Sunday, October 30, 2022

Yield Inversions Guarantee Recessions--or Do They?

What's different now? Quite a few fundamentals are consequentially different.

The closest thing to a guarantee in finance is the truism that recessions always follow Treasury bond yield inversions, where short-term bond yields exceed longer-duration bond yields.

Does history alone guarantee the same result this time? The consensus is "yes," but as grizzled market observers have noted, when everyone is sure the market is going to do one thing, it does something else.

The better approach would be to say all else being equal to previous conditions, recessions follow yield inversions as night follows day. But are conditions the same now? It can be argued that conditions are fundamentally different, and so the guarantee of recession might be flawed.

What's different now? Quite a few fundamentals are consequentially different.

1. The labor force is no longer expanding, and may be shrinking. As the chart below illustrates (courtesy of Econimica), the number of employees 25-54 has been stagnant for 20 years. The only growth in the employed are in the 55 and older cohort, which added 20 million employed in those 20 years.

As the population ages and the birthrate declines, the workforce ages and then shrinks as older workers retire. This puts a floor under employment that didn't exist in previous eras. Wages are finally rising after 45 years of stagnation. This trend will only accelerate as the workforce contracts.

Social and health changes are exacerbating this contraction in those willing to work. Laying flat and Let It Rot are Chinese terms for younger generations opting out of the rat-race, but they apply to American workers as well. Quiet quitting is only one manifestation of a larger social movement of take this job and shove it.

Long COVID is not being tracked all that well, but anecdotal evidence suggests it's impacting the younger workforce. The general decline of American workers' health (lifestyle diseases / disorders, burnout, etc.) is having a substantial but poorly documented effect. The workforce is not just a count of warm bodies, it's the count of those willing and able to work demanding jobs.

Turning to household wealth, note that household wealth doubled from 2008 to 2022, from $81 trillion to $162 trillion in Q2 2022. As noted here many times, the majority of this wealth is in the hands of the top 10%, who generate roughly 40% of all consumer spending.

Many of these households bought assets long ago. Asset valuations can drop substantially but the gains are so large that those who own most of the assets will still feel well-off. For example, if you bought a house for $150,000 and it was worth $1 million earlier this year, if it drops to $750,000 next year, you may regret not selling it but you're not exactly hurting.

In other words, there are buffers in employment, wages and wealth that are substantially different from previous eras. Labor has already been cut to the bone in most of Corporate America and small business, and essential workers run the spectrum from hotel maids and other lower-skill positions to experienced welders and electricians to tech workers.

The slack got squeezed out long ago. If you struggled to hire reliable, experienced workers, you're going to do everything else to cut expenses to keep those essential workers in a downturn.

Lastly, reshoring and friendshoring are bringing capital and jobs back to North America. The perversities and vulnerabilities of Hyper-Globalization are now apparent to all, and this reality will only gather momentum.

Recessions are not equal. A deep recession is characterized by 10% to 15% of the workforce being laid off, and credit, consumption, asset valuations and profits all fall off a cliff.

A recession in which the GDP shrinks by 1% for two quarters while employment remains stable may be more statistical than consequential. All things are not equal, and the herd running toward the "guaranteed recession" may thunder off the cliff.







My new book is now available at a 10% discount ($8.95 ebook, $18 print): Self-Reliance in the 21st Century.

Read the first chapter for free (PDF)

Read excerpts of all three chapters

Podcast with Richard Bonugli: Self Reliance in the 21st Century (43 min)


My recent books:

The Asian Heroine Who Seduced Me (Novel) print $10.95, Kindle $6.95 Read an excerpt for free (PDF)

When You Can't Go On: Burnout, Reckoning and Renewal $18 print, $8.95 Kindle ebook; audiobook Read the first section for free (PDF)

Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States (Kindle $9.95, print $24, audiobook) Read Chapter One for free (PDF).

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).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake (Novel) $4.95 Kindle, $10.95 print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

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


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, October 28, 2022

What Does Liberation Mean in the Real World?

Liberation in the real world is the result of self-reliance and investing in our own well-being.

Liberation has many contexts. It can mean being freed from imprisonment or servitude, freedom from gnawing want or oppression, or being liberated from prisons of the mind.

Note that the first form of liberation is external / material, the second is internal / psychological / spiritual. Many confuse the two, blaming an oppressive system for their unhappiness rather than their internal acquiescence to the system's narratives and values.

For many, liberation depends on the actions of others. If only we had different leaders, a different financial financial system, a different energy system, a different constellation of media, and so on--if only the powers that control our world were liberating rather than extractive.

The other approach is to accept responsibility for our own liberation within the system as it is. Demanding those benefiting so handsomely from the system as it is currently configured relinquish their wealth and power is not going to re-order the system when those benefiting from the system 1) have every incentive to devote all available resources to maintaining it as it is and 2) have an unshakeable belief that the system is so powerful (the state, the party, the central bank, etc.) that nothing could possibly destabilize their comforts, conveniences, wealth and power.

In other words, their belief in the permanence and immutability of the system is equally immutable. That their belief is nothing more than hubris pushed to extremes of denial and delusion doesn't register.

In this mindset of unbreakable faith in the god-like powers of the system as it is, the faithful benefiting from the system will favor destabilizing policy extremes rather than give up any of their perquisites and power.

They might push the system into collapse because they believe collapse is impossible. There is no arguing with true believers in any ideology or arrangement in which the self-interest of those in power is the organizing principle of the system.

Rather than rail at the Powers That Be for being self-serving and thinking liberation is only possible if the entire system is reset, the alternative is to liberate ourselves from the prison of the mind generated by the system's media, narratives and values.

Simply put, stop consuming "news" and "opinion" designed to polarize, addict and derange. Once we stop paying attention, we stop reacting, and our time and energy revert to our own use rather than making somebody else money in the Attention Economy.

My Credo of Liberation summarizes this process of detaching oneself from the narratives and values that support the power structure of exploitation (from my book Resistance, Revolution, 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.

This self-liberation from prisons of the mind is only the first step of real-world liberation. The second step is to understand how the vulnerabilities of the system as it is can affect our lives, and work to decouple our well-being from the system as it is.

The core dynamics that deserve our careful study are 1) scale 2) dependency chains and 3) stability. The problem with the global economy as it is is that it is an unstable tangle of long dependency chains of globalization and financialization that must operate at massive scales with just in time perfection.

This system appears robust when everything is working perfectly, but it's actually on the edge of instability at all times. Any disruption beyond the trivial threatens to unravel all the interconnected dependency chains.

Path dependency also matters. The system as it is is the result of decisions made long ago in different times and circumstances. Yet the decisions made then still define how the system functions. Put another way, modest policy tweaks can't reduce the instability of the system.

If we reduce our dependence on the system, we decouple our own well-being from the system's incoherence and fragility. This decoupling is called self-reliance, the topic of my book Self-Reliance in the 21st Century.

Liberation in the real-world is not a false either-or polarity; it's a matter of degrees. By developing local sources of essentials and trustted personal networks, we reduce our dependence on long global supply chains and the debt-leverage of financialization.

Once we stop consuming and fretting over "news" and "opinions" we have no control over, we free up the time and energy needed to invest in our own self-reliance.

The question of our own well-being boils down to: what are we buying into? What have we bought into in terms of wants and needs, in what props up our identity and self-worth, and in the sources of inspiration, goals and purpose in our lives?

If all that boils down to making more money to buy more stuff or make even more money, that's not decoupling, that's total dependence on an incoherent, fragile, exploitive, unstable, unsustainable system that isn't going to change because we want it to change.

Ideologies are the walls and chains of the prisons of the mind. Ideologies lead to the idea that if only everyone agreed with me, all our problems would be solved. Self-reliance doesn't need anyone's consent or "likes" on social media. Self-reliance values trust, integrity and performance, not canned opinions spouted as "solutions" once everyone agrees with me, or is forced to agree with me in public.

Liberation in the real world is the result of self-reliance and investing in our own well-being. Opinions and "news" don't create well-being, they tear it down.







My new book is now available at a 10% discount ($8.95 ebook, $18 print): Self-Reliance in the 21st Century.

Read the first chapter for free (PDF)

Read excerpts of all three chapters

Podcast with Richard Bonugli: Self Reliance in the 21st Century (43 min)


My recent books:

The Asian Heroine Who Seduced Me (Novel) print $10.95, Kindle $6.95 Read an excerpt for free (PDF)

When You Can't Go On: Burnout, Reckoning and Renewal $18 print, $8.95 Kindle ebook; audiobook Read the first section for free (PDF)

Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States (Kindle $9.95, print $24, audiobook) Read Chapter One for free (PDF).

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).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake (Novel) $4.95 Kindle, $10.95 print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

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


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

 

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Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The End of the "Growth" Road

Everyone caught by surprise that the infinite road actually has an end will face a bewildering transition.

The End of the "Growth" Road is upon us, though the consensus continues to hold fast to the endearing fantasy of infinite expansion of consumption.

This fantasy has been supported for decades by the financial expansion of debt, which enabled more spending which pushed consumption, earnings, taxes, etc. higher.

All the financial games are fun but "growth" boils down to an expansion of material consumption: more copper mined and turned into wire which is turned into new wind turbines, housing, vehicles, appliances, etc.

There are three problems with the infinite expansion of consumption "growth" paradigm.

1. Everyone in developed economies already has everything. The "solution" is planned obsolescence and the obsessive worship of marketing, which seeks to manipulate "consumers" into buying stuff of marginal utility that they don't actually need with credit. This is sold as "fashion."

The reality is many consumer goods are of far lower quality than previous generations of products and services. Some of this can be attributed to lower quality control and the relentless pressure of globalization to lower costs, but it's also a systemic expansion of planned obsolescence: product cycles, low-quality components, designs intended to be unrepairable, etc. have all been optimized for the LandFill Economy where products that once lasted for decades are now dumped in the landfill after a few years of service. (As for recycling all the broken stuff--that's another endearing fantasy.)

Bright Panels, Dark Secrets: The Problem of Solar Waste: Generating photovoltaic electricity takes more than sweetness and sunshine.

The purchase of "fashionable" replacements and marketing gimmicks are the only real driver of "growth" in developed economies. Life is not being enhanced with better quality or utility; it's supposedly being enhanced by "new" stuff, the only benefit of which is that's it's "new." The claimed benefits are marginal.

2. Those who could actually use more stuff don't have any money. China's unprecedented development enabled 500 million people who previously didn't have the earnings or credit to buy vehicles, high-rise flats, etc. gained the income and credit to buy all the middle class goodies. This immense expansion of the global middle class boosted the global economy for 30 years.

But the rest of the developing world has a harder time duplicating the staggering flood of capital into China that funded its transition into "the workshop of the world." Global corporations might be able to sell snacks and soda and cheap mobile phones to developing economies, but vehicles and high-rise flats--those require expansions of earnings, capital flows and credit that cannot be generated by financial magic.

3. The easy-to-get materials needed to build another billion vehicles, high-rise flats, etc. have been extracted. While the faithful await new technological miracles that will keep the "growth" system expanding forever, those tasked with actually building the new techno-wonders are looking at real-world limits and costs. Read these two twitter threads for a taste of reality:

COPPER redux: I live near one of the largest copper mines on earth (Kennecott Utah Copper - KUC). I helped manage a smaller copper mine for 8 years. Observation: Wind/Solar/Battery Proponents and ESG bean-counters are completely out of touch with copper mining and production.

Is "Renewable Energy" Renewable? Part 1: PV & Polysilicon

The logic of "growth" is to consume more materials, not less. Consider the premier consumer product globally, the automobile. We're constantly told the value of advancements in safety and comfort are the drivers of higher vehicle prices, but the reality is the advances that mattered occurred in the 1970s. Since then, vehicles have become much larger and heavier, consuming more resources for marginal gains.

My 1977 Honda Accord (built 45 years ago) was a considerably different vehicle from the 1962 Dodge Dart my Mom drove. It had far better fuel efficiency, far more power per cubic inch of engine displacement, and was far safer and more comfortable. The same can be said for the modest-sized 4-cylinder Toyota pickups we drove for work.

The modern versions of this car and truck are far larger, heavier and consume far more resources than previous models. If we scrape away the marketing mind-tricks we would conclude the 45-year old vehicles were far more environmentally sound than the bloated modern versions, and the supposed advances (rear cameras, bluetooth sound systems, etc.) are either marginal or annoyances.

I looked through a Toyota Prius manual a few years ago. The majority of the thick book addressed the convoluted, complex sound system. Issues such as why the starter battery went dead if the car wasn't used constantly were unaddressed.

Electric vehicles and hybrids use far more of the planet's resources than simple ICE (internal combustion engines) vehicles, and they don't last as long as their heavy, costly batteries must be replaced long before the basic ICE vehicle reaches the end of its useful life. Only an inconsequential percentage of lithium-ion batteries are recycled, and regardless of rah-rah marketing claims to the contrary, this isn't going to change.

The environmentally sound approach would be to make vehicles that were radically lighter, less powerful, more efficient and slower, vehicles that would get the equivalent of 200 miles per gallon of fuel (or electrical charge) and last 20 years without major overhauls, battery replacements, etc.

But the logic of marketing and debt expansion demands bigger, heavier, more complex, and more costly everything, and the replacement of everything sooner rather than later. Only if we consume and squander more real-world resources can we continue running the marketing / planned obsolescence / expanding debt machine toward the goal of infinite "growth."

Marketing and debt are not substitutes for real-world limits. A great many people are enamored of techno-promises of limitless energy, etc., but they don't look at the vast material consumption needed to build and maintain techno-wonders such as fusion reactors (incomprehensibly complex), nuclear reactors (huge, complex plants that take years to build) or the mining operations needed to dig up and process all the copper, uranium, bauxite, etc. that all these techno-wonders require in the real world.

We've reached the end of the "growth" road in which the expansion of marketing and debt magically increase the materials we can consume. Debt and marketing have their own limits, and our reliance on them has generated second-order effects few understand.

The road ends, and the trail beyond is narrow, rough and unmarked. Those who are deaf to marketing and debt and attuned to self-reliance will do just fine. Everyone caught by surprise that the infinite road actually has an end will face a bewildering transition.





My new book is now available at a 10% discount ($8.95 ebook, $18 print): Self-Reliance in the 21st Century.

Read the first chapter for free (PDF)

Read excerpts of all three chapters

Podcast with Richard Bonugli: Self Reliance in the 21st Century (43 min)


My recent books:

The Asian Heroine Who Seduced Me (Novel) print $10.95, Kindle $6.95 Read an excerpt for free (PDF)

When You Can't Go On: Burnout, Reckoning and Renewal $18 print, $8.95 Kindle ebook; audiobook Read the first section for free (PDF)

Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States (Kindle $9.95, print $24, audiobook) Read Chapter One for free (PDF).

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).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake (Novel) $4.95 Kindle, $10.95 print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

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


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

 

Thank you, Brian M. ($10), for yet another wondrously generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.

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Monday, October 24, 2022

Now That Housing Is Rolling Over, Is That Fixer-Upper a Deal?

So-called "cosmetic work" can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Now that housing is finally rolling over due to rising mortgage rates and bubble valuations, many of those who have been priced out of the market are hoping to take advantage of lower prices. In many cases, the most affordable segment is fixer-uppers, homes that are distressed for any number of reasons: a lack of maintenance; construction or drainage deficiencies; obsolete or defective foundations, water or termite damage, etc.

Longtime correspondent Daniel C. is familiar with my building experience, and so he asked a question that will benefit many potential homebuyers: "What advice would you give to someone with next to no homebuilding skills, but willing to learn, regarding getting into a fixer-upper?"

My answer is not gender-specific: for example, my wife is a much better plumber than I am. Together we've poured concrete, did a tear-off of multiple layers of comp roofing shingles down to the sheathing, repaired the sheathing and installed a new roof, completely rehabbed dozens of double-hung windows (new sash, window putty, repairing dryrot, etc.) in which she did the bulk of the work, and so on, in a very long list of renovation / rehab / new construction projects. Anyone can learn these skills and will benefit from learning as much as possible about how buildings are constructed, upgraded / repaired and maintained.

That said, being able to make an accurate assessment of the risks and costs embedded in a fixer-upper is an entirely different level of experience and skill--especially if the fixer "looks okay and just needs cosmetic work."

Here is my response to Daniel and everyone else who is considering bidding on a fixer-upper.

That's a tough question because there's a lot to know before you can make an informed assessment and decision.

When I was younger, my partner and I built close to 100 houses in five years, from modest starter homes to pricey custom homes, commercial buildings and a 42-unit subdivision. Before that, I worked my way through college working for a contractor who did renovations, additions and luxury homes. I am still learning.

If I had to summarize a complex process, I would start with these points:

1. Many things can't be fixed or can only be fixed at horrendous expense. Avoid buying any home / property with problems that can't be fixed. These include (but are not limited to) poor drainage / flooding, soil settlement, bad neighbors, poor location, noise from freeways, railways, etc., deficiencies in construction, defective foundations, water and termite damage in the framing, poor floor plan and obsolete systems (heating, electrical, plumbing, etc.).

2. So-called "cosmetic work" can cost tens of thousands of dollars. It's widely assumed "anyone can paint a house." This is true if we mean paint a house badly, i.e. spray a thin coat of cheap paint without preparing the surface by removing all the loose paint, filling all the defects, sanding the surface, applying a good-quality primer and then applying a good coat of good-quality paint appropriate to the weather, sun exposure, etc.

The rule of thumb is 90/10: 90% of the work is preparing the surface professionally, 10% is applying the paint.

Not many amateurs have the time, equipment and experience to do this job properly on an entire interior and exterior of a house.

The prep work is when you discover all sorts of problems that were hidden behind the flaking paint: dry-rot and termite damage, water leaks, etc. If you can peel the paint off with your fingernail--which is what happens when somebody slapped paint over an unprepared semi-gloss surface--that inept paint job will only make the prep more time-consuming.

If there is lead-based paint that has to be removed due to decay, weathering, etc., that's another issue entirely, and a costly one to remediate.

Paint and labor are both expensive. A quality paint job for a house that hasn't been properly maintained might cost $25,000, and more for a larger house or one with major maintenance issues that must be repaired.

Toss in refinishing hardwood floors (another job best left to pros), a new roof (it looked okay from the outside but look in the attic and oops, see all those leaks?), new appliances, new flooring, and so on--all "cosmetic," not structural--and the total cost might be $50,000 to $100,000, depending on what's discovered as work progresses.

For buyers who scraped up every dime just to buy the place, the cost of this "cosmetic" work is a deal-breaker.

In other words, "cosmetic" doesn't necessarily mean "cheap" or "we can do it ourselves."

3. If you are serious about a house, I would find an experienced house inspector who would agree to do the inspection with you present so they can point out what they're looking for and the systems that are OK and those that aren't.

An experienced inspector will be looking at the fundamentals: drainage (water must flow naturally away from the house) , foundation / soil (settling due to poor compaction, etc.) roof (leaks), water-dryrot /termite damage, defective construction and obsolete plumbing/electrical/heating / insulation, etc..

Before you get that far, you can do a useful bit of investigation yourself in the initial walk-through. I bring a 4-foot level, a ladder and a good flashlight whenever I look at a house, which we occasionally do out of curiosity because we like the location or the design of the house.

The level tells me if the floor is basically level or not, the ladder and flashlight is to look in the attic to identify leaks, quality of construction, vents, insulation, etc., look under sinks for signs of leaks, and if there's a crawlspace, crawl under the house and look for termites, settling, quality of construction, etc.

Realtors are typically surprised when I show up with a 4-ft ladder and the level. They're not used to seeing anyone who looks beyond the superficial. The look and feel of a home is important, but that won't yield an assessment of defects, costs and whether the investment needed to restore the house will actually increase the value above and beyond what you're paying.

4. Research the history of the property in city/county records. Building permits are public records, and it's useful to find out if whatever major work was done to the house was properly permitted or not. Unpermitted structural, electrical, plumbing, roofing, etc. work opens costly cans of worms, as work that's not up to code can be dangerous (improper venting, etc.) and opens the door to legal issues when you try to sell the house.

Ideally, previous owners hired professionals who obtained permits. That's what you want to see--evidence the renovation / repair work was done correctly by a licensed professional, or if done by an amateur, that the work was properly inspected and approved.

There is a lot to know, and I'm not sure how best to learn enough to be consequential. I'm not sure there are any shortcuts. Even with all my experience, I still consult with professionals on issues I don't have enough experience to assess. The big mistakes are made by not seeing fundamental issues with the items listed above--the "bones" and location of the house having problems that can't be fixed or only at horrendous expense. The other is to not look at the neighbors and traffic at various times, so you have to visit at rush hour and late at night.

A lot of older homes have better quality wood, stucco, etc., as the materials were often higher quality, but they tend to have obsolete / worn out plumbing, electrical, flooring, heating, etc., plus deferred maintenance which allowed small problems to become big problems.

In terms of future valuation, the location is paramount. My biggest mistake when I was in my 20s was not scraping up more money to afford a lot on the "good side" of town where valuations will increase much more reliably because of the enduring value of proximity to schools, shopping, etc., views, leafy tree-lined streets, etc.

The other essentials are the floor plan, orientation to wind and sun, proximity of neighbors and size of the lot. You can't change any of that. A poor floor plan can only be changed with a gut-and-rebuild, which is as expensive as building a new house (or even more expensive due to the predictable emergence of "surprises.")

What can you live with and what can't you live with? Some things you might think you can live with but actually you can't, and you will regret buying the place.

I would caution against over-estimating how much work you can do yourselves. Even apparently simple jobs like repainting wood kitchen cabinets can take a stupidly huge amount of time if the work is done right. Even with 49 years' experience, I am still prone to under-estimating the time it will take to do difficult projects--and many projects are incredibly difficult, tedious and challenging.

Here's an example. The entry to a lower-floor in-law unit flooded when it rained heavily. There was a drain in the concrete so I figured the drain pipe had corroded and needed to be replaced. After digging down in tight quarters due to retaining walls and live rock, I found the pipe extended out about a foot and ended. It had never been a proper drain. So we had to laboriously chisel out live rock to lay a drain line that actually functioned.

"New" doesn't mean it doesn't have deal-breaking issues. A friend of mine bought a relatively new house (less than 10 years old) house that had such severe termite damage to the structure that he tore it down and built a new house on the lot. (He knew about the damage and basically paid for the lot, not the house.)

Patience is a virtue here. Wait for the right property but be ready to jump when it appears. The more properties you visit and investigate, the better your knowledge base. Once you have a substantial knowledge of the market and what's available, first impressions and instincts are useful.

I liked the house we bought as soon as I walked the property and walked around inside. Functional floor plan, good orientation to sun and wind, good-sized lot, neighbors not too close, good drainage, pleasant views, good location in town, solid foundation and roof, quality construction, previous owners did a good job with upgrades by hiring professionals for both cosmetic and electrical/plumbing work, mature fruit trees--sold!

Not everything had been fixed, of course. The house is 65 years old. The wood windows were painted shut, sash cords broken, etc. The yard had massive deferred maintenance and ill-suited landscaping. This didn't mean there wasn't backbreaking work to be done, but these improvements / repairs could be done over time and were within our skillsets and budget.

It took about four years of looking at dozens of inferior / defective properties before this came on the market. It was worth the wait. We weren't looking for an "investment" to flip, we were looking for a place where we'd be happy.

Here's another reason to be patient: bubble symmetry. Asset bubbles tend to take roughly the same time to deflate and they took to inflate. The recent run-up in housing valuations was extremely steep, and so we can anticipate the possibility that the decline will be similarly steep.



My new book is now available at a 10% discount ($8.95 ebook, $18 print): Self-Reliance in the 21st Century.

Read the first chapter for free (PDF)

Read excerpts of all three chapters

Podcast with Richard Bonugli: Self Reliance in the 21st Century (43 min)


My recent books:

The Asian Heroine Who Seduced Me (Novel) print $10.95, Kindle $6.95 Read an excerpt for free (PDF)

When You Can't Go On: Burnout, Reckoning and Renewal $18 print, $8.95 Kindle ebook; audiobook Read the first section for free (PDF)

Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States (Kindle $9.95, print $24, audiobook) Read Chapter One for free (PDF).

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).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake (Novel) $4.95 Kindle, $10.95 print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

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


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




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Saturday, October 22, 2022

A Lesson in Markets and Bureaucracies: The Very Instructive History of Rat Farms

In effect, authorities created two rat farms, both unintended: the sewers, and the private-sector rat-farms.

The history of Rat Farms offers a valuable lesson in how markets and bureaucracies work.

The story of how the colonial authorities in Hanoi came to establish two kinds of rat farms is highly instructive.

The first rat farm was unintentional.
French colonial authorities decided to modernize the French Quarter of Hanoi (where Westerners lived) by constructing a modern sewer system, the overall goal being to establish "a little Paris in the East."

Their understanding of sewers was limited to the first-order effects: sewers safely collected and disposed of human waste.

They did not anticipate the second-order effect: the sewer was Rat Paradise, as "the pipes offered rats a new ecological niche, free of predators and full of food."

Second-order effects generate unintended consequences. (First-order effects: actions have consequences. Second-order effects: consequences have their own consequences.)

Rats proliferated in the sewers and began roaming the streets of Hanoi--not exactly the results intended by the authorities.

Matters became worse when in 1902 a first case of bubonic plague was detected. Modernity had created a potential health crisis.

To combat the exploding rat population, authorities hired crews to enter the sewers and kill the rats-- unpleasant and hazardous work.

Despite killing thousands of rats per day, the rats' tremendous fertility was more than a match for the extermination crews.

In an effort to recruit the local populace as rat-catchers / killers, the authorities offered the public a bounty for every dead rat, and later on for every rat-tail when the pile of rats waiting to be incinerated became too high.

Authorities then noticed tail-less rats around Hanoi: residents caught the rats, cut off their tails, and then freed them to continue breeding to insure a steady supply of profitable rat-tails.

Once again, authorities had failed to consider second-order effects.

The authorities soon discovered the ultimate manifestation of the perverse incentives the bounty had created: rat-farms had been established around Hanoi by private-sector entrepreneurs to maximize the harvesting of profitable rat-tails.

In effect, authorities created two rat farms, both unintended: the sewers, and the private-sector rat-farms.

Perverse incentives and unintended consequences are, like rats, ever-present.

In 1998, the Vietnamese authorities closed restaurants selling cat meat, which was marketed as "little tiger meat", because they thought that if the cat population decreased, rats would invade the rice fields, showcasing a similar mentality to the French almost a century earlier.

The modern iterations of perverse incentives and unintended consequences generally follow this line of development:

1. Massive new funding is made available to address a pressing problem: higher education, healthcare, homelessness, intelligence-gathering, national defense, etc.

2. This massive influx of new funding creates a new ecological niche free of predators and full of food, enabling the explosive growth of administrators, support staff, consultants and con-artists, all of whom have zero incentive to actually solve the problem and every incentive to expand the problem so their protected Paradise gets more funding.

This is higher education, healthcare, homelessness, intelligence gathering and national defense in a nutshell.

Sources:

Great Hanoi Rat Hunt, The: Empire, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (book review)

Great Hanoi Rat Massacre (wikipedia)



A version of this essay was first published as a weekly Musings Report sent exclusively to subscribers and patrons at the $5/month ($50/year) and higher level. Thank you, patrons and subscribers, for supporting my work and free website.

My new book is now available at a 10% discount ($8.95 ebook, $18 print): Self-Reliance in the 21st Century.

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My recent books:

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Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States (Kindle $9.95, print $24, audiobook) Read Chapter One for free (PDF).

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
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The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake (Novel) $4.95 Kindle, $10.95 print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Getting Rich Is One Thing; The Tricky Part Is Keeping It

When the $400 trillion global credit-asset bubbles all pop, maybe there will only be $100 trillion in wealth sloshing around.

Getting rich in a bubble economy isn't that hard as long as you were rich enough to buy assets at the start of the bubble.

For example, some friends bought a modest old house (built 1916, under 1,000 square feet) in the East Bay / San Francisco Bay Area for $135,000 in late 1996.

They invested money and sweat equity in improvements (new heating and wiring, etc.) and sold it for $545,000 in 2004.

Now the house is worth over $1 million.

Official inflation since 1997 is $1 then is now $1.80, so if the value of the house had kept up with inflation the current value would be $250,000.

Studies have found housing tends to gain about 2% net of inflation annually, so with this added in, the house "should be" worth about $325,000.

So the house is worth triple what historical (pre-bubble) valuations would suggest.

The stock and bond markets have yielded similar stellar results
over the past 25 years, roughly double the handsome historical expected returns.

Other investments have yielded spectacular returns. Many tech stocks have risen ten-fold or more, and those who bought Bitcoin for $650 in August of 2016 when I projected a price target of $17,000 (absurd at the time) could have reaped a nearly 100-fold gain had they held on and sold at the peak around $65,000 in November 2021.

Not everyone who owned or bought assets in the early years of the credit-asset bubble have become wealthy, but most have done well for themselves.

Going forward, the tricky part will be keeping this wealth.

There are several reasons for this.

One is that all bubbles pop,
despite the vigorous protests of those who have profited so mightily from the bubble.

Another is the magnitude of the challenge: to preserve their gains, everyone will have to rotate out of asset classes that are deflating into assets that are rising or at least holding their value.

As John Hussman has pointed out, somebody owns the devaluing asset all the way down, i.e. bagholders. These owners absorb the losses.

There's about $400 trillion in assets / wealth sloshing around the global economy. If (say) half of that wealth must exit declining assets and find safe haven in some other asset classes, that's a tall order.

$200 trillion out of declining asset classes (real estate, bonds and stocks, for example) into what asset classes that will be worth $200 trillion in the new era?

Proponents of safe-haven asset classes abound. Crypto enthusiasts are confident cryptocurrencies and crypto-investments will register massive gains, while precious metals investors are equally confident that PMs will fulfill their historic role as safe havens that gain value as things unravel.

Others claim real estate and stocks will hold their value for various reasons (global capital flows, etc.).

I have little confidence in any of these projections because the era we're entering--the instability born of scarcity and depletion--has no modern analog.

We have to go back to the 1600s to find any sort of similar climate-driven scarcities, and even further back to to find eras of climate-disruption / resource depletion instability (Ming Dynasty, Cambodian Khmer, late Roman era, Mayan city-states, Bronze Age civilizations, etc.)

Just as previous civilizations cut down their forests to sustain the expansion of their economies, we've exhausted the cheap-to-get oil and coal.

The transition to some other equivalent sources of energy is not guaranteed to be smooth or equivalent in scale, portability, reliability, etc.

If there are no recent historical analogous eras, how confident can we be in projections of how $400 trillion can seamlessly slosh out of loser-assets into a set of winner-assets?

Another reason is the entrenched nature of speculative fever. "Investors" is now the polite term for gamblers who have grown accustomed to reaping quick gains and moving capital around with a few keystrokes.

This mentality is a rocket booster for instability, an instability that undermines real investing by generating wild swings of valuation. One either joins the crowd at the gaming tables or risks being wiped out by sudden downdrafts.

Another reason is the increasing desperation of authorities to keep a fragile, destabilizing system glued together.

Put yourself in the shoes of authorities seeking revenues to cover the costs of their immense borrowing and spending.

Any asset class that registers spectacular gains draws a target on itself. Hmm, shouldn't "the rich" (i.e. the owners of whatever asset registered spectacular gains) pay "windfall taxes" on these (undeserved / unearned) gains?

Of course they should. Let's start with a 50% tax that progresses to 90%, and increase the penalties for evasion.

Then there's a wealth tax to nail all those greedy souls who refuse to sell to reap their gains. Let's start a wealth tax at $10 million, so the bottom 95% will support it, and then move it down to $1 million.

How about requiring pension funds, 401K and IRA retirement accounts to own government bonds "to protect these assets from speculative losses."

Next, let's limit withdrawals and transfers to overseas accounts to a trickle. The "wealthy" will be wealthy on paper but won't be able to access much of their wealth.

Assets held in Periphery economies may simply be expropriated without due process. You have it, we need it, done.

In the course of this year, I have endeavored to explain my thesis that the real action to pay attention to isn't in comparing one broad asset class to another, but nuanced differences within each asset class.

For example, real estate in enclaves that are highly attractive to the super-wealthy and merely-wealthy may gain in value even as 95% of real estate / housing declines or even collapses back to the valuations of a generation ago.

Some stocks may do extremely well even as 95% of equities crater.

In other words, I doubt that there are any easy generic answers to the question, "how do I preserve my wealth going forward?"

Diversifying assets is one strategy.

Another is to concentrate on assets we control directly such as our primary residence, family enterprise, etc.

Another is to focus on intangible forms of wealth such as skills and trusted personal networks.

Yet another is to recognize the divide between Core and Periphery will widen and assets in the Periphery will be at far greater risk than assets held in the Core.

From a historical perspective, we might lower our expectations so we'll be delighted to hold onto 50% of our current wealth, or perhaps 25%.

In other words, when the $400 trillion global credit-asset bubbles all pop, maybe there will only be $100 trillion in wealth sloshing around, and much of that will be severely constrained by authorities of one kind or another.

The instability generated by climate disruption-resource depletion will not be easy to navigate. Partial success may be all that's within grasp for most of us.

What do we need to sustain our well-being? Perhaps that's the type of wealth we should prioritize preserving.



This essay was first published as a weekly Musings Report sent exclusively to subscribers and patrons at the $5/month ($50/year) and higher level. Thank you, patrons and subscribers, for supporting my work and free website.

My new book is now available at a 10% discount ($8.95 ebook, $18 print): Self-Reliance in the 21st Century.

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When You Can't Go On: Burnout, Reckoning and Renewal $18 print, $8.95 Kindle ebook; audiobook Read the first section for free (PDF)

Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States (Kindle $9.95, print $24, audiobook) Read Chapter One for free (PDF).

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).

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)
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Sunday, October 16, 2022

What Everybody Knows No Longer Matters

What nobody yet knows (or the few insiders who do know are keeping to themselves) is what will matter.

Being a doom-and-gloom Bear stops being fun when the Bear Bar gets crowded. When everyone has moved to our side of the boat, the grizzled Bears get nervous, especially when they peer over at the Bull side of the boat and see a handful of dispirited Bulls ignoring the guy yelling at the bartender to "back up the truck."

The problem old-timers see is what everyone knows no longer matters. Markets do a cliff-dive not when all the bad news has been beaten into everyone's heads for months on end but when the bad news has yet to percolate through the euphoria.

Bull markets start when the Bullish news dwindles to signal-noise and buyers have given up or are going short to finally score some gains from the market decline.

In other words, it's what few know that matters, not what everybody knows. When everybody knows all the good news, that news no longer matters. When everybody knows all the bad news, that news no longer matters.

After a couple quarters, all the news has been priced into the market. What hasn't yet been priced in is what few discern or know (and are keeping it confidential so they can build a position without alerting others).

At the top, everybody discounts what could go wrong because those betting on bad things finally manifesting have lost money. At the bottom, everybody discounts what could go right because nothing's gone right for months and all the bearish dynamics are still in full swing.

Contrarians are slippery critters because they never really join the Bull or Bear camp. When one camp sucks in the crowd and the other camp has been reduced to diehards, contrarians start asking what could go right / wrong.

Right now, it seems nothing could possibly go right. Liquidity, earnings, energy, geopolitical tensions, debt and supply chains are all dismal. Yup.

Is the market a discounting mechanism? So we're told. Maybe the more accurate description is the market is an information processing mechanism that places a premium on new information.

But what everyone knows no longer matters. What nobody yet knows (or the few insiders who do know are keeping to themselves) is what will matter. Contrarians and Devil's Advocates are like scouts sniffing out information trails. What we pay attention to matters, too.



My new book is now available at a 10% discount ($8.95 ebook, $18 print): Self-Reliance in the 21st Century.

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My recent books:

When You Can't Go On: Burnout, Reckoning and Renewal $18 print, $8.95 Kindle ebook; audiobook Read the first section for free (PDF)

Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States (Kindle $9.95, print $24, audiobook) Read Chapter One for free (PDF).

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).

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)
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Thursday, October 13, 2022

What If Everyone's Wrong (Just Long Enough to Blow Up Their Account)?

Trying to restore a system that is spiraling away from equilibrium with new extremes of obsolete, misguided policies only accelerates the swings from apparent stability to cascading chaos.

The conventional view of the market is there are two sides to every trade and one is right and the other is wrong. The punters who correctly read the tea leaves and who were right scored gains on their trade and those punters whose forecast was wrong lost their bet.

But what if this market isn't binary, but rather a crushing machine that pulverizes every forecast and position in a disorderly process in which every forecast/position is crushed to rubble and then the market moves on to another forecast/position and crushes that, and so on until every forecast/position has been pulverized and every once-confident pundit / manager has seen their core positions blown to pieces.

In other words, what if everyone is right just long enough to become confident in their charts, correlations, research, etc. and wrong just long enough to blow up their accounts?

How could a relatively tame binary market of Bulls and Bears become a monster that chews through everyone's accounts? Here's the dynamic behind such perverse swings and extremes:

As the financial system and global economy veer further away from equilibrium, central banks and governments respond by pushing reactive policies to new extremes. These unprecedented extremes appear to stabilize a tumbling-into-chaos order just long enough to restore everyone's confidence in the system's ability to claw its way back to equilibrium, but this restoration of stability came at a high price: every policy extreme unleashes an equally extreme destabilizing dynamic.

For example, to restore confidence in a failing currency, a central bank jacks up its Treasury yields, pulling in capital attracted by the high yields. But this rapid increase in interest rates spins the domestic economy into a self-reinforcing recession. The central bank panics and slashes yields, which then pushes the currency off a cliff, undermining the domestic economy rather than "saving" it with lower interest rates.

A funny thing happens on the way to re-stabilizing markets with extreme policies: second-order effects, perverse incentives and unintended consequences pile up, destabilizing whatever had just been "saved" by extreme policies.

(First order effects: every action has a consequence. Second order effects: every consequence has its own consequence.)

The financial media's focus is solely on first-order consequences: central banks intervened in the currency, bond and stock markets, yay, everything's fixed. (Ahem: Everything's Fixed--Except What's Broken)

In this scenario, everyone will be wrong just long enough to blow up their account: everyone forecasting, inflation, deflation, stagflation, super-duper rally, panic-driven crash, dollar collapse, dollar rise, gold-backed yuan, commodity super-cycle, you name it--all of these will look hopeful / look right long enough to sink the hook in true believers, who will then cling to their forecast/position even as the rollercoaster become less predictable and throws more punters off the ride.

Those trying to trade the whipsaws blow up their accounts one whipsaw at a time. I only lost 4% on each trade multiplied by 20 losing trades still results in a blown account.

In surveying the wreckage left by everyone being just right enough and just wrong enough to blow up their account, we'll think: but I was so close to being right! Exactly. We'll all be right enough just long enough to trust our system, analysis, hedge, strategy, etc., and wrong just long enough to lose our capital and confidence. Too late, we'll be right again--or sorta-kinda right: if only we'd bet big on the yen / bat-guano pair and hedged with the quatloo / wheat-futures thingy, we would have been golden.

Trying to restore a system that is spiraling away from equilibrium with new extremes of obsolete, misguided policies only accelerates the swings from apparent stability to cascading chaos. Eventually, even the semblance or stability cannot be restored, and we'll have to deal with the real economy without financialization trickery.



My new book is now available at a 10% discount ($8.95 ebook, $18 print): Self-Reliance in the 21st Century.

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My recent books:

When You Can't Go On: Burnout, Reckoning and Renewal $18 print, $8.95 Kindle ebook; audiobook Read the first section for free (PDF)

Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States (Kindle $9.95, print $24, audiobook) Read Chapter One for free (PDF).

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).

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)
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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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Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Everything's Fixed--Except What's Broken

Everything's fixed except what's no longer profitable to plunder. Underfunded, ignored, mismanaged by incompetents, it breaks.

Everything's fixed--except what's broken. Hmm. Maybe we need to read that again.

Everything's fixed means it's been "fixed" like a game or match has been fixed--rigged to benefit insiders while the unwary onlookers and punters have been led to believe that it's "fair and open." That con job is the critical cover to cloak the fix/rigging.

If a market or regulatory system can't be rigged to benefit insiders, then it's broken because if it isn't profitable for insiders, it's neglected until it breaks.

It's rather ironic, isn't it? If you want a system to semi-function as advertised, it has be rigged to benefit insiders, as only then do insiders and major players devote enough attention and resources to keep it stumbling along, much as an organism is kept alive so parasites can continue feasting on it.

These zombie-systems rigged to benefit insiders only serve the public in a cursory, minimal-effort fashion. These systems excel at recruiting naive idealists who actually believe in the purported purpose of the organization: public service, education, quality products and services, etc.

These idealists soon lose their naivete as the learn that all that "serve the public" rah-rah is a PR facade to cover the expert pillage by insiders.

You, fine idealist, can be an adjunct for life here at this great university, earning $35,000 a year without tenure, job security, pension or benefits, while we insiders earn $350,000 as associate deans of diversity and other cushy insider gigs that have nothing to do with what students actually take away after they've been bled dry via student loans.

The more impressive the facade, the greater the plunder by insiders: the list of sacred cows being plundered by insiders is long indeed: central banking, regulatory agencies, national defense, higher education, Sickcare--oops, did I say Sickcare? I meant "healthcare"...

The private-sector pillage by insider parasites is hidden behind laughably ludicrous claims of "free markets," "competitive open markets" and "regulated markets," all of which have been rigged to enrich insiders at the expense of the public, customers, powerless employees and credulous punters.

Cartels and quasi-monopolies are a favored method to extract wealth while providing shoddy products and services at exploitive prices. Gee, what a great "free market" we have in health insurance: there are two insurers, and their prices are within pennies of each other, except for some three-card-monte tricks with what's actually covered.

So sorry, but that's not a competitive open market--it's a cartel explicitly designed to pillage and plunder the bloated budget of U.S. healthcare.

What passes as "just business as usual" is actually fraud, and was recognized as fraud until recently. Consider stock buybacks, where the top insiders borrow billions and use the cash to buy back shares, reducing the float and boosting the earnings per share without actually increasing revenues, margins or profits. This charade pushes stock prices up, enabling the top insiders to cash in their stock options for immense private gains without creating any new goods, services or jobs.

When you get caught committing fraud and insider trading, just call it "capitalism," as if "capitalism" is nothing more that a synonym for greed.

Here's banking in a nutshell, both central banking and private-sector banking: hello, fellow insider. You need a couple billion dollars at near-zero interest to buy a company, load it with debt, sell off its crown jewels and then take it public in an IPO? No problem, here's the billions. Hello, Jose Q. Citizen, you want a loan? Well, if your credit rating is near-perfect and you can prove you don't actually need the money, that will cost you 7.5% interest. If your income is limited and your credit is less than stellar, somewhere around 18% is the best we can do.

If you're struggling to make sense of the tumultuous stock market swings, just do what the smart money does: invest in the Pelosi Portfolio which tracks Ms. Pelosi's remarkably profitable personal trading, or get the inside scoop on what stocks regulators are personally trading in the industries they regulate.

If a system can't be rigged to benefit insiders, it's abandoned to its fate. Sadly, a great many essential services fall into this category of benign neglect. Public education, public health, public transport, conservation, public safety, the quality of goods and services--if the funding dries up and insiders' opportunities to increase their personal gains dry up, then the rats scurry off the sinking ship.

Everything's fixed except what's no longer profitable to plunder. Underfunded, ignored, mismanaged by incompetents, it breaks. If it offers a rich bounty for insiders to exploit, there's a mad rush to keep the funding-body alive. If not--well, we tried to save the patient but we're not miracle-workers. Indeed.

That's where we are, America. Everything's fixed--except what's broken.



My new book is now available at a 10% discount ($8.95 ebook, $18 print): Self-Reliance in the 21st Century.

Read the first chapter for free (PDF)

Read excerpts of all three chapters


My recent books:

When You Can't Go On: Burnout, Reckoning and Renewal $18 print, $8.95 Kindle ebook; audiobook Read the first section for free (PDF)

Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States (Kindle $9.95, print $24, audiobook) Read Chapter One for free (PDF).

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).

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


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, Larry M. ($50), for your marvelously generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

 

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