Guest Post: The Keys To Understanding The Collapse Of The Status Quo - Credibility And Expectations

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

The Keys To Understanding the Collapse of the Status Quo: Credibility and Expectations

When expectations are raised to impossible heights based on the promise of exponential financialization, the credibility of the Status Quo is doomed.

Data is important, but not all trends can be quantified. Longtime readers know that I value data and often use charts to explain the forces of transition/collapse. But there are profound dynamics that are not easily quantified, instances in which quantification may obscure our understanding.

Credibility and expectations are two such dynamics. Both credibility and expectations are very real forces, despite their status as inner states immune to direct measurement.

Beneath the surface of financial statistics, the real bedrock of any political and financial Status Quo is its credibility in the minds of its subjects. Once the people lose faith in the system, it will collapse under its own weight, a process I described in When Belief in the System Fades (March 12, 2008).

The corollary to this structural need for highly motivated, dedicated people to work the gears is that if their belief in the machine fades, then the machine grinds to a halt.

The loss of credibility in the European Union, China, Japan and the U.S. is now in full swing. Credibility is like a sand castle; every false promise, every half-truth, every simulacra "solution," every secret deal, every surrender to vested interests, every politically expedient but ultimately disastrous "fix" removes a handful of sand from beneath the sand castle.

When enough sand has been removed, the castle collapses under its own weight.

The most interesting characteristic of this hollowing out process is the apparent stability of the Status Quo until the sudden "nobody saw it coming" collapse. In the current era, the Arab Spring is a regional example of this hollowing out of credibility; in the late 1980s, the process was exemplified by the "nobody saw it coming" implosion of the Soviet Empire. In 2007-08, the exposure of phantom wealth tracked a similar pathway, with apparently "solid" institutions imploding "unexpectedly."

Can anyone seriously claim the European Union, the European Central Bank and its alphabet-soup programs still retain a shred of credibility? Every EU/ECB "save" is fictitious, every "fix" expedient, every promise empty, every face-saving summit a living lie.

Ultimately, all the posturing, promises and saves come down to an impossibility: "rescuing" phantom assets purchased with astounding levels of debt by issuing even more astounding levels of debt.

Does anyone truly believe this absurdity is anything more than a transparent fraud designed to extend the life of a failed, corrupt system constructed on fantasies and lies?

Those with assets are fleeing for less fantastic and dangerous climes. The handful of French millionaires who are supposed to magically bail out a failed-state that absorbs 55% of GDP are busy transferring their assets out of France, a mass exodus of capital that is also playing out in China, where those who embraced the slogan "to get rich is glorious" are transferring their wealth, ill-gotten or well-earned, overseas.

So vast is this outflow of wealth that for the first time the outflow of capital from China exceeds the inflow of investment capital. The smart money is exiting, and the last batch of credulous "China story" rubes are dumping their capital down a rathole.

The same process is visible in global stock markets, where the smart money is selling. The loss of credibility in the digital bucket shop known as the U.S. stock market is evidenced by the outflow of some $200 billion over the past few years. To some degree, this has been offset by the influx of foreign capital desperate to escape the black hole of the euro, but the steady erosion of faith in the U.S. stock market is striking: as noted last week, 80% of the trading is either invisible, officially sanctioned manipulation or computers trading.

If the U.S. legal system weren't hopelessly compromised, the U.S. stock markets would be shuttered as corrupted beyond redemption.

Globally, the erosion of petrocapitalism (more on that later this week, via correspondent Ray W.) and the self-destruction sequence of financialization are laying waste to the credibility of politicos' promises. It was so easy to be a politico when financialization (exponential expansion of debt and leverage) raised the global tide, lifting all boats; extravagant promises based on everlasting "growth" could be issued, votes bought and the vested interests of crony-capitalist cartels and public employees lavishly rewarded.

In this environment, expectations were raised to impossible heights. Expectations are the yin to credibility's yang: together they form a unity, as credibility is linked to the fulfillment of expectations. If expectations are raised and then dashed, credibility is eroded and then lost entirely.

Expectations everywhere have been raised to heights so lofty that the air has become thin: all these expectations are like debt-money claims on the real world: the claims can expand to near-infinity, but the real world remains stubbornly limited.

As lofty expectations are unmet, the credibility of the Status Quo inevitably decays and implodes. We are as yet in the early stages of this process. Let's check back in 2014 to see if the sand castle of the Status Quo has collapsed in a heap of wet sand, or if it is merely sagging in the pre-collapse phase.

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CH1's picture

Dear Diary...

... today I heard a serf say that the ruler is a thief... and he didn't fall dead!!

LetThemEatRand's picture

"Those with assets are fleeing for less fantastic and dangerous climes. The handful of French millionaires who are supposed to magically bail out a failed-state that absorbs 55% of GDP are busy transferring their assets out of France, a mass exodus of capital that is also playing out in China, where those who embraced the slogan "to get rich is glorious" are transferring their wealth, ill-gotten or well-earned, overseas."

And wherever they go with their trillions [it is trillions -- for example, 400 individuals have more wealth than half of the entire American population combined], they will blame government for attempting to take back that which they rightfully stole from the sheep.

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture


And wherever they go with their trillions [it is trillions -- for example, 400 individuals have more wealth than half of the entire American population combined], they will blame government for attempting to take back that which they rightfully stole from the sheep.

No they won't. They'll stash it in the Cayman Islands and then disappear,  spending their time cavorting between their Swiss chalets and their Caribbean island compounds.

FreedomGuy's picture

This theft story of the rich is such tiresome BS. Most weatlthy earned it legally and squarely. If they did not they got it through government connections. The problem is government and the idea that government owns everything and is the prime source for all prosperity. The other completely stupid idea is that if you strengthen government and give it MORE power it will go get the stolen money back and give some of it to you. That never happens other than a general bribe for you to vote them more power or make them seem legit. If all this crap worked, the USSR, Maoist China and Castro would be the envy of the world.

If I was rich and in France or maybe any other leftist country I'd be getting the hell out and trying to keep my property. Hell, I am middle class trying to keep it and the IRS is on my ass for more all the time.

By  the way, I do not deny that Sachs, JP and others get unfair advantage and steal from the public through govenrment connections. I just disagree on the solutions.

Nachdenken's picture

Middle Class is not Rich.

You and 60 million are not the Rich.

I think the reference is to the percentile with net worth of over a billion USD.  If that is what you have, you are not middle class. Congratulations.

Ghordius's picture

+1 to compare with China: 1.3bn population, 1m "rich", i.e. over one million USD of wealth, 220m "middle class", i.e. with an income over USD 10'000 per year

FreedomGuy's picture

I travel to China and it occured to me that the "poor" people of China actually loan the "rich" people of the U.S. and Europe money to pay their taxes. If you saw how the average Chinese live you might have some attack on your conscience. It is their government that lends us their money, but the poor saps actually believe Greece, Spain and the USA are going to pay them back one day. Collectivist countries always steal other people's money if they can get their hands on it.


FreedomGuy's picture

For those of you who junked me, which is fine...I suspect most of you are moronic collectivists of sorts with an occasional conspiracist. Let me ask you this; if the rich as a class got their money unfairly and owe more to the poor, where do you stop with this? The middle class can use government to seize the earnings of the rich...the welfare class can seize the assets of the middle class. Mississippi can take the assets of New York. Liberty City can take stuff from South Beach.

Wait! Bolivia can then seize mines owned by Canada! Nigeria can take all property owned by Exxon. Cuba can tax U.S. citizens to establish fairness.

The guy with the sign at the interstate off ramp can rob anyone in a car...

Socialism is for losers and aspiring autocrats.

Anusocracy's picture

The productive in society are always sold down the river by their government.

DeadFred's picture

The productive fetch a better price, who down river would buy a non-productive?

Dr. Engali's picture

Where in the hell is Banzai?! He pulled a Corzine and disappeared.

buzzsaw99's picture

corzine is hiding in the lincoln bedroom

FreedomGuy's picture

Are they trying to find him and serve him a subpoena? Not if it's up to consigliere Holder!

roadsnbridges's picture

You would too, if you were about to be indicted in 5 months.

CH1's picture

And that would be when the Red President is sworn in?

Oh, yeah, the Red team and Blue team are SOOOO different!


Nachdenken's picture

WB is caught in a Brainstorm.  He will soon by back with his graphic thunder and lightning. Check out FlickR.

buzzsaw99's picture

the uber-wealthy think they can destroy the middle class without destroying themselves.

dark pools of soros's picture

they have enough wealth and high ground to ride out the carnage

MarsInScorpio's picture



Tell that to the aristocrats held by the Paris Commune . . .


dark pools of soros's picture

the only hope for a current reversing of the tide would be the rumors of the military backed state successions


but will enough sheep learn to be lions overnight?

Cloud9.5's picture

A coup, really?  The borders are going to be closed and the bad guys are going to be arrested.   Leaders in the military are going to save us.  I’m supposed to take comfort in that? Who are these leaders?  Are they from the red team or the blue team?  Who will they deem to be the bad guys?  Will I wind up on the wrong side of the fence? 

Bartanist's picture

Until 10,000 peasants decide that they want to come over for dinner, a cigar and a swim... it won't be 10.

buzzsaw99's picture

Look, the people you are after are the people you depend on. We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep. Do not... fuck with us. [/Tyler Durden Fight Club]

buzzsaw99's picture

Besides creating a buffer a strong middle class is absolutely necessary to a vibrant real economy. Otherwise there will be nothing but the waltons in their arkansas bunker and the miserable hopeless wage slave who work in their stores but need public assistance to buy the very groceries they stock and check. Carried to it's logical conclusion both are eventually brought to ruin and end up huddled in the dark.

dark pools of soros's picture

tell that to the Kulaks....


Moscow understood that if this process was allowed to continue for another decade the Soviet Russian empire would break up along national lines, much as the Austro-Hungarian empire had at the end of the First World War. The Kremlin rulers realized another essential reality: the empire could only be held together with totalitarianism. And that meant totalitarianism in every sphere of life. Only absolute state power could guarantee a unified empire. Although Russian chauvinistic opposition to the Ukrainian renaissance never completely disappeared, it was ineffective during the 1920s for two reasons. Firstly, private enterprise automatically brought with it pluralism in other spheres of life. It was comparable to fresh rain falling on the young shoots of the national movement. Secondly, the national awakening unleashed by the revolution of 1917 burgeoned during the decade of the 1920s.

The historical pendulum began to swing in a different direction at the close of the 1920s. The energy of the national renaissance was depleted, indicating the beginning of a decline. The regrouped imperial forces sensed that the time had come to strike back. Their revenge took three forms: 1. The elimination of private property in the villages and the imposition of totalitarian agriculture in the form of the collective farm ("kolhosp" or, in Russian, "kolkhoz"); 2. The uprooting of private enterprise in industry and trade; 3. The annihilation of pluralism in the arts. All cultural associations were replaced by unitary cultural unions, one each for writers, artists, journalists, and so forth.

The crucial essence of this program was the annihilation of the traditional village structure, which had always been the nation's foundation. Stalin recognized the key role of the village in the movement for national liberation. "The village is the major army in a national movement," he wrote. "Without the village the movement becomes impossible. This is what we mean when we say that the national question is, in effect, the village question. / 7

buzzsaw99's picture

thank you. the maggots are not kulaks. they are true enemies of the people. the paper shuffling kleptocratic corzines of the wrold produce nothing but misery and despair while their avarice knows no bounds. do you support the "steal as much as you can, oppress who you can, plunder while you can" philosophy of the maggots?

dark pools of soros's picture

i see good people doing nothing... the Kulaks were destroyed by the Bolsheviks just as any independent spirit will be destroyed by the Zionists

there is a rash of hate brewing vs the bankers and the puppet politicans but the masses are helpless to live without their masters.. they are more scared of freedom than their chains




buzzsaw99's picture

I agree with your second paragraph. For many reasons (old familiar reasons, weakness, stupidity, complacency, fear, naivete, etc., among the masses) the "masters" as you call them will continue as before for some time but not forever.


Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world... [/Yeats]

dark pools of soros's picture

there is a lot of truth in this essay and it was written before the '08 collapse

"I realize that all Americans aren’t afraid of all the things I cited above, but I’ll bet all Americans are afraid of at least one of them. If we fail to analyze our fears and determine what, specifically, we are afraid of, then a generalized fear lurks in the back of our minds, unarticulated, and easily channeled for nefarious purposes. Clearly a significant percentage of Americans fall into this category, enough to lend support to the government’s efforts to exploit that fear. Americans are a thousand times as likely to die in a car crash (that happened just a month ago to someone I knew) as in a terrorist attack. Americans’ misplaced fear is simply irrational, perhaps the result of atrophied critical thinking skills, our dumbed down educational system, or our agenda-driven corporate-government media."

atomicwasted's picture

Know your source.  IHR is not credible.

DeadFred's picture

The Soviets didn't have computers to aid their efforts. The end of the game we're now in is still uncertain.

MarsInScorpio's picture



Short, sweet, utterly accurate.


Bartanist's picture

The military becomes the new middle class and looting the old middle class becomes their pay ... until they inevitably realize they do not need the wealthy and that the rape and looting leaves an empty place inside them.

Gordon Freeman's picture

OOh, thank you!  That's deep...

FreedomGuy's picture

I don't think they believe that. Most own real businesses. I think they beleive they can survive and maybe buy protection like Timmy Geithner and Sachs, but they will not prosper, either.

CheapBastard's picture

"No one saw this coming."

Row Well Number 41's picture

Sure they saw it coming, They mistook the frieght train for the light at the end of the tunnel.  :p


disabledvet's picture

I'll leave it to all of you to decide if i did this successfully or not but I know i've been trying to say going on YEARS now that "TPTB have an INCREDIBLE way forward however!" I call it my mission in make these clowns really think "YES WE CAN!" (something tells me the Wall Street set had a different take than what the Obama Administration had in mind when they coined that term. And indeed THEY HAVE!) The American variant has indeed impressed me...the EZ variant however...well

A Lunatic's picture

The chasm between credibility and expectations can get a Hell of a lot wider and attract little notice by most. In fact, that is the basis of any abusive relationship. We have become a nation of dogs returning to their own vomit.........

shovelhead's picture

I'm afraid my disillusionment is taking on a tinge of paranoia...

My dog is starting to look a little shifty-eyed.

He's up to something, I can feel it.

Bartanist's picture

This is why limiting the president to two terms is not a burden to those in control. Within 2 terms every political leader fails and disappoints. The masses must be distracted with a slight of hand and a few new faces to provide them new expectations and false hope.

I don't suppose it must be this way. It is just that it historically has been this way.

LetThemEatRand's picture

"Slight of hand" is your paid government troll ass jacking your slight a.k.a. small member along with your SEC friends while the bankers rob us blind.    "Sleight of hand" is what is considered magic.