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Just How Ugly Is The Sovereign Default Truth? How Self Delusions Prevent Recognition Of Reality

Tyler Durden's picture


When psychologists evaluate human behavior, one of the most prevalent observations regarding any activity is the all too often flawed basis of perceived versus realistic outcomes that dictates our every action. As imperfect  creatures, we tend to construct theories that conform with our worldview, which are subsequently reinforced by our confidence (or lack thereof) in the future. This is true in any discipline: finance, politics, gambling, mating, etc. There is hardly a better example of this than the very basis of modern economic theory where assumptions about the validity of fiat currencies determine the actions of central banks, which in turn spill over into every aspect of modern society. Yet what if the very basis of core assumptions is wrong? What if every activity exhibited by humans in the post gold-standard world has a flawed assumption at its core? Austrian economists have, of course, claimed this for ages, usually seeing their efforts conclude with a dead-end as the attempt to change the status quo hits the brick wall of quadrillions of (arguably worthless) pieces of paper which dictate the status quo. However, with the recent turn for the worse, courtesy of sovereign bail outs (as confused as they may be) could the day of reckoning be fast approaching? With each passing the day an affirmative answer seems closer at hand. Today SocGen's Dylan Grice shares his perspectives on popular delusions, and why these may soon be coming to an abrupt end.

Dylan begins:

Behavioural psychology applies to central bankers, regulators and politicians as much as it does to investors. In promising to ‘fiscally retrench tomorrow’, finance ministers are exhibiting the behavioural phenomenon of overconfidence in their future self-control. The bitter fiscal medicine required to stabilise debt levels won’t become more palatable today relative to tomorrow until the bond market makes it so. It can only do this through higher yields. Thus, Ireland and perhaps now Greece lead the way. For the Japanese it’s too late.

Why should behavioural psychology be seen as something applying only to investors? "Behavioural" finance is a well defined sub-discipline in its own right. But where is ?behavioural? politics, ?behavioural? central banking, or "behavioural" regulation? Remember the Fed policy statements around the end of the 1990s? The ones that kept referring to the "technology-enhanced" rate of GDP growth? Wasn?t this herding around a bad idea the very same herding then fuelling the NASDAQ bubble?

Nowhere is self delusion more prevalent that in the workings of the Federal Reserve duo of Greenspan and Bernanke. The issue is that any weakness, or any affirmation of faulty policy by the head money printer, will immediately be seen as weakness that could destabilize the reserve currency format. For a monetary system based on flawed assumptions that would be the beginning of the end.

As the housing bubble inflated, Bernanke in a quite staggering display of logical sloppiness, concluded that the risk of a housing collapse in the future was small because there had never been one in the past ? Weren't they then guilty of "framing" their analysis in a way guaranteed to preclude an uncomfortable conclusion? If you don't expect to see something, you're less likely to see it. Similarly cringe worthy logic was used when sub-prime rolled over, and Bernanke concluded that there was no risk of contagion to the rest of the economy because... er... there had been no contagion to the rest of the economy yet... wasn't this textbook "recency bias" whereby the importance of recent events is over-weighted?

It probably was, and it probably demonstrates that central bankers are as prone to be as systematically silly as the rest of us. Indeed, just last year a study by yet more of Bernanke's "best and brightest" concluded that “monetary policy was not a primary factor in the housing bubble”. I don?t want to pretend I?m any kind of behavioural expert, but isn't this the well documented "attribution bias" by which people attribute positive outcomes to themselves, but negative ones to others?

So with nobody willing to take blame for the massive errors of the past 3 decades, and what's worse, nobody attempting to place the blame, we happily plough along as if nothing has changed.

So here we are today, with regulators rounding on investment banks, hedge funds and tax havens, apparently in denial of the reality that the problem was not the regulations but the regulators. After all, heavily regulated institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were at the epicentre of the crisis (as was AIG, whose financial services business model was the facilitation of "regulatory arbitrage" around Basle capital requirements). Not that it makes any difference. The regulators are merely bowing to pressure applied by politicians whose understanding today is as flawed as Gordon Brown's was in the Mansion House back then. If this sounds like a rant then I apologise - it isn't meant to be one. We're all fallible and policy making is an impossible job. But that means policy mistakes are inevitable, and I believe we?re seeing one right now.

Before we get into the gist of Dylan's analysis, we present his example which brings the self-delusion bias down to the individual level.

Oscar Wilde said he could resist anything but temptation. But doing something you know you shouldn't is easier if you can convince yourself that this will be the last time you indulge, that you won't do it again. So we convince ourselves that since we'll be strong in the future, we can still indulge today. Whether it?s smoking, eating too much or going to the pub instead of the gym, we delude ourselves into thinking that we will take the more difficult path next time.

A few years ago, two economists actually looked at the issue using gym membership data. They found that in a club in which non-members could pay a no-strings fee of $10 per visit, people preferred to pay the $70 per month for unlimited access. And since members only attended 4.3 times a month on average, they ended up paying an average $17 per visit. The authors concluded this to be clear evidence of "overconfidence about future self control."

Investors understand the affliction all too well: a stock trades at £10 and we tell ourselves that we?re buyers at £8. But how many of us buy when it gets to £8? Some of us do, but most of us don't. Most of us (I can?t be the only one!) convince ourselves that it's going lower still: “I’ll buy at £7” becomes “I’ll buy at £6” and by the time it's back at £8 we're “waiting for a pullback” Each investor has their own way of circumventing this problem. But at root, such poor decision-making is a consequence of our fundamental underestimation today of the discipline and even courage we will require in the future.

The delusion problem becomes exponentially more complex when one adds in the concept of dependence and addiction, not so much to a substance, but to an idea.

Last weekend, the G7 "committed" itself to the path of further stimulus. As politicians are wont to do, they presented it as though it was somehow a difficult decision: "the position for most countries is to support the economies now, and get the budget deficit down as the economy recovers." said the UK's Chancellor, Alistair Darling, nodding earnestly. Am I the only one who heard a heroin addict steadfastly committing to his next fix?!

Well, it got me thinking about how much governments need to retrench to stabilise existing debt to GDP levels. And although I consider myself fortunate enough to have forgotten most of the economics I learned at university, one lesson which was useful, or in any case has stuck with me, is of the arithmetic behind government debt sustainability.

And when we begin to actually dissect numbers, as opposed to demagogic propaganda, is when we get into the meat of the problem.

There are lots of books containing lots of equations outlining lots of limits and theorems about the dynamics of government debt sustainability, but the basic intuition is that if I'm a finance minister mulling out how much money I should be borrowing, I want my GDP growth (and therefore my tax revenue growth) to pay the coupons on any debt I take on today. If the GDP growth rate equals that interest rate, the incremental revenue flowing into my coffers thanks to the incrementally higher level of GDP covers my coupon payments. I don't need to borrow any more money and my debt ratios are stable. But if the interest rate is higher than GDP growth, my incremental tax revenue won't cover interest payments. I'll be in deficit and I'll have to issue more debt to plug the gap and my debt ratio will rise. The only way I can prevent further debt growth is by running a primary budget surplus (i.e. a surplus excluding interest payments).

There are nuances and qualifications to this arithmetic, and limitations too, but in essence the fault line between sustainable and unsustainable debt dynamics can be summarised as: maintaining a stable debt to GDP ratio requires governments to run a primary balance proportionate to the difference between interest rates and GDP growth.

How does all this translate into quantifiable observations:

Before seeing how our governments compare, two qualifications are necessary. Firstly, the European estimates are distorted by the recent "convergence" within the eurozone which allowed periphery economies temporarily higher GDP growth rates and lower interest rates. This makes on-balance sheet debt loads appear more stable for those economies than they actually are. Secondly, the calculations show only those surpluses required to stabilise the debt loads which are on-balance sheet. And it's important to be clear about this. According to Gokhale, most government indebtedness is in the form of unfunded pension and health liabilities, which are unrecorded and effectively off-balance sheet (see chart below). I'll come back to these shortly.

But sticking with the on-balance sheet debt for now, the calculations shown in the following chart (over the page) use the equation in the footnote at the bottom of page 2 and give a decent first stab of who needs to do what.

The countries on the right are in the fortunate position of paying a rate of interest which is below their GDP growth rate. Provided interest rates don?t change from these (historically very low) levels, they can run deficits without increasing on-balance sheet debt. The US, the UK and Switzerland both currently fall into that category. Japan doesn't. With bond yields at around 1.5%, "trend" nominal GDP slightly negative, and on-balance sheet debt to GDP at around 200%, it should be aiming for a primary surplus of 3.3% in order to stabilise its ratio.

Now look at the next chart which shows the primary balances governments have actually achieved. I was surprised to find Belgium and Italy running such aggressive primary surpluses, but this is consistent with the broadly stable debt ratios those countries have seen recently. The US, the UK and Japan especially have been running pronounced primary deficits.

If we add both charts together we can compare the primary balances governments should be running with those which they're actually running, to get a better feel for the difficulty governments are going to have to face up to in order to merely stabilise their on-balance sheet debt ratios. The next chart does this. Those on the left have been running budget balances consistent with falling on-balance sheet debt to GDP ratios, while those on the right haven't. The US, the UK, Greece, Portugal and Norway (?) all fall into this latter category.

Eyeballing this chart, one might think governments "only" need a 3% underlying contraction of fiscal policy in order to right the ship. Wouldn't doing that over a number of years be plausible? Perhaps, but I can't find any examples of it having happened before. And while that doesn?t make it impossible it does illustrate both the political difficulty of following such a path, and the behavioural biases present in politicians? confidence that they will - if it is difficult to summon the political courage today, why will it be easier tomorrow?

And here is the crux: the black swan will be not so much a totally failed auction - we are confident the Federal Reserve will never let that be the precipitating factor for the next crisis. All that is needed is for interest rates to start going up. That's it. How much longer can money be printed out of thin air so that we can all buy each other's debt and prolong the fiat fallacy for another day or two?

But consider this: all countries, and especially those to the right in the chart, are enjoying exceptionally favourable financing positions, with government bond yields near unprecedented lows. Should anything push bond yields higher, even by just a percentage point, the onbalance sheet debt situation will become explosive. This is the situation in Japan where the 8% contraction required to rein in its already explosive debt ratio is politically  impossible. And again, remember that the estimated 8% required contraction assumes the Japanese government can continue to fund itself at a 1.4% JGB yield, which is clearly unrealistic.

If the on-balance sheet position today looks dicey for the rest of us, the off-balance sheet numbers are far more worrying. The following chart shows Gokhale's estimates of the perpetuity surpluses governments would have to run to meet the current outstanding obligations which are both on- and off-balance sheet. The chart speaks for itself. Such fiscal deflation is clearly a political impossibility.

Apparently heroin addicts can become so drug dependent their bodies cannot withstand the shock of withdrawal, and failure to continue taking the drug triggers multiple organ failures. I just wonder how apt that analogy is to our governments? debt dependency today. As long as governments think that taking these difficult decisions to end the addiction will be easier in the future than it is today, they will never take the decision "today." At the very least, there will have to be a sufficiently large bond market "event" to force the issue.

Today we finally saw a crack in the 30 Year Auction. And as the crack belongs to an ever more brittle wall holding back trillions in debt just begging to be revalued to fair value, and to an unmanipulated supply and demand curve, more and more fissures in the smooth and fake facade of sovereign debt will soon appear, only this time not somewhere out of sight and out of mind like Greece, but in our own back yard. At that point the financial oligarchy will very much wish the Methadone had been administered sooner (roughly about March 2009, when we first suggested it). It will however be far too late, and the decades of self delusion will finally end.


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Thu, 02/11/2010 - 15:02 | Link to Comment Shocker
Shocker's picture

Excellent post!

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 15:52 | Link to Comment strike for retu...
strike for return to reality's picture

Yes, excellent post.

In the heroin abusing world, I suggest that the US is Begbie.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 16:54 | Link to Comment TraderMark
TraderMark's picture

The coming disaster that is the Pennsylvania public pension system.  A series of decisions early in the decade is going to lead to an implosion of new liabilities in 2012. 

Greece GDP $350B

PA GDP $550B


And we got plenty more PA's out there! Boo yah.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 17:38 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 18:56 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 19:41 | Link to Comment MsCreant
MsCreant's picture

"Nothing really entitles anyone to >20 years worth of paychecks for 20-30 years of labor"

Anon, they paid in. They don't even get that money back or even that money plus interest. I feel like they are getting ready to be robbed. I know there are some folks milking it bad and they need a spanking, but most of them are not retired police cheifs pulling down $300,000 a year in benefits, and holding a new job in a new state. Most are just folks, trying to do the right thing, pay in their money, and not be a burden on the rest of us.

I agree there is no solution. I agree everything needs to be cut. But be clear, most of these folks that will get little or nothing are VICTIMS.

Just like you and I will be when we go to get our social security and IT WON'T BE THERE.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 21:06 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 10:02 | Link to Comment Monday1929
Monday1929's picture

What is this "reality" you speak of? I have heard others speak of it too. It sounds like something very bad. Can we still keep our delusions in this new "reality" thing?

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 15:44 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Sat, 02/13/2010 - 06:06 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Sun, 02/14/2010 - 08:01 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 21:38 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 22:41 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 22:56 | Link to Comment Master Bates
Master Bates's picture

Imagine how most of us REALLY people feel.  Our country was already sold out with unreasonable debt and all the jobs were outsourced by the time we were even able to vote.

Plus, our jobs don't have health insurance, pensions, and 401ks like the older people's companies did.

AND we're last in line to get social security... but that's okay because we can't get jobs now anyway...

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 23:25 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 14:45 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 15:12 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 00:21 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 00:33 | Link to Comment WaterWings
WaterWings's picture

Uh, since 1913. Welcome to the hangover.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 02:22 | Link to Comment Jesse Liversore
Jesse Liversore's picture

What are you, 18?  what company doesn't provide health insurance and a 401k, especially in the finance world. You can get your own insurance as many self employed do.  When they had pensions people stayed at companies for 20 & 30 yrs because of the pensions!!!.  I think the average baby boomer has had something like 3-4 employer changes , Gen X like 4 or 5 and Gen Y's are expected to have something like 8-12 job changes before they each middle age.  Schwab actually did an interesting study on these demographics and their attitudes.  Gen Y's are the group that thinks that social security payments should begin on average at 60.5 yrs old????  see

We kicked the worlds ass in WWII and I'm sure our grandfathers didn't enjoy it but they sucked it up... too many whiners out here and not enough do-ers.  Sorry they bailed out banks and lent cheap capital to former Investment banks, they did it so the whole system didnt go down.  As I write this who knows how many kids will be born into destitute poverty and will make their way to the U.S. become successful-  and end up firing your lazy ass for bitching that the fry machine burnt your hand again.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 03:08 | Link to Comment moneymutt
moneymutt's picture

tell me financial wiz, exactly how much would I have to have saved in my 401k to get the equivalent of Cali cop... draw 90 percent of my working salary, lets say conservatively, 90k at the end of my career if I don't spike it with sick time/vacation time in my last year, I would need to start collecting at age 55, including cost of full medical bene's, until I die at average much would I have in my 401k, would a million dollars do in current interest rate environment? And how much would I have to had to put into my account over the years to result in that amount in 2010 with say avg rate of return indexed to S&P...

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 10:34 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 03:34 | Link to Comment Master Bates
Master Bates's picture

You can kiss my ass.

I'm close enough to 18, for one, and for two, it's none of your goddamn business where I come from.

Fuckin punk.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 06:11 | Link to Comment jeff montanye
jeff montanye's picture

i too thought the post somewhat rude.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 11:57 | Link to Comment perchprism
perchprism's picture


No, Bates, you're the fucking punk.  Every time I junk your posts, I think to myself, "Flag as Punk", and you fit the bill perfectly.  What an asshole you are.  A punk.  I'd slap your face off if I ever met you.  One full-fingered slap would do it--and hopefully your scalp would come off with it---a Kodiac Bear slap, smearing your smarmy features into slag.  That's what you deserve, Chief.

Master Bates.  What a disgusting piece of shit you are.  A thousand junk votes ought to tell you that you suck out loud, but no---you suck so much you're actually proud of your assholishness.  I would beat you to a goddamned bloody pulp if I ever met you.  On principle.  You deserve to be removed from society permanently.  Asshole.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 14:30 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 15:02 | Link to Comment Master Bates
Master Bates's picture

Big words when you're behind a computer.  It'd be nice to give you the opportunity.
I would LOVE to see your bitch ass "beat me to a pulp."

Look, since I know you're just a coward hiding behind your screen name, I won't elaborate further.  But I will say this... I AM the person in the dark alley...

Wed, 02/17/2010 - 23:16 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 05:17 | Link to Comment kurt_cagle
kurt_cagle's picture


Your post is very indicative of how out of touch you are with regard to the degree to which the world has changed.

I'm 46 years old, putting me at the very beginning of the GenX generation. I have a teenage daughter who is just now entering both college and the work force, so I have a good perspective of what her life (and her cohort's lives) are like as well.

The boomers lives were marked by positive economic trends from birth - oil was cheap and domestically produced. Five years of war after a decade long depression had left the US fallow for economic growth, and unemployment was nearly non-existent by 1960. Given those trends, pension and social security plans made a great deal of sense (and also provided a handy source of effectively mythical money to be tapped into politically). The likelihood of working for one company for your entire life was high, which meant that you had little chance for economic disruptions in your life, and the real wages were increasing up to about the mid-1970s.

After 1973, the US became a net oil importer. We entered a major economic recession, one which in general affected younger workers far more than it did the mid-level managers that were what the forefront of the boomer generation had become. The corporate friendly 1980s marked the peak earning years for those self-same boomers, meaning that their incomes were often supplanted with bonuses, increased stock options and other non-salaried benefits which could in turn be invested. Meanwhile, those starting out in those years were likely to see 4-5 jobs in their "work lifetime", which meant economic disruption, periodically loss of pensions and similar income, depradations from financial parasites and so forth.

The 1990s saw the dot-com era, in which, at least on paper, young kids (late genXers and Millenials) could become billionaires overnight. In practice, most of them (us) ended up with lots of paper stock options that we could use to wallpaper the den with because they certainly never generated any real money, while the bulk of the money that was generated went to investors (those with high disposable incomes) who cashed in while the getting was good. Most of them were, you guessed it, Boomers.

The 2000s saw massive layoffs in the tech sector, as the money shifted over into real estate, and as senior managers (yup, Boomers) decided to save even more money outsourcing as much of the tech and manufacturing jobs as they could, while at the same time leaving them with the profit.

By this time, someone entering the workforce could expect to see their resume peppered with dozens of companies, especially if they were in tech, since the average job was now of limited duration and usually brokered through an agency that took a major slice off the top (and guess who owned most of those agencies).

Reliable insurance was a thing of the past, pension funds seem like a remarkably transient vehicle for savings (something that I think will be proved out within the next couple of years tops) and even the notion that hard work will get you to the pinnacle of success has been continually disproved in what has increasingly become a casino economy - you became wealthy if you were either friends of the casino boss or were one of the gulls that the casino would let win big occasionally to entice others to come and spend ... certainly talent and perseverance were no longer determining factors.

In the end, most of the Boomers who face a rough retirement will do so because they weren't paying attention and lost money in the recent crash - I can assure you many others will be doing quite well indeed. For the GenXers, the Millenials, the Virtuals (post 2000) its a different story - the well's been drying up for decades.

Most of the late Millenials and Virtuals, despite the laptops and cellphones, which effectively define their preferred mechanism for communication, are coming into the work force with the understanding that the till is gone, that jobs are scarce and will become scarcer still, that working for a single company (or even a handful) is dangerously naive and absurd, and that their world is going to be one defined by resource scarcity, not resource abundance. Tell a sixty-something that we've passed the peak of oil production and are now on a downward slope and they'll think you're insane. You don't have to tell a twenty-something - they know that fact implicitly.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 06:16 | Link to Comment jeff montanye
jeff montanye's picture

great post.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 08:36 | Link to Comment moneymutt
moneymutt's picture

thank you, nice post, nice summary

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 09:48 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 12:48 | Link to Comment Hondo
Hondo's picture

Enjoyed the post but don't buy some of the whinny stuff.  I was at the tale end of the boomers and I can't certainly dispute your claim that all boomer had it great - even from the get go.  My daughters is 10 years younger than you and has done great because she like myself never stopped learning and seeking opportunity.  Even getting started in the early seventies with gas lines, high inflation, paying for school myself, etc.  there were always opportunities and there still are today you just have to have the mindset to find them and then act......they aren't coming to you and they never have.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 13:19 | Link to Comment Rusty Shorts
Rusty Shorts's picture

Excellent post kurt_cagle !!!!

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 15:04 | Link to Comment DaveyJones
DaveyJones's picture

I've enjoyed all your posts. Keep them coming. I'm also 46 and couldn't agree more. Life is simply harder. They borrowed against, didn't plan for, and lied against our future. Now the bill is coming due and we're pretty pissed to pay it. 

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 17:24 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 19:42 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 12:38 | Link to Comment Haywood Jablowme
Haywood Jablowme's picture

So which division of Schwab do you work for???  Keep telling your clients not to worry, their mutual fund portfolio is a long-term strategy.  LMFAO

You guys make me fucking sick.  When the walls come tumblin' down, pray to your god you don't ever run into a guy like me.



Fri, 02/12/2010 - 17:04 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Sat, 02/13/2010 - 19:59 | Link to Comment makeyoumiss
makeyoumiss's picture

Perfectly said. Jesse LivesMORE!

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 02:44 | Link to Comment moneymutt
moneymutt's picture

well said...we are sheep going after sheep while wolves after us all...people are understandably upset that many govt employees are doing much better than private market workers and when govt employees get bene's regardless of hardship of taxpayer, regardless of markets tanking it, regardless of deflation of other peoples wages, its tough to take..I especially resent the cops in some locales that used their crony pull with politicians, a bit like military contractors, to take what was a kinda low paying publice service job with really great benes and turn it into a very very high paying job with off the chart benes.....

but there's the rub...we want to take down govt union folks, who are the last middle class workers standing, with packages and benes that make us jealous, but merely 30 years ago a HS grad with a manufacturing job was guaranteed such a good job/career for anyone that wanted it.

(I saw friend's grandparents tax return from 1970, neither with any college, Grandpa was mattress sales man who become regular low level manager and Grandma who went back to work at 45yrs old, in admin in aerospace after raising kids, I figured their salary according to Fed inflation calculator would now be equivalent to $215k, and of course, Grandma still has medical coverage from employer). Two professionals with advanced degrees might get that now...and not get same, if any benes..

Now only govt employees have anything close to that, and are losing much of the benes agreed to as a part of their terms of working, because of greed, theft, fraud, absorbitant fees etc...and we taxpayers want to take them down a notch...

yes, unfortunately, all we working people will suffer and taxpayers won't let govt employees be exempt from said suffering...but it is so unnecessary and is not govt employees fault...

US middle class has life blood sucked out of them by parasites since about 1970...

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 11:22 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 13:32 | Link to Comment Rusty Shorts
Rusty Shorts's picture

I'm sick of hearing about "life expectancy", to me, it's about quality of life and freedom, what is the use of stringing out your miserable life to withered old age? Mark Twain summed it quite well here;


"MORAL STATISTICIAN."--I don't want any of your statistics; I took your whole batch and lit my pipe with it. I hate your kind of people. You are always ciphering out how much a man's health is injured, and how much his intellect is impaired, and how many pitiful dollars and cents he wastes in the course of ninety-two years' indulgence in the fatal practice of smoking; and in the equally fatal practice of drinking coffee; and in playing billiards occasionally; and in taking a glass of wine at dinner, etc., etc., etc. And you are always figuring out how many women have been burned to death because of the dangerous fashion of wearing expansive hoops, etc., etc., etc. You never see more than one side of the question. You are blind to the fact that most old men in America smoke and drink coffee, although, according to your theory, they ought to have died young; and that hearty old Englishmen drink wine and survive it, and portly old Dutchmen both drink and smoke freely, and yet grow older and fatter all the time. And you never by to find out how much solid comfort, relaxation, and enjoyment a man derives from smoking in the course of a lifetime (which is worth ten times the money he would save by letting it alone), nor the appalling aggregate of happiness lost in a lifetime your kind of people from not smoking. Of course you can save money by denying yourself all the little vicious enjoyments for fifty years; but then what can you do with it? What use can you put it to? Money can't save your infinitesimal soul. All the use that money can be put to is to purchase comfort and enjoyment in this life; therefore, as you are an enemy to comfort and enjoyment, where is the use of accumulating cash? It won't do for you say that you can use it to better purpose in furnishing a good table, and in charities, and in supporting tract societies, because you know yourself that you people who have no petty vices are never known to give away a cent, and that you stint yourselves so in the matter of food that you are always feeble and hungry. And you never dare to laugh in the daytime for fear some poor wretch, seeing you in a good humor, will try to borrow a dollar of you; and in church you are always down on your knees, with your eyes buried in the cushion, when the contribution-box comes around; and you never give the revenue officer: full statement of your income. Now you know these things yourself, don't you? Very well, then what is the use of your stringing out your miserable lives to a lean and withered old age? What is the use of your saving money that is so utterly worthless to you? In a word, why don't you go off somewhere and die, and not be always trying to seduce people into becoming as "ornery" and unlovable as you are yourselves, by your villainous "moral statistics"? Now I don't approve of dissipation, and I don't indulge in it, either; but I haven't a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices, and so I don't want to hear from you any more. I think you are the very same man who read me a long lecture last week about the degrading vice of smoking cigars, and then came back, in my absence, with your reprehensible fireproof gloves on, and carried off my beautiful parlor stove.


 - Mark Twain 1865

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 17:55 | Link to Comment WaterWings
WaterWings's picture

MT was awesome!

Be good and you will be lonesome. - Mark Twain

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 19:52 | Link to Comment Rusty Shorts
Rusty Shorts's picture

 - Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. - Mark Twain

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 11:34 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 22:56 | Link to Comment dumpster
dumpster's picture

martin armstrong on solutions


What we have now is a massive acceleration of public debt that has increased the timetable for sheer economic disaster. The year 2012 will in fact be a year that history will remember.”

In the field of economics and especially its cycle movement, we are in the Dark Ages.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 23:04 | Link to Comment Stranger
Stranger's picture

Problems like these are exactly why bankruptcy court exists.

But who can foreclose on a state when its voters have utterly failed at managing it?

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 23:12 | Link to Comment Hitman
Hitman's picture

You are exactly right.  Who is supposed to pay these benefits - working families (not employed by the government) scraping by on two or more jobs trying to hang on to their houses?  Small businessmen?

It was a series of delusions and irresponsible choices over decades that led to the public retirement/health benefits bubble.  There is no way to pay - other than ever more cowardly and reckless schemes such as the retirement bonds.

Where in the private sector could a 25 year old working class person get a job paying $60K a year, and look forward to retiring at age 55, get paid 80% of his final salary for life, with fully paid health insurance for life?   I would bet there isn't a single job like this available in the U.S.  No company could be competitive providing these benefits.  No government could afford this either - ever - except when life expectancies were 60.   I don't really expect very many local governments to address this problem honestly - therefore, we'll probably see more pension bonds or some other schemes.

I think the only answer at the state level would be constitutional amendments protecting taxpayers and making all public employee benefit plans subject to limits tied to increases in taxpayers incomes.  Then force the benefits to be adjusted downward each year if necessary to never exceed the growth in taxpayers incomes.  Or some similar formula.  No kicking the can to the future.  But at least avoid any possibility of the ever more likely scenario of continued tax increases on an ever more impoverished working public to support an elite class of retired public employees.



Fri, 02/12/2010 - 00:03 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 01:24 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 02:55 | Link to Comment moneymutt
moneymutt's picture

"Where in the private sector could a 25 year old working class person get a job paying $60K a year, and look forward to retiring at age 55, get paid 80% of his final salary for life, with fully paid health insurance for life?"

see my comment above, in 1970, said job salary/benes were available to kid getting out of his school going to manufacturing my white working class neighborhood in 1980, kids graduated and went to work where dad did starting out at 35k/yr, kids that went to college did it to avoid hard physical work, to do something intellectually more interesting to them, knew they would start out making less than manufacturing guy but figured eventually late in career would make more...but college was not primarily about making more money as 19 yr old in his manufacturing job had by age 25, a house, a car, a boat and was saving up for cabin on a lake while college kid was jsut getting out with some loans (not like today but some debt)...

yes, govt employees should not be a class above taxpayers, I agree, but why  is the bar so low now, when before those govt benes were similar to private benes at one time?

Sat, 02/13/2010 - 19:55 | Link to Comment makeyoumiss
makeyoumiss's picture

Rock on!

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 19:02 | Link to Comment faustian bargain
faustian bargain's picture

I bet they would be miffed about that, eh.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 19:22 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 20:25 | Link to Comment WaterWings
WaterWings's picture

No way - this is "glass half full". Pass da popcorn - front row seats here at ZH.

(unless you don't have GOLD BITCHES!!!)

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 22:24 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 19:15 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 19:19 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 20:39 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 23:41 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 08:40 | Link to Comment SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

Not to mention the fact that THE PUBLIC SECTOR DOESN'T MAKE ANYTHING

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 10:53 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Sun, 02/14/2010 - 07:46 | Link to Comment gilligan
gilligan's picture

+1 I can completely agree with this.  I have been in the public sector for a number of years and it was a shock after working with private industry.  I had to learn how to drastically slow down.  There are many good, hard working people in public service, but there more who are simply lost causes, receiving a huge paycheck for doing nothing.  Actually they do some work - obstructing the hard workers from doing their jobs often seems to be their mission in their otherwise empty work lives. 

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 19:19 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 19:21 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 19:24 | Link to Comment TraderMark
TraderMark's picture

what happens in private industry when a company cannot fulfill the obligation that workers promised and have labored years for?

It goes into bankruptcy and the worker bees get a fraction of their promised benefits via PBGC

Are public workers living in a different US than private?

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 20:03 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 20:47 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 23:17 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 00:28 | Link to Comment PierreLegrand
PierreLegrand's picture

Seems like the solution will present itself soon enough. Bankrupt Country's equal bye bye pensions.

It will be absolutely murderous but what genius thought all these pensions were a good idea? All these Harvard grads didn't see the problem with promising boomers all these benefits?

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 01:54 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 02:15 | Link to Comment Clampit
Clampit's picture

I keep thinking one of the solutions to this problem will be to make simple millionaires out of the legions billionaires. Everyone show up to claim their new dollars, one face, one heartbeat, one SS#, show us your holdings and collect up to something like $25M per customer. The rich can still be rich, but by orders of magnitude less.

(Finally got off my butt and uploaded a pic; if you can't beat em...plagiarize.)


Fri, 02/12/2010 - 03:11 | Link to Comment moneymutt
moneymutt's picture

who is that smiling guy?

Sat, 02/13/2010 - 13:28 | Link to Comment hidingfromhelis
hidingfromhelis's picture

Dogs and cats living together.  Mass hysteria!

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 08:23 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 18:38 | Link to Comment Rainman
Rainman's picture

I'll call your PA and go all in with a CA !!

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 19:13 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 19:15 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 19:18 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 19:43 | Link to Comment MsCreant
MsCreant's picture

geez, we are so screwed as a planet.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 20:24 | Link to Comment velobabe
velobabe's picture

you friggin crack me up, honey

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 00:53 | Link to Comment WaterWings
WaterWings's picture

You were talking about bikes earlier. Put your bike on the back of this when the zombies rise:

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 01:28 | Link to Comment MsCreant
MsCreant's picture

OMG! It's pink and holds bikes! Not bad assed enough to do you when Mad Max is on though.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 22:39 | Link to Comment Ned Zeppelin
Ned Zeppelin's picture

As a fellow PA resident, I am astounded, but not surprised.  Leo needs to read this as an example of the "it ain't gonna happen" collision with reality these insane public pensions are headed towards. 

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 09:11 | Link to Comment perchprism
perchprism's picture


This post is extremely enlightening.  I've had to read it through twice, very slowly, savoring the flavor of each word.  I've not read any comments yet, and know it will occupy me all morning.  Zero Hedge has become my favorite website.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 15:06 | Link to Comment Cheshire.Cat
Cheshire.Cat's picture

Great analysis; I think that the real problem is the 'Not on My Watch' problem of the pols wanting to keep their jobs. Even if they know they should rein in the deficits, they hope that we all will survive until they have retired and obained good jobs with GS & Co.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 15:21 | Link to Comment Shocker
Shocker's picture

I agree, Kinda on that note... Is anyone worried about the recent pick up in layoffs to schools / cities?? Normally theses are consider like stable areas for employment, and now they are showing signs of weakness. Definately makes you wonder for sure.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 18:43 | Link to Comment velobabe
velobabe's picture

colorado springs is melting down really fast. drastic cuts of police and fire department staff. phoenix is closing down libraries, now that is real smart.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 18:56 | Link to Comment Shameful
Shameful's picture

Speaking as a guy who grew up in Phoenix, it is no loss. It's not really a "reading" city, the kids won't even notice. Most of the town was growing off the housing speculation. Now they just put in a food tax for crying out loud, nothing like kicking people when they are down.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 20:30 | Link to Comment WaterWings
WaterWings's picture

It's not really a "reading" city

ROFL! (my eyes are bloodshot now)

Eh, vato. ¿Quieres ir de vacaciones secuestro (ahorita)?


Thu, 02/11/2010 - 23:01 | Link to Comment Master Bates
Master Bates's picture

And the ironic part is that Colorado Springs is the most conservative part of Colorado.  It's all military and jesus thumpers.  It's weird.  If you're not from there (and I was even born there) people give you dirty looks because they KNOW you're not from there.

Speaking of bankrupt, I guess that their "conservative financial prudence" sure paid off!

You'd think that they'd be doing better since all of their tax revenues come from guaranteed government jobs.  But nope, the wacko Glenn Beck types drove that city into the ground.

Focus on the Family is a weird cult as well.  I used to do work for them, and holy shit that's a cult.  They have higher security clearance than most government buildings. 

Sorry for the rant, I just HATE Colorado Springs.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 03:21 | Link to Comment moneymutt
moneymutt's picture

thanks for the local color, case I ever considered moving there...suppose a guy/gal with your screen name like yours wouldn't fit in there...

I do find a lot of hypocrisy in people who rail against govt spending beyond just certainly rationale critiques of what we pay police, fire etc.. such general ranters often have a family member with a slight mental tick on permanent Soc Sec, or get some to cozy govt contract or hiding assets so granny can get state paid nursing home for free and kids can get inheritance etc..

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 11:24 | Link to Comment velobabe
velobabe's picture


Fri, 02/12/2010 - 12:04 | Link to Comment WaterWings
WaterWings's picture

Oh, make sure you say "Bible thumper". Jesus thumper is anti-semitic.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 15:32 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 10:40 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 16:40 | Link to Comment Winterland
Winterland's picture

Dick Gephardt was and probably still is a "managing director" @ GS as of 2006.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 16:54 | Link to Comment Enkidu
Enkidu's picture

Cheshire - you have the real crux of the problem. Deep deep down Ben keeps wondering why this scheme and that scheme doesn't work - but in the end he'll be back at the university making a few notations on his Great Depression Thesis. 

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 21:07 | Link to Comment rebank (not verified)
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 22:16 | Link to Comment Missing_Link
Missing_Link's picture

Wait, would that be the retarded website continually posted by the notorious and universally hated spammer whose idiotic spam under 1000 different aliases poisons every financial blog in existence?

Yeah, I've seen it  ...  it's crap, and I hope that mentally unstable Cetin Hakimoglu guy loses a fight with an 18-wheeler.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 03:19 | Link to Comment moneymutt
moneymutt's picture


Thu, 02/11/2010 - 23:02 | Link to Comment Master Bates
Master Bates's picture

No, but I saw your mom getting POW'ed in the kisser by the mailman.


Fri, 02/12/2010 - 00:55 | Link to Comment Rusty Shorts
Rusty Shorts's picture



We love you guy, wish you could stay, here's your hat.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 15:10 | Link to Comment IKEA Is Swedish
IKEA Is Swedish's picture

We will continue to blow sunshine up our arses, all the while ignoring the unpleasant but imminent pole insertion.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 16:09 | Link to Comment Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance's picture

I agree.

Never underestimate the ability of the average Joe to delude him or herself into believing that this time it's different or it's not my problem or someone else will pick up the slack or I won't be affected or whatever they care to believe.

If God were to gather up 100 people and announce to the entire group that each and every one of them had terminal cancer and only 4 weeks to live, the vast majority would somehow convince themselves they were going to be spared the affliction, that God was testing their faith, that they would be immune, etc. The permutations are endless but the result is always the same.

Denial. It is the most consistent of human emotions.

This is the basis behind most psychological warfare operations used by governments against populations, either foreign or domestic. 

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 17:11 | Link to Comment besodemuerte
besodemuerte's picture

Reminds me of an 'Ecology of Trauma' workshop I attended back in college.  A large part of the course was reinforcing the concept of our 'denial shield'.  As humans, we engage ourselves daily in the most dangerous scenarios that when looked at from a logical standpoint would be described nothing short of insane.  Driving to and from work is the simplest example.

Anyway, what's going to happen when our denial shield regarding wealth and value is broken?  It's gonna be some serious SHTF, and I can't wait.  I don't like living in the Matrix, pass me the red pill please.

If God were to gather up 100 people and announce to the entire group that each and every one of them had terminal cancer and only 4 weeks to live, the vast majority would somehow convince themselves they were going to be spared the affliction, that God was testing their faith, that they would be immune, etc. The permutations are endless but the result is always the same.

Speaking of denial...

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 17:33 | Link to Comment Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance's picture

"Speaking of denial..."

Should I assume you can't see the irony of my using "God" as an example of denial. Sometimes you need to paint pictures with words the majority of people understand and interpret the same way. I used "God" because most people would consider something coming from the mouth of "God" as undeniable and irrefutable, thus dramatically illustrating how strong denial is.

I believe organized religion to be by far the biggest scam and control mechanism perpetrated upon the human race since the concept was created 10,000 years ago, which was about the same time written language entered the scene. It is used to control the population is so many ways I've lost count.

The primary way it's done is to condition people to believe that there is "one" that is above all else and thus superior to you. This allows those that believe in "God" or "Gods" to proudly and honorable wear the victim badge and avoid responsibility for dealing with our fundamental problems, to avoid taking personal responsibility for all that I see and do.

I'm not talking about the small things, such a being kind to others or don't sleep around. I'm talking about big concepts such as manifest destiny allowing you to claim you're not responsible for raping and pillaging the environment. Or go forth and recklessly populate the earth, thus consuming your surroundings to the point you're killing yourself and others. Or obedience to human masters who are supposedly directed by God, thus removing your personal responsibility for killing your (nation) neighbor when your "leaders" tell you to do so.

And so on and so on and so on. This is a subject I've studied for years and years. It is the deepest rabbit hole of them all.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 18:49 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 22:22 | Link to Comment Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance's picture

"Thank God I'm not religious!"

Laugh out loud funny. I've actually caught myself saying such things. Thank God I usually caught myself before I said it out loud.


Thu, 02/11/2010 - 23:39 | Link to Comment Stevm30
Stevm30's picture

Where is that post you've been promising us CD?

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 06:45 | Link to Comment Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Yes, yes. I know. I've been bad. While I could give you a long list of real excuses, the bottom line is that I'm struggling with it for a few reasons.

It's way too long, just short of 392 pages. And that's just a small exaggeration. I've finally decided to break it into two or three parts.

The subject matter is almost all psychological and emotional and I don't know if it fits here at ZH. I know Marla says to post what I want and let the readers decide but I'm not making much of an attempt to mesh it with markets, though that is precisely what I'm writing about.

I'm not producing a scientific piece, fully footnoted and indexed. It's an opinion piece and quite frankly, I have put my heart and soul into it. I don't know if I wish to expose myself in this manner. I'm working on my bravery.

Sun, 02/14/2010 - 08:55 | Link to Comment boiow
boiow's picture

c'mon you poof ,just post it. whats the worst that can happen, we all laugh, so what, none of us could of written it as well as you anyway.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 08:46 | Link to Comment SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

Oh my science...

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 22:33 | Link to Comment velobabe
velobabe's picture

can't take the GOP out of the oliGOPoly

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 03:25 | Link to Comment moneymutt
moneymutt's picture

that's up there with the quote in the movie Charlie Wilson's War where Charlie is trying to convince Israeli govt guy to sell Afgans arms and he says to Israeli guy in his Texas twang "For the love of Christ.....(sell the guns)

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 11:30 | Link to Comment velobabe
velobabe's picture

damn girl you have a good memory

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 19:07 | Link to Comment faustian bargain
faustian bargain's picture

+1...religion qua denial of nature, human and otherwise.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 21:35 | Link to Comment mouser98
mouser98's picture

and public education is the new religion

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 21:41 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 10:26 | Link to Comment chindit13
chindit13's picture

And people much smarter than me knew the world had to be flat, too, otherwise we'd all fall off.  So your point is?

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 21:46 | Link to Comment Great Depressio...
Great Depression Trader's picture

You should actually read the bible before you critisize it.

The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great--and for destroying those who destroy the earth." Revelation 11:18

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 22:09 | Link to Comment Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Dude, where in my comment did I once mention the word "bible"? You must be feeling a little sensitive because I did not mention any one religion by name or faith. I was speaking about organized religion in general. Maybe I really was talking about the Muslims.

And I have extensively read the bible, both from a religious point of view (I was a Roman Catholic alter boy for 9 years and practiced the Latin mass for 5 of those years and seriously considered becoming a priest) as well as a historical text book point of view.


Thu, 02/11/2010 - 22:42 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 22:08 | Link to Comment IKEA Is Swedish
IKEA Is Swedish's picture

Do you have any original thoughts of your own to contribute?

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 03:29 | Link to Comment moneymutt
moneymutt's picture

I wish everyone would read the golden rule part, the Good Samaritan part, the sheep/goats (did you visit orphans, widows, prisoners, whatsoever you did for the least of these....), the prophets part....

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 03:33 | Link to Comment Rick64
Rick64's picture

I agree 100 % just so many people are brainwashed there is no point in trying to discuss it. If you believe something you should evaluate, research, and question why you believe it. It is so easy to brainwash kids and thats usually where it starts. I have been exposed to many religions and races , it was a real education.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 05:51 | Link to Comment kurt_cagle
kurt_cagle's picture

On the other hand, every so often, the priests become so offensive that society as a whole rebels against them. In the US there are essentially two religions. The first is Christianity in all its facets, and while it occasionally aspires to political power, it can seldom hold it for long. The second, far more pervasive, is the Religion of the Free Market. It's priesthood is made up of economists, each reading the tea leaves in every movement of the stock market and every unemployment report. It's churches are the banks, exchanges and investment firms, it's bishops the Federal Reserve.

This "religion" uses the same mind-control tricks that were first developed by theologians over the millennia. You can't get into heaven unless your credit rating is good, you've had a steady job, and you are a regular and dependable consumer. You invest your money into the stock market, and when the value of those stocks rise, then you are favored unto heaven, but when they fall, then either it is because you failed to listen to the priests or because the devil, in the form of socialism/communism/islam/etc., is testing you. Invest for the long haul, because the market is good and beneficent (not to mention that such investments return more money in fees for the banks or investment houses).

Bankruptcy is excommunication, but even then there are those who can get reinstated by being especially dilligent in their efforts thereafter. Working hard and steady is good, because such people don't question their spiritual advisors, and even if they get little out of the system in the long run, they have proven themselves worthy upon retirement.

The Free Market is an unregulated market, for all know that regulation impedes the working of God and hence must be the work of the devil. In the brethren of the Free Market, all are virtuous and would never knowingly harm others. Should they be tempted by the devil, though, know that the others of the brethren will bring the penitant to punishment - the Free Market can police its own.

Yeah verily, though the vestment of a priest of the Free Market will be the three piece suit, rather than the stole and similar raiments, there is little difference between such a priest and that of other religions, save only perhaps in the name and face of his god.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 06:54 | Link to Comment Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance's picture

God bless big business, free markets and Capitalism, the mother's breast of humanity where all suckle or are banished.

I actually wrote a piece like this but decided not to post it here on ZH. While many ZH readers are pissed off at the "system" they still believe in a "free" and "open" system. They see the problem as being a temporarily broken system, not the system itself. I didn't think it would be well received.

Sun, 02/14/2010 - 09:00 | Link to Comment boiow
boiow's picture

post it and be damned, for god's sake.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 09:02 | Link to Comment SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

Actually, the second religion is yours: secular humanism / statism.  It has all the same aspects of a religion (high priests, excommunication, rigidity) but most importantly, it quickly devolves into dehumanizing one's intellectual and spiritual opponents to the point where they merit disposal by any means necessary, as they stand in the way of achieving Nirvanna. 

People seem to have some need to worship something big, or to belong to a group that is larger than themselves, and I have never understood this.  The real free marketers of whom you speak want nothing other than the right to order their affairs in the manner in which they see fit, with the only rules being "afford others the same opportunity".  Statists love and worship the government as if it were their god, because it is.  Free marketers believe in themselves and their own ability to make it through life, and relish the chance to actually do so through free action and freedom of association.  Most of the contact that most of us have in life with others is economic in nature.  The right to contract and to dispose of one's property and labor on one's own terms is freedom itself.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 10:01 | Link to Comment Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance's picture

"People seem to have some need to worship something big, or to belong to a group that is larger than themselves, and I have never understood this."


This particular rabbit hole has been the most interesting and productive for me. This need to seek a higher power is the basis for our suffering and our salvation at the same time. It seems to come from the basic cell or genetic level of being human, or more accurately, a "living" creature, which doesn't exclude plants. For it appears all living things "communicate" at some level. I've decided that it is a collective consciousness and that we all possess the ability to tap into but for various reasons do not, can not, are prevented from, are fearful of doing so, have forgotten how, etc. It will be humanities salvation once we do so or our extinction if we don't.

Either way, our consciousness, our "self" our "soul" whatever word is needed to describe "it" will still survive. Obviously this short comment doesn't do the subject justice and actually severely short changes it.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 11:53 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 12:20 | Link to Comment WaterWings
WaterWings's picture

People seem to have some need to worship something big, or to belong to a group that is larger than themselves, and I have never understood this.

And now it's the cult of celebrity. Lil' Wayne and Lady Gaga - makes me want to gag a lil' when people show concern for marriages, babies, restaurant preference, etc of the stars.

Very recently, at the home of an acquaintance, I was tricked into watching my first viewing of American Idol. Eesh. To see these families waiting for news of their lottery-ticket child was awful. I can only imagine that most in the exploding lower class, constantly subjected to "get rich quick" schemes, are viewing themselves as one of the potentially successful: "if the only gave me a chance".  

40 million on food stamps are sitting on a sofa and hoping for some random event to lift them out of poverty - maybe that's why so many senior citizens piddle away the little they have left at the slot machines.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 13:03 | Link to Comment SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

Bread and circuses, and the inability to believe in themselves.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 18:16 | Link to Comment deadhead
deadhead's picture

CD....masterful on your part.  really well done and thank you.

edit...talking about your first post....haven't read all of the 2nd above, but i'll avoid the religion discussion.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 19:02 | Link to Comment Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance's picture


I'm bashing the leaders and entities that use organized religion to control and manipulate people. They are the ones who manipulate religion to feed into humans most self destructive tendencies. There is no doubt what-so-ever in my mind that millions of people do extremely good works in the name of "God". But my study has shown me that organized religion has been repeatedly hijacked for thousands of years and used as a control mechanism. Many "Gods" have been recycled over and over again with new names, faces and rituals in order to maintain continuity and control. And unfortunately many religious leaders have gone along with this for whatever reason.

One continuing theme I run into all the time is that many of the elites do not believe in the Gods they claim they do and in fact there many references in history books, private diaries, religious texts and so on where conscious and deliberate decisions were made by the powers that be to use organized religion to control and manipulate the masses. This fact is not challenged by any fair, non partisan and reasonable scholar. These facts don't refute a "God" but rather mans' use and manipulation of the image and idea of God as God is known and understood by the masses.

While I don't believe in any one "God" I firmly believe in a collective consciousness which I think has been intentionally mislabeled as "God" for 10,000 years.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 20:00 | Link to Comment Clinteastwood
Clinteastwood's picture

Regardless of these biases against God (by the way I agree with your assessment of organized religion, but God does exist and is in control) one outstanding fact is true regarding addiction.  Sooner or later, for one reason or another, you have to come down.  Never mind the specifics of why, the fact is that sooner or later you have to come down.


It is incorrect to say heroin addicts die during withdrawal.  They do not.   Their organs do not shut down.  I treat these addicts every day in jail, I know.  However, if you're trying to figure out what is going to happen once the black swan eventuates onto this unstable fiat currency system, contrary to all the book learning Bernanke has, sooner or will have to come down.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 20:32 | Link to Comment WaterWings
WaterWings's picture

I agree with both you and CD simultaneously. Merci pour votre addition.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 23:59 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Fri, 02/12/2010 - 00:21 | Link to Comment chindit13
chindit13's picture

If you see Him or Her, from Allah to Zeus, can you ask it where the Complaint Window is?  Can't quite reconcile all this "pure love" bullshit with childhood cancer.  I'd sooner believe Lloyd Blankfein is the one and true God and we're all here just to do His work.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 06:33 | Link to Comment jeff montanye
jeff montanye's picture

as was written on cathedrals in the french revolution: important if true.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 21:06 | Link to Comment deadhead
deadhead's picture


I'm bashing the leaders and entities that use organized religion to control and manipulate people. They are the ones who manipulate religion to feed into humans most self destructive tendencies. There is no doubt what-so-ever in my mind that millions of people do extremely good works in the name of "God". But my study has shown me that organized religion has been repeatedly hijacked for thousands of years and used as a control mechanism......

Cog....again, magnificently said and so true about the people who use organized religion for nefarious purposes....

Once again, please know that your commentary adds so very much to the discussions at ZH.   You clearly possess great intelligence and have a fantastic ability to convey and communicate.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 22:30 | Link to Comment Kitler
Kitler's picture

While you are alive render unto Caesar what is Caesars and render unto God what is Gods.

When you die and go to heaven (capacity 144K or 288K, it was considered a big number back then!) you will receive your heavenly rewards including the pension and Medicare you will soon be denied on earth.

Trust me.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 18:47 | Link to Comment velobabe
velobabe's picture

like naomi klein akin to in shock doctrine.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 18:56 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Thu, 02/11/2010 - 21:36 | Link to Comment Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance's picture

What a thrill to find someone brave enough to not only read/study Carl Yung but to comment on his teachings here on ZH. To the average person, the term "shadow archetype" makes little to no sense because we're all taught from birth that all we know and all we are is here and now, in front of us, and confined and controlled by us. There is nothing unless "science" tells us it is there. If "science" can't measure it or describe it or replicate experiments demonstrating it, it doesn't exist. All the really interesting questions are not science questions but spiritual, philosophical and psychological questions science will never be equipped to answer because science is confined and ultimately controlled by the 3 dimensions of our currently self limited/limiting existence.

Various Carl Yung tomes are permanently stationed on my bed side table and nearly every night I slip off into my dream world thinking about Carl Yung and his ideas. I can honestly say this has had a profound effect upon myself for I believe most of my creative thinking is done during the so-called unconscious or sleep or REM period of brian activity (or during that period when your brain is most connected to the collective (un)consciousness) and thus his ideas have become a permanent part of my very being.

I fully agree that Carl Yung should be a central part of any education. But of course, the powers that be (which of course we are dreaming up at this very moment) want to suppress the natural and innate unlimited power we all possess. The only way they can attempt to do so is to narrow our world view and distort our perception, to deny where all power originates, from within all of us, individually and collectively.

Sadly and wonderfully, once we collectively understand that we are creating our own prisons, we will finally be free of our own oppression.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 22:01 | Link to Comment velobabe
velobabe's picture

uhm you both refer to him as carl yung, not carl jung. like a dream doctrine (therapy). trying to remember your dreams. maybe this can help me sleep.

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 22:17 | Link to Comment Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Now isn't that an interesting Freudian slip of the keyboard. I wonder where that came from?

I suspect for me it comes from the fact that I stuttered terribly as a child and one of the ways I learned to over come it was to visualize words before I spoke them. While it helped me with the stuttering, I'm an absolutely terrible speller because I'm spelling as I hear and see words, not as they're actually spelled.

Now that I re-read the preceding comment, I see he/she also used Yung. I wonder if that was my trip wire. Thanks for pointing out my blunder. Certainly lowers my credibility if I can't spell the name correctly. Doesn't change the comment though.

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 00:42 | Link to Comment Anonymous
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