Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Top 10%'s Bubble Is About to Burst

When the top 10%'s bubble pops in 2021, the loss of illusions/delusions of security and wealth will be shattering to all those who believed artifice and illusory "wealth" were real.

A great many people are living in bubbles that are about to pop. The largest bubble is the one inhabited by people who complacently believe in time travel, i.e. that the world of 2019 is about to replace the nightmare of 2020 and we can all go back to our carefree debt-funded consumption frenzy and illusions of ever-greater wealth forever and ever.

The greater one's sense of security, the more durable the bubble. Those in America's top 10% who have reaped virtually all the gains in income and wealth of the past 20 years live in a bubble that they view as unbreakable: no matter what problems arise, their personal income and wealth is secured by the government, central bank, etc.

Put another way, the top 10% are confident their position atop the wealth-power pyramid is secure no matter what happens. Any dip in stocks, bonds, real estate, bat guano futures, etc. that causes their personal wealth to decline (horrors!) will be instantly bought because the Federal Reserve will print another couple trillion dollars and funnel it into risk assets, as it has done for the past 20 years.

Any spot of bother in the gravy trains that fund the top 10%--local and state government, universities, Big Tech, Big Pharma, Department of Defense, Wall Street, hedge funds, venture capital, etc.-- will be doused with trillions of dollars borrowed or printed into existence by the Treasury or Fed. No matter what spot of bother arises, the solution--more trillions--is just a few keystrokes away.

The top 10% are supremely confident in the godlike powers of these agencies and solutions: the idea that these "solutions" become insoluble problems does not compute, just as a decline in asset valuations that doesn't rebound within three weeks thanks to Fed intervention is firmly outside the realm of possibility.

The top 10% are also supremely confident in the rightness of their position atop the heap. That their position atop the heap is largely the result of a web of privilege and a long run of extraordinarily good fortune does not enter their bubble at all; in their bubble, their wealth, status, prestige and income are all the result of hard work and merit.

While this is certainly true for some, it is not true for all, and even those who scraped their way to the top the hard way do not recognize that their success over the past 20 years (and arguably the past 50 years) has been largely the result of a financialized rising tide raising all boats. In a Bull Market in virtually everything (except commodities), everyone is a hard-working genius who got it all via merit.

On top of this myopic belief that their success is all the result of their own endeavors rather than a tide of financialization, the top 10% are equally blind to the toxic consequences of the wealth/income inequality that has so richly benefited the few at the expense of the many. The idea that the bottom 90% might rebel against the financial / political system that has favored the already-wealthy for a generation is outside the top 10%'s realm of possibility.

But tides do not run in one direction forever, and a revolt against the unprecedented inequality that heavily favors the top 10% is not "impossible," it's a certainty. The top 10% are accustomed to being admired and respected for their accomplishments, expertise, wise investing and professional acumen. They are accustomed to viewing themselves as the essential technocrat class that keeps the U.S. system functioning.

The problem with this self-congratulatory perspective is the U.S. system is now in thrall to process rather than results. The technocrat class has been trained to follow needlessly complex procedures and compliance processes as the path to professional advancement while avoiding accountability for the increasingly dismal results of America's bloated, sclerotic, insider-dominated systems.

All this needless complexity will be jettisoned once printing/borrowing trillions become the problem rather than the solution. The bottom 90% will demand not just a fairer distribution of income and wealth, they will also demand a system that actually functions for the greater social good rather than for insiders, parasites, leeches and technocrat processors who declare victory not from results but from their success in following approved processes / narratives.

Once costs must be cut and results take precedence over process, much of the technocrat class will find itself replaced by automated software. Those that remain will be valued for getting results by whatever means are available, up to and including ignoring all compliance procedures and bureaucratic box-ticking.

The top 10%--the rentier-technocrat class--will find the bottom 90% can no longer pay their rent, insurance, etc.--all the "services" that employ and enrich the top 10%. In other words, the losses as unproductive complexity unravels will finally fall on the top 10%, many of whom have been protected from exposure to market forces and risk.

Lastly, the top 10%'s ownership of assets will be crushed by asset deflation as insolvency can no longer be papered over by liquidity. Assets that are the foundation of top 10% wealth (that the bottom 90% own very little of) will go bidless as phantom wealth dissipates into the thin air from whence it came.

The top 10% reckon they're untouchable, safe and protected in their asset lifeboats, and the sinking of the 90% won't affect them. The top 10%'s bubble is about to burst. Not only will their lifeboats prove unstable, every level of government will come after whatever is left as taxes will soar on virtually every form of income and wealth.

Unlike the bottom 60%, who have few illusions about the rampant unfairness and predation of real-world America, the top 10%'s bubble is 90% illusion seasoned with 10% absolute delusion. The comfortable are about to experience some of the discomfort that is everyday life for the bottom 60%, and an increasing percentage of the next 30% who still aspire to fantasies of middle-class security will find social mobility is an escalator down.

We cannot print wealth, or borrow it into existence. All we can print/borrow is artifice, phantom representations of illusory "wealth" that will vanish into thin air, in a reverse of how the "money" was created--out of thin air.

When the top 10%'s bubble pops in 2021, the loss of illusions/delusions of security and wealth will be shattering to all those who believed artifice and illusory "wealth" were real. What's real is the tide of financialization and globalization reversed over a year ago. The tide is now running out, but few loading their "wealth" into lifeboats have noticed--yet.



If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17, audiobook now available $17.46)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Podcasts:

Parallels of the Great Fire of Rome 64 AD to Today (with host Richard Bonugli) (31:40)

AxisOfEasy Salon #34: Reclaiming Capital and Agency


My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



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Monday, December 28, 2020

2020 the "Worst Year Ever"--You're Joking, Right?

So party on, because "the worst year ever" is ending and the rebound of financial markets, already the greatest in recorded history, will only become more fabulous.

Of the lavish banquet of absurdities laid out in 2020, one of the most delectable is Time magazine's December 14 cover declaring that 2020 was the "worst year ever." You're joking, right? In history's immense tapestry of human misery, it's not even in the top 100 worst years.

Consider 1177 B.C., when many of the great civilizations of the Mediterranean Sea and Mideast collapsed, and the survivors struggled through a pre-modern Dark Ages. This book assembles what is known about this catastrophic era: 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed.

Then there's 1644 A.D., when the Ming Dynasty was overthrown by the Manchu invasion, a series of self-reinforcing misfortunes stemming from extremes of climate (a.k.a. The Little Ice Age) that left millions hungry and vulnerable to disease and the predation of roving bandit armies.

The Little Ice Age and the famine, conflicts, civil wars, coups, revolts and rebellions it launched killed between a quarter and a third of Eurasia's population. Entire villages melted away as starvation drove the survivors to desperation. The misery stretched from western Europe to China, and lasted for decades.

This fascinating history lays it all out: Global Crisis: War, Climate Change, & Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century.

Though it is now relegated to a footnote in history, the Antonine Plague of 165 - 180 A.D. decimated the Mediterranean, Mideast, North African and Eurasian regions, toppling regimes that had endured for ages and very nearly brought the Roman Empire to an inglorious end. Roughly one-fourth of the population died as the novel disease was distributed along Rome's numerous trade routes, which stretched from Northern Europe to Africa and India.

Western Rome's eventual decline and fall was also the result of pandemics and climate change as well as the usual suspects of war, political in-fighting, overtaxation and the stranglehold of self-serving elites: The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire.

Europe's inhabitants circa 1350 A.D. would have chosen the years 1347 - 1351 as "the worst ever" as the Black Plague took the lives of a third of the population: The Black Death: Natural and Human Disaster in Medieval Europe.

The inhabitants of North and South America would have selected the years following 1492 and the arrival of Europeans carrying novel diseases as the worst years ever as the diseases carried away between 50% and 90% of the people who were alive in 1491: 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.

Declaring 2020 "the worst year ever" reveals much about the psychology of our delusional state of affairs. It reflects an absolutely abysmal grasp of human history and a self-absorbed desire to exaggerate the calamity so the rebound will be gloriously triumphant.

It also embodies our delusional addiction to measuring the well-being of the human populace with financial markets: as long as stocks are hitting new highs, we're all doing wonderfully.

So party on, because "the worst year ever" is ending and the rebound of financial markets, already the greatest in recorded history, will only become more fabulous.



If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17, audiobook now available $17.46)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Podcasts:

Parallels of the Great Fire of Rome 64 AD to Today (with host Richard Bonugli) (31:40)

AxisOfEasy Salon #34: Reclaiming Capital and Agency


My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



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Friday, December 25, 2020

The Most Hopeful Scenario for 2021

Choose wisely, America, or the options for a positive outcome will vanish like mist in Death Valley on a clear July afternoon.

From the point of view of evolution, the most hopeful scenario for 2021 is the sudden and complete collapse of everything that is obsolete, inefficient, ineffective and sclerotic. When obsolete systems and entities pass away quickly, the cost and pain are processed and absorbed quickly as well: enterprises go bankrupt and their assets are liquidated, failed ventures close, and schemes that didn't yield the desired benefits are scrapped.

This is the evolutionary process. Whatever has lost its selective advantages will succumb to selective pressures and fade away.

The problem arises when self-serving insiders siphon resources to keep their obsolete, inefficient, ineffective and sclerotic gravy-train protected from selective pressures. Keeping a terminally ill human alive is an analogy: it's possible to extend the life of a terminally ill person at enormous expense and effort, but the patient isn't restored to their previous health or vigor--that is no longer even a possibility. They are no longer their previous self, and this is why people choose to avoid extraordinary interventions in their final phase of life.

Economically obsolete / terminal entities, on the other hand, always choose extraordinary monetary interventions to keep their gravy-train alive, even if they bleed the rest of the economy dry in the process.

If the buggy-whip industry existed today, Congress would grant it billions of dollars in low-interest loans, tax breaks and direct subsidies so those who made fortunes in the buggy-whip industry would continue to prosper, not from a productive activity but from subsidies and loans that ultimately weaken the entire economy and society.

The problem here is that it's effortless and initially costless to conjure trillions of dollars out of thin air and use it to keep obsolete, inefficient, ineffective and sclerotic industries, sectors, agencies and schemes on life support. The eventual costs, consequences and risks are transferred to the entire economy, all to keep politically protected insiders and schemes well-funded even as their fundamental value proposition has collapsed.

This politically expedient "solution"--printing / borrowing trillions to stave off Natural Selection--is inevitably the first choice of corrupt, failed governments and central banks, and just as inevitably, this expedient "fix" eventually brings the entire economy to its knees.

Recall that risk cannot be made to vanish, it can only be transferred to others. By printing / borrowing trillions of dollars to prop up doomed zombies, the state and central bank (the Federal Reserve) have transferred the soaring risks of their mismanagement to the entire economy and society.

This politically expedient "solution"--saving the most inefficient and costly sectors because of the political power of insiders-- is always the first choice of weak and/or corrupt leadership, for whom this is isn't just the first choice, it's the only choice.

History is emphatic: over-borrowing and devaluing the currency by over-issuing "money" leads to decay and collapse. The lucky few decay into tourist destinations as the remnants of their past glory retain a nostalgic glow of artistry and power.

The unfortunate many simply decay and collapse. Thus the most hopeful scenario for 2021 is that the obsolete, inefficient, ineffective and sclerotic sectors and agencies, no matter how sacrosanct, collapse or downsize quickly. This drastically reduces the cost and pain to levels that the economy as a whole can absorb.

The worst-case scenario is our weak and/or corrupt government and central bank keep all the doomed zombies on life support, a process that bleeds the economy of adaptability, flexibility, innovation and resilience. The path of least resistance, the politically expedient path--over-borrowing and devaluing the currency by over-issuing "money"--leads to decay and collapse. There is no other possible result, no other possible outcome.

Choose wisely, America, or the options for a positive outcome will vanish like mist in Death Valley on a clear July afternoon.



If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17, audiobook now available $17.46)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Podcasts:

Parallels of the Great Fire of Rome 64 AD to Today (with host Richard Bonugli) (31:40)

AxisOfEasy Salon #34: Reclaiming Capital and Agency


My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



Become a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.




NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Give Yourself a Gift Next Year: Agency

We think we're powerless because we don't have wealth and power over others, but nothing could be further from the truth.

To have agency is to have power over your own life and control of your assets, options and resources. There are a great many things that influence our lives that we do not control, but there are also many things we could influence in our lives but do not.

The conventional view puts great weight on the agency created by money, as an abundance of money enables people to do a number of things that people with little money cannot do: live comfortably in costly locales, buy a larger home, buy a second home, buy a boat, pay for college with cash, pay for expensive medications not covered by insurance, take extended vacations and start enterprises without ceding power to outside investors, to name a few.

Our culture only has eyes for the agency of money, as this narrow band of agency is ceaselessly glorified. Yet what's striking is how little of importance money can buy. Not only can it not buy love, it cannot buy true friendship, trust, affection, community, emotional intelligence, wisdom, skills, purpose, meaning, health, confidence, creativity, conviction, self-discipline, resilience, self-expression, integrity, authenticity, faith or inner security.

What gift would you want for yourself in 2021? Whatever you identify as the gift you'd want to give yourself, the odds of obtaining it improve if you give yourself the gift of agency first. While money is a resource that can leverage certain kinds of agency, it isn't the foundation of agency; the foundations of taking control of one's life are internal.

I wrote an entire book about this process of taking control of one's life: Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change.

My basic credo of liberation:

"I no longer care if the power centers of our society--the distant, fortified castles of our financial feudal system--are changed by my actions, for I am liberated by the act of resistance. I am no longer complicit in perpetuating fraudulent feudalism and the pathology of concentrated power. I no longer covet signifiers of membership in the Upper Caste that serves the plutocracy. I am liberated from self-destructive consumerist-State financialization and the delusion that debt servitude and obedience to sociopathological Elites serve my self-interests."

We think we're powerless because we don't have wealth and power over others, but nothing could be further from the truth. What we all seek are autonomy, mastery and purpose, and the source of all these are within us.

Money can't buy personal integrity or authenticity, and in that sense it cannot buy what matters most. To borrow Kierkegaard's phrase, we cannot use money to acquire ourself. That process cannot be bought at any price, for it is internal, intangible and hidden to all but ourselves.



If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17, audiobook now available $17.46)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Podcasts:

Parallels of the Great Fire of Rome 64 AD to Today (with host Richard Bonugli) (31:40)

AxisOfEasy Salon #34: Reclaiming Capital and Agency


My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



Become a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.




NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, Frederik L. ($100), for your outrageously generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

 

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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Our Phantom Middle Class

What happens when America finally admits its middle class is a phantom of feel-good fantasy? We may well find out in the next four years.

Of the many things we cannot bring ourselves to admit, one of the most consequential is that our vaunted middle class is illusory, a phantom of our imagination rather than a reality. The reality is the vast majority of the nation's wealth and income has been diverted from the middle class to those at the pinnacle of the wealth-power pyramid and the technocrat / financier insider class (the top 10%) that serves the interests of those at the pinnacle.

This transfer has accelerated rapidly in the 21st century as virtually all the real income gains of the past 20 years have flowed to the top 0.1%. This RAND study found that America's elites siphoned $50 trillion into their own pockets in the past two generations: Trends in Income From 1975 to 2018. (Please look at the "Fruits of Financialization" chart below.)

The earnings of the top 0.1% grew 15 times faster than the earnings of the bottom 90% (See chart below) as wages' share of the economy continues its 50-year decline.

As for wealth: the top 0.1% own more than the bottom 80% (see chart below) and the top 1% own 40% of all private wealth and the top 10% own 90%.

If the top 10% own 90% of the wealth and has captured virtually all the income gains of the past 20 years, then isn't it obvious America has no middle class? What the traditional middle class--generally defined as the 50% between the bottom 40% and the top 10%--own is debt and a feeble grasp on very thin reeds of capital.

Please ponder the chart below of the $1.7 trillion in student loan debt burdening those who bought the narrative that a college diploma was a passport to the security of the middle class. The debt load carried by those clinging on to aspirations of middle class security is staggering. As I've noted here before, burdening powerless students with uncertain futures with trillions in high-interest debt would have been viewed as criminal two generations ago, but now it's celebrated by those reaping the interest from precariat debt-serfs.

Broadly speaking, the key assets of the middle class are capital and agency, with capital being defined as financial, intellectual and social capital that generates income, earned and unearned, and agency defined as control over one's life and options and having a say in public decision-making.

Understood in this way, the 50% between the bottom 40% and the top 10% own precious little income-producing capital and possess very little agency. The political class serves the top 0.1% and only gives lip-service to the PR-worthy convention of a middle class in the form of platitudes. In terms of control over one's options, those claiming middle class status cling to jobs because they need the healthcare insurance coverage provided by the employer, not because the job is rewarding.

As for possessing skills, much of the workforce has few producer skills, as the consumer economy devotes inordinate attention not to producing but to marketing, speculation and complying with counterproductive regulations and bureaucratic file-shuffling.

Once the con of printing trilions of dollars out of thin air dissolves and the nation has to balance its books in the real world, these file-shuffling and speculative skills will no longer generate meaningful income.

The last vestiges of financial security for the middle 50% are pensions and ownership of a home, which is less a real asset and more a call-option on the current housing bubble. This phantom "wealth" is one encounter with reality away from disappearing into the mists of speculative extremes imploding.

As for pensions, these promises on future energy and income gains are only geared for an economy of ever-expanding energy, productivity and production of surplus goods and services. As America has substituted speculation for these real-world gains, pensions are also one encounter with reality away from disappearing into the mists.

The American Dream was based on broad-based access to acquiring capital and agency, access which has narrowed to the top slice of the economic order. Even the top 10% is misleading, as the vast majority of capital and agency are held by the top 1% and to a lesser degree, the top 5%. The actual capital and agency of those below the 5% mark falls off rapidly, effectively reaching near-zero about the 15% mark.

As the chart "wages aren't keeping up" shows, the purchasing power of "middle class" wages has plummeted, meaning less income is available after paying all the big-ticket essential expenses. The Federal Reserve has played a game of lowering interest rates so households can lower their interest expenses by refinancing their mortgages, but this game has ended; interest rates cannot drop any further without entering negative rates, a zone of insolvency for the banking sector.

In other words, the game of creating the illusion of real wage gains is over.

What happens when America finally admits its middle class is a phantom of feel-good fantasy? We may well find out in the next four years.















If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17, audiobook now available $17.46)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Podcasts:

Parallels of the Great Fire of Rome 64 AD to Today (with host Richard Bonugli) (31:40)

AxisOfEasy Salon #34: Reclaiming Capital and Agency


My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



Become a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.




NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, Brian M. ($10/month), for your outrageously generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

 

Thank you, James K. ($5/month), for your superlatively generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

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Monday, December 21, 2020

Big Media: Selling the Narrative and Crushing Dissent for Fun and Profit

The profit-maximizing Big Tech / Big Media Totalitarian regime hasn't just strangled free speech and civil liberties; it's also strangled democracy.

The U.S. has entered an extremely dangerous time, and the danger has nothing to do with the Covid virus. Indeed, the danger long preceded the pandemic, which has served to highlight how far down the road to ruin we have come.

The danger we are ill-prepared to deal with is the consolidation of the private-sector media and its unification of content into one Approved Narrative which is for sale to the highest bidders. This is the perfection of for-profit Totalitarianism in which dissent is crushed, dissenters punished and billions of dollars are reaped in managing the data and content flow of the one Approved Narrative.

So don't post content containing the words (censored), (censored) or (censored), or you'll be banned, shadow-banned, demonetized, demonized and marginalized. Your voice will be erased from public access via the Big Media platforms and you will effectively be disappeared but without any visible mess or evidence--or recourse in the courts.

That's the competitive advantage of for-profit Totalitarianism--no legal recourse against the suppression of free speech and dissent. And if you're shadow-banned as I was, you won't even know just how severely your free speech has been suppressed because the Big Tech platforms are black boxes: no one outside the profit-maximizing corporation knows what its algorithms and filters actually do or exactly what happens to the disappeared / shadow-banned.

Shadow-banning is an invisible toxin to free speech: if you're shadow-banned, you won't even know that the audience for your posts, tweets, etc. has plummeted to near-zero and others can no longer retweet your content. You only see your post is online as usual, because this is the whole point of shadow-banning: you assume your speech is still free even as its been strangled to death by Big Tech black box platforms.

Since Andy Grove's dictum only the paranoid survive is my Prime Directive, I've paid a bit more to have access to server traffic data. So I can pinpoint precisely when I was shadow-banned: my overall traffic fell off a cliff and the number of readers visiting from links on Big Tech platforms fell from thousands to near-zero.

The new consolidated Big Media Totalitarians play an interesting game of circular sources: in the traditional, now-obsolete / suppressed form of journalism, a reporter would be required to identify a minimum of three different sources for the story, and make at least a desultory effort to present two sides of the issue.

That model is out the window in the USSA's Big Media Totalitarian regime. Now reporters only have to use a completely bogus, fabricated source in another Big Media story. Just being in another Big Media platform / publication is now "proof" that the source is legitimate.

In other words, investigative journalism is nothing but a Potemkin Village of circular sources conjured out of thin air by Big Media. Here's an example from my own experience of being shadow-banned.

1. A completely bogus organization pops up out of nowhere and doesn't bother identifying its owners, managers or sources.

2. This complete travesty of a mockery of a sham fabrication then issues a list of websites which it claims, with zero evidence, are stooges / outlets of Russian propaganda.

3. With zero investigation of this slanderous, evidence-free "source," the venerable Washington Post (owned by Jeff Bezos) publishes an evidence-free hit piece glorifying this fabrication on Page One.

4. The other Big Media giants then amplify the bogus slander because it came from a "legitimate source," the Washington Post.

Do you understand how circular sourcing works now? Once a flagrantly bogus bit of propaganda is embraced by one Big Media giant as part of the Approved Narrative, then every other Big Media / Big Tech corporation promotes the fabrication as "real news" even as it is obviously the acme of "fake news", a complete fabrication.

The fake "source" was called PropOrNot, and the list included dozens of well-respected independent websites, all slandered with a completely fake accusation for one reason: each site had published some content that cast a skeptical eye on the crowning of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and the crushing of Bernie Sanders' campaign by Big Media's Approved Narrative.

As long as you post videos of kittens and kids dancing, you're OK because your content (owned and controlled by the platform you posted it on--read the terms of Service) is free to the platforms and they use your content to "engage" users which generates billions in profits.

But if you question the Approved Narrative, you put a big day-glo target on your back. Now if you're a multi-millionaire, you know, a top 0.1% per-center, you can afford to keep posting dissenting views even after you've been demonetized and your income falls to near-zero.

The rest of us aren't quite so privileged. This is another of the toxic elements in Big Media / Big Tech's consolidated control of what was once known as free speech: They don't have to ban your content outright, which might cause a few ripples of tame protest; all they have to do is starve you into submission by strangling your source of income.

Thanks to watertight terms of service, even a multi-millionaire is legally powerless against the USSA's Big Media Totalitarian regime. By posting content, you already gave away all your rights. So you can go solo and post content on some obscure corner of the web that no one knows exist, but that's the functional equivalent of being banned and demonetized.

So go right ahead and enter a sound-proof box and scream your head off; nobody can hear you. Welcome to the totally privately owned, legally untouchable Big Tech / Big Media Totalitarian regime that will let you know what's in the Approved Narrative because that's all you're allowed to see.

Gordon Long and I cover these topics and many more in our latest video Buying the Narrative (35:41) Since I'd like the video to actually be viewed more than 11 times, I avoided using the terms (censored), (censored) or (censored), and that's the final fatal poison delivered by our profit-maximizing Big Tech / Big Media Totalitarian regime: self censorship. You know what you can't say, so don't say it. Stick with the kitten videos and you'll be just fine.

You'll be just fine but you no longer live in a functioning democracy. The profit-maximizing Big Tech / Big Media Totalitarian regime hasn't just strangled free speech and civil liberties; it's also strangled democracy.

It's all fun and games until the pendulum of Totalitarian Consolidation and its Approved Narrative reaches an extreme (like, say, right now) and the pendulum swings back to an equal extreme at the other end of the spectrum. Keep in mind that hubris and money are no match for history: the more powerful you claim to be, the greater your fall. The way of the Tao is reversal.

Welcome to the U.S.S.A.'s Banquet of Consequences (December 8, 2020)







If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17, audiobook now available $17.46)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Podcasts:

Parallels of the Great Fire of Rome 64 AD to Today (with host Richard Bonugli) (31:40)

AxisOfEasy Salon #34: Reclaiming Capital and Agency


My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



Become a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.




NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

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Friday, December 18, 2020

What Would Happen If the Fed Ceased to Exist?

Extremes get more extreme until risk breaks out; then the reversal will be as extreme as the bubble expansion.

What would happen if the Federal Reserve ceased to exist? We all know the answer: global markets would instantly collapse and the global financial system, now entirely dependent on Fed stimulus, intervention, manipulation, free money for financiers and endless printing of trillions of dollars out of thin air, would crash, leaving nothing but a steaming, fetid pile of corruption infested by the cockroaches scurrying around gobbling up the few crumbs left.

What would happen if the Federal Reserve ceased to exist? The Treasury would sell its bonds on the open market, where buyers and sellers would set the yield on the bonds. Private banks would take deposits and lend money at rates set by supply and demand.

We all know what would happen: yields and interest rates would explode higher in response to risk having to be priced in and every flimsy, worm-eaten enterprise that depended on zero-interest rates would collapse in a heap and every putrid, staggering zombie corporation would crumble to dust, and its phantom assets, illusions generated solely by the artificial spew of the Fed, would fall to their real value, i.e. near zero.

Let's modify the question slightly: what would happen if the Fed's policies stopped working? In other words, what if the Fed's spew no longer created the illusion of risk-free gambling in bubble-valuation assets? What if risk raised its Gorgon-like head despite every intervention, every manipulation, and every foul burp of propaganda from the Fed?

Please glance at this chart of the delusional faith in incremental change. The faith in the Fed's omnipotence that magically reduces the perception of risk to zero is ultimately a faith in incremental change: the Fed tweaks the dials of bond purchases and its spew of free money for financiers, and voila, risk is banished and risk assets get another rocket booster.

Alas, risk cannot be banished, it can only be transferred to others. The Fed's endless spew and its constant tinkering with incremental adjustments have created a delusional faith that these tweaks will work forever and ever.

All that's actually happened is the Fed's spew has transferred the skyrocketing risks generated by its policies to the entire economy. The economy has been capacious enough to absorb the astronomical risks generated by Fed policies, but the economy has been stuffed to the gills with Fed-generated risk, and now the bursting of the risk bubble is upon us.

Put another way, there's no closets left to hide the risk in. Now the risk will escape the Fed's rusting, hubris-soaked chains and decimate the financial sector, which is now the dominant force in the economy. Once the delusions of no-risk gambling and phantom valuations implode, the real economy with undergo a devastating cold turkey withdrawal from the Fed's malevolent spew of free money for financiers masquerading as "stimulus."

Extremes get more extreme until risk breaks out; then the reversal will be as extreme as the bubble expansion. Delusions, illusions, phantoms of value: these are not real. Want to know what's real? Risk.







If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17, audiobook now available $17.46)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Podcasts:

Parallels of the Great Fire of Rome 64 AD to Today (with host Richard Bonugli) (31:40)

AxisOfEasy Salon #34: Reclaiming Capital and Agency


My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



Become a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.




NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, Mary G.-H. ($5/month), for your magnificently generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

 

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Thursday, December 17, 2020

When Social Capital Becomes More Valuable Than Financial Capital

This devaluation of financial wealth--and its transformation to a dangerous liability-- will reach extremes equal to the current extremes of wealth-income inequality.

Financial capital--money--is the Ring that rules them all. But could this power fall from grace? Continuing this week's discussion of the idea that that extremes lead to reversions, let's consider the bedrock presumption of the global economy, which is that money is the most valuable thing in the Universe because the owner of money can buy anything, as everything is for sale. The only question is the price.

Reversion to the mean is a statistical dynamic but it is also a human social dynamic: for example, once the social / financial / political pendulum reaches Gilded Age extremes of wealth/income inequality, the pendulum swings back. The more extreme the inequality, the greater the resulting extreme at the other end of the pendulum swing.

In the heyday of the postwar boom in the early 1960s, finance--banks, lending, mortgages, loans, investment banking, derivatives, futures, FX, all financial market trading, research firms, hedge funds, mutual funds, etc.--was about 5% of the economy. It now exceeds 20% of the economy, and its actual role and impact is much larger than 20%. Finance is now the dominant force in the economy in terms of wealth creation and influence.

(This parallels healthcare, which went from less than 5% of the economy to 20% in the same time span.)

While finance creates some jobs, it is essentially extractive: it produces no goods, it extracts wealth from the goods-producing economy via debt and speculation.

Thus a reversion that reduces finance back to 5% of the economy can be expected. How will this reversion to a much more constrained and modest role in the economy play out?

There is much to be said about such a complex and consequential process, but today I want to focus on one potential dynamic: the idea that social capital--our connections and loyalties to groups and other people--will become more valuable than financial wealth, i.e. "money."

The past 45 years can be characterized as the ascendance of finance: finance rules everything. Most people would say this has been true for all of human history, but it isn't quite so simple.

In many instances, loyalties, membership and devotion to causes far outweigh the influence of money. In periods of severe labor shortage, labor has more value that money, in the sense that labor sets the price of labor rather than capital setting the price.

This article caught my eye a few weeks ago: The Rich in New York Confront an Unfamiliar Word: No The pandemic is causing inequality to soar, but increasingly the privileged are discovering that they can't bend the world to their will.

The wealthy are accustomed to buying whatever they want with money, and the possibility that there might be limits on the power of money is shocking to them.

These limits might take political forms such as regulatory limits on what wealth can buy, they might take financial forms such as bans on certain speculative skims, and they might also take social forms, where people refuse to provide some good or service for cash because they've been reserved for family, friends or exchanges within trusted networks where membership cannot be purchased at any price.

Here is a simple example. Let's say I have an in-law unit adjacent to my house. It's been promised to a family member, and so when a prospective tenant offers me $1,000 a month to rent it, I decline.

In the unmoored, soulless world ruled by money, the prospective tenant reckons the "problem" (my refusal) can be solved with more money. So he offers me $1,500 a month. I decline, because the bonds of family are more important and valuable than a few more dollars.

The "problem" for the wealthy isn't money; the "problem" is that social ties, obligations and commitments are more valuable and binding than money.

The wealthy assume that "everyone has a price," a truism proven by Jeffery Epstein, who bought his way into Harvard, MIT, etc. with bundles of cash.

But as the status quo unravels, the wealthy will discover that not everyone can be bought. Indeed, accepting a big bribe might terminate all sorts of much more valuable connections.

Thus it seems likely to me that social capital--our connections, loyalties, memberships, obligations and bonds--will become more valuable and financial capital will become not only less valuable, but an actual liability--a "Mark of the Beast" if you will.

This devaluation of financial wealth--and its transformation to a dangerous liability-- will reach extremes equal to the current extremes of wealth-income inequality: in other words, an extremely-extreme extreme in which trying to buy what cannot be bought will be the path to a poverty unlike any other.

A reversal of this magnitude is considered "impossible." We'll see.



If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17, audiobook now available $17.46)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Podcasts:

Parallels of the Great Fire of Rome 64 AD to Today (with host Richard Bonugli) (31:40)

AxisOfEasy Salon #34: Reclaiming Capital and Agency


My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



Become a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.




NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, DMT ($50), for your magnificently generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.

 

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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Can 20 Years of Deflation Be Compressed into Two Years? We're About to Find Out

Extremes become more extreme right up until they reverse, a reversal no one believes possible here in the waning days of 2020.

The absolutely last thing anyone expects is a collapse of all the asset bubbles, i.e. a deflation of assets that reverses the full 20 years of bubble-utopia since 2000. The consensus is universal: assets will continue to loft ever higher, forever and ever, because the Fed has our back, i.e. central banks will create trillions out of thin air without any consequence other than assets lofting ever higher.

This research paper from the San Francisco Federal Reserve begs to differ. Here is an excerpt from Longer-Run Economic Consequences of Pandemics (San Francisco Federal Reserve)

"Measured by deviations in a benchmark economic statistic, the real natural rate of interest, these responses indicate that pandemics are followed by sustained periods--over multiple decades--with depressed investment opportunities, possibly due to excess capital per unit of surviving labor, and/or heightened desires to save, possibly due to an increase in precautionary saving or a rebuilding of depleted wealth. Either way, if the trends play out similarly in the wake of COVID-19 then the global economic trajectory will be very different than was expected only a few months ago."

Allow me to translate: wars launch 20-year booms of rebuilding, pandemics launch 20 years of deflation. Oops! Not only do wars destroy physical assets that must be rebuilt, they also tend to kill off a consequential percentage of the labor force, generating a labor shortage that pushes up wages.

So capital wins funding the rebuilding and labor wins because workers are scarce and in demand: win-win baby! Pandemics are considerably less warm and fuzzy, especially Covid-19. Pandemics are like neutron bombs, they leave the built environment intact so there's no impetus to invest.

Unlike the Black Death that decimated the human workforce from China to Europe in the 1350s, Covid disproportionately takes the lives of the elderly, most of whom have already left the workforce. So the Covid pandemic's reduction of the workforce is too modest in scale to create labor scarcities consequential enough to push wages higher.

In other words, lose-lose: capital earns low returns in a low-demand environment and labors' wages stagnate in this low-demand economy.

Cue 20 years of asset deflation. Bu-bu-but the Fed is omnipotent, godlike in its powers! The Fed can push stocks to the moon, never mind history, fundamentals or reality!

Yes, well, um, fantasies are nice, and delusions are fun, but reality inevitably intrudes and diminishing returns on the Fed's neofeudalist feast for the super-wealthy are about to grab markets by the throat, regardless of what the Fed bleats.

There are a couple of funny little things called reversion to the mean, bubble-symmetry and non-linear dynamics that the Fed doesn't actually control (gasp!) because they are not fully controllable by human policies. Statistical outliers / extremes have a preternatural propensity to reverse, regardless of human manipulation (recall that the way of the Tao is reversal.)

And these reversals are not "buy the dip" wiggles; they completely reverse the entire bubblicious move to the stars via bubble-symmetry: so markets that go from 1,000 to 30,000 retrace all the way back down to 1,000, no matter how many humans shout, scream, plead and whine "that's not possible!"

Oh yes it is. Hubris weighs heavily on our faith in the "right" human policies to work magic forever and ever. So as long as the Fed follows the "right policy" and continues printing trillions of dollars out of thin air and buying bonds (and whatever else needs to be bought up to loft markets higher) then Dow 100,000 is in the bag.

Or not. The idea that human don't control everything is anathema to a technocrat elite, and so when the inevitable reversal crashes assets, everyone will rush around looking for the human-action cause of the disaster and the human-action fix, so we can get back on track to Dow 100,000.

But the search for causes will be in vain, for extremes pendulum swings reach a limit and then swing back, eventually reaching the opposite extreme minus a bit of friction, which is minimal in a frictionless financial sector of printing trillions with keystrokes.

If you want evidence that the pendulum has swung as far as it can go, ponder this chart of billionaire wealth jacked higher by the Fed and its central bank cronies:



Can 20 years of asset deflation be compressed into a mere two years? Absolutely. The global financial system has been running a 20-year experiment in extremes that's close to producing interesting results.

Extremes become more extreme right up until they reverse, a reversal no one believes possible here in the waning days of 2020. If we could measure hubris, it would be near-infinite. and the reversal of that near-infinite extreme will be one for the ages.



If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17, audiobook now available $17.46)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Podcasts:

Parallels of the Great Fire of Rome 64 AD to Today (with host Richard Bonugli) (31:40)

AxisOfEasy Salon #34: Reclaiming Capital and Agency


My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



Become a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.




NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, Rebecca M. ($100), for your outrageously generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.

 

Thank you, Maria D. ($20), for your superbly generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

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