I recently sat down with my friend Jason Burack from Wall St for Main St.
Jason and I had an in-depth discussion on the decline of globalism, the War on Cash, and more.
I think you’ll enjoy our conversation.
* * *
Jason Burack: It seems that globalism may be on the retreat. What’s your opinion about that, in light of Brexit, Donald Trump winning, and the Italian referendum failing?
Nick Giambruno: I think you’re right, Jason. Right now globalism is on the decline. But let’s define “globalism” before I explain why. This word gets thrown around a lot. But most people don’t really know what it means.
It’s very simple. Globalism is the centralization of power into a couple of global institutions: the EU, the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, NAFTA, NATO, and so on. It’s really just a polite way of describing world government, or what George H.W. Bush termed the New World Order.
I think globalism and the centralization of power is always a bad thing. People who value individual freedom and economic freedom… really, freedom in general, should oppose it.
It’s an interesting moment in history. Those three things you just mentioned—Brexit, Trump, and the failure of the Italian referendum—are clear signs that globalism is losing steam.
Whether it’s a sort of one step back, two steps forward thing or the ideology of globalism is really on its way out remains to be seen.
Jason: Look at what’s going on with Brexit. The elites in London and Brussels are still fighting it. You had your boots on the ground in Italy. How angry were the people you talked to there about the referendum? Are they actually serious about leaving the EU?
Nick Giambruno: Well, here’s the thing. Most Italians didn’t know what the referendum was about. They just knew a “Yes” vote was a vote of confidence in Matteo Renzi’s pro-EU, pro-globalist government.
In short, the referendum was about taking power away from Italy’s regional and city governments and concentrating it more in the country’s central government. So it was worth opposing on that basis alone.
Most Italians didn’t understand the complex and arcane constitutional changes written into the referendum. So it took on a life of its own when Matteo Renzi promised to resign if it failed. That’s a vote everyone can understand.
When Renzi made that promise, he thought it was a safe bet. It’s similar to what happened to David Cameron with the Brexit vote.
But after I spent a few weeks in Italy—I’m also an Italian citizen—it was clear the referendum was no slam dunk. That’s why I predicted it would fail, and that Renzi would resign, months in advance.
Jason: So, what happens next, now that Renzi’s government has collapsed?
Nick Giambruno: There’s a rising populist party in Italy called the Five Star Movement. It’s actually led by a comedian. The party basically started out as a joke a few years ago.
Italians are so frustrated with so-called “mainstream” political parties that they’ve deserted them en masse for the Five Star Movement and other anti-establishment populist parties like the Lega Nord. The Five Star Movement is basically leading the polls as the most popular party in Italy.
All of Italy’s populist parties want a referendum on ditching the euro for Italy’s old currency, the lira. I think it would pass.
Italy hasn’t had any real economic growth since it joined the euro in 1999. That’s pretty profound. The Italian economy is in the same place it was 17 years ago. A lot of that is because the euro makes Italy uncompetitive with countries like Germany.
The next Italian government could be a coalition of anti-EU populist parties. If that happens, there’s an excellent chance Italy could leave the euro.
Keep in mind that Italy is a core member of the euro. If it leaves, France would probably leave, too. And if that happens, the euro is finished.
Jason: Without the euro, what’s left holding the EU together?
Nick Giambruno: Almost nothing. The euro is the main glue. Without it, the whole EU could unravel.
We’re still early in the process. But it doesn’t look good for the globalists and the Eurocrats. I think historians will look back at the failure of the December 4 Italian referendum as a crucial tipping point.
With globalism failing, I’m not sure what happens next. No one does.
We could see a rise of nationalism, which wouldn’t be a good thing. Or political power could diffuse even further, which would be a better outcome. Decentralization is good for individual and economic freedom.
So, instead of a rise of nationalism—which would strengthen the existing nation-states—European countries could split apart. Italy, for example, has only been a “country” since the mid-1800s. There are a number of serious secessionist movements in Italy and other European countries. I think there’s a very good chance some European nation-states will break apart—not just in our lifetimes, but in the intermediate future.
Jason: If Italy returns to the Italian lira, do you think it would prevent bailouts of the troubled Italian banks?
Nick Giambruno: The Italian banking system is a mile-high house of cards that’s getting wobblier by the day. As I mentioned, the Italian economy has stagnated for years. It hasn’t really grown since it joined the euro. This has translated into big problems for Italy’s banking system.
Italian banks have made hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of loans to Italian individuals and businesses—loans that have soured along with the economy. They’re like an insatiable black hole that’s swallowing all the capital in Italy’s banking system.
Returning to the lira wouldn’t herald an era of sound economics. It just means the Italian government could recapitalize the banking system by turning on the printing press. It can’t do that with the euro.
On a somewhat related note, this example relates to the seemingly eternal inflation/deflation debate. I think it shows that ultimately, in a fiat money system where the government can create as many new currency units as it wants, deflation will always lose out to inflation.
Things are very different than they were in the 1930s. Back then, the last remnants of the gold standard meant most governments couldn’t print money to bail out failing banks. This limited their ability to create new currency units. Of course, that’s not the case today.
It’s completely predictable what any government with its back against the wall will do. They always choose the easy option, the option that preserves their own power… money printing on a massive scale.
That’s why inflation always wins out in the end.
Jason: That brings me to my next point. It seems like the elites are really pushing for a cashless society. Do you think Donald Trump is able to or would even want to stop this?
Nick Giambruno: I think the War on Cash is directly related to the world’s unsound banking systems. Thanks to the magic—or more accurately, institutionalized fraud—of fractional reserve banking, most banks only keep a small fraction of their depositors’ money on hand. It’s a very unstable, shaky situation.
One of the biggest mistakes the average person makes is thinking the money he puts in his bank account is his. It’s not.
Once you deposit money in the bank, it’s no longer your property. It belongs to the bank. What you own is a promise from the bank to repay you. Technically, you’re an unsecured creditor. That means you’re on the bottom of the totem pole if the bank goes bust. And you’re very likely to get burned if the bank gets in trouble.
Money in a bank is a very different beast than cash stuffed under your mattress. Yet 99.9% of people conflate the two.
Many people think the FDIC or some government safety net will rescue them if and when their bank fails. But the FDIC has only a couple of pennies for every dollar it supposedly insures. It wouldn’t take much to wipe out all of their reserves. So it’s really a false sense of security.
The average person is not even dimly aware of the enormous risks inherent in the banking system.
Jason: How does this all relate to the War on Cash?
Nick Giambruno: The War on Cash is a prop. It forces people out of cash and into banks. So it’s no surprise the war is ramping up as banking systems deteriorate.
Then you have what Nassim Taleb would call the “Intellectual Yet Idiot” from Harvard—people like Ken Rogoff and Larry Summers who’ve made a cashless society their mission. And it all starts with eliminating the $100 bill.
These people get prominent space in the mainstream financial media. They create an echo chamber of calls for a cashless society. It’s creepy and totalitarian. I mean, what kind of a person wakes up in the morning wanting to do things that would extinguish many of our remaining liberties?
Privacy is a fundamental human right. It's necessary to protect human dignity, which is essential to a free society. But unfortunately, a lot of people have forgotten that.
Also, in a cashless society, the government can concoct an unlimited number of new ways to confiscate your wealth.
The War on Cash is a mortal threat to individual and economic liberty. I think its advocates are clearly sociopaths and enemies of the common man. Unfortunately, I don’t see the war slowing down. I see it heating up.
Just look at what happened in India recently. On the day of the US election—when the whole world was distracted—the Indian government ambushed its citizens. Instantly, and without warning, it declared certain high-value currency notes invalid.
They said, “Oh, well, tax evaders, drug dealers, and terrorists use cash so we have to get rid of it or make it harder to use.”
It’s completely ridiculous. Anybody who can think critically and independently can see right through this. It’s simply a clumsily executed power grab. It’s done nothing but create chaos and harm the Indian economy.
Yet, when I read about it in the mainstream financial media, I often come across articles praising the Indian government for its bold reforms. It’s quite strange, like we’re living in a bizarro world.
Instead of resisting, the Indian people sheepishly accepted their government’s blatant power grab. This will likely embolden other governments… and the Intellectual Yet Idiot class, of course.
It means we should expect the War on Cash to accelerate in 2017. I haven’t seen any evidence suggesting Trump would reverse any of this.