I’ve written an unusual amount about the financial systems of the world over the past month. Honestly, I’ve felt that I’d be derelict not to.
Please understand that I’m not giving you prescriptions. I trust that you are capable of making your own plans. My concern is that by living inside the present financial system, people can easily believe nothing will ever really change.
You might also keep in mind that I dislike the present financial system for philosophical reasons. I would much rather build a decentralized economy than to remain in a rigged, corporatist economy.
My message to you today is really a simple one: We’re not in our fathers’ economy anymore.
All Is Bandage and Splint
The financial systems of the Western world are standing only because of emergency measures.
Since 2008, the central banks of the West have spent literally trillions of dollars and Euros to keep their economies functioning. And they haven’t been able to cut that back, even though they’ve tried. If we went back to the “normal” of 1970, 1980 or 1990, the system would collapse into a heap.
So… bandages and splints.
A huge portion of all government bonds in the West, on the order of $10 or $15 trillion worth, are yielding negatively. Put in $10,000. and get $9,800. back. It’s almost an insanity((Short term bond traders can still make money on such bonds if the market goes even more negative in the future. Then, they can sell their bonds at a mark-up since they are “less bad than the new ones.”)). This has never happened before, and no one is sure about its effects over time.
More bandages and splints.
Interest rates have been lower and longer than ever in recorded history. This has artificially inflated everything from house prices (who cares about anything but the monthly payment these days) to stock prices (the CEO takes a ridiculously cheap loan, buys back his company’s stock, the price goes up, and he gets a huge bonus).
Yeah, more bandages and splints.
Governments, at the same time, are running deficits like they never have before((You can find short passages where they did worse in the middle of wars, but nothing really analogous to this.)). They keep doing it because profligate spending keeps things from crashing, and because insanely low-interest rates keep them from facing the consequences.
So, still more bandage and splint. I’ll stop here, even though I’m quite sure I could go on for some time.
And Beneath That…
Please bear in mind that all those bandages and splints are the surface rigging. The structural rigging is a mess too.
Gold used to be what kept the system honest: If you played games with your currency, the gold trade would nail you. But even the possibility of that ended in 1971.
Stock prices, back in the day, were based on what were called fundamentals. Nowadays they depend on central banks, tweets and algorithms.
Also back in the olden days, people retired on dividend income. That is, on the actual profits earned by companies. Nowadays, they retire based upon the aforementioned stock prices, which are more or less untethered from things like profits and losses. The secure retirement of millions, then, rests upon the whims of others.
And perhaps worst of all, John and Jane Doe are hip-deep in the Debt game. Everyone’s playing it, after all. They have loans for everything, cultivate their credit scores like their lives depend upon it, and have more or less no hope of paying off their debts in their lifetimes. And whether or not people acknowledge it (your friends are playing too… don’t be rude), the collateral damage from this is serious.
And so, at this level it isn’t all bandage and splint, it’s also rusted beams, wood bracing and super-sized duct tape.
Again, I’m not telling anyone to do anything. What I’m really doing is unburdening my conscience. I have a small public platform here, and I’ve felt obliged to make people aware of this situation.
Do as you wish, but do it with your eyes open.
If you want a deeper understanding of these issues, see: