Sunday, January 31, 2021

Silver Swans, Maginot Lines and the Unforeseen Risks of Collapse

Our Nobility's assessment of risk and their war-gaming of vulnerabilities are fatally deficient.

Many people have heard of Nassim Taleb's black swan but fewer understand how few events qualify as black swans. Per Wikipedia, a black swan is an unpredictable or unforeseen event, typically one with extreme consequences, an event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences. Black swan events are characterized by their extreme rarity, severe impact, and the widespread insistence they were obvious in hindsight.

Taleb's black swan theory refers to unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence and their dominant role in history. Such events, considered extreme outliers, collectively play vastly larger roles than regular occurrences.


In other words, if an event was deemed possible but very low-risk, it isn't a black swan. France's Maginot Line offers an interesting example of the difference between events that are deemed low-probability and that play out in ways that weren't anticipated and a true black swan.

The Maginot Line was a defensive line of impregnable fortifications constructed in the 1930s to force any future German invasion of France (i.e. a replay of World War I) to go around the Line to the north, through Belgium. Should the German Army invade as planned through Belgium, the French reckoned that they would be able to mobilize their army in time to meet the invaders in Belgium in a decisive battle that would either result in a French victory or a trench-warfare stalemate like World War I.

The German invasion in 1940 did come through Belgium as anticipated, but the speed of the invading force was not foreseen by French war planners. The German forces pursued a strategy of Blitzkrieg (lightning war) that advanced deep into France in a matter of days, exploiting weaknesses in French communication, planning, logistics and tactics.

The attack came as expected but not in a manner that was expected. The French expected the Germans to follow the World War I script, a script that would lead to the defeat of the invasion. The Germans were understandably keen on doing something other than following a plan that would end in defeat and so they devised a new way of organizing and executing an invasion.

Understood in this fashion, France's rapid defeat was not a Black Swan. The Maginot Line did its job but the French pre-conflict war-gaming failed to anticipate German innovations in logistics, tactics and strategy.

Put another way: their assessment of risk and their war-gaming of vulnerabilities were fatally deficient.

So does the crowdsourcing of gamed speculation that we're witnessing in the stock market qualify as a black swan or not? A strong case can be made that crowdsourcing would eventually move from fundraising and political action to gamed speculation in which an opt-in crowd agrees to share resources to stage a coordinated assault on speculative positions. If this could have been anticipated by extrapolating existing trends, it could be argued this doesn't qualify as a true black swan.

But an equally strong case can be made that two dynamics unleashed by the crowdsourcing of gamed speculation are black swans:

1. The effectiveness of the crowdsourcing in crippling the confidence of institutional players in building massive short positions in specific equities and instruments. Establishing massive short positions in equities was a relatively low-risk and highly profitable fiefdom of finance reserved for the privileged few of America's New Nobility (financiers, hedge funds, etc.) These positions were established with relative impunity. This is no longer the case, and the consequences, in classic black swan fashion, are unforeseen and potentially catastrophic.

2. This crowdsourcing has an emotional and politically charged agenda completely outside the conventions of finance and market speculation: participants want to take down the New Nobility. The unprecedented inequality of wealth, income and agency in America has fueled an inchoate rage against those who have benefited so immensely from the rigged system we're forced to accept as the status quo. I covered this recently in The Coming Revolt of the Middle Class (1/27/21).

The New Nobility is accustomed to profiteering with impunity, with little to fear from laws, regulations or serf/peasant blowback--case in point, Jeffrey Epstein. Now the peasantry has organized via crowdsourcing a means of eviscerating at least a few of the rapaciously profiteering Nobles, payback that is emotionally satisfying in ways those at the top of America's corrupt "leadership" and New Nobility class cannot understand, as they believe it is their "right" to assemble fortunes exceeding $100 million as super-privileged insiders by Buying More Than $1 Million In Tesla, Disney And Apple Calls In December.

Let's call this a silver swan, an emergent dynamic with far-reaching and potentially extreme consequences. This silver swan isn't an imaginary comic-book character, it's a dynamic with real-world consequences that have barely begun to become visible.

This silver swan is manifesting in a market that is exquisitely fragile, brittle and vulnerable to collapse for reasons I'll explore in upcoming posts.

One way to understand the risk of unforeseen collapse is: our Nobility's assessment of risk and their war-gaming of vulnerabilities are fatally deficient. As an appetizer to this topic, please review my recent posts:

The Stock Market, Fatally Wounded by the Truth, Will Stumble and Crash (1/30/21)

The Democratization / Demonization of Speculation (1/29/21)

We can't unsee what's behind the curtain.



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:

AxisOfEasy Salon #36: Democratizing Stonk Market Manipulation (1:03 hrs)

The Roundtable Insight: Charles Hugh Smith on Is 2021 an Echo of 1641? (26 min)


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.




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Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Stock Market, Fatally Wounded by the Truth, Will Stumble and Crash

It didn't have to be this way, but this is the reality we must now face: truth is fatal to fraud, and our entire financial-political system is a fraud.

The stock market has just been punctured by the thin blades of truth. It is fatally wounded but nobody dares notice. The wounds are barely visible, but the internal damage is mortal. The stock market is already stumbling and will soon crash.

The banquet's participants ignore the faltering market because the rules are we never reveal the truth, or acknowledge it, or discuss it, no matter how obvious, because truth is fatal to fraud. So the stock market's vital signs are in freefall but the conversation remains upbeat and light: stimulus, rapid growth in the second half, etc., all the patter of a carefully constructed illusion that fraud is forever as long as the truth never comes out.

Alas, the truth has emerged from the shadows, despite the silence of the insiders and the financial media. Here are the truths that have emerged like karmic genies:

1. The stock market is nothing but one giant fraud. The entire market is corrupt and rigged from the ground up. The fraud is systemic, designed into every tendril of the market. It was a useful deception to blame it all on "bad players," but now the truth has been revealed: the market is nothing but a rigged game enriching insiders.

2. The Fed is a fraud. All the Federal Reserve has accomplished in 13 years of goosing the stock market is unprecedented wealth and income inequality as the fraud of the Fed has boosted the fraud of the market, which has fatally undermined America's social and economic orders. Please read this short paragraph and let it sink in. Monopoly Versus Democracy (Foreign Affairs):

Ten percent of Americans now control 97 percent of all capital income in the country. Nearly half of the new income generated since the global financial crisis of 2008 has gone to the wealthiest one percent of U.S. citizens. The richest three Americans collectively have more wealth than the poorest 160 million Americans.

Thanks to the tightly bound frauds of the Fed and markets, the bottom 90% of Americans own essentially zero capital that produces income and the vast majority of all income gains since 2008 has been siphoned off by the top 0.1% (see chart below from the New York Times.) Three monopolists own more wealth than half the nation's citizens.

Yet the fraudsters in the Fed laughably insist their policies haven't created inequality on such a vast scale that is has destabilized the nation. The Fed's credibility is zero, yet the financial media tiptoes around, proclaiming the glory of the Emperor's illusory clothing.

3. America's system of governance is a fraud. What can we say when powerful politicians are worth over $100 million and are active participants in the most speculative excesses of the stock market, Buying More Than $1 Million In Tesla, Disney And Apple Calls In December? Do we even need to ask where their interests lie?

What can we say about a regulatory system that immediately bails out the most corrupt and destructive financiers / speculators but stands aside when the public loses trillions of dollars? The financial regulatory system is a complete fraud, devoted to bailing out the biggest insiders while ignoring the losses of the bottom 99.9%. America's financial regulations protect the corrupt, not the citizenry.

4. The wealth effect is a fraud. The Fed's entire fraudulent policy holds that if the stock market is goosed higher by Fed rigging, the phantom wealth handed to the top 0.1% will magically trickle down and benefit the bottom 90% who own no productive capital.

There is no magic; the wealth effect is a fraud. If one $5 stock (GameStop) can be pushed up to $400 in a week, why not push every $5 stock to $400? This is the essence of the wealth effect: all capital is phantom capital, a fraud balloon awaiting a pin.

The wealth effect failed, the Fed failed, regulations failed, politics failed. But thanks to the Fed and the self-serving political class, the entire U.S. economy is now utterly dependent on this completely corrupt and destabilizing fraud--the stock market. If the stock market stumbles and collapses, the economy--now totally dependent on phantom capital --also stumbles and collapses.

It didn't have to be this way, but this is the reality we must now face: truth is fatal to fraud, and our entire financial-political system is a fraud. The stock market is pale, and blood is seeping through the tuxedo, but the insiders, politicos and their toadies and apologists are nervously averting their gaze.

The market's bleeding but it can't possibly die, can it? Yes it can, and yes it will: truth is fatal to fraud, and the truth has escaped and is now free. We can't unsee what's behind the curtain.





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:

AxisOfEasy Salon #36: Democratizing Stonk Market Manipulation (1:03 hrs)

The Roundtable Insight: Charles Hugh Smith on Is 2021 an Echo of 1641? (26 min)


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, January 29, 2021

The Democratization / Demonization of Speculation

How do you unrig a speculative rigged market? You don't. It simply crashes into a putrid sinkhole.

Gamed speculation--using knowledge of how markets can be pushed to profit those doing the pushing--has long been decried. Declaring that the unproductive profiteering of greedy speculators will be the death of the Republic goes back to Rome, and in American history, to Alexander Hamilton's battle in 1791 to pay the speculators who had bought up the new nation's war bonds for pennies on the dollar full value plus interest.

Gamed speculation--and the cheery presumption that there will always be a liquid market of chumps willing to buy insiders' pumped-up balloons--inflate and pop bubbles, with devastating consequences not just for the broken speculators but for conventional investors who naively believed "the market" was in fact a market (smirk) rather than a mechanism to enrich those who have the capital and knowledge to engineer profiteering behind the curtain. (Please see the still from The Wizard of Oz below.)

An interesting intersection of dynamics has led to the curtain being ripped aside by the democratized speculations of WallStreetBets, a crowdsourced pool of speculative capital which shares many characteristics with online gaming and live-action role playing (LARP) only the gains and losses are in real dollars (the fortunes made and lost in GameStop (GME) are very real indeed).

Wall Street and the politicos who profiteer as insiders are naturally horrified by both developments:

1. That the curtain of how super-wealthy insiders and their only the wealthy can play entities such as hedge funds have manipulated markets behind the curtain for decades, leading to an unprecedented economic inequality in which the top 10% skim fully 97% of all income from capital. To have their game hijacked by a bunch of young gamers is beyond appalling to the New Nobility, who firmly believe their insider manipulations were the exclusive preserve of their crowd in the castle.

(Recall that ours is a thoroughly Neofeudal Economy, with a New Nobility of financiers, Big Tech monopolists, et al. who own the vast majority of capital and political power, and a restive mass of commoners holding either no capital or phantom capital that will dissipate into thin air in the next financial upheaval.

2. Not only are the mechanisms of manipulation now visible to all, an unruly rabble of commoners has ganged together to play their own version of the speculative game of skimming staggering profits from a rigged "market." How dare they!

No wonder the skimmers and scammers and political refuse that passes for "leadership" in today's America are shocked, shocked by the open and openly gleeful democratized speculation that (like cryptocurrencies) is enriching the wrong people, i.e. commoners. It's as if the debt-serfs, tax donkeys and decapitalized peasants stormed the castle at night and broke open the jewel box and the stash of champagne, and proceeded to swing from the chandeliers, mocking the self-serving privileged who'd been pillaging the nation for decades via their legalized looting.

Mark, Jesse and I discuss these developments in our latest Salon podcast:

AxisOfEasy Salon #36: Democratizing Stonk Market Manipulation (1:03 hrs)

Where do these developments lead? An interesting question. Unfortunately for Wall Street insiders and their political-scum apologists, we can't unsee the levers behind the curtain. The insiders can't put their legalized looting genie back in the bottle, for everyone has seen how "markets" are manipulated to enrich those pulling the levers.

If the political-scum apologists want to end democratized speculation, they're going to face blowback when they try to protect the rights of the New Nobility to continue manipulating markets to their exclusive advantage. The rage against the New Nobility's lock on capital, rigged markets and 97% of all the income generated by capital has been simmering to a boil, and political-scum apologists had best tread carefully.

How do you unrig a rigged speculative market? You don't. It simply crashes into a putrid sinkhole. Phantom capital vanishes into the thin air from whence it came. Ponder the similarities of the Cisco Systems speculative frenzy in 2000 and Tesla's speculative frenzy in 2020.

Dang, the levers of the machinery behind the curtain just broke.







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:

AxisOfEasy Salon #36: Democratizing Stonk Market Manipulation (1:03 hrs)

The Roundtable Insight: Charles Hugh Smith on Is 2021 an Echo of 1641? (26 min)


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.




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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Coming Revolt of the Middle Class

That's how Neofeudal systems collapse: the tax donkeys and debt-serfs finally rebel and start demanding the $50 trillion river of capital take a new course.

The Great American Middle Class has stood meekly by while the New Nobility stripmined $50 trillion from the middle and working classes. As this RAND report documents, $50 trillion has been siphoned from labor and the lower 90% of the workforce to the New Nobility and their technocrat lackeys who own the vast majority of the capital: Trends in Income From 1975 to 2018.

Why has the Great American Middle Class meekly accepted their new role as debt-serfs and powerless peasants in a Neofeudal Economy ruled by the New Nobility of Big Tech / monopolies / cartels / financiers? The basic answer is the New Nobility's PR has been so persuasive and ubiquitous: soaring inequality and Neofeudalism has nothing to do with us, it's just the natural result of technology and globalization--forces nobody can resist. Sorry about your debt-serfdom, but hey, your student loan payment is overdue, so it's the rack for you.

The recent Foreign Affairs article referenced here last week Monopoly Versus Democracy (paywalled) describes the net result of the economic propaganda that the stripmining of the working and middle classes was ordained and irresistible: Today, Americans tend to see grotesque accumulations of wealth and power as normal. That's how far we've fallen:

"As the journalist Barry Lynn points out in his book Liberty from All Masters: The New American Autocracy vs. the Will of the People, the robber barons shared with today's high-tech monopolists a strategy of encouraging people to see immense inequality as a tragic but unavoidable consequence of capitalism and technological change. But as Lynn shows, one of the main differences between then and now is that, compared to today, fewer Americans accepted such rationalizations during the Gilded Age. Today, Americans tend to see grotesque accumulations of wealth and power as normal. Back then, a critical mass of Americans refused to do so, and they waged a decades-long fight for a fair and democratic society." (emphasis added)

The bottom 90% of the U.S. economy has been decapitalized: debt has been substituted for capital. Capital only flows into the increasingly centralized top tier, which owns and profits from the rising tide of debt that's been keeping the bottom 90% afloat for the past 20 years.

As I've often observed here, globalization and financialization have richly rewarded the top 0.1% and the top 5% technocrat class that serves the New Nobility's interests. Everyone else has been been reduced to debt-serfs and peasants who now rely on lotteries and luck to get ahead: playing the stock market casino or hoping their mortgaged house in an urban sprawl on the Left or Right coasts doubles in value, even as the entire value proposition for living in a congested urban sprawl vanishes.

America has no plan to reverse this destructive tide of Neofeudal Pillage. Our leadership's "plan" is benign neglect: just send a monthly stipend of bread and circuses (the technocrat term is Universal Basic Income UBI) to all the disempowered, decapitalized households, urban and rural, so they can stay out of trouble and not bother the New Nobility's pillaging of America and the planet.

There's a lot of bright and shiny PR about rebuilding infrastructure and the Green New Deal, but our first question must always be: cui bono, to whose benefit? How much of the spending will actually be devoted to changing the rising imbalances between the haves and the have-nots, the ever-richer who profit from rising debt and the ever more decapitalized debt-serfs who are further impoverished by rising debt?

As I explain in my book A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet, people don't want to just get by on UBI, they want an opportunity to acquire capital in all its forms, an opportunity to contribute to their communities, to make a difference, to earn respect and pride.

That our "leadership" reckons bread and circuses is what the stripmined bottom 90% want is beyond pathetic. The middle class has meekly accepted the self-serving claim of the New Nobility that the $50 trillion transfer of wealth was inevitable and beyond human intervention. But once the stock market and housing casinos collapse, the last bridge to getting ahead--high-risk gambling-- will fall into the abyss, and the middle class will have to face their servitude and powerlessness.

That's how Neofeudal systems collapse: the tax donkeys and debt-serfs finally revolt and start demanding the $50 trillion river of capital take a new course.



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:

Salon #35: The problem is that nobody knows what "Kuleana" means (58 minutes)


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.

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Monday, January 25, 2021

Everything Is Broken

I'd say more about Big Tech but since they've 'privatized totalitarianism', I fear being 'digitally disappeared' if I dare criticize Big Tech.

Mr. Bob Dylan was once again prescient: Everything Is Broken. You may think I'm referring to the political system or Big Tech or the Corporate Media, and certainly all those are very broken indeed, but I'm actually referring to everyday life systems that once worked fairly well. I could mention bridges that take decades to build that sport cost-overruns in the billions and the general decline in the quality of goods and services, but let's just stick to critical digital systems for now.

One shared trait of these broken service systems is that they're all digital and all online. Wasn't everything supposed to become faster, better, easier and cheaper when it was digitized and put at our fingertips via websites and mobile phone apps? The opposite is often the case: the digital systems are broken and nobody on either end--staff or customer--can figure out why or how to fix what's broken.

You'd think the government would make special efforts to make it easy to pay one's estimated taxes online. You'd be wrong. Like many others who've been filing tax returns and paying taxes for 50+ years, I decided to withdraw a few bucks from my 401K "retirement" account (in quotes because who can retire on their 401K?).

The plan manager recommended I pay the estimated taxes due via the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), which is presented as the "easy way to pay your taxes." Wow, the cat's meow--I completed the online form with great anticipation. As a security measure, the EFTPS snail-mails a code to the physical address that's on record with the IRS.

Alas, the EFTPS rejected my application--something didn't align with the information on record at the IRS. My wife's application went through without a hitch, and so after an hour on hold and a long conversation with an EFTPS staffer--who I sincerely believe was doing his best to assist me--I re-applied, attributing the failure to some detail such as typing "Street" instead of "St". I carefully entered the name, address, etc. on my 2019 tax return and submitted the application again.

This second application was also rejected for the same reason: a discrepancy between the IRS records and what I entered on the form. Since i'd entered the data exactly as shown on my 2019 return, what was the problem?

After another long wait on hold and another fruitless conversation with an IRS staffer who did her best but could shed no light on the problem, and I took her recommendation and decided to pay the estimated tax on the regular IRS website: Direct Pay.

OK, this should be easy, right? Wrong again. Part of the process is you have to select a tax year, not for payment but for alignment with the IRS records. I kept trying 2019 to no avail. The IRS website kept rejecting my name, address and Social Security number no matter how carefully I entered the data. After numerous rejections and another painfully long wait on hold and useless conversation with a helpful staffer, I tried selecting a tax year before 2019 to match the IRS records. 2018--failure. 2017--failure. 2016--bingo, we have a winner! The IRS ignored the address I'd used in 2017, 2018 and 2019, abut kept the PO box address I'd used in 2016. How is a taxpayer supposed to know which tax year is the "correct one"? Was there nothing the staffers could see or do to rectify the guessing game?

Evidently, none of the IRS or EFTPS staff could access this data or suggest trying a previous tax year. I'd like to think I am the only one who's experienced these kinds of needless travails with the IRS interfaces, but alas, I've heard from friends who were trying to sort out their elderly Mom's tax refund, etc., that after excruciatingly long waits on hold, they got zip, zero, nada in the way of resolution.

It's not the staff, it's the digital systems that are broken. I can easily imagine the frustrations of the staffers trying to fix taxpayers' problems with a kludgy system.

Next up: healthcare. Over the past few decades, as a self-employed worker I've paid tens of thousands of dollars in healthcare premiums to my healthcare provider because I'm my own employer, and I don't qualify for government subsidies (Medicaid).

The task: switch my coverage from one state to another state. The wait time rivaled that of the IRS, and when I finally spoke with a human, the process took almost an hour--much of it related to compliance with regulations designed to make regulators and Corporate America look like they care (they don't). "Do you acknowledge that if you drop dead during this phone call that you were treated fairly before you expired?" etc.

I set up my online account without issue, and a few days later received emails prompting me to "view and pay my bill." Nice, except when I logged in, "no documents found." I had to wait for my credit card statement to see if the autopay setup worked. I could have tried calling, but I'd expended my patience for long waits and near-zero odds of resolution.

Meanwhile, my wife had made the mistake of contacting the provider for information on their plans, and they assumed they had a "live one," i.e. a potential customer--so they aggressively robo-called her phone every day even after she spoke with a human and explained that she was already a customer so there would be no sale and commission.

So if you're looking for aggressive marketing, Corporate America has got you covered. If you want service--hello, developing-world, minus the work-around of a bribe.

It's worth glancing at your Social Security statement/account every once in a while, because your earnings for 2019 might be listed as zero. OK, so the Social Security Administration (SSA) somehow failed to pick up my 2019 earnings from the IRS. A quick phone call should remedy the problem, right? Wrong. The wait time was short but the call stretched on for an hour as the staffer attempted one thing after another.

How difficult is it to strip out the taxpayers' name, Social Security number and the earnings they paid Social Security taxes on and send that data to the SSA? Most years it works, this year it didn't. There is apparently no digital fix, as I was eventually instructed to send paper copies of our 2019 tax returns to the local SSA office.

You might attribute these flubs to government services or quasi-government services, but that overlooks one important point: private-sector Big Tech appears to work because its task is simple: privatize customer data and sell adverts. Try getting Big Tech to resolve real-world problems, and you'll find it's extremely difficult to get a human to help, and the odds of the human fixing your issue are near-zero. Big Tech's expertise is in acknowledging there is a problem and then ignoring it until you give up.

I'd say more about Big Tech but since they've privatized totalitarianism, I fear being digitally disappeared if I dare criticize Big Tech. A couple years of being shadow-banned were enough to give me a taste of Big Tech's privatized totalitarianism, thank you very much. That alone tells you our entire system is broken.

Say it again, Bobby: Everything Is Broken. Just don't say it too loud unless you have lobbyists and lawyers in excess.



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:

Salon #35: The problem is that nobody knows what "Kuleana" means (58 minutes)


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, Justin F. ($5/month), for your marvelously generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

 

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Friday, January 22, 2021

How the Fed Fails

The Fed has a binary choice: preserve America's global hegemony or further enrich the billionaires. You can't have both.

The Fed will fail as a result of two dynamics: diminishing returns and the U.S. dollar's role as a global reserve currency. The Fed's reign as the godhead of financier-banker supremacy has been fun and games for the past 12 years of stock market euphoria, but that's about to change.

All those expecting the Fed to sink the USD to near-zero to "save the stock market" don't seem to realize that they're also expecting the U.S. to surrender its global hegemony, which rests entirely on the U.S. dollar. The USD is the world's dominant reserve currency--please examine the chart below. The USD dwarfs the next largest reserve currency, the euro. The Chinese yuan--due to its peg to the USD, essentially a proxy for the USD--is a tiny sliver of global reserves.

The owner of a reserve currency can create "money" out of thin air and trade it for autos, oil, semiconductors--real-world goods that were not created out of thin air. All these real-world goods required tremendous investment and significant costs to be produced and transported.

No wonder trading something for nothing--a remarkably good deal--is termed an exorbitant privilege.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the ability to create "money" out of thin air and trade it for real-world goods is the foundation of America's global power. If the Fed prints USD to near-infinity and the USD loses value relative other reserve currencies, the U.S. loses its exorbitant privilege of trading "money" created out of thin air for real-world goods.

So everyone expecting the Fed to "print" the USD to zero is claiming the Fed is consciously choosing to lay waste to the foundation of American power--just to boost Big Tech Robber Barons and zombie global stock markets.

Recall that the Fed is not the Empire, it is the handmaiden of the Empire. The Fed's dual mandate-- for PR purposes, stable employment and prices--is actually balancing the conflicting demands of a global and domestic currency--Triffin's Paradox writ large.

The inherent problem with a reserve currency is that it must meet global economic needs and domestic needs, and these are intrinsically in conflict. America's billionaires and pension funds want the US stock market to loft higher on the back of a declining USD, but that diminishes the global purchasing power of the USD--a trend spiraling down to economic ruin.

The Fed's balancing act has run out of runway. It's either destroy American hegemony by crushing the USD or secure hegemony and let the stock market function as a "market" rather than as a device to further enrich the top .01%. (Recall that "nearly half of the new income generated since the global financial crisis of 2008 has gone to the wealthiest one percent of U.S. citizens. The richest three Americans collectively have more wealth than the poorest 160 million Americans." The Dangerously Diminishing Returns on Monetary and Fiscal Stimulus)

As for diminishing returns: consider what the Fed "bought" by handing $1 trillion to financiers, banks and billionaires in 2008-09 and what it "bought" with $3 trillion last March. The Fed's balance sheet shot up from $925 billion on 9/9/08 to $2.08 trillion on 9/9/09-- an injection of $1.16 trillion to "save" the global financial system (and the U.S. stock and debt markets) from complete meltdown.

The Fed continued goosing markets higher, adding another $1 trillion by 2013 (balance sheet $2.96 trillion). So the Fed "bought" a five-year rally in global risk assets--a rally that sent wealth and income inequality into orbit--for a mere $2 trillion.

Last year the Fed had to print over $3 trillion in three months to "save the markets" from a reckoning with reality. Take a quick look at the chart below. Notice how the Fed's "saves" are tracking a near-parabolic curve. So will the next "save" require $5 trillion, or will it be $7 trillion? And what are the consequences for such insanity on the U.S. dollar's global hegemony?

So the Fed has a binary choice: preserve America's global hegemony or further enrich the billionaires. You can't have both. Hegemony requires a currency that's increasing its value relative to other currencies, not plummeting to near-zero.

If the Fed chooses to further enrich the billionaires and top .01%, then the skyrocketing wealth-income inequality will unravel the domestic social and political orders. There is no way that will be a "win" for the Fed, as the resulting backlash against the Fed's stripmining the nation to enrich the top .01% will have consequences for the Fed as well as the nation.

So the Fed will fail. If it spews endless trillions to further enrich the billionaires it will destroy the exorbitant privilege of the reserve currency and the global hegemony that privilege enables. If it preserves global dollar hegemony by not spewing endless trillions, global stock and debt markets will experience the equivalent of a financial tsunami, earthquake and hurricane hitting all at the same time.

It's either/or--there is no win-win. Choose wisely, Fed.





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:

Salon #35: The problem is that nobody knows what "Kuleana" means (58 minutes)


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, John K. ($10/month), for your outrageously generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.

 

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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Dangerously Diminishing Returns on Monetary and Fiscal Stimulus

Allow me to translate the risible claims of Jay Powell and Janet Yellen that their stimulus policies haven't boosted wealth inequality to the moon: "Let them eat cake."

The euphoria of ever greater monetary and fiscal stimulus overlooks the diminishing returns and higher risks generated by near-exponential increases in stimulus. I prepared a chart that graphically displays the extraordinary increases in stimulus and the declining results in the primary goals of economic policy: broad-based opportunity to get ahead and reducing systemically destabilizing wealth inequality.

Looking back on this era, the fatal irony that all this stimulus has rocket-boosted wealth and income inequality while gutting the bottom 90% will be glaringly obvious. It's actually glaringly obvious right now to those not blinded by euphoria. Consider this excerpt from the current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, an article entitled Monopoly Versus Democracy (paywalled):

Like their forebears in the early twentieth century, today's Americans have experienced decades of growing inequality and increasing concentrations of wealth and power. The last decade alone witnessed nearly 500,000 corporate mergers worldwide. Ten percent of Americans now control 97 percent of all capital income in the country. Nearly half of the new income generated since the global financial crisis of 2008 has gone to the wealthiest one percent of U.S. citizens. The richest three Americans collectively have more wealth than the poorest 160 million Americans. (Editor's note: emphasis added.)

In most industries, a few companies control the field, dictating terms, squeezing out competitors, and using differential pricing to extract cash and power. Three companies control digital advertising, four companies dominate beef packing, and an ever-shrinking number own the country's hospitals.


While RobinHood stock traders may reckon their hot hand will boost them into the ranks of millionaires, it would take trillions of dollars of gains to even move the needle of our immense inequalities of capital and income: the top 10% skim 97% of capital income and own about 90% of all capital.

The ugly truth is all the monetary and fiscal stimulus of the past decade has only served to boost wealth and income inequality and reduce opportunity to gain a foothold in the New Gilded Age. In terms of offering those in the bottom 50% a stake in all this ballooning wealth, monetary and fiscal stimulus has failed completely: The richest three Americans collectively have more wealth than the poorest 160 million Americans.

The euphoric faithful also overlook the systemic risks created by exponential increases in stimulus that overwhelmingly benefit only the top 10%, top 1% and most especially the top .01%. The exponentially asymmetric benefits of ever greater stimulus generate social disorder that eventually breaks down the entire social order, while the exponential increases in debt, leverage and speculation increase the risks of a systemic financial collapse.

Allow me to translate the risible claims of Jay Powell and Janet Yellen that their stimulus policies haven't boosted wealth inequality to the moon: Let them eat cake. And we all know how that worked out.



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:

Salon #35: The problem is that nobody knows what "Kuleana" means (58 minutes)


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

 

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Monday, January 18, 2021

A Few Notes on Deflation/Inflation

The consensus is that asset inflation is unstoppable and forever. History begs to differ.

Not unsurprisingly, people want a binary option: do we get deflation or inflation? Unfortunately, reality is messy.

Broadly speaking, globalization is deflationary as capital seeks the lowest cost labor, parts and materials, the least stringent environmental standards and the most corrupt governance to maximize profits by any means available (in this case, exploitation and corruption).

Wages lose purchasing power as every labor force competes with the cheapest available pool of global labor, and domestic companies must lower prices or face obliteration by the global corporations.

Broadly speaking, financialization is inflationary as the costs of services increase as financialization enables monopolies and cartels to dominate entire sectors. Once they control the sector, they increase prices while lowering quality to maximize profits by any means available (in this case, monopoly, cartels and political corruption). As the profits gush in, corporate monopolies and cartels can "invest in corruption" by using a sliver of their profits to buy political favors and protection.

Financialization lowers the cost of credit to corporations and financiers, giving the largest entities an unmatchable competitive advantage: they can borrow immense sums at near-zero cost and use this money (or newly issued stock) to buy competitors, insuring their monopoly won't be challenged by either regulations (since politicos and bureaucrats have been bought off) or competitors (all bought out with "free money".)

While many hold that inflation is always a monetary phenomenon, real-world scarcities are also inflationary. If you were waiting in a long line at a gas station in 1973, hoping to get a tank of gas at only double the price of a month earlier, you'll know that scarcity is absolutely marvelous at sending price soaring regardless of what's happening with the money supply.

So inflation can be driven by either or both monetary and scarcity dynamics.

Enter the pandemic. Needless to say, restrictions in travel and gatherings are deflationary in travel-leisure-dining sectors as airlines lower prices to compete for a shrinking pool of passengers and surviving restaurants suppress prices to attract scarce customers.

As millions of workers lose their jobs and depend on unemployment, the insecurity of future income weighs on overall consumption.

Lowering the cost of credit does little for these sectors while rocket-boosting speculation and financialization. The monetary "solution" to deflation is always the same: lower interest rates to zero and flood the financial sector with unlimited liquidity. The resulting stock market bubble and corporate orgy of borrowing and stock issuance are predictable results of unfettered, near-infinite financialization.

But lowering the cost of credit and incentivizing monopolies and cartels to expand their control doesn't actually help the economy. Enabling rapacious monopolies and cartels is systemically inflationary, while lowering the cost and availability of credit also increases the attractiveness of automation as a means of lowering labor costs, a dynamic that is deflationary as lower wages equals lower consumption.

The reality is relatively few gig economy workers earn a middle-class income working 40 hours a week. The large-scale reduction of wage and benefit security--i.e. the transition to a precariat work force--is highly deflationary in terms of wages and consumption, as precariats cannot count on future earnings being reliable or sufficient.

The political "solution" is Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a means of supporting consumption. But supporting the consumption of essentials doesn't magically incentivize innovation or the expansion of capacity and real-world production.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve will continue giving unlimited "free money" to corporations and financiers to increase the concentration of financial and political power in the hands of the few at the expense of the many. This fuels the dominance of corporations and financiers and increases the risks of monetary over-reach, which introduces the potential for a non-linear sudden and unpredictable explosion of monetary-driven inflation.

All of this sets the stage for both monetary and scarcity inflation. Monopolies and cartels are free to exploit their stranglehold on the nation by jacking up prices and reducing quality (while the bought-and-paid-for political class theatrically wrings their hands while skimming millions in campaign contributions). This is rabidly inflationary.

Since there are few incentives to expand real-world capacity and production, this sets the stage for scarcities in essentials and non-essentials alike. With Peak Globalization in the rearview mirror, the deflationary forces of globalization are ebbing.

The fly in the ointment is speculative bubbles always pop. All the inflation in the system has flowed into excessive speculation, which has inflated unprecedented bubbles across most asset classes. When these all pop, the results are deflationary as the wealth effect reverses and over-leveraged corporations default and/or go bankrupt.

I marked up this chart of the S&P 500 about a year ago, and since then the market crashed and then soared to new highs (SPX 3,826). The basic message here is extremes get more extreme until the rocket runs out of fuel--something the consensus now claims is "impossible." The consensus is that asset inflation is unstoppable and forever. History begs to differ.



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:

Salon #35: The problem is that nobody knows what "Kuleana" means (58 minutes)


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, Jan K. ($50), for your magnificently generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

 

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

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Friday, January 15, 2021

Designed To Fail, Failure Guaranteed

Yet it still comes as a great surprise to everyone when 'doing more of what's failed spectacularly' ends up collapsing the whole rotten structure.

Systems and nations are designed to fail without anyone even noticing: nobody set out to design the current broken system to fail at critical points, but now failure can't be avoided because the incentive structure has locked in embedded processes that enrich self-serving cartels and insiders at the expense of the nation and its populace.

Nobody chose America's insanely perverse healthcare system--it arose from a set of initial conditions that generated perverse incentives to do more of what's failing and protect the processes that benefit cartels and insiders at the expense of everyone else.

In other words, the system that was intended to benefit all ends up benefiting the few at the expense of the many.

The same question can be asked of America's broken higher education system: would any sane person choose a system that enriches insiders by indenturing students via massive student loans (i.e. forcing them to become debt serfs)?

Students and their parents certainly wouldn't choose the current broken system, but the lenders reaping billions of dollars in profits would choose to keep it, and so would the under-assistant deans earning a cool $200K+ for "administering" some embedded process that has effectively nothing to do with actual learning.

The academic ronin a.k.a. adjuncts earning $35,000 a year (with little in the way of benefits or security) for doing much of the actual teaching wouldn't choose the current broken system, either.

Now that the embedded processes are generating profits and wages, everyone benefiting from these processes will fight to the death to retain and expand them, even if they threaten the system with financial collapse and harm the people who the system was intended to serve.

How many student loan lenders and assistant deans resign in disgust at the parasitic system that higher education has become? The number of insiders who refuse to participate any longer is signal noise, while the number who plod along, either denying their complicity in a parasitic system of debt servitude and largely worthless diplomas (i.e. the system is failing the students it is supposedly educating at enormous expense) or rationalizing it is legion.

If I was raking in $200,000 annually from a system I knew was parasitic and counter-productive, I would find reasons to keep my head down and just "do my job," too.

At some point, the embedded processes become so odious and burdensome that those actually providing the services start bailing out of the broken system. We're seeing this in the number of doctors and nurses who retire early or simply quit to do something less stressful and more rewarding.

These embedded processes strip away autonomy, equating compliance with effectiveness even as the processes become increasingly counter-productive and wasteful. The typical mortgage documents package is now a half-inch thick, a stack of legal disclaimers and stipulations that no home buyer actually understands (unless they happen to be a real estate attorney).

How much value is actually added by these ever-expanding embedded processes?

By the time the teacher, professor or doctor complies with the curriculum / "standards of care", there's little room left for actually doing their job. But behind the scenes, armies of well-paid administrators will fight to the death to keep the processes as they are, no matter how destructive to the system as a whole.

This is how systems and the nations that depend on them fail. Meds skyrocket in price, student loans top $1 trillion, F-35 fighter aircraft are double the initial cost estimates and so on, and the insider solutions are always the same: just borrow another trillion to keep the broken system afloat for another quarter.

Yet it still comes as a great surprise to everyone when doing more of what's failed spectacularly ends up collapsing the whole rotten structure.

Consider a spacecraft as a metaphor for a system which is designed not to fail but that can fail anyway. There are two basic ways the spacecraft can fail: a single essential component can fail, or a single failure can trigger a domino-like cascade which leads to the entire craft failing.

If the craft's single oxygen tank ruptures, the crew dies. 99% of the spacecraft is still working perfectly, but the system failed in its primary purpose: keeping the crew alive.

If an electrical failure causes a cascade of subsystem failures, you end up with the same result: a powerless craft and a dead crew.

But 99% of the system is working just fine is little solace to the expired crew.



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:

Salon #35: The problem is that nobody knows what "Kuleana" means (58 minutes)


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, Samuel T. ($60), for your magnificently generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

 

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

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