Guest Post: What Could Go Right?
Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,
A number of macro-issues could "go the right way" in the coming months.
Correspondent David N. gently suggested I devote some effort to what could go right in the months ahead, and I think this is an excellent suggestion.
I notice that you are relentlessly negative in your outlook, and a wise sage once told me that this is a trap that many erudite people fall into--namely, being too negative about the future. Occasionally you have to force yourself to study the other side, the bullish "yin" to the bearish "yang". I think you and your readers would be well-served if you would devote some of your ruminations to what can possibly "go right."
Thank you, David, for presenting me with a positive challenge. I think David is right about the trap, though I suspect it is less a trap of negativity and more one of being pressed into stripping away the artifice and propaganda that obfuscates the real situation, depriving us of the first step toward solutions: accepting reality and setting aside fantasies.
This was the point of yesterday's entry, The Positive Power of Crisis (October 4, 2012).
Some of you may think I am being jocularly dismissive in my list, but I am quite serious. Nothing good can possibly come from artifice, propaganda, misdirection and simulacra "fixes." Something must break through the facade for good things to happen. OK, let's get started:
1. The global contraction could pick up momentum, crushing demand for oil. Recall that the price of oil is set on the margins, so modest fluctuations in supply and demand have outsized effects on price. Price drops when demand falls faster than supply, meaning that global exports of oil could decline but as long as demand declines even more sharply than supply, the price of oil could plummet.
The price of oil falling in half would be a great boon for consumers around the world, and as we will see below, it even has a silver lining for citizens of oil exporting nations. Using 2008 as a recent model, we can expect oil to fall to $35/barrel once demand craters. Below around $50/barrel, oil-dependent regimes such as Iran and Venezuela cannot fund their militaries, welfare states and bureaucracies. As a result they will implode.
2. Mideast tensions decline as the Syrian dictatorship collapses and an attack on Iran is shelved by the U.S. There are too many long-standing tensions and conflicts in the Mideast to hope for anything but relative calm, but relative calm would be conducive to a slow normalization of relations and modest but steady improvements in the lives of residents.
The collapse of the Baathist dictatorship in Syria would be a major positive, as the Syrian grip on Lebanon would loosen, Iran would lose its key regional ally, and the Syrian people would have a chance (not a guarantee, but an opportunity nonetheless) to establish a government that was less oppressive and more responsive to their aspirations.
Notice what happens when you combine 1) and 2): the Iranian dictatorship also falls. The Iranian people have long suffered under a repressive dictatorship, and its collapse would give them a chance (not a guarantee, but an opportunity nonetheless) to establish a government that was less oppressive and more responsive to their aspirations. (Ditto Venezuela.)
Iran is already suffering from hyper-inflation, more from gross mismanagement of the economy than from Western sanctions, though the sanctions provide an easy target for the failed regime. Street protests are spontaneously arising as people's already-limited wealth is completely and utterly destroyed by the regime's cronyism and incompetence.
Following the SOP (standard operating procedure) of all dictatorships, the Iranian regime is responding to the impoverishment of its citizens with police suppression. The collapse of oil prices will provide the last straw.
Although you won't read this in the mainstream media (MSM), the U.S. does not want Iran destroyed or crippled, as Shi'ite Iran provides an essential counterbalance to Sunni extremism. Those predicting an Israeli strike on Iran will be proven wrong, as the U.S. has nixed that as counterproductive to the Great Game.
Once traders finally "get it" that the Israeli war drums were largely domestic politics in action and the U.S. has ixnayed military action against Iran, the "war premium" currently priced into oil will dissipate.
As I have long suggested, a massive, sustained decline in oil is a "head-fake" in the bigger scheme of things, but in the near-term it will provide a catalyst for all sorts of incompetent, oppressive oil-dependent dictatorships to exit stage left, clearing the stage for more responsive and competent governments.
3. One nation exits the euro and the sun rises the following day on a healing Europe. It might be Greece, it might be Germany, it might be Spain, it might be Italy: all that matters is that somebody steps up and exits the euro and renounces all its debts, or in the case of Germany, renounces its promises to cover all the impaired private-bank debt that is crushing Europe.
Once people wake up and find the sun is shining despite the "disaster," they will realize the real disaster was trying to pay unpayable debts and promises and staying in the euro. Life will quickly get better once one brave and resolute set of leaders renounces unpayable debts and exits the euro. Other nations will quickly follow and the owners of bad debt will finally be handed the losses that are well and truly theirs to absorb.
Renounce and restructure: there is no other way forward. What could go right is one nation declares the truth, renounces unpayable debt and exits the euro and the iron stranglehold of the European Central Bank (ECB)/Troika.
- Why the Eurozone and the Euro Are Both Doomed (June 23, 2011)
- Yet Another Reason Why the Euro Is Doomed (October 17, 2011)
- Why the Euro Might Devolve into Euro1 and Euro2 (March 2, 2010)
- What's Lost With the Demise of the Euro? Only What Was Unsustainable (November 22, 2011)
- Why Isn't Anyone Talking About Writing Off 3 Trillion Euros of Bad Debt? (November 15, 2011)
- It's Your Choice, Europe: Rebel Against the Banks or Accept Debt-Serfdom (December 5, 2011)
- A Crazy Idea That Might Just Work: Greece's New Currency, the U.S. Dollar (May 14, 2012)
4. The U.S. dollar continues strengthening, making imports cheaper for U.S. households. No nation ever became powerful with a weakening currency. Non-U.S. holders of capital are moving their capital into the U.S. at a rate of about $75 billion a month, roughly equivalent to the Fed's entire QE3 program. This is good news for households and the U.S. economy, despite the naysayers who claim the U.S. dollar's rise is some sort of catastrophe for America.
Yes, exports may be pressured, but they're going to be pressured by global recession anyway. A stronger dollar helps reprice money, debt and risk, all of which desperately need repricing.
- What's Hated Most May Be a Contrarian Buy (U.S. Dollar) (April 19, 2011)
- Some Heretical Thoughts on the U.S. Dollar (November 21, 2011)
- Why the U.S. Dollar Is Not Going to Zero Anytime Soon (July 23, 2012)
5. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke takes one too many hits of Ibogaine and suffers an unprecedented bout of inexplicable honesty, declaring on national TV that the Fed is a ponzi scheme, he has no control over employment and the Fed exists to preserve the banks' wealth and power. The normally sedate Chairman apologizes to the American people for lying about the Fed's real agenda and its illusory power to fix a dysfunctional, corrupt, fraud-based neofeudal economy.
OK, I realize this is unlikely, but history is replete with unexpected eruptions of truth and honesty by an insider who finally sickens of all the lies, prevarications, half-truths, secret bailouts, pay-offs, bribes and cronyism that is the Status Quo in America's machinery of finance and governance. It won't be Ben, but perhaps someone in the Power Elite will finally value his/her integrity above cash and status and deliver the truth to the public.
It's a long shot, but we can always hope. Without truth, there is truly no hope.
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