Everything Is Broken

Way back when the government kicked off the Covid panic, smart people pointing out that shutting down the world to bend the curve was not a cost free way of addressing the problem. In fact, it was a very expensive and risky solution to a problem that was best addressed through traditional means. The world has a pandemic every 15 years and a severe one at least once a generation. Humans have figured out to tough out these naturally occurring events.

Shutting down the world and making people stay home from work is a novel invention, so there was no way to know what would happen. Human societies are tough, so it took a while for the problems to manifest. Initially, those who could work from home worked from home and those unemployed were supported with subsidies. This could never be a permanent condition, so we have been trying to transition back to normalcy for the last six months, but things are nowhere near normal.

The Brits have gasoline shortages, and they are facing a winter with spiraling natural gas prices, because the energy supply chain is a mess. Keeping people at home meant keeping people out of their cars, which collapsed fuel consumption. The trucks and truck drivers were put to other uses and now that demand is returning, they suddenly have a shortage of trucks and truck drivers. This will soon hit other parts of the supply chain as demand suddenly increases for goods and services.

In the US, ports are a mess as they face similar supply chain problems. The ports in America are weird systems. The labor is unionized, but the unions are pretty much run by the government under an array of consent decrees. Demand for labor is driven by the ships in port needing to be loaded and unloaded. The stevedoring firms hire when they need to unload a ship, but they keep few fulltime people. They simply draw from the pool of longshoremen that operate at the port.

During the shutdowns, fewer ships came into port, so fewer people were needed to unload ships and fewer trucks were needed to cart the goods out of the port. That is why ships are stacked up at the ports now. The system for unloading those ships had atrophied during the pandemic, so it is now over-capacity. This leads to shortages and price disruptions throughout the economy. For example, America has been suffering an aluminum shortage for close to a year.

A good example of how throwing wrenches into the system has unpredictable long term effects is the automobile industry. When the government shut down the country, the travel industry was flattened. The car rental firms did the prudent thing. They liquidated their car fleets. After all, if you make your money renting cars and no one is renting cars, those cars are direct hits to the bottom line. In order to weather the storm, they sold off their fleets and furloughed their staff.

The trouble is a big source of used cars is the car rental industry. They get cars on programs from the manufacturers. They can be three, six or nine month programs where the company takes the new cars for a monthly fee and then returns them to the manufacturers after the term of the program. Those cars end up in the new car dealer lots as discounted used cars. Look around the car lots in America and what you see is lots of empty spaces where cars used to sit.

Once things opened up, the car rental companies went looking for cars, so they went to the used car auctions. Other shortages have made it impossible for the manufacturers to get cars to their own dealers, much less supply program cars to the rental fleets, so that left the used car market. Used car prices are now spiking to record levels because the supply chain is a mess. It will take years for this to normalize, and the cost will be in the tens of billions.

Of course, everyone who buys food has noticed that food is suddenly much more expensive and there are weird shortages. Like everything else, the broken supply chain is the main culprit. Those trucking companies suddenly put out of business by government fiat did not sit around waiting to open up again. They fired their staff, sold off their trucks and found other ways to survive. Rebuilding the many small links of the supply chain will take years and show up in higher food prices.

In a modern liberal democracy, every event requires a response, and every response requires a response and so on. The smallest pebble tossed into the water can potentially result in a flood. In this context it means government jumping in to mitigate the consequences of their fix for something else they broke. Inflation will get calls for more spending, which will get more inflation. The central banks will then try to redirect that inflation from goods to assets.

In other words, the shutdowns have created a dynamic of chaos that will take years to settle out, assuming no further shocks. The Biden administration is promising another meteor strike with their Build Back Better nonsense. You see, they broke everything and now see it as a chance to remake the world in their image. When crazy stupid people want to try to make the world, the only thing that can follow is chaos. We may be at the cusp of an age of unimaginable economic madness.

This is a good example of something said by Will Durant. “Out of every hundred new ideas ninety-nine or more will probably be inferior to the traditional responses which they propose to replace. No one man, however brilliant or well-informed, can come in one lifetime to such fullness of understanding as to safely judge and dismiss the customs or institutions of his society, for those are the wisdom of generations after centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history.”

In the fullness of time, after the West is a ruin of its own making, this age will be remembered as a gross and sustained violation of that sentiment. If over the last thirty years the people in charge had done nothing but entertain themselves with their toys, none of this would be happening. Instead, they kept trying to prove nature wrong and overturn the wisdom of ages. Reality does not take kindly to this amount of abuse, so there will be consequences.


The crackdown by the oligarchs on dissidents has had the happy result of a proliferation of new ways to support your favorite creator. If you like my work and wish to kick in a few bucks, you can buy me a beer. You can sign up for a SubscribeStar subscription and get some extra content. You can donate via PayPal. My crypto addresses are here for those who prefer that option. You can send gold bars to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. Thank you for your support!


Promotions: We have a new addition to the list. Havamal Soap Works is the maker of natural, handmade soap and bath products. If you are looking to reduce the volume of man-made chemicals in your life, all-natural personal products are a good start. If you use this link you get 15% off of your purchase.

The good folks at Alaska Chaga are offering a ten percent discount to readers of this site. You just click on the this link and they take care of the rest. About a year ago they sent me some of their stuff. Up until that point, I had never heard of chaga, but I gave a try and it is very good. It is a tea, but it has a mild flavor. It’s autumn here in Lagos, so it is my daily beverage now.

Minter & Richter Designs makes high-quality, hand-made by one guy in Boston, titanium wedding rings for men and women and they are now offering readers a fifteen percent discount on purchases if you use this link.   If you are headed to Boston, they are also offering my readers 20% off their 5-star rated Airbnb.  Just email them directly to book at sales@minterandrichterdesigns.com.


The Limits Of Vampirism

Imagine if tomorrow, the Federal Reserve announced that the top ten home builders in the United States are insolvent. They would cease paying interest on debt and probably would default on principal payments. Further, their bonds would be frozen for some period as the Fed sorted through their finances. It is not too hard to imagine as 13 years ago something close happened when Lehmen Brothers collapsed. It started a long financial panic and then a long recession.

Something similar is now happening in China. The nation’s largest developer is no longer able to pay its creditors. The Chinese government announced yesterday that the firm will not make interest payments and probably will default on principal payments, although that remains unclear. China Evergrande has liabilities over $300 billion, but this is China, so no one knows the real number. All anyone knows is they sit at the heart of the Chinese financial and real estate system.

One thing that is universally true in all times and all places, even in China, is that real estate is the base asset. Mother Nature is not making more of it, so it remains a constant and therefore the basis of all value. It is why this development is not just another story of corrupt financial dealings. As in the West, all land in China is leveraged and that leverage is treated as an asset, which means it is leveraged. If Evergrande stops paying its bill, many other firms stop paying their bills.

At this point, the financial world is not all that concerned with what is happening in Chinese real estate, but they were not concerned about the mortgage crisis in the United States until it was a pending disaster. The old claim that financial markets look forward and therefore offer a glimpse of the future was always nonsense, but the Lehman disaster proved that markets are not the future. The world of finance assumes tomorrow will be yesterday but better.

At the minimum, the Evergrande crisis is a test of the new Chinese model of governance ushered in under Xi Jinping. The relatively loose days of Chinese capitalism are coming to a close as the party imposes new rules on the economy and cracks down on its pirates. The focus is now on domestic growth, rather than cheap labor and exports. China is no longer the cheapest or most productive labor market in the world, so it cannot remain an export economy.

No one really knows if China can successfully make the turn from export economy to one driven by domestic consumption. The breathtaking modernization of the country is impressive, but that required massive cooperation from the West. If the United States had a ruling class concerned with the welfare of the American people, for example, the Chinese miracle never would have occurred. The feckless American ruling class cannot help China transition to a domestic demand driven economy.

The bigger question with regards to China and this current financial crisis is can the Western financial model survive the Chinese transition. For the last thirty years the corrupt Western ruling class has preserved itself like all corrupt ruling classes have done and that is with bread and circuses. The Chinese economic miracle has kept inflation down and money printing up. Cheap goods from China have been an essential part of maintaining stability in the West.

Inflation is already becoming a problem in America. In most parts of the economy, the food markets are plagued with supply chain problems and rising prices. Then there are labor market problems, some of which were created by the Covid panic, but others are the result of demographics. Those Baby Boomers taking early retirement due to the Covid panic are not going to be replaced by the magical people that we see on television shows and commercials.

Of course, the great retirement boom that is just started in the US will put massive strain on programs like Social Security and Medicare. Those programs represent trillions in debt that can never be paid in current dollars. Medicare is now projected to run out of cash in ten years. Social Security has been insolvent for a long time now, based on generally accepted accounting practices. Its assets were spent years ago by the government, leaving it with worthless IOU’s.

People are pointing to the current crisis in China as a replay of the Lehman debacle 13 years ago, but in reality, it is a continuation of it. Starting in the 1980’s, the people actually in charge of the world began to transition the global economy away from an asset based system to a credit based system. The great debt explosion that ensued took many forms and the rise of China was one aspect. Without the massive growth in global debt, China’s growth would have been impossible.

The thing with debt is that it has to eventually be repaid. That means there is a hard limit to the amount of debt that can be generated. A system based on the assumption that debt can expand forever will naturally end in a crisis when that that assumption runs into the reality of the debt limit. In this regard, Lehman, the mortgage crisis and now the Evergrande crisis should be seen as warning tremors. One day soon there will be no way to paper over one of these crises.

Step back and look at what has happened over the last half century and what you see is an effort to mitigate the demographic decline of the West. The reason China was so attractive to the West is she was full of young people. China’s utility to the West is in decline because she is rapidly getting old. The massively complex system that is the Western financial modern is just a way to turn the youth of other societies into cash for the Western welfare state. Their vigor is our safety net.

The trouble is the system drains the vitality of all those exposed to it. Japan was the first example of a formerly fecund society drained of its youth and vitality by exposure to the Western economic model. Korea soon followed. Now we see all of the same signs in China as she nears the end of her economic cycle. The only place left with lots of young people is Africa, but even the scheming of Western elites will never be enough to conquer the dark continent in this way.

In this context, what is happening in China is a sign that the system of endless credit expansion is really the implementation of a system that converts civilizational vigor into cash for a tiny minority. The natural limit on the expansion of credit is set by the limit of young people available to be consumed. China’s future was written in her one child policy and ultimately that would set the end times for the West. Once we run out of kids to convert to credit, the plates stop spinning.


The crackdown by the oligarchs on dissidents has had the happy result of a proliferation of new ways to support your favorite creator. If you like my work and wish to kick in a few bucks, you can buy me a beer. You can sign up for a SubscribeStar subscription and get some extra content. You can donate via PayPal. My crypto addresses are here for those who prefer that option. You can send gold bars to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. Thank you for your support!


Promotions: We have a new addition to the list. Havamal Soap Works is the maker of natural, handmade soap and bath products. If you are looking to reduce the volume of man-made chemicals in your life, all-natural personal products are a good start. If you use this link you get 15% off of your purchase.

The good folks at Alaska Chaga are offering a ten percent discount to readers of this site. You just click on the this link and they take care of the rest. About a year ago they sent me some of their stuff. Up until that point, I had never heard of chaga, but I gave a try and it is very good. It is a tea, but it has a mild flavor. It’s autumn here in Lagos, so it is my daily beverage now.

Minter & Richter Designs makes high-quality, hand-made by one guy in Boston, titanium wedding rings for men and women and they are now offering readers a fifteen percent discount on purchases if you use this link.   If you are headed to Boston, they are also offering my readers 20% off their 5-star rated Airbnb.  Just email them directly to book at sales@minterandrichterdesigns.com.


College Sportsball

Note: The weekly Taki post is up. Behind the green door we have the Sunday podcast, a post on the joy of work and a review of the movie Giant, which I hated. Most of this is  available to those who buy me a beer. They are not hosting podcasts yet, so that is exclusive to SubscribeStar for now.


Last week, the American sporting world was sent into a frenzy over news that the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma were planning to leave the Big 12 conference for the Southeastern Conference. In addition to stripping the Big 12 of its flagship institutions, it would make the SEC into a juggernaut. They would have half of the dozen or so major brands in college football. This would no doubt set off a frenzy of moves by the rest of college football in order to keep pace.

For those outside the United States, college athletics is a big business and a big part of the sporting tradition in America. It all started innocently enough when groups of young men at college would challenge the young men of another college in some sort of athletic competition. Before long it was formalized and became a part of the identity of the college, a way for the students and alumni to bond. The colleges found it was good advertising, so they would offer good players free tuition.

Into the 1980’s college sports, not unlike professional sports, was mostly the plaything of rich people. Wealthy alumni would give money to the school so they could build arenas, pay players, and hire top coaches. To be a top donor to a college was a prestigious thing, so successful alumni were motivated to give back. Then the world changed in the 1980’s with the explosion of television. With the spread of cable, television revenue exploded, and it poured into college sports.

It is fair to say that college sports, particularly college football and college basketball, shifted from semi-professional and informal to professional and formal. Prior to the cable age, top coaches made a nice living, but the rest were paid like any other employee of the university. Today, top coaches are the highest paid employees on campus, by a factor of ten. The college athletics department is a 100 million dollar enterprise with hundreds of staff and players.

College football is the primary driver. Football is the most popular television sport in America by far. College basketball also plays a role, but it is primarily football that is driving the economic revolution in college sports. Unlike the NFL, the fans of college football have a bond with the players, as the players, in theory, are attending classes at their school and will be proud alumni one day. Despite the obvious exceptions, this is true, and the players remain part of the community forever.

Both college basketball and college football offer good examples of the dangers of an unregulated marketplace. Into the 1980’s, all college sports were governed by the NCAA, which tried to maintain college athletics as amateur endeavors. With the flood of TV money, the power of the NCAA has declined to the point where they have little say over the governance of football or basketball. Instead, what has erupted is a free market free-for-all where the big try to eat the small and even some of the big.

Prior to the financialization of college sports via the conduit of television money, college sports were a regional enterprise. Schools organized locally into conferences, which supplemented the NCAA in governing the sports and provided local management of the routine items like scheduling and tournaments. With billions in TV money, these conferences were not only empowered to break free of NCAA governance, but they could also go to war with one another in an effort to gain market share.

Contrary to what libertarians claim, this explosion in competition among suppliers did not result in lower prices to consumers or great variety of product, but rather a massive contraction of the marketplace along with spirally costs to consumers. In the 1980’s colleges gave their students free tickets. A college football game was a cheap afternoon of fun for the fans. Today, students pay for seats through their tuition and the fans often have to donate thousands for the right to buy tickets.

Further, the sport of college football is contracting. That is the significance of the latest news about Texas and Oklahoma. The old model was a conference anchored by a few big brands, like Texas and Oklahoma. The league shared revenue and cooperated in scheduling and promotion. The anchor schools got to control the league for allowing the smaller programs to freeload off their brand a little. That model is collapsing as the big brands now seek to combine and exclude the smaller schools.

Like the computer business, college football is headed to a world in which a small number of big names control the market and work to exclude everyone else from the revenue stream. In the 1980’s there was a dozen computer makers with different takes on the home computer. Today there is basically one type of PC. The same happened with mobile phones. The unregulated technology market collapsed into an oligarchy, and we are seeing the same thing happen with college athletics.

Something similar happened with boxing in the 1980’s. It used to be that every large city had weekly boxing shows where up and coming fighters battled one another for recognition and the dream of a title shot. Television put boxing on every week as a normal part of its content. Friday night fights was a thing into the 1970’s, until the cable television explosion. Within short order, greed and corruption removed boxing from the public square and now it is barely an afterthought.

This will probably happen with college sports. There are now minor leagues popping up to pay high school basketball players rather than have them compete in amateur leagues or go to college. It will soon be like tennis, in which promising players turn pro once they hit puberty. Also, like tennis, the interest from the general public will decline. A few stars will make millions, but the rest will be used to maintain a system that was busted out by the usual suspects.

The point of all this is that markets are man-made things. They are not like mushrooms that spring up wherever man leaves nature alone. In order for a market to function, each transaction in the market must have a disinterested third party with the power to enforce both ends of the transaction. It must also have the power to prevent a monopoly of supply or demand. Like a sea wall, this governing authority prevents nature from taking its course and turning the market into an oligarchy.

Boxing never had a governing body to impose order, so it collapsed into a chaos of greed and corruption. College athletics is going through the same process and will meet the same end. Without some entity to guard the interest of the whole, the participants will cannibalize one another until the system collapses. This is the nature of markets and it is why markets can only exist when a controlling authority tasked with preserving the market has the power to impose order on the market actors.


The crackdown by the oligarchs on dissidents has had the happy result of a proliferation of new ways to support your favorite creator. If you like my work and wish to kick in a few bucks, you can buy me a beer. You can sign up for a SubscribeStar subscription and get some extra content. You can donate via PayPal. My crypto addresses are here for those who prefer that option. You can send gold bars to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. Thank you for your support!


Promotions: We have a new addition to the list. Havamal Soap Works is the maker of natural, handmade soap and bath products. If you are looking to reduce the volume of man-made chemicals in your life, all-natural personal products are a good start. If you use this link you get 15% off of your purchase.

The good folks at Alaska Chaga are offering a ten percent discount to readers of this site. You just click on the this link and they take care of the rest. About a year ago they sent me some of their stuff. Up until that point, I had never heard of chaga, but I gave a try and it is very good. It is a tea, but it has a mild flavor. It’s autumn here in Lagos, so it is my daily beverage now.

Minter & Richter Designs makes high-quality, hand-made by one guy in Boston, titanium wedding rings for men and women and they are now offering readers a fifteen percent discount on purchases if you use this link.   If you are headed to Boston, they are also offering my readers 20% off their 5-star rated Airbnb.  Just email them directly to book at sales@minterandrichterdesigns.com.


Middlemen

The American economy is a middleman economy, designed around the idea of there being a person or group of persons between the parties of a transaction. No matter how trivial the transaction, there is someone trying to get in on the deal. This middleman brings nothing to the transaction. He adds no value and only facilitates the deal because the rules have been set so that he is required. The middleman is the ever-present silent partner that is the point of the economic arrangements.

If you go back a century, selling a house involved three parties. The seller and buyer, of course, and the government. You had to register the transaction with the government so it was known who held the deed for the property. If there was a lien on the property, then the bank would be involved, but only on one side. Today there are dozens of people involved in the transaction. The government is promising to add dozens more in order to flood stable neighborhoods with magic.

Just about every transaction in the economy now has silent partners. This is why the economy is still a mess due to the Covid lockdowns. Shutting down supply chains was always a dumb idea, but getting them restarted means activating millions of middlemen who have to get paid for the system to work. In a completely financialized economy, nothing moves without money moving first. The money men are the ever-present middlemen in every deal, no matter how small.

The riddle for all human societies since the first settlements was what to do with the people who could not work or would not work. The old and the sick needed care, so they not only were not working, they took someone out of the workforce. This meant that those who did work had to produce extra. It also meant that those who were loafers had to be dealt with so they were not freeloading off the system. Of course, many of the loafers were called the rulers, so that was a problem.

The way out of this problem has been productivity. The farmer who could grow enough food for his family plus the king’s share was never enough. He had to grow enough to feed himself, plus the king and some extra for the king to sell. That way the king could field an army and have a nice castle. Every king wants a better castle, so the drive to produce more with less is a feature of human society. The great ideological wars since the Enlightenment have been about how best to do this.

The claim by communists and capitalists was that eventually, productivity would produce so much that scarcity would be solved. Human society, if planned the right way, would produce so much with so little that want would disappear. That could never happen, of course, but the West has reached the point where everyone has the basics if they want them. In America, poor people are obese because they spend all day eating and watching television in comfortable homes.

That does not mean the problem of economics has been solved. The old free loading problem is still there. Those millions of middlemen baked into the economy are still there, snatching away a little from every transaction. Not only are they skimming from every transaction, they no longer help facilitate the deal. Instead, they often just steal the entire value of the deal. America cannot build a road or bridge, mostly because the money is stolen before the first shovel hits the dirt.

In other words, all of those middlemen are now consuming the host. This army of people involved in every deal are no longer just a weird patina on the economy, but a very serious rot of the system. This is why hedge funds are buying up residential housing to create new renters. The very top of the rentier economy has run out of people from whom to skim, so they are forced to eat their own. The big skimmers are now going after the small skimmers down the ladder from them.

Running a skim is nothing new, but even the mafia understood that you can shear a sheep many times, but you can only skin him once. The modern mafia, the managerial elite, entangled with the powerful, are moving from sheering to skinning. They have busted out everything, so now they are busting out the bust outs. The hedge funds robbing the real estate bandits is like a bank robber robbing drug dealers, in that it says the criminal ecosystem is out of balance.

The story that started with the problem of scarcity has arrived where it started. What is to be done with those who don’t produce? Every society needs an elite and they do not produce in the conventional sense. Their duty is to coordinate. What happens when you have too many people in the elite? Turning them into middlemen seemed like a solution, but now we have too many middlemen. So many in fact that they are now making it impossible for the productive to stay ahead of demand.

The old image of economics is of a group of men pulling a wagon. In the wagon are the unproductive, like rulers and bankers. The goal was to keep the people in the wagon to the barest minimum. The modern wagon is still relatively light, but now the men pulling the wagon are surrounded by an army of people impeding their progress, as they demand a fee for every step. Worse yet, the people in the wagon are creating people who take up positions between the men pulling the wagon.

That has been one lesson of Covid. The reason the economy did not collapse when millions were sent home from their jobs is that most of the people being sent home were not doing anything all that useful. Some were, for sure, but the empty offices went unnoted for a reason. Just as every snowstorm in Washington reveals that vast number of unessential workers, Covid revealed the vast number of middlemen. Many were unaware of their middleman status. They thought they were essential.

Of course, the bizarre fads vomited up by the Cloud People is another sign that we have too many people standing around looking for something to do. Idle hands to the Devil’s work and Old Scratch is spoiled for choice these days. We simply have too many middlemen with time on their hands. The system is overstocked with them, so they sit around dreaming up new ways to horn in on the life of the productive. Now the middlemen have middlemen and that cannot go on forever.


The crackdown by the oligarchs on dissidents has had the happy result of a proliferation of new ways to support your favorite creator. If you like my work and wish to kick in a few bucks, you can buy me a beer. You can sign up for a SubscribeStar subscription and get some extra content. You can donate via PayPal. My crypto addresses are here for those who prefer that option. You can send gold bars to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. Thank you for your support!


Promotions: We have a new addition to the list. Havamal Soap Works is the maker of natural, handmade soap and bath products. If you are looking to reduce the volume of man-made chemicals in your life, all-natural personal products are a good start. If you use this link you get 15% off of your purchase.

The good folks at Alaska Chaga are offering a ten percent discount to readers of this site. You just click on the this link and they take care of the rest. About a year ago they sent me some of their stuff. Up until that point, I had never heard of chaga, but I gave a try and it is very good. It is a tea, but it has a mild flavor. It’s autumn here in Lagos, so it is my daily beverage now.

Minter & Richter Designs makes high-quality, hand-made by one guy in Boston, titanium wedding rings for men and women and they are now offering readers a fifteen percent discount on purchases if you use this link.   If you are headed to Boston, they are also offering my readers 20% off their 5-star rated Airbnb.  Just email them directly to book at sales@minterandrichterdesigns.com.


False Choice Society

Note: The weekly Taki post is up. When possible, the Monday post here will be related to the Taki post. Of course, there is the Sunday show behind the green door for those interested.


One of the underappreciated aspects of liberal democracy is that it always pits morality versus objective facts, always creating a false choice. Every public debate is between one camp that demand we do “the right thing” and another camp that insist on doing “the correct thing”. The right thing is defined as the moral thing while the correct thing is the factually accurate or effective thing. The choice is failure while on the moral high ground or succeed and be seen and inhumane or indifferent.

This false choice predates the rise and spread of liberal democracy, so it is not accurate to lay the blame there. The debate that evolved over economics that grew up out of the industrial revolution is the origin. The Marxists were never making an economic argument back in the 19th century. They started with a moral claim that capitalism is built on exploitation of the workers. This was inherently immoral so it must lead to class struggle, crisis and then revolution.

This lack of an economic plan of any sort should have been obvious, but the followers and Marx were not interested in practical matters. The appeal was always the morality of the program. It was the chief selling point. This was made manifest in Russia when the Bolsheviks seized control of the state. Suddenly they were faced with solving the sorts of problem governments are tasked with doing. They had no economic platform from which to work, just gobs of Marxist theory.

The reaction to Marxism was Austrian School economics. Unlike the Marxists, the Austrians had a very detailed analysis of economics. Their model explained the basics of how goods and services flowed through an economy. This factual accuracy made it possible to form public policy and test the result. Over the course of the Cold War, Austrian economics became the primary weapon against Marxism. It stripped communist economics of the claim to empirical authority.

The trouble with Austrian School economics is it also striped morality and group preference from public debate. Every want and desire had to be justified by an economic argument. Rotten results that may make sense according to the laws of economic could not be contested. The out of control consumerism we see, for example, just has to be tolerated. The spread of degeneracy cannot be opposed, because the market dictates what is right in society.

American society has been squeezed in this vice for a long time. One side makes arguments that make some sense from a moral perspective but are completely unworkable as a practical matter. The other side counters with what appear to be factually correct arguments, the results of which are unsustainable. Worse still, neither side has a way to counter the other. The result of this dynamic is a system that is morally indefensible but shaking to pieces by moral fervor.

Ironically, both jaws of this vice are built on false assumptions. The Marxists fall victim to Hume’s guillotine. The value of a good or service is no doubt the sum of the labor it requires to produce it. It does not follow that anyone in society or society as a whole should agree. The other jaw makes a different error, assuming that human beings act from economic self-interest. They can, but they more often act from biological reasons, especially group biological reasons.

The dynamic resulting from this false choice seems to be reaching an end point, where neither side is sustainable. The moral claims made by what is called the Left have veered so far into the ridiculous that it looks like satire. A century ago, it was easy to sympathize with the groups the Left claimed to champion. Workers being ripped off by unscrupulous employers had a strong claim. Men is bizarre outfits claiming to be a third sex are clowns no one can take seriously.

A similar fate has befallen the so-called Right. When massive global corporations are stripping people of their lights, often by funding street gangs to assaults people going about their business, it is laughable to defend the “free market” system that produced these companies. When state sponsored financial concerns are buying up houses to create new renters, in the name of capitalism, the so-called free market is just as ridiculous as the men in dresses.

Liberal democracy has become an octopus with its tentacles wrapped around various parts of society. One tentacle is the moralizers assaulting us with the latest fads from corporate HR. Another tentacle is consumerism strip mining the traditions and history, the social capital, that are the foundation stones of society. Another tentacle is finance capital skimming a bit from every transaction without adding anything back. Every tentacle has a corresponding one to help it fight off attacks.

That is the primary defense of the system. All critics are herded into this set of false choices the system maintains. If you do not like that state-sponsored hedge funds are hoovering up single family homes, you have two choices. One is you can throw in with the loons and their bizarre defense of bourgeoise decadence. The other is you can waste your time making an economic argument claiming that the “market” will solve the problem if we worship it more.

The point of democratic systems is for the public to have a say in how public policy is formulated and a veto over the final result. In reality, it offers false choices controlled by a narrow elite. The narrow elite hides in the shadows of a mythical beast called the general will or the invisible hand of the market. It is a curtain behind which stands the ruling class. In the end, it is looking like what Marxism and liberal democracy have always claimed to oppose.


The crackdown by the oligarchs on dissidents has had the happy result of a proliferation of new ways to support your favorite creator. If you like my work and wish to kick in a few bucks, you can buy me a beer. You can sign up for a SubscribeStar subscription and get some extra content. You can donate via PayPal. My crypto addresses are here for those who prefer that option. You can send gold bars to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. Thank you for your support!


Promotions: We have a new addition to the list. Havamal Soap Works is the maker of natural, handmade soap and bath products. If you are looking to reduce the volume of man-made chemicals in your life, all-natural personal products are a good start. If you use this link you get 15% off of your purchase.

The good folks at Alaska Chaga are offering a ten percent discount to readers of this site. You just click on the this link and they take care of the rest. About a year ago they sent me some of their stuff. Up until that point, I had never heard of chaga, but I gave a try and it is very good. It is a tea, but it has a mild flavor. It’s autumn here in Lagos, so it is my daily beverage now.

Minter & Richter Designs makes high-quality, hand-made by one guy in Boston, titanium wedding rings for men and women and they are now offering readers a fifteen percent discount on purchases if you use this link.   If you are headed to Boston, they are also offering my readers 20% off their 5-star rated Airbnb.  Just email them directly to book at sales@minterandrichterdesigns.com.


Electric Elite

Most everyone has looked down at the fuel gauge and suddenly realized the tank is very close to empty. Maybe it is the idiot light going on as you pass the sign that reads “last stop for food or fuel for X miles.” The worst one is when this happens in a rural area or at night. The prospect of being stranded on the side of the road for a very long time quickly crowds out other thoughts. It is a terrible feeling. Almost all of us are conditioned to make sure this never happens.

Running out of gas used to be a common thing in America. In the early days of the automobile, care did not have a gas gauge and gas stations did not always have gas, so it was a common scene. The first “gas gauge” was a marked stick the driver would stick into the tank. Until very recent, gas stations used this method to test how much water was in their tanks. Eventually, more sophisticated solutions were invented and then manufacturers install them at the factory.

Running out of gas is not very common these days. For starters, we have gas stations everywhere people live. They are about 120-thousand gas stations in America. If you live in an urban or suburban area, finding a gas station is not a challenge. The cars are also vastly more efficient today than the old days. Even sports cars get over 20 miles per gallon, so when the light comes on, you have about 40 miles to find gas. It is why it is very rare to see someone walking down the road with a gas can.

This old concern will become a feature of life shortly. Every car maker is determined to abandon the internal combustion engine for electric in the next decade. All of them have a five year plan to ditch the IC engine. Even the sports car makers are planning to drop the old engine and use electric motors. The roar of the engine will soon be replaced by the high pitched hum of the motor. Whether we wanted or not, the electric car will be forced onto American roads over the next decade.

The problem is that electric cars need to be charged. Right now, there are about five thousand fast chargers in America. The term “fast charger” is a little bit of inside humor the EV people enjoy. It takes about forty minutes to charge a car on a fast charger, so the word fast here is sarcasm. There are more slow chargers available, but slow should be interpreted as glacial. Those slow chargers take hours to charge. They are only useful as at-home options or at office parks.

Replacing the gas stations with fast chargers is no easy task. There is the cost, obviously, even if one assumes they could be profitable. That is not an assumption you can make at this point. The economics of EV charging stations are wildly different than those of a normal gas station. You do not need a lot of space for cars pulling into the pumps, fueling up in five minutes and then pulling away. You need vast spaces for cars pulling in and parking for an hour as they charge up the batteries.

Then there is the power grid. The current estimates say the cost to upgrade the power grid for electric cars is between four and ten trillion dollars. That is not money to be spent all at once, but it is real money. In modern America, most streets look like the surface of the moon and our bridges are literally collapsing. Like all aging empires, America is struggling to keep the plates spinning. How realistic is it to think we can upgrade the power grid over the next decade for electric cars?

Like the automobile makers, the nation’s utility companies have five and ten year plans for upgrading their part of the power grid. One cannot help but appreciate the Gosplan nature of this project. Like the car maker’s five year plans, the utility company plans always has a line in there for free money from the Federal Reserve. Unlike the car makers, the electric companies have not secured their free money. Slipping tax breaks into the code is a lot easier than printing trillions of dollars.

As with the Soviets, the central planners in America just assume whatever they dream can become a reality. The Soviets were sure they could find the right math to replace the role of prices in the market. Once they conquered that problem, the system would literally run itself. American central planners are sure they can find the right moral language to make their dreams pop into existence. If electric cars become who we are then all of the problems will solve themselves.

The electric car fetish is a good example of how markets are an illusion, at least in the broad sense the Austrian school economists argued. There never was a market for electric cars and there is not one now, at least in the organic sense. Instead, the market has been manufactured by government policy. Massive subsidies to the production side and subsidies to the demand side have created the market. Take those away and Elon Musk is back selling monorails to midsized cities.

It is also a good example of how elites have the dominant role in society. As with other things like immigration and the Covid panic, your opinion is never solicited, and it is never wanted. These are decisions made by a small cluster of policy makers at secret retreats and over cocktails at parties you will never attend. The American elite has decided the electric car is the future, so that is that. The fact that it could turn out to be another disaster like Covid is not a worry.

The argument against central planning has always been a simple one. It is impossible for the planners to account for all of the variables. Even the most basic of human systems is maddeningly complex. The truth of this is never a deterrent to the elites, especially those who are sure they are on the right side of history. The comically insane outcomes from the Soviet system never deterred the planners. The metric system did not teach American elites a lesson either.

Finally, the electric car fetish is a good example of what happens when an elite class enters into decline. They become rapacious and impractical. On the one hand, they seek to enrich themselves as quickly as possible, because no one in the elite feels a loyalty to the elite class or the society over which they rule. Everything becomes a smash and grab. On the other hand, they have become so insulated from the society over which they rule, they can no longer see their own folly.

America probably needs to spend five trillion over the next ten years to get the infrastructure back to first world standards. We need a Marshall plan for the roads, bridges, and utility systems. An aspiring elite would focus on that, rather than frivolous nonsense like electric cars. It would also be more scrupulous about who gets the money for the projects. That is not the future. Instead, it will be abandoned EV’s next to massive potholes and collapsing bridges.


The crackdown by the oligarchs on dissidents has had the happy result of a proliferation of new ways to support your favorite creator. If you like my work and wish to kick in a few bucks, you can buy me a beer. You can sign up for a SubscribeStar subscription and get some extra content. You can donate via PayPal. My crypto addresses are here for those who prefer that option. You can send gold bars to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. Thank you for your support!


Promotions: We have a new addition to the list. Havamal Soap Works is the maker of natural, handmade soap and bath products. If you are looking to reduce the volume of man-made chemicals in your life, all-natural personal products are a good start. If you use this link you get 15% off of your purchase.

The good folks at Alaska Chaga are offering a ten percent discount to readers of this site. You just click on the this link and they take care of the rest. About a year ago they sent me some of their stuff. Up until that point, I had never heard of chaga, but I gave a try and it is very good. It is a tea, but it has a mild flavor. It’s autumn here in Lagos, so it is my daily beverage now.

Minter & Richter Designs makes high-quality, hand-made by one guy in Boston, titanium wedding rings for men and women and they are now offering readers a fifteen percent discount on purchases if you use this link.   If you are headed to Boston, they are also offering my readers 20% off their 5-star rated Airbnb.  Just email them directly to book at sales@minterandrichterdesigns.com.


The Vampire Society

Note: There is a new Taki post, as per usual. This week the topic is the relative gap between the Cloud People and Dirt People. For podcast fans, there is a new Sunday Thoughts up behind the green door, along with some other items. Of course, you can always buy a beer for the hardest working man in dissident politics.


The boom-bust economic cycle that came with the industrial age has been a primary focus of economics for close to two centuries. Marx was the first to notice that these periodic economic crises were an inherent part of the system. He theorized that over-production was the cause, which lead to a destruction of capital. The economist Joseph Schumpeter picked up on this and gave us the term “creative destruction” to frame the busts as corrections to inefficiencies.

It is one of those truths that still haunt the modern economy. The reason the down cycle is terrifying is that economics is really about politics. When the busts come, the people get angry at the politicians. Worse yet, they can get angry at the rich people and start demanding a share of the loot. It’s why economics has evolved to prevent the bust at any cost. Seven trillion in new money was created over the last year in response to the Covid panic in order to keep people pacified.

We still have the boom-bust issue, just in small scale. A new idea goes through a familiar cycle. At first it is highly profitable for the owner. They ramp up their production to meet demand. Soon, others come up with similar products that cut into his market, thus undermining his profits. In time the profits are reduced to the barest minimum as the product becomes a commodity. In time the value to the original creator of the new product drops to zero. It is a commodity.

This is generally considered a good thing by modern economics, as it means the relative cost of goods continues to fall. It also means intellectual capital is naturally forced to innovate. The company with the hot new product knows they will have to keep coming up with hot new ideas. Otherwise, their profits will fall. On the other hand, they might seek a monopoly like we see with the tech oligarchs, which allows them to artificially maintain their profit margin.

There is another angle to this that is unique to this age. The technological revolution has created a new form of capitalism that is rooted in the creation of new ideas, particularly in the entertainment space. Like the imitators who draft on the creations of the innovators, this new process in the technological economy is dependent on the initial creative energy of an innovator. Unlike the old industrial age imitator, this new form of economic activity is highly profitable.

It works like this. The new idea for something like a movie or a type of popular music is expensive and difficult to create. It requires smart and creative people to try different things until they get a concept that works. Then they have to convince investors or an audience, often both, to give it a look. In the case of a movie, it means the risk of a box office bust. In the case of music, it means years of failure, while living on cat food. The new idea promises profit, but mostly risk.

If the new thing does well, then this is where the new entrepreneur steps into the picture and realizes the big profit. That hit movie becomes a franchise. Soon, there is a remake which is very profitable. Then subsequent remakes, reboots and spin-offs that have declining profits. Eventually, they reached a point where there is no profit in the franchise. At this point, the original concept has lost its value and often has a negative value, due to the terrible imitations that came after it.

Recent examples of this in Hollywood are legion. The Terminator franchise has become a joke due to the many sequels. So desperate to squeeze the final pennies from the idea, they have the 70-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a geriatric robot named Carl who is an interior decorator. The Alien franchise is mostly known for the idiotic reboots and spin-offs that are easily mocked. These are two ideas drained of all value, like the corpse after a vampire has drained the blood.

This happens with other things like pithy phrases. Back in the Obama years, someone used the term “crony-capitalism” to describe the tightening bonds between global corporations and the government. The phrase caught on and was in the mouth of every right-wing pundit. In time it sounded like some of them had a form of Tourette’s, in which they burped out that phrase uncontrollably. Today we have “deep state” and “globalist” getting the same treatment from the same crowd.

The thing is, these vampires who prey on new ideas are not without talent. They have a useful set of skills, in that they are able to drain every last drop of value from an intellectual property. They do so without regard to their own reputations or the reputation of the original creator. They are proud to be vampires and they are handsomely rewarded for their skill. In fact, they do better than the originators, who are often looking for the next concept or ignored by the imitators.

This is not confined to entertainment. A new bit of software can expect the same treatment, as most of Silicon Valley is now tuned to rapidly replicate and consume every new idea that comes along. The cable chat shows are festooned with ads for “apps” that are copies of some original. Facebook, in fact, is just a cheap knock-off of an original idea lost to the mists of time. It now is being cloned and copied by those looking to find some remaining profit from the idea.

A few years ago, an “entrepreneur” came up with the scheme to convince people that buying shaving products was difficult. Instead you should subscribe to a mail order service for razors. There was no new product or an effort to change the demand for razors and shaving products. The whole scheme was about fooling people into thinking there was a razor conspiracy. The goal was to get them to expose their neck so the vampires could get a clear shot at the artery.

Of course, this “innovation” has come in for the same treatment. The airwaves are full of ads claiming there is an underwear conspiracy that can only be solved by bespoke undergarments from a boutique maker. Instead of coming up with a better mousetrap, genius is finding a way to trick people into paying for the same mousetrap. Once the blood has been drained from that deception, it will be onto some new scheme to provide less for more, under the guise of innovation.

This has created a world that selects for the type of person able to suck every last drop of blood from a new idea. In a world where you make as much or more money from copying the ideas of others, it makes sense that people will go into that line of work, rather than the creative end. Hollywood is now full of vampires, looking to drain the blood from the next new idea. There are no “new ideas” in the movie world, because there is no one there interested in being sucked dry by his fellow vampires.

If these selection pressures exist long enough and are widespread enough, then eventually you have a world of too many vampires and too few victims. Those vampires have to feed, so they will move onto other victims. That may be where we are now in the late stages of empire. Everywhere you look the remaining bits of the original spirit are covered with vampires, looking for a clear bit of neck into which they can sink their fangs and suck some blood. Ours is a vampire economy now.


The crackdown by the oligarchs on dissidents has had the happy result of a proliferation of new ways to support your favorite creator. If you like my work and wish to kick in a few bucks, you can buy me a beer. You can sign up for a SubscribeStar subscription and get some extra content. You can donate via PayPal. My crypto addresses are here for those who prefer that option. You can send gold bars to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. Thank you for your support!


Promotions: We have a new addition to the list. Havamal Soap Works is the maker of natural, handmade soap and bath products. If you are looking to reduce the volume of man-made chemicals in your life, all-natural personal products are a good start. If you use this link you get 15% off of your purchase.

The good folks at Alaska Chaga are offering a ten percent discount to readers of this site. You just click on the this link and they take care of the rest. About a year ago they sent me some of their stuff. Up until that point, I had never heard of chaga, but I gave a try and it is very good. It is a tea, but it has a mild flavor. It’s autumn here in Lagos, so it is my daily beverage now.

Minter & Richter Designs makes high-quality, hand-made by one guy in Boston, titanium wedding rings for men and women and they are now offering readers a fifteen percent discount on purchases if you use this link.   If you are headed to Boston, they are also offering my readers 20% off their 5-star rated Airbnb.  Just email them directly to book at sales@minterandrichterdesigns.com.


The Pressure Cooker

A universal truth of life is that pressure reveals character. This is not only true in individuals, but it is also true in societies. When times are easy, all sorts of undesirable things can be overlooked. The petty corruption in government is not a big deal in a booming economy. Inequality is ignored, maybe even celebrated when times are good, because people think their time will come. It is when things turn down that all of a sudden, those issues rise up and take up people’s attention.

For the American economy, the good times have been rolling for such a long time now that it feels like the natural state of affairs. There was the very minor recession in the early 1990’s, but that was a blip. The dot-com bust at the end of the 1990’s and the mortgage crisis in 2008 were serious, but they did not impact most people. The stock markets went down, but they recovered. Some people suffered for sure, but the system seemed to right itself and for most people it was a non-event.

In fact, the two big economic crises of the last forty years are a proof that the system and the people running are just fine. This was why many middle-class people were angry at the lock downs initially. They thought it would harm the economy. When the Fed flew in on its magic carpet, showering the economy with magic fairy dust, those people relaxed and trusted the system. Those initial protests that popped up all around the country faded away in a fog of economic stimulus.

Good times do not last forever, even in an honest economy. The signs are everywhere now that this economy is headed for some tough times. Food prices are jumping like we have not seen since the 1970’s. There are strange shortages of products like beer and plastic goods. There is plenty of beer. The issue is the containers. Aluminum shortages and problems in the supply chain mean certain brands are not on the shelf. This leads to greater sales of other brands until they run low.

Inflation is one of those things that everyone feels. Even if you are a rich guy, you notice that steak is more expensive. The money is meaningless to you, but the price hike does not go unnoticed. Poor people, of course, feel it straight away. As a result, everyone starts to notice things in the market, like the shrinkflation, for example. A pint of ice cream is 14-ounces now. The potato chip bag is much larger, but there are fewer chips inside the bag. This stuff gets more obvious in bad times.

The thing is, prices going up because of demand or shortages is an honest result that people may not like, but they can accept. Changing the shape of containers to make it look bigger, but reducing the contents is dishonest. It is a fraud. Inflation will bring new scrutiny to this practice that has become common. This sort of institutional fraud is everywhere, but it has gone unnoticed for decades. With inflation, people will start noticing and they will not like it.

The institutional fraud is not just a retail phenomenon. It is everywhere. The hot new scam on Wall Street is the SPAC. This is where a company wants to go public, but their financials are not good enough for an IPO. A group of insiders then creates a shell company for the purpose of making acquisitions. It raises a bunch of money, then it goes public and soon after buys the company that wished to go public. It is how we end up with $100m sandwich shops in New Jersey.

Of course, the elephant in the room for close to a generation now is the gross inequality we see in modern America. The gap between the rich and the middle has never been larger, and it is growing quickly. Unlike the robber barons of the industrial age, these new oligarchs operate like pirates. They steal everything. Worse yet, they have unleashed a well-funded army of radical harpies to hound decent people in their work, their entertainments, and their private lives.

In good times, no one cares about billionaires. If your life is good and getting better, why should you care if some other guy is doing better? That flips around quickly when your life is suddenly under economic strain. The Democrats can yack about taxing the rich and the Republicans can lecture about class envy, but class consciousness is always a result of tough economic times. Everyone starts feeling working class in bad times, even when they are well-equipped to weather the storm.

The point is a lot of bad things have crept into the system over the last forty years of relatively stable times. As long as material concerns were met, people overlooked the fraud, the corruption, and the inequality. That long run of good times has meant the stock of these things is higher than ever. When bad times come, those problems will come roaring to the front of people’s minds. In other words, the sticker shock we are experiencing can quickly give way to a culture shock.

There is one other item to consider. The middle-class is older than ever. Those Baby Boomers on fixed incomes, checking the stock market every day are not going to take inflation very well. They will not handle the necessary correction in the stock market to ring out the fraud. Inflation and what is required to tame it will bring with it the wrath of the angry Boomer. The generational divide that has been nursed by the usual suspects will suddenly get very real if the economy goes south this summer.

Similarly, the political class is old now too. Will those angry Boomers passively accept the leadership of Joe Biden in a crisis? Can a generation of politicians selected for their mendacity and obsequiousness gain the trust of the public in a crisis? If the economy tanks this summer, the incompetence and corruption in Washington will become the only thing that matters in politics. In other words, bad times will bring all of these problems to the front in a time of dwindling tolerance for it.

The American empire is old now and that means a lot of bad habits have been normalized over the years. Shrinkflation, SPACs, media mendacity, inequality and political corruption are all troublesome alone. Over the decades, we have an abundance of all of them. They remain in the background as long as the markets are up, and we have cheap goods on the shelves. The pressure of bad times, however, will inevitably reveal the character of the empire. It will not end well.


The crackdown by the oligarchs on dissidents has had the happy result of a proliferation of new ways to support your favorite creator. If you like my work and wish to kick in a few bucks, you can buy me a beer. You can sign up for a SubscribeStar subscription and get some extra content. You can donate via PayPal. My crypto addresses are here for those who prefer that option. You can send gold bars to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. Thank you for your support!


Promotions: We have a new addition to the list. Havamal Soap Works is the maker of natural, handmade soap and bath products. If you are looking to reduce the volume of man-made chemicals in your life, all-natural personal products are a good start. If you use this link you get 15% off of your purchase.

The good folks at Alaska Chaga are offering a 15-percent discount to readers of this site. You just click on the this link and they take care of the rest. About a year ago they sent me some of their stuff. Up until that point, I had never heard of chaga, but I gave a try and it is very good. It is a tea, but it has a mild flavor. It’s autumn here in Lagos, so it is my daily beverage now.

Minter & Richter Designs makes high-quality, hand-made by one guy in Boston, titanium wedding rings for men and women and they are now offering readers a fifteen percent discount on purchases if you use this link.   If you are headed to Boston, they are also offering my readers 20% off their 5-star rated Airbnb.  Just email them directly to book at sales@minterandrichterdesigns.com.


Cruel Summer

Way back when the Covid panic began, smart people pointed out that shutting down an economy was going to have unforeseen consequences. A modern economy is an incomprehensibly complex organism. Even turning off some parts of it for a short time will change the organism, resulting in downstream changes. It is why people who work with complex things are very careful about the changes they make. They accept that there is much about the system that they cannot known in advance.

Of course, the people in charge are sure they have it all figured out, so they just blundered ahead with their lock downs and new rules. Shutting down most of the restaurant industry and closing the schools. for example, radically altered the demand side of the food market. Suddenly, goods for the restaurant business had no demand, while demand for home products shot through the roof. This should have given them pause, but they kept blundering ahead with their schemes.

Anyone who has been in a grocery store of late knows that food prices are jumping like it is the 1970’s again. There are also weird shortages. Something like mayonnaise will disappear from the shelves for a week and then come back, but then plastic bags become scarce. The same phenomenon is happening with other things like building supplies and petroleum products. The official statistics are complete nonsense, so we have no idea how much food has jumped. It is enough that people are talking about inflation in private conversations for the first time in decades.

The usual suspects, of course, are spilling into the streets to chant about fiat currency, hyperinflation, and the rest of their stuff. It is as if the Great Pumpkin has finally risen out of the pumpkin patch. They have been waiting their whole lives for the Weimar moment foretold in the prophesies. Because these people are always wrong it is good to remember they are wrong now. The problem now is actually much worse than too much money chasing too few goods. It is systemic.

For starters, governments around the world have been taking sledgehammers to the global supply chain. These supply chains evolved over a long period of time to solve the problems of getting goods to the market. In response to Covid, government willy-nilly started turning things on and off without much thought. The system can respond to short term emergencies like natural disasters, but it was never equipped to respond to random outages imposed by people who have never had a job.

Then you have the stimulus plans. Having idled large swaths of the economy for periods, the same people frantically turning things on and off started pumping money into the retail side. At first this new money was absorbed in the system. Personal debt fell in 2020 as people got conservative in the face of the crisis. They also began to change their lives in response to the lockdowns. Going to the movies and out to eat is a habit, not a necessity. Lots of habits changed in 2020.

Labor markets have been radically changed by Covid and the efforts from the rulers to make a big show of dealing with it. Entry level jobs are now hard to fill, because unemployment still pays very well. If you are a restaurant opening for the first time in a year, finding help is difficult. It is not a shortage of labor as much as a shortage of people ready to go back to work. Labor shortages, however, they are created, result in a spike in labor costs, which appear at the cash register.

Finally, we have monetary policy. Central bank policy has evolved over the last thirty years based on certain assumptions. Government policy, for example, has been predictable going back to the 1990’s. While there have been the usual problems, the global economy has settled into some predictable patterns. All of a sudden, none of this is true, so monetary policy has to adjust. Adjusting to erratic government behavior and unpredictable consequences in the economy is practically impossible.

The upshot to all of this is we are seeing real inflation for the first time in generations, but we have a variety of causes this time. In the 1970’s, it was too much money chasing too few goods. Pulling money out of the economy was painful, but it worked. This time, we have too much money in some areas, but we have broken supply chains and labor markets contributing to the problem. The Fed cannot do anything about shortages of aluminum cans or chicken farm with too few chickens.

To make matters worse, pulling money out of the system is probably not possible, given decades of ultra-low borrowing rates. The world has become so accustomed to low interest rates, it has become an axiom, like the changing of the seasons or the laws of thermodynamics. Any significant change in the money supply to combat retail inflation would send the financial markets into a tailspin. Housing would collapse if mortgage rates returned to anything resembling normal.

None of this means there is no answer. Often, the right answer is to do nothing and let things run their course. That was the right answer with Covid. As with Covid, the rulers cannot accept that answer, so they will thrash around some more. The people animating the corpse of Joe Biden are promising to smash things up some more for the greater good. After all, what matters to them is that we know the people in the mansions and castles really care about us, while they live like royalty.

The result of all this is we are heading into a cruel summer. The bill for the Covid response is coming due. How a society responds to crisis is the result of the social trust in that society. America is a low trust society now. Further, the people who will be counted on to dig out of the mess created by the rulers are now treated like second class citizens by those rulers. The fix to the 60’s and 70’s was to first repair the loss of faith in the system. It is hard to imagine that happening this time.


The crackdown by the oligarchs on dissidents has had the happy result of a proliferation of new ways to support your favorite creator. If you like my work and wish to kick in a few bucks, you can buy me a beer. You can sign up for a SubscribeStar subscription and get some extra content. You can donate via PayPal. My crypto addresses are here for those who prefer that option. You can send gold bars to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. Thank you for your support!


Promotions: We have a new addition to the list. Havamal Soap Works is the maker of natural, handmade soap and bath products. If you are looking to reduce the volume of man-made chemicals in your life, all-natural personal products are a good start. If you use this link you get 15% off of your purchase.

The good folks at Alaska Chaga are offering a ten percent discount to readers of this site. You just click on the this link and they take care of the rest. About a year ago they sent me some of their stuff. Up until that point, I had never heard of chaga, but I gave a try and it is very good. It is a tea, but it has a mild flavor. It’s autumn here in Lagos, so it is my daily beverage now.

Minter & Richter Designs makes high-quality, hand-made by one guy in Boston, titanium wedding rings for men and women and they are now offering readers a fifteen percent discount on purchases if you use this link.   If you are headed to Boston, they are also offering my readers 20% off their 5-star rated Airbnb.  Just email them directly to book at sales@minterandrichterdesigns.com.


The Last Link

Way back in the early days of the conservative movement, it was assumed that Federal spending was both unsustainable and damaging to the country. Cutting the size and scope of government was their thing. The tool they eventually settled on to reduce Federal spending was taxes. If they made high taxes so unpopular with the public, the Left could not keep raising taxes. If they could not raise taxes to cover their spending, they would eventually have to yield to the mathematics.

Obviously, that never happened. The big tax reforms of the 1980’s did simplify taxes and lower rates on rich people, but revenues remained stable. At the same time, spending kept growing. One of the unspoken truths of fiscal policy is the percent of GDP that is consumed by Federal taxes does not change much of time. The range is between 15% to 18%, depending on when tax policy was changed. This is the logic of the flat tax. One rate, no deductions and no more IRS.

Spending, of course, keeps going up, no matter who is in office. Despite their rhetoric, the Republicans are the big spenders. In the 1980’s they had to spend on the military to win the Cold War. In the Bush years it was the crusades against Islam. It is only when a Democrat is in the White House that the Republicans get tight-fisted, and even that is mostly ceremonial, as we have seen with the last Covid bill. It turns out that there is no relationship between taxes and spending.

Another shibboleth of conservatives is that eventually the bond markets will force a haircut on the government. The so-called bond vigilantes will drive up interest rates, which will make borrowing more expensive. The theory here is that there is a hard limit on debt. Once that limit is reached, spending must go down or taxes must go up in order to reconcile the books. Like the belief that taxes will curtail spending, faith in the mythological bond vigilantes has been misplaced.

Of course, you can go back further and find arguments from the hard money crowd about the limits of fiat currency. There was an argument in the old days that said fiat currency not only unleashes spending and inflation, but it eventually makes the money worthless, thus bankrupting the state. We have been off the gold standard for a very long time now and none of the predictions came true. The spending continues, the borrowing continues, and the money creation continues.

The gold bugs have now moved to crypto currency as the savior. Once everyone is using digital money that is outside the control of the state, then we end up with a de facto gold standard. That will force fiscal discipline on the state, which means radically reducing spending. The fact that this will never happen has so far not dimmed the enthusiasm, but like all of the other schemes to cut spending, this one will prove no match for the animal cunning of the ruling class.

There is another theory related to money. The monetarists have always argued that sound monetary policy would impose discipline on the state. Since central banks are independent of the state, they can maintain a stable money supply. While not the same as a gold standard, sound monetary policy has similar effects. That has turned out to be a myth as well. The Fed is now captive to the spending frenzy of Washington, finding new ways to underwrite trillions in new outlays.

Now, there are those who will keep lighting candles for their favorite theory. The gold bugs, for example, are sure hyperinflation is around the next corner. The bond vigilantes are similarly sure the next crisis will confirm their theory. The truth is though, none of these theories turned out to be true. The official debt is $28T, but that excludes things like Social Security. The real debt obligations of the Federal government are incalculable. No one knows and no one seems to care.

The lesson of the last half century is one the monetarists learned from the battles over the gold standard. If the ruler is so corrupt you need hard money to control him, your ruler is corrupt enough to find a way around the limits of hard money. It turns out our rulers are more than capable of conniving around every limit put before them. They have reached levels of corruption that were though impossible half a century ago. The display being put on now suggest they are just getting warmed up.

This rather shabby track record should raise a question. That is, is the field of economics just pseudoscientific nonsense? It has lots of complexity and lots of very clever solutions to the complex problems it unearths, but outside of the most basic of concepts like supply and demand, economics is not very useful. In all of the important things, it turns out to be wrong. Astrologers have a better record than economists, because they know they are grifters, not scientists.

Putting that aside, the lesson here is that contra the libertarians, economics is downstream from politics. No amount of fiddling with the tax code can fix the defects of the political class. Even further, the right people in a corrupt system cannot correct the defects of the corrupt system. This is why the people come and go in Washington, but the corruption rolls on unimpeded. In the great chain of causality, economics is the last link in that chain. It is the final effect of a chain of many causes.


A new year brings new changes. The same is true for this site as we adjust to the reality of managerial authoritarianism. That means embracing crypto for when the inevitable happens and the traditional outlets are closed. Now more than ever it is important to support the voices that support you. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you prefer other ways of donating, look at the donate page. Thank you.


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