Squatting On The Shoulders Of Midgets

Isaac Newton, the father of classical mechanics and progenitor of nearly every technology we use today, was easily one of the top 10 most influential minds in all of human history... Yet as accomplished as he was, Newton credited the brilliant scientists and philosophers who came before him, acknowledging that his insights would not have been remotely possible without the foundations laid by great thinkers– Archimedes, da Vinci, Descartes, etc. No doubt, all great ideas flourish by expanding upon the works of others. Unfortunately, so do terrible ones. And one of the worst ideas in history that continues to play out today is the grand experiment of fiat money. The idea is simple. Rather than allowing money to be scarce and have intrinsic value, our fiat system grants power to a tiny elite to conjure money out of thin air. Presumably, if the ones in control are smart, honest guys, then everything should be fine. Fiat was a total failure right from the beginning... and yet the economic engines deep below are steered by people who worship at the cult of bad ideas.

Workers Of The World, Unite!... But First Consider This

The conflict between labor and capital is a long and illustrious one, and one in which ideology and politics have played a far greater role than simple economics and math. And while labor enjoyed a brief period of growth in the the past 100 years first due to the anti-trust and anti-monopoly, and pro-union laws and regulations taking place in the early 20th century US, and subsequently due to the era of "Great Moderation"-driven "trickling down" abnormal growth in the developed world, it is precisely the unwind of this latest period of prosperity, loosely known as "The New Normal", and in which economic growth will persist at well sub-optimal (<2%) rates for the foreseeable future, that is pushing the precarious balance between labor and capital costs - in their purest economic sense, and stripped of all ethics and ideology - to a point in which labor will likely find itself at a persistent disadvantage, leading to the same social upheaval that ushered in pure Marxist ideology in the late 19th century. Only this time there will be a peculiar twist, because while in relative terms labor costs as a percentage of all operating expenses are declining around the world, when accounting for benefits, and entitlement funding, labor costs are rising in absolute terms if at uneven rates and are now at record highs. Which sets the stage for what may probably be the biggest push-pull tension of the 21st century for the simple worker: declining relative wages, which however are increasing in absolute terms when factoring in the self-funded components paid into an insolvent welfare system. But the rub comes when one considers the biggest disequilibrium creator of all: central bank predicated cost of capital "planning", whereby Fed policies may be the most insidious and stealth destroyer of all of labor's hard won gains over the past century. 

How Do the Chinese View the Gold Market?

Have you ever wondered what the typical Chinese gold investor thinks about our Western ideas of gold? We read month after month about demand hitting record after record in their country – how do they view our buying habits? Since 2007, China's demand for gold has risen 27% per year. Its share of global demand doubled in the same time frame, from 10% to 21%. And this occurred while prices were rising. Americans are buying precious metals, no doubt. But let's put the differences into perspective.

Anatomy Of The End Game

About a month ago, in the third-quarter report of a Canadian global macro fund, its strategist made the interesting observation that “…Four ideas in particular have caught the fancy of economic policy makers and have been successfully sold to the public…” One of these ideas “…that has taken root, at least among the political and intellectual classes, is that one need not fear fiscal deficits and debt provided one has monetary sovereignty…”. This idea is currently growing, particularly after Obama’s re-election. But it was only after writing our last letter, on the revival of the Chicago Plan (as proposed in an IMF’ working paper), that we realized that the idea is morphing into another one among Keynesians: That because there cannot be a gold-to-US dollar arbitrage like in 1933, governments do indeed have the monetary sovereignty. It is not; and in the process of explaining why, we will also describe the endgame for the current crisis... "…We cannot arbitrage fiat money, but we can repudiate the sovereign debt that backs it! And that repudiation will be the defining moment of this crisis…"

On Surviving The Monetary Meltdown

After 40 years of boozing on easy money and feasting on fantastical asset price inflations, the global monetary system is approaching catharsis, its arteries clogged and instant cardiac arrest a persistent threat. ‘Muddling through’ is the name of the game today but in the end authorities will have two choices: stop printing money and allow the market to cleanse the system of its dislocations. This would involve defaults (including those of sovereigns) and some pretty nasty asset price corrections. Or, keep printing money and risk complete currency collapse. We think they should go for option one but we fear they will go for option two. In this environment, how can people protect themselves and their property? Our three favourite assets are, in no particular order, gold, gold and gold. After that, there may be silver. We are, in our assessment, in the endgame of this, mankind’s latest and so far most ambitious, experiment with unconstrained fiat money. The present crisis is a paper money crisis. Whenever paper money dies, eternal money – gold and silver – stage a comeback. Remember, paper money is always a political tool, gold is market money and apolitical.

The Three "Financial Structure" Paradigms Of Modern Finance

In a prior post, we discussed the implications of the global shadow banking system having risen to the unprecedented level of roughly 100% of global GDP. By now it should be quite obvious to even the most jaded optimists, that the reason why traditional leverage conduits are no longer applicable (and the only real source of bank credit creation is the Fed via the hopeless blocked up excess reserve pathway), and why credit money (and hence in a Keynesian world "growth") has to come via deposit-free, unregulated "shadow" venues, is that there are no longer enough good money good assets for conventional secured credit creation, and viable levered projected cash flows for conventional unsecured credit creation. Yet not the entire world has gone all in on this gambit, which together with the Fed's money printing, is truly the last bastion of "money' creation. In fact, as the FRB demonstrated, there are three distinct paradigms when it comes to source of credit creation or as it puts it, "financial structure": the US "massive shadow banking system" way, the German "conventional bank deposits funds loan creation" way, and the Saudi Arabian, and soon everyone else, "central planning to the max" way. In a nutshell, these are the three credit system structure extremes, with everything else currently inbetween. These can be visualized as follows:

Guest Post: So How Many Ounces Of Gold (Or Silver) Should You Own?

There are many questions on the minds of weary precious metals investors after enduring the volatile yet range-bound price action of gold and silver over the past year:

  • Have the fundamentals for owning gold & silver changed over the past year? No
  • What are they? currency devaluation/crisis, supply-chain risk, ore grade depletion
  • How should retail investors own gold? Mostly physical metal, some quality mining majors (avoid the indices), and ETFs only for trading
  • Is gold in a bubble? No
  • Could gold get re-monetized? Quite possibly
  • Where is gold flowing? From the West to the East. At some point, capital controls will be put in place

Jeff Clark and Chris Martenson believe everyone should have exposure to gold and silver as a defense for preserving the purchasing power of their weath. The key question is: how much exposure?

Guest Post: Why The Chicago Plan Is Flawed Reasoning And Would Fail

On October 21st, 2012, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote a note titled “IMF’s epic plan to conjure away debt and dethrone bankers”, on UK’s The Telegraph. The article presented the International Monetary Fund’s working paper 12/202, also titled “The Chicago Plan revisited“. I will begin the discussion on this working paper with two disclosures: a) my personal portfolio would profit immensely if the Chicago Plan, as presented by the IMF’s working paper 12/202, was effectively carried out in the US. The reason I write today, however, is that to me, it is more important to ensure that my children live and grow in a free and prosperous world, and b) I have not read the so called Chicago Plan, as originally proposed by H. Simmons and supported by I. Fisher. My comments are on what the IMF working paper tells us that the Chicago Plan proposed, without making any claim on the original plan.

Guest Post: Will A Prophet Assume Command?

"Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation and empire." Strauss & Howe wrote these words in 1997. They understood the dynamics of how generations interact and how the mood of the country shifts every twenty or so years based upon the generational alignment that occurs as predictably as the turning of the seasons. The last generation that lived through the entire previous Crisis from 1929 through 1946 has virtually died off. For those who doubt generational theory and believe history is a linear path of human progress, I would point to the last week of chaos, disarray, government dysfunction, and misery of those who didn’t prepare for Superstorm Sandy, as a prelude to the worst of this Crisis. The lack of preparation by government officials and citizens, death, destruction, panic, anger, helplessness and realization of how fragile our system has become is a perfect analogy to our preparation for this Fourth Turning. The regeneracy of the nation will occur during the next presidential term. The mathematical impossibility of sustaining our economic system is absolute.


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The Obama Administration thus far has proven itself in favor of increased Government control and Central Planning. That is, the general trend throughout the last four years has been towards greater nationalization of industries (first finance, then automakers and now healthcare and insurance), as well as greater reliance on our Central Bank to maintain our finances.


More Greek Drama: Coalition Member PASOK "In Turmoil As It Seeks To Quell Rebellion"

First it was news that Europe's weakest link may be broken following a Greek court doing the unthinkable, and actually enforcing the constitution, and now we learn that in addition to at least one definite defection from the Greek coalition government - PASOK (as reported earlier), the entire party is now on edge as its leader, former PM Evangelos Venizeloz seeks to quell a "rebellion" ahead of next week's vote which will hardly make the government any more popular in the eyes of the general population. From Kathimerini: "PASOK has plunged into turmoil as one MP and a prominent official quit the party following a fractious vote on the government’s privatization bill on Wednesday. The draft law paving the way for the sell-off of a number of utilities and ports passed narrowly and the failure of 17 PASOK MPs to support the legislation led to party leader Evangelos Venizelos, who failed to take part in the vote himself, calling an urgent meeting with his 33 lawmakers on Wednesday evening." Why is this relevant? Because two days ago, as reported, the third member of the ruling coalition: the Democratic Left, which mans 16 votes, announced it would vote against the Troika demands. This leaves the coalition with 160 votes on a matter in which it needs a majority. Should Pasok's 17 votes also be in danger of pulling out (assuming nobody from New Democracy votes no), then one can see why Greece may once again hold the fate of the Eurozone in its hands just as the US is voting for its next president and hardly needs more European drama.