their rapacious, predatory overlords.

A broken, unfair system will be tolerated as long as every participant feels they’re getting a few shreds of improvement. This is why there is such an enormous push of propaganda touting “growth”; if the citizenry can be conned into believing that their deteriorating well-being and security are actually “prosperity,” then they will continue to grant the status quo some measure of credibility and legitimacy.

When the gap between the propaganda and reality widens to the breaking point, the regime loses its credibility and legitimacy. This manifests in a number of ways:

1. Nobody believes anything the state or its agencies reports as “fact”: since it misreported economic well-being and security to benefit the few at the expense of the many, why believe anything official?

2. Increased lawlessness: since the Ruling Elites get away with virtually everything, why we should we obey the laws?

3. Opting out: rather than become a target for the state’s oppressive organs of security, the safer path is to opt out: quit supporting a parasitic and predatory Status Quo of corporations and the state with your labor, slip into the shadows of the economy, avoid debt like the plague, get by on a fraction of your former income.

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

Forget “Money”: What Will Matter Are Water, Energy, Soil and Food–and a Shared National Purpose

Forget “Money”: What Will Matter Are Water, Energy, Soil and Food–and a Shared National Purpose

If you want to identify tomorrow’s superpowers, overlay maps of fresh water, energy, grain/cereal surpluses and arable land.

The status quo measures wealth with “money,” but “money” is not what’s valuable. “Money” (in quotes because the global economy operates on intrinsically valueless fiat currencies being “money”) is wealth only if it can purchase what’s actually valuable.

As the world slides into an era of scarcities, what will matter more than “money” are the essentials of survival: fresh water, energy, soil and the output of those three, food. The ability to secure these resources will separate nations that fail and those that survive.

In a world of abundance, it’s assumed every essential resource can be bought on the open market. Surpluses are placed on the market and anyone with “money” can buy the surplus.

Things work differently in scarcity: “money” buys zip, zero, nada because nobody with what’s scarce can afford to give it away for “money” which can no longer secure what’s scarce.

Parachute into a desert with gold, dollars, euros, yen and yuan, and since there’s nothing to buy, all your money is worthless. Once you’re thirsting to death, you’d give all your money away for a liter of fresh water. But why would anyone who needs that liter for their on survival trade it for useless “money”?

Imagine the longevity of a regime which sold the nation’s food while its populace went hungry. Not very long once the truth comes out.

Having resources is only one component: consumption is the other half of the picture. Having 4 million barrels a day of oil (MBPD) is nice if you’re only using 3 MBPD, but if you’re consuming 8 MBPD, you still need to import 4 MBPD.

Water and soil are not tradable commodities. 

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

The Japanification of the World

The Japanification of the World

Zombification / Japanification is not success; it is only the last desperate defense of a failing, brittle status quo by doing more of what’s failed.

A recent theme in the financial media is the Japanification of Europe.Japanification refers to a set of economic and financial conditions that have come to characterize Japan’s economy over the past 28 years: persistent stagnation and deflation, a low-growth and low-inflation economy, very loose monetary policy, a central bank that is actively monetizing debt, i.e. creating currency out of thin air to buy government debt and a government which funds “bridges to nowhere” and other stimulus spending to keep the economy from crashing into outright contraction.

The parallels with Europe are obvious, but they don’t stop there: the entire world is veering into a zombified financial, economic, social and political status quo that is the core of Japanification.

While most commentators focus on the economic characteristics of Japanification, social and political stagnation are equally consequential. If we only measure economic/financial stagnation, it appears as if Japan and Europe are holding their own, i.e.maintaining the status quo via near-zero growth and near-zero interest rates.

But if we measure social and political decay, the erosion is undeniable. Here’s one example. Few Americans have access to or watch Japanese TV, so they are unaware of the emergence of the homeless as a permanent feature of urban Japan. The central state propaganda media is focused on encouraging tourism, a rare bright spot in Japan’s moribund economy, and so you won’t find much media coverage of homelessness or other systemic signs of social breakdown.

If you watch Japanese detective / police procedural dramas, however, you’ll find constant references to homeless people and homeless encampments: detectives seek witnesses to a crime in the nearby homeless encampment; a homeless man living in an abandoned warehouse is found murdered, etc.

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

Fight The Establishment’s Narratives By Getting Clear On Your Own

Fight The Establishment’s Narratives By Getting Clear On Your Own

Anti-establishment movements are a mess. Whether they’re left-wing or right-wing, whether they’re statist or anarchist, whether they’re organized or decentralized, whether they place emphasis on official or unofficial narratives, any circle of people who are interested in opposing the status quo on a deep, meaningful level almost invariably find themselves significantly bogged down by confusion, paranoia, infighting, and misdirected use of energy.

Every day, for example, I get people in my inbox and social media notifications telling me I shouldn’t quote or share anything from this or that lefty journalist or anti-establishment figure because they’ve said something “problematic” at some point or have some kind of association with some aspect of the establishment. Rather than simply using narrative-disrupting tools wherever they come from to fight the establishment narrative control machine, I’m encouraged to isolate myself to the extremely narrow spectrum of voices which agree with my exact worldview perfectly. This kind of paranoid, self-cannibalizing mentality is rife throughout most anti-establishment circles.

This happens for a number of reasons, including the fact that the ruling power establishment will infiltrate dissident movements that it perceives as a threat with the intent of sowing confusion and division. But the underlying reason anti-establishment circles so often find themselves getting crushed by their own weight is ultimately because life itself is confusing and difficult to understand.

Hardly anyone holds a lucid and steady awareness of just how much of society is comprised of mental narrative. Most people live their lives under the unquestioned assumption that when they are moving around in the world, speaking, acting, forming opinions, having ideas etc, they are interacting with something that resembles objective reality.

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

If We Can No Longer Tell the Truth, We’ve Failed

If We Can No Longer Tell the Truth, We’ve Failed

The Gulag Archipelago is not a distant memory; it lives on in every modern state, cloaked with modern-day technologies and the well-worn tools of suppression.

The last thing addicts want to hear is the truth: the only thing more terrifying than the truth is the possibility that they will lose access to whatever they’re addicted to: smack, Oxy, coke, alcohol, sex, porn, power, etc.

If we fail to tell addicts the truth, we fail them and ourselves. As long as co-dependents remain complicit in the addict’s destructive state, as long as those who know better keep silent because they don’t want to deal with the trauma, the addict is free to maintain the illusion that he/she is in control, that his/her secret is safe, etc., and manipulate those around them with lies and victimhood.

Not wanting to deal with the trauma of forcing those in denial to face up to reality is understandable: who wants to deal with the shock, denial, anger and depression that characterize facing up to a terrifying truth?

But we fail ourselves if we’re too weak to speak the truth and grind through the denial, anger and depression. If we opt for the easy way out, we’re just like the addict, who is also opting for the easy way out, i.e. finding refuge in the labryrinthine Kingdom of Lies.

The status quo is a Kingdom of Lies. “Raw data”, i.e. facts collected without regard to future interpretaion, are “processed” into the “right kind of data,” i.e. data that supports the status quo interpretation, which is that everything’s just fine thanks to the wise leadership of our self-serving elites.

The deeper you dig into the statistical foundation of GDP, the unemployment rate, trade deficits, etc., the more questions arise about the accuracy and agenda behind the headline numbers.

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

2019: Fragmented, Unevenly Distributed, Asymmetric, Opaque

2019: Fragmented, Unevenly Distributed, Asymmetric, Opaque

Add up Fragmented, Unevenly Distributed, Asymmetric and Opaque and you get a world spinning out of centralized control.

Here are the key dynamics of 2019: fragmented, unevenly distributed, asymmetric, opaque. Want to know what’s happening with inflation, deflation, recession, populism, etc.?

It depends on what you own, when you own it, where you own it and its relative scarcity and stability–assuming you have trustworthy information on its scarcity and stability.

By ownership I mean all forms of capital: cash, tools, skills, social capital, trust in institutions, etc. Whatever forms of capital you own, the returns on that capital and its relative stability depend on the specifics of context and timing.

Will there be deflation or inflation? The right question is: Will there be deflation or inflation in my household?. In a rapidly fragmenting economy and society characterized by opacity, asymmetric information and unevenly distributed results, generalizations are intrinsically misleading / false. The only possible answers arise in a carefully limited context: my household, my neighborhood, my industry, my company, etc.

Here’s an example I’ve mentioned in the past: healthcare costs. If you’re one of the lucky households with heavily subsidized healthcare costs (for example, a government employee with limited deductibles, low per-visit costs and modest co-pays), your healthcare inflation is likely negligible.

But if your household doesn’t qualify for subsidies and has to pay market rates, you’re very likely to suffer double-digit healthcare inflation.

2019 is the year that central banks and states lose control of the narratives, the economy and the social contract, all of which are dynamic complex systems which excel in producing banquets of unintended consequences.

Control of the narrative requires harvesting “the right data” and spinning an interpretation that supports the status quo.

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

Why I’m Hopeful

Why I’m Hopeful

A more humane, sustainable world lies just beyond the edge of the Status Quo.

Readers often ask me to post something hopeful, and I understand why: doom-and-gloom gets tiresome. Human beings need hope just as they need oxygen, and the destruction of the Status Quo via over-reach and internal contradictions doesn’t leave much to be happy about.

The most hopeful thing in my mind is that the Status Quo is devolving from its internal contradictions and excesses. It is a perverse, intensely destructive system with powerful incentives for predation, exploitation, fraud and complicity.

A more humane, sustainable world lies just beyond the edge of the Status Quo.

I know many smart, well-informed people expect the worst once the Status Quo (the Savior State and its corporatocracy partners) devolves, and there is abundant evidence of the ugliness of human nature under duress.

But we should temper this Id ugliness with the stronger impulses of community and compassion. If greed and rapaciousness were the dominant forces within human nature, then the species would have either died out at its own hand or been limited to small savage populations kept in check by the predation of neighboring groups, none of which could expand much because inner conflict would limit their ability to grow.

The remarkable success of humanity as a species is not simply the result of a big brain, opposable thumbs, year-round sex or even language; it is ultimately the result of social and cultural associations that act as a “network” for storing knowledge and relationships– what we call intellectual and social capital.

I have devoted significant portions of my books–

Survival+

An Unconventional Guide to Investing in Troubled Times

Resistance, Revolution, Liberation

Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform

A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology & Creating Jobs for All

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

Why Everything That Needs to Be Fixed Remains Permanently Broken

Why Everything That Needs to Be Fixed Remains Permanently Broken

Just in case you missed what’s going on in France: the status quo in Europe is doomed.

The status quo has a simple fix for every crisis and systemic problem:

1. create currency out of thin air

2. give it to super-wealthy banks, financiers and corporations to boost their wealth and income.

One way these entities increase their wealth and income is to lend this nearly free money to commoners at much higher rates of interest. I borrow from central banks at 1% and lend it to you at 4.5%, 7% or even 19% or more. What’s not to like?

If a bank is insolvent, it can borrow money at 1% from central banks. If Joe Blow is insolvent, the only loan he can get is at 23%, if he can get any credit at all.

3. China has a variant fix for every financial crisis: build tens of millions of empty flats only the wealthy can afford as second or third “investment” flats. If the empty flats start dropping in price, government entities start secretly buying flats to support the market.

4. Empty malls, bridges to nowhere and ghost cities are also a standard-issue fix in China. Built it and they will come, until they don’t. But who cares, the developers and local governments (i.e. corrupt officials) already pocketed the dough.

You see the problem: making rich people richer doesn’t actually fix what’s broken, it only makes the problems worse. So why can’t we fix what’s broken?

It’s a question that deserves an answer, and the answer has six parts:

1. Any meaningful systemic reform threatens an entrenched, self-serving interest/elite which has a tremendous incentive to squash, co-opt or water down any reform that threatens their monopoly, benefits, etc.

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

No Matter How You Vote, Politicians Don’t Represent You

No Matter How You Vote, Politicians Don’t Represent You

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One of the most foundational assumptions behind modern democracy is that the elected officials somehow represent the interests of those who elected them.

Advocates for the political status quo flog this position repeatedly, claiming that taxation and the regulatory state are all morally legitimate because the voters are “represented.” Even conservatives, who often claim to be for “small government” often oppose radicalism of any kind — such as secession — on the grounds that political resistance movements such as the American Revolution are only acceptable when there is “taxation without representation.”The implication being that since the United States holds elections every now and then, no political action outside of voting — and maybe a little sign waving — is allowed.

This, position, however, rests on the idea that elected officials are truly representative. If taxation with representation makes government legitimate — as some argue — then we must first establish that the government’s claims of representation are believable.

On a theoretical level, Gerard Casey has already cast serious doubt on these claims. Casey draws on the work of Hanna Pitkin, who admits it is plausible that:

Perhaps representation in politics is only a fiction, a myth forming part of the folklore of our society. Or perhaps representation must be redefined to fit our politics; perhaps we must simply accept the fact that what we have been calling representative government is in reality just party competition for office.

After all, as Casey points out, representation in the private sector usually means there is an agent-principal relationship in which the agent is legally bound to attempt to represent the material interests of a clearly defined person or group of people.

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

Technocrats Rule: Democracy Is OK as Long as the People Rubberstamp Our Leadership

Technocrats Rule: Democracy Is OK as Long as the People Rubberstamp Our Leadership

Technocrats rule the world, East and West alike.

We are in a very peculiar ideological and political place in which Democracy (oh sainted Democracy) is a very good thing, unless the voters reject the technocrat class’s leadership. Then the velvet gloves come off. From the perspective of the elites and their technocrat apparatchiks, elections have only one purpose: to rubberstamp their leadership.

As a general rule, this is easily managed by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising and bribes to the cartels and insider fiefdoms who pony up most of the cash.

This is why incumbents win the vast majority of elections. Once in power, they issue the bribes and payoffs needed to guarantee funding next election cycle.

The occasional incumbent who is voted out of office made one of two mistakes:

1. He/she showed a very troubling bit of independence from the technocrat status quo, so a more orthodox candidate is selected to eliminate him/her.

2. The incumbent forgot to put on a charade of “listening to my constituency” etc.

If restive voters can’t be bamboozled into passively supporting the technocrat status quo with the usual propaganda, divide and conquer is the preferred strategy. Only voting for the technocrat class (of any party, it doesn’t really matter) will save us from the evil Other: Deplorables, socialists, commies, fascists, etc.

In extreme cases where the masses confound the status quo by voting against the technocrat class (i.e. against globalization, financialization, Empire), then the elites/technocrats will punish them with austerity or a managed recession.The technocrat’s core ideology boils down to this:

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

The Gathering Storm

The Gathering Storm

The gathering storm cannot be dissipated with propaganda and bribes.

July 4th is an appropriate day to borrow Winston Churchill’s the gathering storm to describe the existential crisis that will envelope America within the next decade. There is no single cause of the gathering storm; in complex systems, dynamics feed back into one another, and the sum of destabilizing disorder is greater than a simple sum of its parts.

Causal factors can be roughly broken into two categories: systemic and social/economic. The central illusion of those who focus solely on social, political and economic issues as the sources of destabilization is that tweaking the parameters of the status quo is all that’s needed to right the ship: if only Trump were impeached, if only GDP hits 4% annual growth rate, if only the Federal Reserve started controlling the price of bat guano, etc., etc., etc.

The unwelcome reality is the systemic issues cannot be reversed with policy tweaks or shuffling those at the top of a crumbling centralized order. The systemic problems arise from the structures of centralization and monopoly capital, theinstitutionalization of perverse incentives and the depletion of natural capital: soil, water, fossil fuels, etc.

We can create “money” out of thin air but we can’t print fresh water, productive soil or affordable energy out of thin air.

Regardless of their ideological labels, centralized socio-economic systems follow an S-Curve of rapid expansion during a “boost phase,” a period of stable expansion (maturity) and then a period of stagnation and decline as the system’s participants do more of what’s failed, as they cannot accept that what worked so well in the past no longer works.

A successful model traps those within it; escape becomes impossible. That’s the lesson of the S-Curve:

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

Dear High School Graduates: the Status Quo “Solutions” Enrich the Few at Your Expense

Dear High School Graduates: the Status Quo “Solutions” Enrich the Few at Your Expense

You deserve a realistic account of the economy you’re joining.

Dear high school graduates: please glance at these charts before buying into the conventional life-course being promoted by the status quo.

Here’s the summary: the status quo is pressuring you to accept its “solutions”: borrow mega-bucks to attend college, then buy a decaying bungalow or hastily constructed stucco box for $800,000 in a “desirable” city, pay sky-high income and property taxes on your earnings, and when the stress of all these crushing financial burdens ruins your health, well, we’ve got meds to “help” you–lots of meds at insane price points paid for by insurance– if you have “real” insurance without high deductibles, of course.

Here’s the truth the status quo marketers don’t dare acknowledge: every one of these conventional “solutions” only makes the problem worse. Student loan debt only makes your life harder, not easier, as the claimed “value” of a college degree is based on the distant past, not the present. The economy is changing fast and the conventional “solutions” no longer match the new realities. But don’t expect anyone profiting from the predatory profiteering higher-education cartel to admit this.

The high cost of housing isn’t “solved” by buying in at the top of an unprecedented bubble. Buying into bubbles only makes the problem worse, for all bubbles eventually pop.

The “solution” to crushing levels of debt is not to borrow more just to prop up a rotten, corrupt, dysfunctional and self-serving status quo. In effect, the young generations are being groomed to be the hosts for the parasitic classes that feed on young taxpayers, student loan debt-serfs, young buyers of bubble-priced housing, unaffordable sickcare “insurance” and all the rest of the status quo “solutions.”

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

The U.S. Economy In Two Words: Asymmetric Gains

The U.S. Economy In Two Words: Asymmetric Gains

The Status Quo is in trouble if the bottom 95% wake up to the asymmetric gains that are the only possible output of our hyper-financialized economy.

The core dynamic of the U.S. economy in this era is asymmetric gains: the gains in income, wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the top slice of the economy and society, while the income, wealth and power of the majority stagnate or decline.

The Status Quo must paper over this widening gulf with threadbare narratives that no longer match reality: for example, we’re an ownership society. We sure are: the vast majority of the nation’s productive assets are owned by the top 5%.

The U.S. economy has changed, but the transformation is largely invisible to the average participant and conventional economist. The previous iteration of the economy expired in the 1970s, an era of stagflation (stagnant growth and rising inflation that eroded the purchasing power of most households), higher energy costs and increasing global competition, an era in which the “external costs” of industrial-scale pollution finally came home to roost and the early stages of digital technologies began impacting human labor.

Stocks and bonds were destroyed in the 1970s. Investing capital in industrial production no longer generated outsized profits.

The 1980s ushered in a New Economy based on financial magic: the outsized profits flowed to those with access to credit and the tools of financialization: buying assets with borrowed money, selling the assets off in the global marketplace and reaping enormous gains by producing no goods or services.

We now inhabit a hyper-financialized economy in which the only way to get ahead is to speculate. For the middle class, this means speculating in housing: if you hit the jackpot and your house soars in value, then leverage this new wealth into the cash needed to buy a second property–or extract the equity to fund a more luxe lifestyle.

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

Propaganda, Human Consciousness, And The Future Of Civilization

Propaganda, Human Consciousness, And The Future Of Civilization

A duck floats past two fish, looks down and says “Morning boys! How’s the water?” The fish swim on for a bit, then one of them turns to the other and says, “What the fuck is water?”

Corporatist propaganda is to western civilization what water is to fish. Our culture is saturated in it; it informs so many levels of our worldview and most of us never even examine any of them. It informs all aspects of culture, from our beliefs about what’s going on in the world to our understanding of history to what issues we think we’re supposed to care about on a given day to what opinions we think we’re allowed to choose from. People think they know what’s going on in their society, why their country fought this or that war, how their nation’s government and economy operate, when really they don’t know any of those things. All their most basic assumptions about their world, their culture, and even who they are as individuals is fully pervaded by mass media propaganda narratives.

In early tribal cultures, humans depended on campfire stories passed on from one generation to the next to tell them what the world is and how to interpret their experiences in it. Now that role has fallen exclusively to a few highly consolidated corporate media conglomerates whose billionaire owners have a vested interest in maintaining the warmongering plutocratic power establishment that is loosely centralized in the United States, because in that power establishment they get to live as kings.

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

The Next Recession Will Be Devastatingly Non-Linear

The Next Recession Will Be Devastatingly Non-Linear

The acceleration of non-linear consequences will surprise the brainwashed, loving-their-servitude mainstream media.

Linear correlations are intuitive: if GDP declines 2% in the next recession, and employment declines 2%, we get it: the scale and size of the decline aligns. In a linear correlation, we’d expect sales to drop by about 2%, businesses closing their doors to increase by about 2%, profits to notch down by about 2%, lending contracts by around 2% and so on.

But the effects of the next recession won’t be linear–they will be non-linear, and far more devastating than whatever modest GDP decline is registered. To paraphrase William Gibson’s insightful observation that “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”: the recession is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed– and its effects will be enormously asymmetric.

Non-linear effects can be extremely asymmetric. Thus an apparently mild decline of 2% in GDP might trigger a 50% rise in the number of small businesses closing, a 50% collapse in new mortgages issued and a 10% increase in unemployment.

Richard Bonugli of Financial Repression Authority alerted me to the non-linear dynamic of the coming slowdown. I recently recorded a podcast with Richard on one sector that will cascade in a series of non-linear avalanches once the current asset bubbles pop and the current central-bank-created “recovery” falters under its staggering weight of debt, malinvestment and speculative excess.

The Intensifying Pension Crisis (37-minute podcast)

The core dynamic of the next recession is the unwind of all the extremes:extremes in debt expansion, in leverage, in the explosion of debt taken on by marginal borrowers, in malinvestment, in debt-fueled speculation, in emerging market debt denominated in US dollars, in financial repression, in political corruption–the list of extremes that have stretched the system to the breaking point is almost endless.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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