Back in the summer of 2008, when crude seemed poised to take out $150, Goldman decided to declare the start of a commodity supercycle and boosted its oil price forecast to $200. Shortly thereafter crude cratered, plunging to the low double digits, and causing many to scratch their heads whether Goldman was merely taking advantage of the pre-Lehman panic to sell into the euphoria. The same questions, but inverted, will likely follow today's just as seminal note, one which this time calls for the end of a supercycle, this time of iron, with "The end of the Iron Age."
Once an empire has reached this stage, it never reverses. It is a “dead empire walking” and only awaits the painful playing-out of the final three stages. At that point, it is foolhardy in the extreme to remain and “wait it out” in the hope that the decline will somehow reverse. At that point, the wiser choice might be to follow the cue of the Chinese, the Romans, and others, who instead chose to quietly exit for greener pastures elsewhere.
The global economic downturn of 2008, in particular its monetary facet, readily invites comparison between the troubles of the modern world and those of the Roman Empire; just as Western currencies have declined precipitously in value since their commodity backing was removed in stages starting roughly a century ago, Roman currencies were also troubled, and present a cautionary tale. The Roman coin in use through most of the empire was the denarius, which demonstrated a persistent decline in value, starting from the time of transition from Republic to Empire, and continuing until its decimation during the Crisis of the Third Century AD. Although efforts by Diocletian taken after the monetary collapse are commonly associated with Roman economic reform, there were other efforts by earlier, lesser known emperors that suddenly and unexpectedly improved the silver content and value of the denarius. Firsthand accounts and archeological findings provide sufficient detail to allow examination of these short, if noteworthy, periods of voluntary restorative policies – and their architects.
There is a standard view of energy and the economy that can briefly be summarized as follows: Economic growth can continue forever; we will learn to use less energy supplies; energy prices will rise; and the world will adapt. The following view of how energy and the economy fit together is very different - it is based on the principle of reaching limits in a finite world.
“If I scare you this morning, and as a result you take action, then I will have accomplished my goal," is how Casey Research's Jeff Clark began a recent conference speech. But the reality is that he didn’t need to try to scare anyone. Sadly, the evidence is overwhelming and has already alarmed most investors; our greatest risk is not a bad investment but our political exposure. And yet most of these same investors do not see any need to stash bullion outside their home countries. They view international diversification as an extreme move. Many don’t even care if capital controls are instituted. We're convinced that this is the most common - and important - strategic investment error made today...
Roughly a month ago, we exposed CYNK Technology Corp. The CYNK bubble was, of course, the result of carefully planned deceit and clever promotion by a handful of people who stood to make a lot of money on the trade. But when you think about it, CYNK’s stock wasn’t really any dumber than owning US Treasuries. In the case of CYNK, it only took about a month for the bubble to inflate and burst. The Treasury bubble, on the other hand, was built on credibility earned over decades; but while previous generations earned the world’s trust, modern day politicians have blown through it. Now all they have left is their snake oil sales pitch. And a mountain of obligations that closed July 2014 at a record high $17.69 trillion.
There are many ways to look at the United States government debt, obligations, and assets. But TrimTabs's Charles Biderman cuts straight to the bottom line and add it all up - $89.5 trillion in liabilities and $82 trillion in assets. There. It’s not a secret anymore, and although these are all government numbers, for some strange reason the government never adds them all together or explains them - but we will. No one can really know what will have value in this politicized crony capitalistic system as the hyper-monetization ramps up... all I can suggest is to hedge your bets with some physical precious metals and some minimal leveraged real estate. Unfortunately, the more you know, the more you know you don’t know... invest and live accordingly.
As the topic of "unpatriotic" 'tax inversions' becomes a political issue, we thought it interesting to examine how big an economic issue it really is. How much income tax do U.S. companies actually pay every year to the Federal government? As ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, the simple answer is “Not much”, at least as compared to any other major source of revenue. In Fiscal 2013, Colas adds, the total was $274 billion, or just 9.9% of all tax and withholding receipts. Your political leanings will inform your opinion about whether that number is too high or too low, of course; but we point out that, as Reuters reports, a former international tax counsel at Treasury explains Obama could "slam dunk" dictate an end to 'tax inversions' without Congressional approval (by invoking a little known 1969 tax law)
Working for the government was always pitched as somehow being better guaranteed than risky private corporations. However, the problem with government pensions has been they promised whatever sounded nice, with zero accountability. The presumption that tax revenue was an endless pit is one of those fallacies that nobody ever investigates. The ramifications of what happens in Detroit will ripple through the entire debt structure nationally for if this will be the new game plan to follow, why should people buy any government debt whatsoever if not even bankruptcy laws apply? As we said – he who makes the laws never goes to jail for breaking them.
The more one thinks about potential solutions to the gigantic mess we have found ourselves in as a species, the more one has come to believe we need to break apart into a vast multitude of city-states. The revolutionary concept of America in the first place was this idea of “self-governance,” something we do not posses an iota of in this day and age. As was noted recently in an academic paper published by Princeton and Northwestern, these United States have mutated into nothing short of an oligarchy. In fact, the study demonstrated that the will of the people has essentially zero impact on legislation whatsoever. The current overly centralized paradigm parasitically engulfing the planet will experience a series of spectacular collapses in the years ahead that will make 2008 look like practice. As the centralized beast episodically implodes upon itself, we will have a historic chance to remake our world in a new way that will better serve humanity. That new paradigm will consist of freedom through decentralization
The story of energy and the economy seems to be an obvious common sense one: some sources of energy are becoming scarce or overly polluting, so we need to develop new ones. The new ones may be more expensive, but the world will adapt. Prices will rise and people will learn to do more with less. Everything will work out in the end. It is only a matter of time and a little faith. In fact, the Financial Times published an article recently called “Looking Past the Death of Peak Oil” that pretty much followed this line of reasoning. However, energy common sense doesn’t work because the world is finite.
Believe it or not, the main driver of risk overnight had nothing to do with Iraq, with the global economy or even with hopes for more liquidity, and everything to do with a largely meaningless component of Japan's future tax policy, namely whether or not Abe (who at this pace of soaring imported inflation and plunging wages won't have to worry much about 2015 as he won't be PM then) should cut the corporate tax rate in 2015. As Bloomberg reported, Abe, speaking to reporters in Tokyo today after a meeting with Finance Minister Taro Aso and Economy Minister Akira Amari, said the plan would bring the rate under 30 percent in a few years. He said alternative revenue will be secured for the move, which requires approval from the Diet.
We can be happy. And we can hope. But it’s dangerous to presume that all the challenges improve simply because a new group of people is installed into positions of power. This is the fallacy that persists at nearly every election cycle– people cheer that the new guy is going to fix everything. And this excitement almost always turns to disappointment. Optimism is great. But it’s dangerous to invest one’s faith in a political system. Elections merely change the players. They don’t change the game. And it is the game that is fundamentally flawed.
"... there might not be any army groups encroached on the border. But the warning signs are just as clear as they were back in Poland in 1939. This is not a consequence free environment. Unfortunately, most people are just as oblivious..."