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Peak Oil: The Military Seems Concerned … Just Sayin’ – Peak Oil Matters

Peak Oil: The Military Seems Concerned … Just Sayin’ – Peak Oil Matters.

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An observation worth noting … and pondering, from Dr. Nafeez Ahmed (quoting Lieutenant Colonel Daniel L. Davis):

‘A lot of high-ranking officials are starting to ask exactly these hard questions about the sustainability of the current energy system. You’ve got to remember that for the military, it doesn’t matter what you want to do. What matters is what you can do, and it’s our top priority to make sure we understand potential limits to our operational capability. Even the EIA is forecasting that we could see a peak of shale production by 2018 followed by a plateau and decline, and the Pentagon knows this. But our transport infrastructure is totally dependent on liquid fuels. How are we going to sustain that infrastructure with these decline rates? That’s why serious questions are being asked by high level US military officials as to what exactly the Army, as well as American society in general, is going to do to address this challenge.’

Is this a problem? If it is, thank goodness it will only affect the military and not the rest of us!

The military may be worried about how to transport all of its equipment and fuel along with its broad array of weaponry systems, but here in the general population, we have our transportation concerns pretty much under control. Visionary leaders in both government and industry working hard each and every day to provide citizens with all the information they’ll need to properly adapt to the energy challenges our military leaders are concerned with, and plans are this very moment taking shape to allow us all to seamlessly transition away from fossil fuel dependency and its assortment of costs and risks. Better still, industry leaders aware of those impending difficulties are plowing profits into every feasible research project designed to maximize alternative energy supplies.

So that’s what’s it’s like to spin a fact-free, feel-good story! That can be addicting for anyone who benefits from withholding information at the expense of so many others.

Three years ago, I wrote about this issue [here].

In that piece, I cited these observations:

The impact of peak oil on markets, lifestyles, and even national solvency deserves our very highest attention – but, it turns out, some important players seem to be paying no attention at all. [Chris Martenson] [1]
What Chris suspected, and as was confirmed in a presentation (by Rick Munroe) cited in his article, is that while our military (among other nations’) is definitely concerned about Peak Oil and its impact on the operations and responsibilities it’s currently charged with and will likely face in years to come, nothing is being done at the national political level. (Munroe himself, in another article, offered this: ‘This author has yet to encounter a study conducted by a military analyst which dismisses peak oil as an implausible, alarmist issue.’) There are no governmental departments and no bureaucrats who’ve been assigned the task of figuring out anything about what we should do. 
Acknowledging as have others that electoral politics hampers our officials from dealing with long-range planning and problems, Martenson added:
‘So I came away from the ASPO conference pondering two completely polar trends that combined to create a lasting discomfort. On the one hand we have more and more private and military organizations coming to the conclusion that peak oil is imminent and will change everything, possibly disruptively. On the other hand there appear to be no plans within the civilian government to deal with a liquid fuels emergency.’

More than a bit disappointing that not much has changed. Maybe it’s just me, but starting to plan after the big problems make their presence felt seems not the wisest choice.

~ My Photo: Newport Beach, CA – 02.16.14

 

A Gift From The Collapseniks  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

A Gift From The Collapseniks  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

Of what possible use is it to imagine the end of civilization or even of the species? Is it simply a pessimistic indulgence or can it contribute to progressive and other positive results?

When I was a child, my family’s pastor used to elbow into almost every sermon an admiring reference to “St. John languishing in exile on the rock-bound, sea-girt island of Patmos.” He was referring to the author of  the grisly Book of Revelation , the dominant Western source of apocalyptic imagery.

We chuckle at cartoons of robed men on city sidewalks carrying placards that claim, “the end is nigh,” and at bumper stickers that declare, “in case of Rapture, this car will be driverless” (which sounds more dangerous than driving under the influence). Since St. John’s fiery prose, there have been many predictions of the end, including the modern cult studied by social psychologist Leon Festinger in When Prophecy Fails (1956).

Those who see danger tend to accuse others of “denial,” of “refusing to listen.” Perhaps a tincture of denial has given humans an evolutionary advantage. Speaking positively, psychologists refer to “optimism bias.” Most of us tend to imagine that things will turn out better than they do, a common mental pattern studied by such authors as Tali Sharot. While this trait arguably encourages enterprises, some of which succeed, it may also, on occasion, blind us to the possibility of avoidable loss, even terminal loss.

In A Year to Live (1997), Stephen Levine asks readers to pretend they have the awful privilege of knowing when they will die (in 52 weeks) and challenges them to review their histories honestly and to live abundantly in the remaining time. As my wife and I know, from working through Levine’s book with another couple, the result can be an enhancement of life.

During the Cold War, Joanna Macy gave us Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age (1983). Before writing on ecology, on general systems theory, and on hope, Macy taught that a fuller life, including activism, could be approached through uninhibited expression of the deep feelings that led us to be concerned. More recent examples are the grief work of Carolyn Baker, author of Sacred Demise (2009) and Collapsing Consciously (2013) and of Francis Weller, author of Entering the Healing Ground (2012).

Still, it’s going against the grain to ask people to imagine extreme loss. Unlike some so-called primitive groups, our society is not set up for it, apart from isolated workshops. According to both Baker and Weller, working through grief requires the support of a community and the additional safety of a ritual container. For all its virtues, U.S. culture is based more on individuality, the frontier, and risky enterprise, than on mutual support and safe space.

Nonetheless, a growing number of observers of climate change and other trends foresee disaster. We can describe them as collapseniks, a term with a suffix derived from Russian in honor of Dmitri Orlo*, who grew up in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) and emigrated to the U.S. An engineer, sailor, and writer, Orlov believes that his adopted country will descend into collapse, and that the U.S. is less well prepared than the country where he was raised. If we define collapsenik as an observer who is conscious of the possibility of economic, political, and social collapse and who believes collapse is worth taking seriously, then Orlov has a parade of company, of which I will give chronological highlights at the end of this piece.

There are big differences among collapsenik authors and even in a single author at different times. A spectrum exists, from those who feel we could avoid the worst of climate change by changing our ways substantially (“we’re sleepwalking toward disaster but could conceivably wake up”) to those who believe our species is doomed (“it’s already too late”). For example, scientist Guy McPherson has come to believe that, as a species, we are headed toward “near-term extinction” (niftily abbreviated as NTE).

While pessimists predict NTE, optimists envision the triumph of a progressive politics that would render climate change survivable, perhaps shifting us toward a steady-state economy, slowing the sixth extinction of species, and fostering a network of local and democratic institutions. An optimistic scenario would resonate with what Macy, expressing hope, now calls “The Great Turning.”

In contrast, McPherson argues that it’s already too late for ad equate reform: humans have inadvertently created feedback loops that will keep making the situation worse. For example, the release of methane, caused (in part) by warming of the shallow Arctic ocean and the Siberian and Canadian tundra, will cause more warming because methane is a greenhouse gas even more dangerous than CO2. And so on.

Humans don’t have a very good record of predicting the future, in spite of various divinatory schemes. Whether developments are technological, political, or economic, we have proceeded without reliable forecasts. Given the surprises inherent in complex systems and in technical development, nobody can show that we face certain demise, though we can discuss probabilities.

Could we learn to regard collapse not as a firm prediction but as a scenario worth exploring? After all, the Pentagon has contingency plans for events that are arguably less likely and less devastating.

To return to our original question, what could be the use of taking seriously a scenario of collapse, especially the views that argue that it’s already too late or that changes could help, but probably won’t be made? If we feel grief at what seems to be happening, instead of simply seeming smug in a prediction of certain doom, if we invent ways to lessen the turbulence and create the best that is possible in the new circumstances, if we live intensely instead of habitually, then the scenario of demise might seem no worse than knowing that, as individuals, we each will die. Meanwhile, what are we capable of?

According to Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell (2010), disasters can bring out the best in people. If the scenario of the collapseniks plays out, we will have opportunities to discover what kind of gardens we can create in the ruins of our present society. So what is the gift? That by responding fully to the scenario, we can meanwhile live more intensely and develop the elements of a society that, under new conditions as they develop, would work.

Now here are the promised examples of recent writers who are aware of the possibility of collapse and who, in various cases, are sketching alternatives. In this century, we’ve been given Tim Flahherty’s The Weather Makers (2001), Richard Heinberg’s The Party’s Over (2003), Jared Diamond’s Collapse (2005), James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency (2005), Clive Hamilton’s A Short History of Progress (2005), Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006), George Monbiot’s Heat (2006), another assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007), James Lovelock’s The Revenge of Gaia (2007), John Michael Greer’s The Long Descent (2008).

And in the past five years: Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton’s A Nation of Farmers (2009), Hamilton’s Requiem for a Species (2010), Chris Martenson’sThe Crash Course (2011), Guy McPherson’s Walking Away from Empire (2011), Dmitri Orlov’s Reinventing Collapse (2011), Paul Gilding’s The Great Disruption (2012), an even more dire IPCC assessment report (2014), Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction (2014), and the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, Climate Change: Evidence and Causes (also this year). (With a few exceptions, I have listed only the first book in which each author shows a pervasive awareness of collapse.)

In addition, apart from the writers already listed, many of whom write blogs, you can find many provocative personal and organizational websites, some of which publish several writers, such as Arctic News (Sam Carara), Climate Progress (Joe Romm), Collapse of Industrial Civilization (xraymike 79),   Collapsing into Consciousness (Gary Stamper), Culture Change (Jan Lundberg), Dark Mountain Project (Paul Kingsnorth), Grist, How to Save the World (Dave Pollard), Our Finite World (Gail Tverberg), Radio Ecoshock (hosted by Alex Smith), Speaking Truth to Power (articles gathered daily by Carolyn Baker), and Yale Environment 360 (edited by Roger Cohn Sr.).

We should of course judge not by the number of collapseniks, but by the quality of evidence these writers bring. It’s a conversation worth having.

Op-Ed News

A Gift From The Collapseniks  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

A Gift From The Collapseniks  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

Of what possible use is it to imagine the end of civilization or even of the species? Is it simply a pessimistic indulgence or can it contribute to progressive and other positive results?

When I was a child, my family’s pastor used to elbow into almost every sermon an admiring reference to “St. John languishing in exile on the rock-bound, sea-girt island of Patmos.” He was referring to the author of  the grisly Book of Revelation , the dominant Western source of apocalyptic imagery.

We chuckle at cartoons of robed men on city sidewalks carrying placards that claim, “the end is nigh,” and at bumper stickers that declare, “in case of Rapture, this car will be driverless” (which sounds more dangerous than driving under the influence). Since St. John’s fiery prose, there have been many predictions of the end, including the modern cult studied by social psychologist Leon Festinger in When Prophecy Fails (1956).

Those who see danger tend to accuse others of “denial,” of “refusing to listen.” Perhaps a tincture of denial has given humans an evolutionary advantage. Speaking positively, psychologists refer to “optimism bias.” Most of us tend to imagine that things will turn out better than they do, a common mental pattern studied by such authors as Tali Sharot. While this trait arguably encourages enterprises, some of which succeed, it may also, on occasion, blind us to the possibility of avoidable loss, even terminal loss.

In A Year to Live (1997), Stephen Levine asks readers to pretend they have the awful privilege of knowing when they will die (in 52 weeks) and challenges them to review their histories honestly and to live abundantly in the remaining time. As my wife and I know, from working through Levine’s book with another couple, the result can be an enhancement of life.

During the Cold War, Joanna Macy gave us Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age (1983). Before writing on ecology, on general systems theory, and on hope, Macy taught that a fuller life, including activism, could be approached through uninhibited expression of the deep feelings that led us to be concerned. More recent examples are the grief work of Carolyn Baker, author of Sacred Demise (2009) and Collapsing Consciously (2013) and of Francis Weller, author of Entering the Healing Ground (2012).

Still, it’s going against the grain to ask people to imagine extreme loss. Unlike some so-called primitive groups, our society is not set up for it, apart from isolated workshops. According to both Baker and Weller, working through grief requires the support of a community and the additional safety of a ritual container. For all its virtues, U.S. culture is based more on individuality, the frontier, and risky enterprise, than on mutual support and safe space.

Nonetheless, a growing number of observers of climate change and other trends foresee disaster. We can describe them as collapseniks, a term with a suffix derived from Russian in honor of Dmitri Orlo*, who grew up in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) and emigrated to the U.S. An engineer, sailor, and writer, Orlov believes that his adopted country will descend into collapse, and that the U.S. is less well prepared than the country where he was raised. If we define collapsenik as an observer who is conscious of the possibility of economic, political, and social collapse and who believes collapse is worth taking seriously, then Orlov has a parade of company, of which I will give chronological highlights at the end of this piece.

There are big differences among collapsenik authors and even in a single author at different times. A spectrum exists, from those who feel we could avoid the worst of climate change by changing our ways substantially (“we’re sleepwalking toward disaster but could conceivably wake up”) to those who believe our species is doomed (“it’s already too late”). For example, scientist Guy McPherson has come to believe that, as a species, we are headed toward “near-term extinction” (niftily abbreviated as NTE).

While pessimists predict NTE, optimists envision the triumph of a progressive politics that would render climate change survivable, perhaps shifting us toward a steady-state economy, slowing the sixth extinction of species, and fostering a network of local and democratic institutions. An optimistic scenario would resonate with what Macy, expressing hope, now calls “The Great Turning.”

In contrast, McPherson argues that it’s already too late for ad equate reform: humans have inadvertently created feedback loops that will keep making the situation worse. For example, the release of methane, caused (in part) by warming of the shallow Arctic ocean and the Siberian and Canadian tundra, will cause more warming because methane is a greenhouse gas even more dangerous than CO2. And so on.

Humans don’t have a very good record of predicting the future, in spite of various divinatory schemes. Whether developments are technological, political, or economic, we have proceeded without reliable forecasts. Given the surprises inherent in complex systems and in technical development, nobody can show that we face certain demise, though we can discuss probabilities.

Could we learn to regard collapse not as a firm prediction but as a scenario worth exploring? After all, the Pentagon has contingency plans for events that are arguably less likely and less devastating.

To return to our original question, what could be the use of taking seriously a scenario of collapse, especially the views that argue that it’s already too late or that changes could help, but probably won’t be made? If we feel grief at what seems to be happening, instead of simply seeming smug in a prediction of certain doom, if we invent ways to lessen the turbulence and create the best that is possible in the new circumstances, if we live intensely instead of habitually, then the scenario of demise might seem no worse than knowing that, as individuals, we each will die. Meanwhile, what are we capable of?

According to Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell (2010), disasters can bring out the best in people. If the scenario of the collapseniks plays out, we will have opportunities to discover what kind of gardens we can create in the ruins of our present society. So what is the gift? That by responding fully to the scenario, we can meanwhile live more intensely and develop the elements of a society that, under new conditions as they develop, would work.

Now here are the promised examples of recent writers who are aware of the possibility of collapse and who, in various cases, are sketching alternatives. In this century, we’ve been given Tim Flahherty’s The Weather Makers (2001), Richard Heinberg’s The Party’s Over (2003), Jared Diamond’s Collapse (2005), James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency (2005), Clive Hamilton’s A Short History of Progress (2005), Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006), George Monbiot’s Heat (2006), another assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007), James Lovelock’s The Revenge of Gaia (2007), John Michael Greer’s The Long Descent (2008).

And in the past five years: Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton’s A Nation of Farmers (2009), Hamilton’s Requiem for a Species (2010), Chris Martenson’sThe Crash Course (2011), Guy McPherson’s Walking Away from Empire (2011), Dmitri Orlov’s Reinventing Collapse (2011), Paul Gilding’s The Great Disruption (2012), an even more dire IPCC assessment report (2014), Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction (2014), and the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, Climate Change: Evidence and Causes (also this year). (With a few exceptions, I have listed only the first book in which each author shows a pervasive awareness of collapse.)

In addition, apart from the writers already listed, many of whom write blogs, you can find many provocative personal and organizational websites, some of which publish several writers, such as Arctic News (Sam Carara), Climate Progress (Joe Romm), Collapse of Industrial Civilization (xraymike 79),   Collapsing into Consciousness (Gary Stamper), Culture Change (Jan Lundberg), Dark Mountain Project (Paul Kingsnorth), Grist, How to Save the World (Dave Pollard), Our Finite World (Gail Tverberg), Radio Ecoshock (hosted by Alex Smith), Speaking Truth to Power (articles gathered daily by Carolyn Baker), and Yale Environment 360 (edited by Roger Cohn Sr.).

We should of course judge not by the number of collapseniks, but by the quality of evidence these writers bring. It’s a conversation worth having.

Op-Ed News

Here’s What It Looks Like When Your Country’s Economy Collapses | Zero Hedge

Here’s What It Looks Like When Your Country’s Economy Collapses | Zero Hedge.

Submitted by Adam Taggart of Peak Prosperity,

Argentina is a country re-entering crisis territory it knows too well. The country has defaulted on its sovereign debt three times in the past 32 years and looks poised to do so again soon.

Its currency, the peso, devalued by more than 20% in January alone. Inflation is currently running at 25%. Argentina’s budget deficit is exploding, and, based on credit default swap rates, the market is placing an 85% chance of a sovereign default within the next five years.

Want to know what it’s like living through a currency collapse? Argentina is providing us with a real-time window.

So, we’ve invited Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre back onto the program to provide commentary on the events on the ground there. What is life like right now for the average Argentinian?

Aguirre began blogging during the hyperinflationary destruction of Argentina’s economy in 2001 and has since dedicated his professional career to educating the public about his experiences and observations of its lingering aftermath. He is the author of Surviving the Economic Collapse and sees many parallels between the path that led to Argentina’s decline and the similar one most countries in the West, including the U.S., are currently on. Our 2011 interview with him “A Case Study in How An Economy Collapses” remains one of Peak Prosperity’s most well-regarded.

Chris Martenson:  Okay. Bring us up to date. What is happening in Argentina right now with respect to its currency, the peso?

 

Fernando Aguirre:  Well, actually pretty recently, January 22, the peso lost 15% of its value. It has devalued quite a bit. It ended up losing 20% of its value that week, and it has been pretty crazy since then. Inflation has been rampant in some sectors, going up to 100% in food, grocery stores 20%, 30% in some cases. So it has been pretty complicated. Lots of stores don’t want to be selling stuff until they get updated prices. Suppliers holding on, waiting to see how things go, which is something that we are familiar with because that happened back in 2001 when everything went down as we know it did.

 

Chris Martenson:  So 100%, 20% inflation; are those yearly numbers?

 

Fernando Aguirre:  Those are our numbers in a matter of days. In just one day, for example, cement in Balcarce, one of the towns in Southern Argentina, went up 100% overnight, doubling in price. Grocery stores in Córdoba, even in Buenos Aires, people are talking about increase of prices of 20, 30% just these days. I actually have family in Argentina that are telling me that they go to a hardware store and they aren’t even able to buy stuff from there because stores want to hold on and see how prices unfold in the following days.

 

Chris Martenson:  Right. So this is one of those great mysteries of inflation. It is obviously ‘flying money’, so everyone is trying to get rid of their money. You would think that would actually increase commerce. But if you are on the other end of that transaction, if you happen to be the business owner, you have every incentive to withhold items for as long as possible. So one of the great ironies, I guess, is that even though money is flying around like crazy, goods start to disappear from the shelves. Is that what you are seeing?

 

Fernando Aguirre:  Absolutely. Shelves halfway empty. The government is always trying to muscle its way through these kind of problems, just trying to force companies to stock back products and such, but they just keep holding on. For example, gas has gone up 12% these last few days. And there is really nothing they can do about it. If they don’t increase prices, companies just are not willing to sell. It is a pretty tricky situation to be in.

 

Chris Martenson:  Are there any sort of price controls going on right now? Has anything been mandated?

 

Fernando Aguirre:  As you know, price controls don’t really work. I mean, they tried this before in Argentina. Actually, last year one of the big news stories was that the government was freezing prices on food and certain appliances. It didn’t work. Just a few days later those supposedly “frozen” prices were going up. As soon as they officially released them, they would just double in price.

 

Chris Martenson:  Let me ask you this, then: How many people in Argentina actually still have money in Argentine banks in dollars? One of the features in 2001 was that people had money in dollars, in the banks. There was a banking holiday; a couple of weeks later, banks open up; Surprise, you have the same number in your account, only it’s pesos, not dollars. It was an effective theft, if I could use that term. Is anybody keeping money in the banks at this point, or how is that working?

 

Fernando Aguirre:  Well, first of all, I would like to clarify for people listening: Those banks that did that are the same banks that are found all over the world. They are not like strange South American, Argentinean banks – they are the same banks. If they are willing to steal from people in one place, don’t be surprised if they are willing to do it in other places as well.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with Fernando Aguirre (36m:42s):

 

James Turk: We’re Living Within A Money Bubble of Epic Proportion | Peak Prosperity

James Turk: We’re Living Within A Money Bubble of Epic Proportion | Peak Prosperity.

James Turk believes the time we live in now will be studied by future historians for generations to come. Just as we today marvel at the collective madness that resulted in the South Sea and Dutch Tulip manias, our age will be known as the era when society lost sight of what money really is.

And as result, the wrong kinds of wealth – today, that’s mostly financial assets – are valued and pursued. And just like those bubbles from centuries ago, when the current asset boom goes bust, the value of paper wealth will vaporize.

In contrast, those holding tangible productive assets or real money will fare much better on a relative basis.

James and co-author John Rubino (of DollarCollapse.com) have recently published a new book covering the details of this prediction called The Money Bubble: What to Do Before It Pops. Within it, they delve into the reasons for why the world is destined for what Ludwig von Mises termed a “crack-up boom“:

Wealth comes in two forms.  It comes in financial assets, bonds, and T-Bills, and things of that nature, and it also comes in tangible assets: real estate, oil wells, timberland, farmland, houses and things that are tangible. And when you’re in a financial bust – and we’ve been in a financial bust since the dot-com bubble collapsed back in 2000 – what you want to do is you want to be involved with tangible assets and you want to avoid, as much as possible, your involvement in any financial assets.  So, consequently, what people should still be focusing on, even though we’re 14 years into this bust, is continuing the accumulation of tangible assets.

Because when this bust is over, promises are going to be broken left and right.  And that means financial assets where you have counterparty risk where you own an asset, the value of which is based on someone’s promise – a lot of those financial assets are going to be diminished in value.  Now, there’s a special kind of financial asset called a stock in a company.  It’s almost like a tangible asset in the sense that if you own stock in EXXON, you’re basically owning a tangible asset, because it’s involved in oil and it owns tangible assets all over the world.

But then, there are financial stocks, credit-card companies and banks, that are financial wealth rather than tangible wealth.  So, you don’t want to own stocks in those companies.  So, basically, own tangible assets or stocks in companies that are involved with tangible assets – those stocks, I call near-tangible – I think that’s the thing that everybody should be focusing on.

And when it comes to money and liquidity, the money, of course, would be physical gold or physical silver or a combination thereof because they will re-emerge in the historical and traditional role as money.

Keep in mind, gold’s been money for 5,000 years.  It was made money by the market.  Money comes from the market.  It doesn’t come from the government.  Over the past century, government’s certainly usurped that authority to control money.  And over the last 40 years, they’ve gone even further afield by completely divorcing fiat currency from the gold that used to back money.  And because of the time element that’s involved, we’ve lost sight of what money really is, and that’s what’s created the money bubble, Chris.

And it’s this money bubble where people have to come back to reality as to what money really is.  It’s liquid, tangible assets being used in the economy in exchange for real goods and services.  And it’s ultimately where we’re going.  And I think it’s going to be very, very disruptive because if you look at an individual country like Weimar, Germany or Zimbabwe more recently, or what Venezuela or Argentina are going through now.  You can see the disruption to the economy when the money is no good.

We’re talking here about fiat currencies throughout the world because nobody’s tied to gold anymore.  No country’s currency is tied to gold anymore.  So this is going to be the bubble, I think, that generations from now, hundreds of years from now people are going to be talking about just like we talk today about the South Sea Bubble or the Mississippi Bubble, from those episodes in history a couple hundred years ago.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with James Turk (35m:26s):

TRANSCRIPT

Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity Podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson, and today we have the distinct privilege of speaking with James Turk, founder of GoldMoney and whose experience in markets and precious metals spans more than four decades. He is also Director of The GoldMoney Foundation, a not-for-profit, educational organization dedicated to providing information on sound money.

James is one of the foremost authorities on precious metals and has long offered market forecast and commentary, including co-authoring The Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit from It, with our good friend, John Rubino of DollarCollapse.Com.

John and James, they have a new book out called, The Money Bubble, which has some interesting insights, which we’re going to discuss today.

I’m delighted to have you back, James.

James Turk: Thanks, Chris. It’s always great to speak with you.

Chris Martenson: I have a tall stack of questions prepared. Are you ready to dive in?

James Turk: I sure am.

Chris Martenson: All right. Well, great. Let’s start here. It’s been a while since “The Coming Collapse of the Dollar” was written. Obviously, a lot has changed. And some things haven’t changed. The landscape has some familiar features that you wrote about back then. Some of the things you wrote about came to pass.

Obviously, there have been some heroic measures, if we can call them that, on the part of central banks to continue things as they are.

What sort of a grade would you give them?

James Turk: Well, whenever you’re going to intervene in free markets, I always have to give them an “F.” In terms of what they should be doing, they should be allowing individuals to buy out early, interact with one another without all of this intervention and trying to control individual lives by trying to control all economic activity.

But in terms of being able to kick the can down the road, which is I think what you’re getting at, I’d probably give them an A+ because they’ve managed to keep this system together longer than John and I originally suspected when we put “The Coming Collapse of the Dollar” together back in 2004.

In that book, Chris, were a couple of major themes that John and I made. One was that you should be buying gold, and secondly, you should be betting against the housing bubble, and do that in a variety of different ways including shorting financial stocks.

And when 2008 came along, we thought that the final piece of the puzzle would fall at the place where the dollar would collapse. Generally, as currency, gold would soar. And maybe central bankers and central pawners would get the idea that they’re on the wrong road and we have to go back to basics. But what they’ve managed to do is, an unprecedented amount of money printing has just built yet a bigger bubble. And this is the theme of the new book; the bubble itself is now money.

Chris Martenson: Money. And by money, quick definition – what do you mean when you say, “money”?

James Turk: Let me explain it this way. If you’re a shopkeeper, Chris, and I want to buy a loaf of bread from you, I go in and I’ll say, Well, I’ll pay you in a week’s time, but give me the loaf of bread now. You, as a shopkeeper, haven’t been paid. You’ve accepted credit. If I go into your shop and use “fiat” currency, it’s the same thing. You’ve accepted credit, and you’ve got payment risk associated with that. But if I go into your shop and buy a loaf of bread with a silver coin or a gold coin, the assets are exchanged for assets. There’s no lingering payment risk. The exchange is extinguished at that particular moment of time.

And that’s what really money is. Money is the most liquid, tangible asset in the economy, and that happens to be gold and, to a certain extent, silver as well. But we’ve lost sight of that. What we’re using today is not money. We’re using a money substitute in place of money, and that’s what’s created the illusion that that everybody’s acting upon, and it’s this illusion that’s really created the money bubble.

I think we have to go back to basics when this final, biggest bubble finally pops. The basics, of course, are that money is the most tangible asset and the most liquid tangible asset in the economy, which, of course, is gold.

Chris Martenson: I needed to check what you meant by “money” because there’s been this big debate between the deflationists/inflationists, and the proper definition of money has to include certain debt instruments and credit. And as you note in your book, and something that I’ve noted as well – since about 1980, we’ve been expanding our total credit markets by roughly twice the rate of the underlying economies underneath them. And that’s across most of the developed world.

So with this, when you’re borrowing like crazy – it gives you the sense of prosperity, that illusion, the idea is that you have to pay it back at some point. I think the debate, as I understand it right now, is between those who believe that fundamentally that catches up with you. You have to pay it back. You pay it back in the form of defaults or inflation or hyperinflation. But one way or the other, those claims get diminished or destroyed.

And on the other side, I think we have people who believe that you can just kick this can down the road indefinitely. And is that a fair way to summarize the state of the spectrum of thinking on this right now?

James Turk: Yes. I think that’s really a very good description of it. But clearly, I’m in the former camp that you can only take so much debt on in the economy because debt has to be serviced. You have to generate wealth to pay back the interest expense on the debt that you’re accumulating.

And ultimately that determines how far you can go. And we’re long past the stage where the amount of debt has been put on the – the burden on the economy where the service interest can be properly serviced. And what they’re trying to do is to perpetuate the system by debasing the currency. But as you debase the currency, you’re ultimately destroying capital.

Look at the middle class and savers and generally how badly they’re being hurt by this policy of zero interest rates. You’re basically destroying capital with this policy of zero interest rates. You’re destroying purchasing power. But it’s being done simply to make it appear that the U.S. Government can continue to fulfill all of these promises that it has made and that it can continue to service this debt burden – but it can’t.

Let’s put some numbers on it. There’s $17-trillion of debt now, and that’s just the direct obligations of the U.S. Government. If interest rates were at one percent, that’s $170 billion. That’s about five percent of government revenues. If they went to a more normal level, you’re talking about an additional trillion dollars of expenses. And what that does is it puts you on this vicious downward cycle where the higher the interest expense becomes, the more money has to be printed to keep the system going. But that just leads to higher interest expense and ultimately hyperinflation of the currency.

And my guess is that’s the way we’re headed.

Chris Martenson: Well, let’s take a petri dish sort of an example around this. Japan – and Japan cuts both ways in this story. One, some people hold it out and say, Well, look, obviously you can hold interest rates at one percent pretty much indefinitely. Japan’s got a couple of decades of financial repression under their belt. And so that’s held up as an idea that that can carry on forever.

I just saw a tweet this morning from a Robert Ward, very interesting. In 2010, the population of Japan was 128 million. Best-case trend is that in 2100 they’ll have 65 million. Worst case, they’ll have 38 million people.

The question that was asked on that: Who pays back all the public debt again? So, here’s Japan piling up their public debt faster and faster and faster into a declining population, which I think just lays bare, in a fairly large petri-dish example, just how ridiculous this glide path that they happen to be on really is.

And is that a fair way to look at it? And if it is, is Europe or the United States on any different of a path?

James Turk: No. They’re really not. And ultimately, if you really look at the total level of debt, not just the direct debt but all of the promises that it made, the only rational conclusion that one could come up with is that a lot of promises are going to be broken.

What those broken promises will be, will be determined in the future by politicians. But we’re generally – given the fact that they only have a limited capacity to fulfill all of these promises, you as an individual investor has to basically decide, do you want to participate in any kind of government promise, be it the T-Bill or T-Bond, Social Security payment or whatever, hoping that you’re going to choose correctly and that they’ll continue to make good on the promise that they’ve given you?

Or, do you just want to avoid the sector completely, which is what I recommend, and go to something that’s safe, which is basically tangible assets and avoid debt instruments.

Chris Martenson: Let’s get to the theory of how this all comes to an end. Obviously, interest rates are one form of the Achilles’ heel, but you have in your book a notion of something called the “crack-up boom.” What is a crack-up boom?

James Turk: Yes. The term comes from Ludwig von Mises, the Austrian School of Economics. And basically, it’s just a shorthand way of saying that governments will destroy the currency to relieve the burden of all of the promises that they made when you reach that point in time that you can’t fulfill all of the promises.

So yes, crack-up boom is basically a flight from the currency, because people want to exit the currency, because they know it’s going to continue losing purchasing power, because of government and central bank actions that debase the currency.

Chris Martenson: This is an interesting point, then, because all fiat currencies owe a large portion of their value, as it were, to faith. We have to have faith, particularly on an international setting. Within a border, a government can dictate that your currency has value because a) you have to pay taxes, and b) they can arrest you and do other things in circumstances if you don’t trust their currency appropriately.

But given that trust is a component of this, that’s really what in my mind shifts you from an inflation to a hyperinflation. Hyperinflation is just a state of mind more than an actual mathematical place to be. It’s when people have lost confidence in the paper currency and they want to be in anything else.

So let’s talk about – you talked in your book, again, about distorted signals and lost trust. What are you talking about when you say “lost trust”? Because I’ve lost plenty of trust; I’m wondering how you characterize that?

James Turk: Yes. People don’t trust institutions anymore. They don’t trust the government anymore. The approval rating of Congress is something like 8%. And ultimately, people start to question what’s going on. They realize they’re not being treated fairly by what government is doing. The banking system is favored over individuals. Eighty percent of the American population was against the bailout in 2008, the bailout of the banks. But the banks got bailed out anyway.

And all of these things lead to, ultimately, a breakdown in trust. And the economy depends upon everybody being able to work with everybody else on a level playing field. That’s what governments are supposed to do. They’re supposed to maintain a level playing field by maintaining a standard rule of law that everybody abides by regardless of whether you’re a big bank or a little shopkeeper on Main Street or a husband and wife trying to get by in a very difficult situation.

But the playing field has been tilted now. It’s been tilted by various vested interests to serve themselves, rather than to serve the general public. And that ultimately leads to a major breakdown in trust and a flight from the currency in the Crack-Up Boom.

Chris Martenson: You talked about shrinking trust horizons. You had a list of things that might be indicators of that. This reads like my personal indicator list, by the way, where people might begin buying local food instead of national brands because they no longer trust the institutions that are producing the food. Community banks over money center banks. I have most of my wealth stored in community or local banks. Homeschooling over public schools – started that about eight, 10 years ago, tuning out national politics, etc. and so forth.

There’s a whole list there saying that people have lost a bit of faith. We detect that in the Congressional approval ratings.

There’s another one I’d like to talk about here for a minute, which is sort of my own proxy. And I’m looking at a chart here of CNBC viewership. So, CNBC being one of the primary mouthpieces for Wall Street, Here’s how you invest in the markets. Buy stocks. Here’s how you participate in the equity markets.

And what’s interesting in this chart is that their viewership rose all the way through the 1990s right up through 2000. So, the viewership rose with a rising market. And then it fell again down into a depth at around 2003 or 2004, and then it rose again with the markets up to 2007; fell and has continued falling; there’s been no recovery in their viewership with the so-called return of prosperity as evidenced by all-time new highs in global stock markets in many cases.

Why do you – is this – is it fair? I mean, when I’m looking at this, I’m thinking that the reason their viewership is falling off is the same reason I’m not watching, which is, I don’t think there’s any useful information on that program for a person like me.

James Turk: Yes. I think you’re right. There’s a bigger-picture issue here. You sort of touched on it in what you were just saying, that during periods of rising prosperity, the viewership rose, but during periods of declining prosperity, it didn’t.

So, despite what you hear in the media about the economy supposedly getting better, it’s not. There’s no rising prosperity in pretty much most of the world today, because the economy is getting worse and worse, because fewer and fewer people are working today. There are less people working now in America than there were back in 2005.

And the only way an economy is going to improve is if you have people interacting with one another, and that comes with a greater number of people working.

So, it brings up another point, Chris. Not only is there a decline in trust, but we have to look at the other side of the coin. It’s that the less people trust institutions or governments, the more governments respond by exercising financial repression.

What they do is, they try to maintain the system by imposing more and controls. And it’s these controls that ultimately are the final last-gasp effort by government to maintain a system that is no longer sustainable.

And you’re seeing these controls now being imposed regularly, not only in the United States but in many countries around the world. Increasing government intervention is not the solution to the problems that are faced today. The solution to the problem is less government, less taxes, less burden on working individuals and a sound money so that people can interact regardless where they are in the world, on a level playing field, because these interactions create commerce and it’s commerce which raises everybody’s standards of living.

And that’s ultimately what government should be doing – withdrawing all of this financial repression, withdrawing all the taxes and the overheads and the burdens, and let individuals get on with their lives.

Chris Martenson: Well, James, one man’s repression is another man’s gold mine. The financial repression has certainly been hitting savers of all stripes, people living on fixed incomes, pensions, endowments, you name it. But there have been absolutely enormous beneficiaries of that, not the least of which is seeing the rising wealth gaps that occurs everywhere – which, by the way, is just a mathematical function of what happens when you print money. Those closest to it certainly do very, very well. And those further from it do less well, even negatively well.

And so what I’m seeing in this data is, first of all, it’s fully predictable that when the Fed, et al., meaning all the other central banks, do what they do, there’s going to be a certain class of speculators that are going to reap the majority of those gains.

What do you think – I mean, just to speculate for a second – the Fed’s now got five going on six years of information about how their policies are working by many, many of the statistics that we’ve talked about here: unemployment, the true nature of the unemployment when you dig into the statistics a little between part-time/full-time jobs, the amount of capital expenditure spending by corporations. There’s a lot of things to say the seeds for good, organic growth are simply not there.

They’ve created a speculative arena, which they should have known was what they were going to create, because there’s lots of papers written about that well-known phenomenon. What do you think they’re thinking now going on into the sixth year of this?

James Turk: I don’t know. It’s hard to put myself in the shoes of a central banker. But I mean, if they looked at themselves honestly, here we are supposedly five, six years into an economic recovery, and they’re still printing money hand over fist? I mean, how can that possibly be? If they’re supposedly having good economic activity, why do they continue to print money?

Central bankers only have one solution to everything. They just print money and print money. But what they don’t understand is they’re ultimately destroying the currency and destroying the economy as a consequence.

Yes, Bernanke today could be very much compared to Doctor Havenstein, who ran the Reichsbank in Germany, which was its central bank during the Weimar Republic in the early 1920s. He felt that he had to continue buying government debt and turning it into currency because if he didn’t, that there would be an economic collapse and unemployment would rise.

Well, Bernanke’s turning U.S. government debt into currency for the same thing. It didn’t work out well in Germany. Obviously, central bankers should be reading the history books to see what happens as a consequence of money printing. This is one of the key themes that John and I are putting in this book, that we’re on a path that’s unsustainable, and we have to turn around and basically go back in the right direction. And each individual themselves has to take those steps to make sure that they themselves – they and their family – are protected come what may. And what we do is offer a variety of different ideas as to how to do that. And of course, precious metals are a key element of that strategy.

Chris Martenson: Let’s get to precious metals in a minute. One of the more enduring debates is whether or not precious metals are being manipulated in any way, shape, or form. So, before we talk about the potential for various market participants, I’ll call them, to manipulate the price of gold or silver – let’s review a couple of the other market riggings and overt frauds that we know about.

The LIBOR Scandal, if you followed that, that’s the very definition of a huge, gigantic conspiracy involving lots and lots of players that persisted for years and years. And yet, it was, they are fiddling around with rates that literally impact hundreds of trillions of dollars of derivatives and related investments.

So, when you look at the LIBOR Scandal, what – do you see anything other than big banks behaving badly?

James Turk: Absolutely not. I think that is a good example, and it’s just one of many. I mean, look at the number of things that various banks have become involved with in terms of scandals, and lying to authorities, lying to regulators, lying to customers. Why are precious metals any different from any of the other things that central banks have tried to do?

And it all comes down to the interest rates. Gold is money. It has its own interest rate. The market is basically for interest rates controlled by governments, so they have to control the gold price in order to control gold interest rates. It’s very simple and very straightforward.

But there’s a bigger picture here, Chris. What governments are doing now is no different than what they’ve been doing for over 100 years. It used to be under the classical gold standard, but what governments did is they managed domestic currency in order to maintain the constant purchasing power of gold.

About 100 years ago, they flipped that around. They started managing gold in order to maintain the ever-diminishing purchasing power of the domestic currency, and they do that by trying to control the gold price. I mean, we saw a good example of it in the 1960s, particularly with the collapse of the central Banking Cartel called the London Gold Pool. When eventually they couldn’t sustain the financial depression anymore, the gold pool collapsed and the gold price rose.

We have a similar set of circumstances today. We’re getting, I think, very close to the stage where the managing of the gold price or manipulation or the intervention in the market, however you want to describe it, is approaching its end. And that ultimately means a much higher gold price in the months and years ahead.

Chris Martenson: I just want to tick down this list I’ve got because it’s really instructive. So, my view is this: Anything that banks or central banks can do in order to achieve a profit or a policy aim, they will do. And banks, in particular, have proven extraordinarily aggressive at all manner of frauds, many of them just rather dramatic.

So we mentioned LIBOR. They’ve also been implicated now in Forex and currency manipulations, particularly banging the close on those markets. There’s the gold price fix. Certainly, in London they had an investigation there. I think Germany’s now in on that. Bafin’s checking out Deutsche Bank.

Others, on the CDL markets there were material withholdings from clients. The energy markets in California and other states were heavily manipulated by banks that got tagged in that. Mortgages, obviously, the Platt’s oil prices for global oil prices, those benchmarks had been – it’s been alleged and is under investigation. Active rigging there.

The ISDA fix that sets the benchmark for a $380-trillion stock market also been tagged with banks just quietly backpedaling away, saying, We’re leaving. Don’t investigate us. And obviously, the daily high-frequency trading, quote-stuffing shenanigans, overt price manipulation – this is the world we live in now.

If it turns out that – when I look at that constellation, I say, Oh, you really just can’t trust that the bank’s self-interest and your interest align even remotely. They don’t.

So, what does a person who’s more of an average investor supposed to do when they see that’s the world that we live in and that regulators seem to be rather uninterested in untangling that mess. And what a mess it is. Where do they go? What do they do?

James Turk: Wealth comes in two forms. It comes in financial assets, bonds, and T-Bills, and things of that nature, and it also comes in tangible assets: real estate, oil wells, timberland, farmland, houses and things that are tangible. And when you’re in a financial bust – and we’ve been in a financial bust since the dot-com bubble collapsed back in 2000 – what you want to do is you want to be involved with tangible assets and you want to avoid, as much as possible, your involvement in any financial assets. So, consequently, what people should still be focusing on, even though we’re 14 years into this bust, is continuing the accumulation of tangible assets.

Because when this bust is over, promises are going to be broken left and right. And that means financial assets where you have counterparty risk where you own an asset, the value of which is based on someone’s promise – a lot of those financial assets are going to be diminished in value. Now, there’s a special kind of financial asset called a stock in a company. It’s almost like a tangible asset in the sense that if you own stock in EXXON, you’re basically owning a tangible asset, because it’s involved in oil and it owns tangible assets all over the world.

But then, there are financial stocks, credit-card companies and banks, that are financial wealth rather than tangible wealth. So, you don’t want to own stocks in those companies. So, basically, own tangible assets or stocks in companies that are involved with tangible assets – those stocks, I call near-tangible – I think that’s the thing that everybody should be focusing on.

And when it comes to money and liquidity, the money, of course, would be physical gold or physical silver or a combination thereof because they will re-emerge in the historical and traditional role as money.

Keep in mind, gold’s been money for 5,000 years. It was made money by the market. Money comes from the market. It doesn’t come from the government. Over the past century, government’s certainly usurped that authority to control money. And over the last 40 years, they’ve gone even further afield by completely divorcing fiat currency from the gold that used to back money. And because of the time element that’s involved, we’ve lost sight of what money really is, and that’s what’s created the money bubble, Chris.

And it’s this money bubble where people have to come back to reality as to what money really is. It’s liquid, tangible assets being used in the economy in exchange for real goods and services. And it’s ultimately where we’re going. And I think it’s going to be very, very disruptive because if you look at an individual country like Weimar, Germany or Zimbabwe more recently, or what Venezuela or Argentina are going through now. You can see the disruption to the economy when the money is no good.

We’re talking here about fiat currencies throughout the world because nobody’s tied to gold anymore. No country’s currency is tied to gold anymore. So this is going to be the bubble, I think, that generations from now, hundreds of years from now people are going to be talking about just like we talk today about the South Sea Bubble or the Mississippi Bubble, from those episodes in history a couple hundred years ago.

Chris Martenson: If a country was going to behave more rationally and responsibly, how would we detect that? Looking at, say, Europe to the U.S., some are saying Europe is not printing nearly to the same degree as the United States.

Do you find any merit in that sort of, let’s say, jurisdictional analysis where you’re lumping, all fiat currencies are headed for the same cliff?

James Turk: Yes. All fiat currencies are headed for the same cliff. And the way you’re going to turn away from the cliff is, you have to look at what the central bank has in terms of gold reserves. If the central bank still has a credible amount of gold reserves relative to the amount of promises that the government has issued and the amount of paper that the central bank has issued, they have the ability to go back to some kind of a gold standard.

I mean, if the U.S. Gold Reserves are still there, they could probably do it at a gold price of $10 or $12 thousand an ounce or maybe a little bit higher. And you’d still have a lot of promises be broken, though, by the U.S. Government.

But if the gold’s not there in the central bank, then there’s no hope. And that’s really the worrying thing, because we don’t really know where all of the physical gold is these days. All we do know is that a lot of physical gold is moving from West to East, is being accumulated by people in Asia who understand gold and its historical role as money that is being taken away from people in the West, who view gold as an investment and something to speculate on, rather than something that’s fundamental to economic activity.

Chris Martenson: Well, it’s interesting. I’ve seen several studies that have done this same thing and asked the question, If you wanted to have a permanent portfolio…? meaning it would survive every war and it would perform well on every single up and down cycle as you go forward, the perfect weighting has 20% gold in it and then different weightings in stocks and bonds.

So, it had a role. And the thing that’s interesting to me is that you can, with just simple risk-adjusted returns put gold in a portfolio. Dial it up and down. Ask what’s going on. A very high weighting delivers the best efficient frontier on an idealized portfolio, back-tested through the last 100 years of history, and what I detect in my country from the United States is the slandering of gold at every opportunity in the mainstream press.

Do you see the same thing? And if so, what’s the motivation?

James Turk: Yes. Because it’s a type of financial repression. Propaganda is repression. They can’t let the truth get out that gold really is money, because if they do, then you’re going to have people fleeing fiat currency and going into gold. And that’s the worst fear of central bankers.

So governments and central bankers have this unholy alliance that governments borrow money and central banks facilitate that process by making sure that governments have all the money they want to spend. And the mainstream media basically facilitates it by providing anti-gold propaganda and telling everybody the economy is good, when in fact, all you have to do is talk to some of your neighbors and you’ll find out that the economy is not as good as the media tends to portray.

And we’re on this path where trust in institutions and things is rapidly declining.

Chris Martenson: And maybe for good reason, if you pay attention.

As we get towards the end here, here is a common question I get, and I think this is a tricky one. It’s around the idea of debt. And if you have to break the subject of debt down, that’s fine, because not all debts are created equal.

You have a chapter in here entitled, “Pay Off Debt and Internationalize,” but on the debt side of this, why would you advise getting out of debt at this point in history?

James Turk: Yes. There is this beguiling belief that if you have a lot of debt and the currency gets destroyed, your obligation will get destroyed with it. It may not work out that way. We live in an economy today where governments are heavily influenced by the banking system. If the currency collapses, there’s no reason to believe that the bank’s obligations are going to be minimized. They may impose on the government a rule that the debt has to be repaid in the new currency at fair economic value, not in a depreciated currency.

And I like to use the example of what happened to Thomas Jefferson – other than the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States – he ended up dying a pauper because he ended up paying the debt on his father-in-law’s estate twice. He paid it once during the War of Independence and put the money with the Virginia Government, but the currency was destroyed by the end of the war. And he was then obligated to repay the debt again in pound sterling, which of course, was on a gold standard. And that basically bankrupted him and he ended up dying a pauper years later.

So, don’t assume that you’re going to benefit from having debt. It could very well be that the debt is going to be re-denominated in the new currency after the fiat currency collapses. The safe way to play it is to own tangible assets without any debt obligations.

Chris Martenson: I agree, and I have one other wrinkle on that, which is, there’s also this enduring idea, maybe a fantasy that as the currency debases, your income will be going up. But if it turns out labor markets have no power and your income stays low in nominal terms and is below the rate of inflation, you get a 3% percent raise but inflation goes to 10%, then you’re going to find that your disposable income is just shrinking and shrinking and shrinking. Your debt payments are fixed, and all of your other non-discretionary payments are fixed, and so things just get tighter and tighter.

Hey, that’s just the ‘70s. It’s stagflation again, in some way, but this time without the rising wages that we had back then. So I think it could be quite damaging to be holding debt.

James Turk: That’s a very good point and one of the things that John and I talk about in the book is that it’s becoming more and more difficult to actually measure wealth. What you really need to do is you need to measure the wealth by determining purchasing power, and we use, in this regard, ounces of gold. That’s a great way to measure whether your wealth is actually increasing or decreasing as an indication measure of purchasing power, rather than using dollars or Swiss francs or euros or any other currency.

But it’s just an indication of how bad things have become with regard to the monetary unit. One of the basic things as to why things are money is because they use them for economic calculation, to measure the prices of goods and services. And it’s becoming extremely difficult when you’re adjusting the size of the measuring stick.

In the book we use the example of what happened if a meter kept changing; how would you measure records at the Olympics from year to year? And that’s what we’re trying to do with this fiat currency that’s in circulation today.

Chris Martenson: So, from a macro perspective, nothing’s really changed. We’re trying to paper over it – the issues. We’re trying to sustain the unsustainable, as it were. We’re trying to pretend as if the next 30 years can resemble the past 30 years, which were extraordinarily unique in financial history with the run-up in debt relative to income.

So, that’s the macro story. And so you’re saying that even though it’s been a rough couple of years for precious metals investors, that they still remain one of the obvious solutions to the story; one of the obvious resolutions will come through precious metals, at least in part, with precious metals as a representative of tangible assets?

James Turk: Yes. Because, the last year, gold was down, but it was up 12 prior years. You can’t look at just the last year in isolation. You have to look at the big swing of things. And we’ve been in a gold boom market, believe it or not, since 100 years ago, since the Federal Reserve was created.

If you had held gold over that period of time instead of owning dollars, because a 1913 dollar has been so debased compared to what we have as dollars today, it takes only a penny of a 1913 dollar to purchase today what a full dollar today purchases.

So, I mean, it’s sort of like the end of currency in the Roman Empire. In over 100 years, it kept getting debased and debased and debased until it finally collapsed. And the same thing is likely to happen with the dollar. And every individual has to take those steps to protect themselves, come what may.

Chris Martenson: Absolutely. I agree.

Well, the book is, The Money Bubble: What to Do Before It Pops. I’m sure it’s going to be a great read if it’s anything like The Coming Collapse of the Dollar.

James, it’s been a pleasure talking with you. Where would people find your book?

James Turk: It’s available on Amazon, of course, and it’s also available through local bookstores.

Chris Martenson: Well, fantastic. You self-published this, didn’t you?

James Turk: Yes. We did. But it’s so easy to self-publish a book now that you can use the same distribution systems that the big publishing company houses use. What John and I wanted to do is, we self-published this because we didn’t want to go through the editing process that’s required when you’re using big publishing houses. What we wanted to say, we actually say without having to worry about what a publishing house might or might not cut out.

Chris Martenson: Oh, yes. That’s a very important consideration.

Well, thank you so much for your time today. I’m going to look forward to reading more of the book, and it’s going to be a very interesting 2014, I hope. Thank you for everything you’ve been doing to help raise awareness around one of the most important topics of our generation.

Thank you very much, Chris, I’m hopeful that The Money Bubble will be – well, it already is well-received, I hope it gets a lot of attention, because I think that I’m hoping that, as “Coming Collapse of the Dollar” did, it helped a lot of people, I think The Money Bubble will provide a lot of educational material that people will find useful as they try to get a handle on the crazy things that are going on today.

Well, James, thanks again and be well.

Chris Martenson: “Endless Growth” Is the Plan & There Is No Plan B | Peak Prosperity

Chris Martenson: “Endless Growth” Is the Plan & There Is No Plan B | Peak Prosperity.

After five years of aggressive Federal Reserve and government intervention in our monetary and financial systems, it’s time to ask: Where are we? 

The “plan,” such as it has been, is to let future growth sweep everything under the rug. To print some money, close their eyes, cross their fingers, and hope for the best.

On that, I give them an “A” for wishful thinking – and an “F” for actual results.

For the big banks, the plan has involved giving them free money so that they can be “healthy.” This has been conducted via direct (TARP, etc.) and semi-direct bailouts (such as offering them money at zero percent and then paying them 0.25% for stashing that same money back at the Fed), and indirectly via telegraphing future market interventions so that the big banks could ‘front run’ those moves to make virtually risk-free money.

This has been fabulously lucrative for the big banks that are in the inner circle. As we’ve noted somewhat monotonously, the big banks enjoy “win ratios” on their trading activities that are, well, implausible at best.

Here’s a chart of J.P. Morgan’s trading revenues for the first three quarters of 2013, showing how many days the bank made or lost money:

(Source)

Do you see the number of days the bank lost money? No? Oh, that’s right. There weren’t any.

Now, for you or me, trading involves losses, or risk. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. There appears to be zero risk at all to JP Morgan’s trading activities. They won virtually all of the time over this 9-month period.

That’s like living at a casino poker table for months and never losing.

Of course, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and a few other U.S.-based banks were able to turn in roughly similar results. Pretty sweet deal being a bank these days, huh?

So one might think, Well, that’s just how banks are now. Bernanke’s flood of liquidity is allowing them to simply ‘win’ at trading. If true (which it appears to be), we can’t call this trading. The act of “trading” implies risk. And it’s clear that what the big banks are doing carries no risk; otherwise they would be posting at least some degree of losses. We should call it sanctioned theft, corporate welfare, cronyism  the list goes on. And it is most grossly unfair, as well as corrosive to the long-term health of our markets.

Therefore, sadly, I have to give Bernanke an A++ on his objective of handing the banks a truly massive amount of risk-free money. He’s done fabulously well there.

But will this be sufficient to carry the day? Will this be enough to set us back on the path of high growth?

And even if we do magically return to the sort of high-octane growth that we used to enjoy back in the day, will that really solve anything?

Endless Growth Is Plan A Through Plan Z

The problem I see with the current rescue plans is that they are piling on massive amounts of new debts.

These debts represent obligations taken on today that will have to be repaid in the future. And the only way repayment can possibly happen is if the future consists of a LOT of uninterrupted growth upwards from here.

It’s always easiest to make a case when you go to silly extremes, so let’s examine Japan. It’s no secret that Japan is piling on sovereign debt and just going nuts in an attempt to get its economy working again. At least that’s the publicly stated reason. The real reason is to keep its banking system from imploding.

After all, exponential debt-based financial systems function especially poorly in reverse. So Japan keeps piling on the debt in rather stunning amounts:

(Source)

That’s up nearly 40% in three years (!).

It’s the people of Japan who are on the hook for all that borrowing, now standing well over 200% of GDP. So here’s the kicker: In 2010, Japan had a population of 128 million. In 2100, the ‘best case’ projected outcome for Japan is that its population will stand at 65 million. The worst case? 38 million.

So…who, exactly, is going to be paying all of that debt back?

The answer: Japan’s steadily shrinking pool of citizens.

This is simple math, and the trends are very, very clear. Japan has a swiftly rising debt load and a falling population. Whoever it is that is buying 30-year Japanese debt at 1.69% today either cannot perform simple math, or, more likely, is merely playing along for the moment but plans on getting out ahead of everybody else.

But the fact remains that Japan’s long-term economic prospects are pretty terrible. And they will remain so as long as the Japanese government, slave to the concept of debt-based money, cannot think of any other response to the current economic condition besides trying to shock the patient back to vigorous life by borrowing and spending like crazy.

If, instead, Japan had used its glory days of manufacturing export surpluses to build up real stores of actual wealth that would persist into the future, then the prognosis could be entirely different. But it didn’t.

The U.S. Is No Different

Except for some timing differences, the U.S. is largely in the same place as Japan twenty years ago and following a nearly identical trajectory.  Currently, it’s an economic powerhouse, folks are generally optimistic on the domestic economic front (relatively speaking), and its politicians are making exceptionally short-sighted decisions. But the long-term math is the same.

There’s too much debt representing too many promises. The only possible way those can be met is if rapid and persistent economic growth returns.

However, even under the very best of circumstances, where the economy rises from here without a hitch  say, at historically usual rates of around 3.5% in real terms (6% or more, nominally)  we know that various pension and entitlement programs will still be in big trouble.

Worse, we know that the environment is screaming for attention based on our poor stewardship. Addressing issues such as over-farming, water wastage, and oceanic fishery depletion  to say nothing of carbon levels in the atmosphere – will be hugely expensive.

Likewise, a complete focus on consumer borrowing and spending at the exclusion of everything else (except bailing out big banks, of course), along with a dab of excessive state security spending, has left the U.S. with an enormous infrastructure bill that also must be paid, one way or the other. That is, short-term decisions have left us with long-term challenges.

But what happens if that expected (required?) high rate of growth does not appear?

What if there are hitches and glitches along the way in the form of recessions, as is certain to be the case?  There always have been moments of economic retreat, despite the Fed’s heroic recent attempts to end them. Then what happens?

Well, that’s when an already implausible story of ‘recovery’ becomes ludicrous.

If we take a closer look at the projections, the idea that we’re going to grow – even remotely – into a gigantic future that will consume all entitlement shortfalls within its cornucopian maw becomes all but laughable.

Of course, the purpose of this exercise is not to make fun of anyone, nor to mock any particular beliefs, but to create an actionable understanding of the true nature of where we really are and what you should be doing about it.

In Part II: Why Your Own Plan Better Be Different, we examine more deeply the unsustainability of our current economic system and why it is folly to assume “things will get better from here.”

Given the unforgiving math at the macro altitudes, the need for adopting a saner, more prudent plan at the individual level is the best option available to us now.

Click here to access Part II of this report (free executive summary; enrollment required for full access).

The Fed Must Inflate – Chris Martenson – Mises Daily

The Fed Must Inflate – Chris Martenson – Mises Daily

The Fed is busy doing everything in its considerable power to get credit (that is, debt) growing again so that we can get back to what it considers to be “normal.”

But the problem is that the recent past was notnormal. You may have already seen this next chart. It shows total debt in the U.S. as a percent of GDP:

http://media.peakprosperity.com/images/Debt-to-GDP-Hoisington.jpg

 

(Source)

Somewhere right around 1980, things really changed, and debt began climbing far faster than GDP. And that, right there, is the long and the short of why any attempt to continue the behavior that got us to this point is certain to fail.

It is simply not possible to grow your debts faster than your income forever. However, that’s been the practice since 1980, and current politicians and Federal Reserve officials developed their opinions about “how the world works” during the 33-year period between 1980 and 2013.

Put bluntly, they want to get us back on that same track, and as soon as possible. The reason? Because every major power center, be that in D.C. or on Wall Street, tuned their thinking, systems, and sense of entitlement, during that period. And, frankly, a huge number of financial firms and political careers will melt away if and when that credit expansion finally stops. And stop it will; that’s just a mathematical certainty.

Total Credit Market Debt (TCMD) is a measure of all the various forms of debt in the U.S. That includes corporate, state, federal, and household borrowing. So student loans are in there, as are auto loans, mortgages, and municipal and federal debt. It’s pretty much everything debt-related. What it does not include, though, are any unfunded obligations, entitlements, or other types of liabilities. So the Social Security shortfalls are not in there, nor are the underfunded pensions at the state or corporate levels. TCMD is just debt, plain and simple.

As you can see in this next chart, since 1970, TCMD has been growing almost exponentially.

http://media.peakprosperity.com/images/Total-Credit-MD-10-24-2013%201-46-39.jpg

 

That tiny little wiggle happened in 2008-2009, and it apparently nearly brought down the entire global financial system. That little deviation was practically too much all on its own for the markets to handle.

Now debts are climbing again at a quite nice pace. That’s mainly due to the Fed monetizing U.S. federal debt just to keep things patched together. As an aside, based on this chart, we’d expect the Fed to not end their QE efforts until and unless households and corporations once more engage in robust borrowing. The system apparently needs borrowing to keep growing exponentially, or it risks collapse.

One could ask why credit can’t just keep growing. But there are many reasons to believe that the future will not resemble the past. Let’s start in 1980, when credit growth really took off. This period also happens to be the happy time that the Fed is trying (desperately) to recreate. Between 1980 and 2013, total credit grew by an astonishing 8 percent per year, compounded. I say “astonishing” because anything growing by 8 percent per year will fully double every 9 years. So let’s run the math experiment and ask what will happen if the Fed is successful and total credit grows for the next 30 years at exactly the same rate it did over the prior 30. That’s all. This is nothing fancy, and it is simply the same rate of growth that everybody got accustomed to while they were figuring out “how the world works.”

What happens to the current $57 trillion in TCMD as it advances by 8 percent per year for 30 years? It mushrooms into a silly number: $573 trillion. That is, an 8 percent growth paradigm gives us a 10-fold increase in total credit in just 30 years:

http://media.peakprosperity.com/images/Credit-market-debt-grown-8-pct.jpg

 

For perspective, the GDP of the entire globe was just $85 trillion in 2012. Even if we advance global GDP by some hefty number, like 4 percent per year for the next 30 years, under an 8 percent growth regime, U.S. credit would be twice as large as global GDP in 2043.

If that comparison didn’t do it for you, then just ask yourself: Why, exactly, would U.S. corporations, households, and government borrow more than $500 trillion over the next 30 years?

The total mortgage market is currently $10 trillion, so might the plan include developing an additional 50 more U.S. residential real estate markets?

So perhaps the situation moderates a bit, and instead of growing at 8 percent, credit market debt grows at just half that rate. So what happens if credit just grows by 4 percent per year? That gets us to $185 trillion, or another $128 trillion higher than today — a more than 3x increase. Again: for what will we borrow (only) $128 trillion for, over the next 30 years?

When I run these numbers, I am entirely confident that the rate of growth in debt between 1980 and 2013 will not be recreated between 2013 and 2043. But, I’ve been assuming that dollars remain valuable. If dollars were to lose 90 percent or more of their value (say, perhaps due to our central bank creating too many of them), then it’s entirely possible to achieve any sorts of fantastical numbers one wishes to see.

For the Fed to achieve anything even close to the historical rate of credit growth, the dollar will have to lose a lot of value. This may in fact be the Fed’s grand plan, and it’s entirely about keeping the financial system primed with sufficient new credit to prevent it from imploding.

Note: The views expressed in Daily Articles on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

Comment on this article. When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment.
Chris Martenson is a former biochemical scientist. Currently he is a writer and trend forecaster interested in macro trends regarding the economy, energy composition and environment. He is the founder of PeakProsperity.com. See Chris Martenson’s article archives.

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Exit Strategy… What Exit Strategy? | Zero Hedge

Exit Strategy… What Exit Strategy? | Zero Hedge. (source)

Crash Course creator Chris Martenson explains why it’s easier to start than to stop quantitative easing: “A lot of what we hear is the Fed’s exit strategy … what most people don’t know is that this thing doesn’t work in reverse very well at all.” In this excellent interview with RT, Martenson explains why Bernanke & Co. found it relatively simple to start their money printing, but why they will have a hell of a time getting off the runaway QE train.

VIDEO

 

Gold Price Drop Signals a Larger Stock and Bond Market Correction | Peak Prosperity

Gold Price Drop Signals a Larger Stock and Bond Market Correction | Peak Prosperity.

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