Categories
Economics Investing Politics

The Age of Irrational Exuberance – Equity Markets in a Time of Chaos

First – let’s get the facts out of the way:

Fact 1: Share prices keep climbing and indexes keep hitting new all time highs

Fact 2: Past results do not guarantee future returns

Fact 3: If the price of something rises but the underlying value doesn’t increase, then the unit of monetary measure has actually decreased in value

Fact 4: As the value of the monetary measure decreases, the price of everything will rise (inflation)

Fact 5: Price and value will balance against monetary measure unless markets or currency are being manipulated with hidden actions

And now let’s get the bullshit out of the way:

BS 1: Trade wars benefit economies overe the long term

BS 2: Free markets need regulation

BS 3: Interest is ‘free’ money

BS 4: Fractional reserve creates ‘new’ money

BS 5: Equity markets can keep moving upwards indefinitely

Whew. Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, I’d simply like to point out that there is some serious bullshit going on with the United States equity markets and economy right now. Example one would be the SEC announcing after the close of trading on Friday that they were suing Elon Musk and Tesla – and then Tesla, Elon Musk, and the SEC agreeing on a settlement before the open of trading on Monday morning. This is some BULLSHIT – here’s why: the net result of all of this was to create an astounding arbitrage opportunity for massive institutional money that shifted profits from main street investors into institutional coffers. Mom and Pop investors had no opportunity to take part in this armed robbery – only to be the victims of the entire fiasco. Example 2: the fake news and FUD around the Canadian NAFTA deal and once again – the making of an announcement during closed markets which allowed insiders to profit and outsiders to lose.

Here’s what I’m getting at. The current US administration is manipulating the markets on a scale never seen before to generate massive profits for insiders. The timing of tweets, deal announcements, controversies – all of this has been carefully orchestrated to create the biggest ripoff in world history. Every day there is more evidence that this administration is robbing Peter and Paul to pay Donald and friends. Here’s what is happening: they are playing a penny slot machine and making the public into the punters who keep feeding dollars into it. Penny slots work like this – if you bet a penny, you might win 50% of the time. If you bet ten pennies your odds of winning go up to 75% of the time but the losses are heavier when you lose – so you win a penny, win a penny, lose four pennies, win a penny…and the net result is that you have won three out of four pulls of the handle but you actually lost a penny out of the deal – but you don’t notice because you still have pennies to lose – so you are winning, winning, winning – but suddenly you are out of money but as a ‘winner’ you know that you can make it back so you put more in (more on= moron) and the cycle continues until you have to go find a better job.

That is what is happening with US monetary policy, trade deals, the US equity market, and more. Is it a coincidence that Donald Trump is a casino owner? He knows that the reason the casinos are filled with penny slots is because penny slots are where the most money gets made. He and his buddies are bleeding all of us dry. You, the one reading this, might think he is on your team – but unless you are a corrupt billionaire oligarch – he isn’t on your team – he sees you as his mark. Ask the people of Atlantic City what he did to them? Here’s a great article about that:

9 Ways Donald Trump Might Have Ruined Atlantic City

It’s actually mindblowing how stupid we (collectively) are. Everything he has done and continues to do makes perfect sense if you look at him as what he is – a guy who is out to make money for himself and his friends – and his friends are only valuable to him as long as he sees a way to make a buck off of them. Like no other President before him, he has used and continues to use his presidential powers to make money and to create profit. He has spread out like a virus in the various departments and agencies of the United States government – while we watch distractions about immigration he filled the courts with his people. While we watch trade wars he reduced the tax burdens of his billionaire class. While we stare at election results and confirmation hearings, he takes control of the tiny capillary branches of government that make larger seats of power irrelevent. This is death by a million paper cuts.

The markets go up and up and up. Your 401k is worth more than ever. Except it’s not. Inflation is rampant and being hidden. You’ve noticed that your dollar buys less, but you don’t want to think about it. It buys a lot less but you don’t want to think about it. Those markets are going to keep rising and your dollar will keep going down…win a penny, win a penny, win a penny….and where did your money go? But it’s not that bad…it’s okay…things are prosperous and you just got a raise…and everything is so cheap on Amazon…a smart microwave for only $69!

The thing is…that microwave isn’t $69. It’s more like $1000 in labor, costs, material, shipping, the technology cost, the cost of running the companies that make it…so where is the other $931? That’s a good question and it’s one we might ask of the economy as well. Where is all this money in the markets coming from? How is it possible that the markets keep going up and up and up?

Nearly ninety years ago, prominent economist Irving Fisher exclaimed joyfully that the stock market had reached a new permanent plateau – at the time – Americans had taken on more debt than ever before to enjoy the benefits of nearly a decade of a booming economy. The same conditions were in place a decade ago before the 2008 financial collapse. They also exist now. Fisher and the talking economic heads we see today…all of them exuberant about the rising tide of success and winning. Win a penny, win a penny….

“After witnessing nearly a decade of growth, most economists, investors, and captains of industry believed that the market’s natural direction was up. The beginning of the crash struck them not as a sign of financial doom, but as an opportunity for bargains.” – http://time.com/3207128/stock-market-high-1929/

And then, on October 24, 1929 – the unthinkable happened. The markets went down and people bought. They went further down and people bought more. They crashed and people bought more and then they went into panic. Suicide, bank runs, inflation, madness.

So, all of that is something to think about. Now, where does that extra cost of the microwave come from? It comes from all the debt you and I are carrying. Americans are more indebted than EVER before. Our credit scores are higher than ever before and the amount of debt we carry is higher. The stock markets are higher than ever before. The markets are creating the illusion of complete chaos – but never before has there been as much insider regulation, insider knowledge, and orchestrated heists – this is the most controlled market in the history of the American stock markets. While it gives the illusion of chaos – it’s no more chaotic than the penny slot machines that generate billions of dollars in revenue for casinos. There is nothing random or chaotic about it. It’s a scam and if you believe the marquis in front of the casino that declares “Double Your Paycheck” then I’ve got a stock I’d love to sell you…

(full disclosure: I’m investing in this market just like everyone else…I love slot machines even if I recognize they are rigged against me)

Categories
Me Politics Writing

On Responsibility and Human Society

responsible humans

(Originally published 2008)

It’s never been easy being a human being. From the dawn of time, we have struggled to survive, struggled to find shelter, struggled to find safety, and struggled to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and alive. The way we do this has changed, but the necessity to do so has not. The world is a brutal place, even without the brutality we cause to one another. One need only look at the headlines to see this is true. The world is a deadly.

When one adds to all the natural disasters, the threats posed by other human beings, the world becomes that much more dangerous…and complex to survive in. In Hawai’i are fortunate that we have more deaths from drowning each year than from disasters, both natural and man made. Unfortunately, that is not the case throughout most of the planet. My purpose in writing today is to explore the reasons why we, as humans, tend to create political and social institutions that make basic survival that much more difficult for our fellow human beings.

When I speak of human disasters, I am referring to the worst that we are capable of doing to each other. I am referring to genocide, murder, rape, and looking on as others starve, die from disease, and suffer in plain site. How have we let this happen? How have we allowed these things to become our reality? How have we let this world come to be a place where we look on as these things happen and feel that we can do nothing to stop it.

Strange as it may sound, I think I actually have an answer. At some point in creating societies and civilizations, it was necessary for individuals to take on different specialized roles of responsibility. This is a necessary and good thing, within limits. For instance, one person took on the responsibility of growing food, another person took the responsibility to create tools, another person became a builder, and so forth. This specialization allowed for the refinement of crafts and trades which in turn allowed us to develop more sophisticated technologies. These technologies created the means for us to live in abundant, secure, and peaceful communities. This division of labor was a successful strand in the cloth of our cultural evolution.

Imagine, the first community of farmers, builders, weavers, and tool makers celebrating after their first truly successful season. The shelters were warm, the clothing was functional, the tools were efficient, and the specialized techniques of farming had created a surplus of food. Great stuff! Suddenly, there was the time to create art, the time to create music, enough surplus food to try new recipes, and perhaps even the impetus for a harvest celebration.

And that is when another band without these advances wanders into our peaceful setting. Since they speak a different language, they cannot understand why some should have so much when they have so little. They begin to take from the efforts of our young society. They are doing so without contributing.

As you might imagine, this quickly becomes a problem. Since our young society has been so successful in assigning specific responsibilities and leaving other responsibilities to others, they decide rather quickly to assign responsibility for this new challenge to a specific sector of the population. Thus are born the first lawmakers and the first law officers to enforce those laws.

RESPONSIBLILITY IN ANCIENT TIMESThe farmer can now keep farming and the lawmen will protect his crops. The builder can build and the lawmaker will decide where the property line is. The cloth maker can weave and the law will set a price and be sure it is paid. When there is a problem, refer it to the law. When there a question about the law, refer it to the lawyers. When protection is needed, seek it from the soldiers and police. In order to make these protectors more efficient, give them the means to create new laws and the strength of arms to enforce them.

Responsibility was given away. Personally, I think this was our first mistake. Think about it. Maybe it is time to start taking the responsibility for our lives back. The question is, how do we do that?

I would love for this to be one of a series of ongoing dialogues so I encourage you to respond with your thoughts and comments. Even you mom!

 

5 THOUGHTS ON “SOME THOUGHTS ON RESPONSIBILITY- LET’S HAVE A DIALOGUE.”

  1. Although widely attributed to the (almost) immortal George Burns, it was apparently Voltaire who said, “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”
    Cheers to personal responsibility and taking control of your own little part of the avalanche. It might seem like nothing, but if some other snowflakes join you, it can be very powerful.

  2. Difficult to have a dialogue with someone who’s thoughts are so credible…..However, I
    have been given permission to respond, and so here it is. Not all the snowflakes (thanks Mink Hippie) are the same. Not even one. I believe those humans who have leadership talents, and a drive to attain the almighty dollar and material possessions, stepped up to the plate and created these political and social institutions that keep the common folk in chains. We are so busy trying to raise families and meet the cost of living that we cannot JOIN TOGETHER to make change. Not even the million truck drivers who are on the road will join together to protest the rising cost of diesel. They could stop the country by doing so for just a day or two. No one can “afford” the time nor loss of money. Over many years I have written letters to congressmen, signed petitions, voted, protested via email, and even have written more than one senator and president. The result. NADA. A standard letter in response to some concerns – “thank you for your comments – blah blah blah.” There is a point you decide that the only thing you can do anything about is within your own world of family and friends-your daily communication with those in your life. My mama told me that the industrialization of man was the ruination of man.
    In many ways I concur. Our technology has surpassed our growth in loving one another and finding true peace on earth. The media has convinced us we NEED it all – the bigger, the better. The obsession with “stuff” is ruining us. You have the right idea about releasing things and I am in the process of trying to do just that. Afterall, the sentiment is lovely, but that isn’t
    anything but a memory attached to a thing. The memory of those who shared, those who love…that is within and takes no room to store. It can be recalled instantly and happily.
    I do think having a governing body and laws is important. Those who are bullies and tyrants would run amok if allowed to do so. I do appreciate the fact there was a police officer to kill the man who beat his 2 year old to death. He was simply to late to change what happened. The problem is, again, those with connections and $$$$$ have control. I may have wandered
    to different subjects in this reply, but honestly, I believe the only way we can take back our
    lives is to live them within our circle of life. Be it on the level of a neighborhood, or the neighborhood of the world. If we learn to love one another, not judge each other, and be honest and honorable in our deeds, we could change the world, one person at a time.
    Thanks for stimulating my brain cells. Really, without prejudice, I am enjoying the hell out of your new format of WRITING what’s on your mind. My brain appreciates it too…I can hardly wait to see what’s next!

  3. A lot of my older, wiser, anarchist friends definitely have a similar attitude. I remember a guy I met in Eugene who had retired from the post office and THEN become an anarchist who told me that young anarchists are focused on changing the world, middle aged anarchists become focused on changing their community, and that old anarchists decide that changing themselves is challenge enough. I asked him if that wasn’t a bit of a cop out, maybe because the old anarchists were too tired or jaded and he smiled and told me that the hardest challenges are reserved for the elderly.

    I think this is when I started to reflect seriously on the idea of personal responsibility as a means to change the community and the world.

    Around that same time I was introduced to the idea that autonomy creates community, that is, if you are able to take care of your own needs, it frees you to contribute to the needs of others.

    Any thoughts on this?

  4. Autonomy produces insanely powerful positive leverage. I would argue that the only real battle is the one you have with yourself, all others are a waste of time because they’re fake. Too soon we get old, too late we get smart.

    For want of a nail the horse couldn’t be shoed to be able to pull the cannon into the key position where it could have fired the shot that won the battle that would have led to winning the war. Instead, all was lost.

    Young anarchists concentrate on winning the war with no clue regarding the critical importance of a single nail doing exactly what it was meant to do. To say that’s a copout is an understatement, and that’s why they always lose, even when they win according to their way of measuring. They are top down…usually liberal and favoring big government solutions that the less evolved should help pay for for their own good.

    Old anarchists focus themselves like laser beams into being a good nail, once they understand its place in the web of reality. Old anarchists work on themselves creating the ripples that turn into tsunamis the farther they radiate. They work from the bottom up, having fatigued of seeing their castles in the air fade with the breeze. The sooner an individual sees that working on himself is not only the best battle to choose to fight, but that it’s the only battle that actually exists, the sooner he will be a positive force in the wider society.

    The Rev has spoken, and he’s at least as good as the pope.

Categories
Politics Writing

A Question of Authority – Can there be Authority in an Anarchist Society?

I wrote this back in 2000 and as has been pointed out by anarchist friends and colleagues, the whole thing is rather un-anarchist in its perspective. Thirteen years later, I have to say that I’m still not certain what box I fit in, with regards to political and economic pigeonholing. It may be that not fitting in any box is the only answer I can give with certitude.

Second update 2020 – after many years of looking, what I’ve realized is that this vision most closeley aligns with the ideas of Murray Bookchin and Abdullah Ocalan – these ideas are known collectively as Democratic Confederalism, and Libertarian Municipalism. The ideas are truly revolutionary and were changing the way things were done Rojava and other places in Northern Syria among the free Kurdish and Peshmerga forces until collaboration between the U.S, Turkey, Russia, and Syria ended the experiment.

 

A QUESTION OF AUTHORITY

Often with the topic of anarchy comes the question “But what about authority? Who will be in charge? And how will they stay there and be kept from corruption?”

The answer is much simpler than you might think. A nearly perfect example is the cooperative movement. Co-ops are owned by the workers who operate them and the customers who purchase the goods or services being manufactured. They are run democratically and have checks and balances built in to protect against abuse of power. Authority is granted by the workers and patrons of the co-op.

To the average American, this formula sounds good. Democracy, checks and balances, responsibility. Sounds just like what we all learned about America, but the truth is, America has changed.

One of the more obvious changes from the ideal is the representative democracy made up of the two political parties, the delegates, and the electoral college. Democracy has been subverted. The popular vote is meaningless. The mainstream media has even taken to calling the popular vote the “beauty contest”, implying that true democracy is only for show. The real decision is decided by delegates. Who are the delegates? Ask anyone, someone is sure to know. Good luck.

The checks and balances are in place to keep the executive from cheating the supreme court and the congress, but what if they work together? Even if the visible figures of the government are kept in line, who is responsible for the un-elected and mysterious delegates.

So to start, my answer to who would be in charge in an anarchist government is ‘Who the fuck is in charge now?’ Where does authority come from, because it certainly is not coming from the people. In the paragraphs that follow I will attempt to outline an anarchist society from the ground up. My postulations are based upon my own studies of government, human systems, and human events.

1) The Group (neighborhood, office, school, or other place of grouping)
Groups are simply people who have reason to be in contact discussing the rights and wrongs as they see them in their lives. A representative from a group takes these concerns to a city or county referendum where all group representatives meet and vote on issues. No laws are passed, instead people talk about the problems and how to solve them. No time is wasted in legislation that deflects interest from the actual problem.
Ex: There are homeless people in our group, how can we help them?

Current Authority: We will hold a conference telling everyone that your group has homeless people, we will condemn homelessness and offer our sympathy, after some time we will give some money to a foundation so that they can run more ads to tell people that people are homeless. We will pass more stringent laws about residences so that people who don’t think they are homeless get to become homeless.

Anarchist Authority: Okay, we’ve got some wood and so and so has that old house, do we know any carpenters? Lets build a house? Wait..but what about permits and rules and regulations? Ha..don’t be silly there are no rules when someone doesn’t have a house to stay in.

This same group process is taken up to the next level if it needs to be. Decisions are made as close to the bottom of the ladder as possible. Eight is the age required to vote.

Pride in self rule brings about innovative solutions to keep problems from needing to go beyond the group. The group and the individual are allowed to do whatever they like so long as no other individual or group are affected. If other groups are affected than a meeting of groups gets together and finds the problem and the solution.

Ex: Group A is strip mining and the slag is running into the river which Group B and C require for agriculture and human use.

Current Authority: Acknowledge everyone’s right to either mine or suffer the consequences of mining. Build up ill will between miners and farmers by making it a mine or don’t mine scenario. Ignore all other possibilities. Create legislation which allows strip mining and limited polluting of the water source. Rename strip mining and pollution to mineral extraction and emissions.

Anarchist Authority: Shut down the mine. The groups get together and figure out exactly how to provide the same income and needs to the mining group. If a satisfactory answer is achieved it is implemented. If it is not, the mine is reopened until an answer can be found.

Taxes, revenues, records, and land ownership.
There is no authority for collecting taxes. Revenues are collected from a portion of all business operating within a group. Land is owned by title and deed by individuals and groups. Corporations cannot own land.

Corporations are taxed upon the amount of revenue generated by their product or service in each city group, a percentage of this is used to fund education.

Education
From grade school, children would be encouraged to explore their interests in elective classes and apprenticeships.Schools would be funded primarily by the students labor and the “wages” earned in apprenticeship programs. The Mondragon cooperatives have a beautiful working model.

Roads and Transportation
Gasoline tax would be used to maintain roads. Tolls would be collected to fund massive public transportation projects using “clean” energy.

Of course, the collective could decide on completely different criteria. The one constant would be to avoid creating laws which require a police force to enforce the laws. In the case of murder, let a jury decide and the family sentence.

AUTHORITY RESTS WITH THOSE AFFECTED BY YOUR DECISIONS.