Thursday, June 26, 2014

Outside the Box: Networks and Hierarchies

By John Mauldin

I have a big-picture piece for you today from a big-time thinker, my good friend Niall Ferguson. This is a little bit different for Outside the Box, but then isn’t that what this letter is supposed to be? Something to make us think and to come at a problem with a little bit different viewpoint?

At our recent Strategic Investment Conference, Niall focused on the dangers of US isolationism, the degeneration of American culture, and the immense problem of government debt whose trajectory is in the hands of a dysfunctional political system. In today’s Outside the Box, Niall examines a related issue: the dynamic interplay of networks and hierarchies that has led to the creation and destruction of economic systems in generations past… and will ultimately drive political outcomes in today’s unbalanced and rapidly changing global economic system.

Although his ideas may seem abstract at first, I agree with Niall that understanding the interplay between these forces is critical to protecting (or, even harder, growing) your savings in the end phase of a tired, overleveraged global economy.

Clashes between hierarchies and networks are not new in history; on the contrary, there is a sense in which they are history. Indeed, the course of history can be thought of as the net result of human interactions along four axes [time, nature, networks, and hierarchies].

Thinking about the current global order, Niall shows that the United States and China are growing increasingly similar as hierarchically organized super-states – despite springing from very different social, political, ideological, and economic roots.

(B)oth states are republics, with roughly comparable vertical structures of administration and not wholly dissimilar concentrations of power in the hands of the central government. Economically, the two systems are certainly converging, with China looking ever more to market signals and incentives, while the United States keeps increasing the statutory and regulatory power of government over producers and consumers. And, to an extent that disturbs civil libertarians on both Left and Right, the U.S. government exerts control and practices surveillance over its citizens in ways that are functionally closer to contemporary China than to the America of the Founding Fathers.

But despite the overwhelming power of the great hierarchies, modern nation-states could not have been conceived, launched, and sustained without drawing on the positive energies unleashed by our social and economic networks. These networks of innovators and entrepreneurs, dreamers and renegades – forces that hierarchies have often struggled to contain and control because they engender frighteningly transformative possibilities – have been the source of so much global cross-fertilization.

And now, in our own historical moment:

To all the world’s states, democratic and undemocratic alike, the new informational, commercial, and social networks of the internet age pose a profound challenge, the scale of which is only gradually becoming apparent.

Networks undermine and free up hierarchies; hierarchies co-opt and exploit networks. Which will prevail? Niall suspects we may see a rapprochement between the hierarchical and often tyrannical empire-states that dominate our world and the radical forces of our technologies and social networks. If it happens, it will not be the first time in our history that government has stifled human progress (Niall cites prior examples).

The alternative is that we’ll see one of these two forces dominate in coming years. I am betting on network-driven transformation, which I believe will become far too powerful for slow-to-adapt authoritarian governments to control.

One network technology right at the bleeding edge is electronic currencies – Bitcoin and the promise of a free, efficient, and incorruptible payment system. As Niall puts it, “It is too early to predict that Bitcoin will succeed as a parallel currency, but it is also too early to predict that it will fail.” In any case, it is indisputable that the fundamental tech behind Bitcoin – the “blockchain” that is used to create peer-to-peer ledgers of transactions that don’t require hierarchical oversight – presents a serious alternative to fiat currencies. And the transformational possibilities don’t stop there: for a look at the breathtaking potential scope of this technology, take a gander at this piece in yesterday’s London Telegraph (hat tip to Grant Williams). My colleague Worth Wray and I are keeping a close eye on this trend, and we’ll have a lot more to say about it after some careful research and thoughtful conversation.

The strengths and vulnerabilities of both hierarchies and networks are one key area of my own thinking about the coming Age of Transformation; and in the coming weeks and months we will be revisiting the issues raised here by Niall Ferguson and those George Gilder and I hashed over so thoroughly and entertainingly during our deep-into-the-night sessions last week here in Trequanda.

It is clear to me and to many of the forward-looking people I compare notes with that we are plunging into a transformation that transcends anything humanity has yet experienced. On the one hand we have the very unsettling economic End Game about which I – and many others – have written so much; and on the other we have the incredible promise of the technologies and social networks that, day by day and year by year, are waking us up to our true potential. Who can stop us? Can our own past, our own serious mistakes, and our dangerous, not-yet-fully-wise tendencies stop us? I don’t think so. I think we grow up. I think we succeed.

Well, that is my optimistic take, as I sit here in Tuscany looking out over the hills. But “growing up” and “succeeding” are very messy processes. While I can be optimistic about the long-term outcome (say, in 20 or 30 years), the ride could be pretty bumpy. There will be a lot of Sturm und Drang, give and take, winners and losers in the process. Maybe I’m a little strange, but I think it will be a great deal of fun to try to figure it all out as we go along. Lots of moving parts to pay attention to.

Dylan Grice will show up later tonight and spend the next few days here, relaxing and sharing insights. Saturday morning we have to leave Tuscany for a few days in Rome, where I will have a series of meetings and attend as much as I can of a very interesting conference organized by Banca IMI (the Investment Bank of Intesa Sanpaolo Group) and intriguingly named, “Back to the Future: Are Markets and Policy Makers Ready for Normality?” They have asked Christian Menegatti of Roubini Global Research and me to speak jointly to the main topic. As I look over the attendee list of government officials, bankers, and major market players, the prospect is quite daunting, but we will try to provide a few worthy thoughts.

Ivo the gardener comes tomorrow evening to make lasagna for the rather small group left holding the fort. And I will sit down and begin to write what I think will be a multi-part series for Thoughts from the Frontline on the Age of Transformation. I have been thinking a lot these past few weeks about the interplay of the large forces of change in government, business, society, and technology that are sweeping over our world far faster and on more fronts than any of us have ever experienced. Exciting times. Have a great week!

Your slowing down a little this week analyst,

John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Boxsubscribers@mauldineconomics.com




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Networks and Hierarchies

By Niall Ferguson

Published June 9, 2014 in The American Interest

Has political hierarchy in the form of the state met its match in today’s networked world?

Fritz Lang’s silent movie classic Metropolis (1927) depicts the downfall of a hierarchical megacity. Metropolis is a city of skyscrapers. At the top, in their penthouse C-suites, lives a wealthy elite led by the autocrat Joh Fredersen. Down below, in subterranean factories, the proletariat toils. After he witnesses an industrial accident, Fredersen’s playboy son is awakened to the squalor and danger of working-class life. The upshot is a violent revolution and a self-inflicted if inadvertent disaster: When the workers smash the power generators, their own living quarters are flooded because the water pumps fail. Today, Metropolis is perhaps best remembered for the iconic female robot that becomes the doppelgänger of the heroine, Maria. Yet it is better understood as a metaphor for history’s fundamental dialectic between hierarchies and networks.

Lang said the film was inspired by his first visit to New York. To his eyes, the skyscrapers of Manhattan were the perfect architectural expression of a hierarchical and unequal society. Contemporaries, notably the right-wing media magnate Alfred Hugenberg, detected a communist subtext, though Lang’s wife, who co-wrote the screenplay, was a radical German nationalist who later joined the Nazi Party. Viewed today, the film transcends the political ideologies of the mid-20th century. With its multiple religious allusions, culminating in an act of redemption, Metropolis is modernity mythologized. The central question it poses is as relevant today as it was then: How can an urbanized, technologically advanced society avoid disaster when its social consequences are profoundly anti-egalitarian?

There is, perhaps, an even more profound question in the subtext of Lang’s film: Who wins, the hierarchy or the network? The greatest threat to the hierarchical social order of Metropolis is posed not by flooding but by a clandestine conspiracy among the workers. Nothing infuriates Fredersen more than the realization that this conspiracy was hatched in the catacombs beneath the city without his knowledge.

In today’s terms, the hierarchy is not a single city but the state itself, the vertically structured super-polity that evolved out of the republics and monarchies of early modern Europe. Though not the most populous nation in the world, the United States is certainly the world’s most powerful state, despite the limits imposed by checks (to lobbyists) and balances (as in bank). Its nearest rival, the People’s Republic of China, is usually seen as a profoundly different kind of state, for while the United States has two major parties and a gaggle of tiny ones, the People’s Republic has one and only one. American government is founded on the separation of powers, not least the independence of its judiciary; the PRC subordinates law, such as it has evolved in China over the centuries, to the dictates of the Communist Party.

Yet both states are republics, with roughly comparable vertical structures of administration and not wholly dissimilar concentrations of power in the hands of the central government. Economically, the two systems are certainly converging, with China looking ever more to market signals and incentives, while the United States keeps increasing the statutory and regulatory power of government over producers and consumers. And, to an extent that disturbs civil libertarians on both Left and Right, the U.S. government exerts control and practices surveillance over its citizens in ways that are functionally closer to contemporary China than to the America of the Founding Fathers.

To all the world’s states, democratic and undemocratic alike, the new informational, commercial, and social networks of the internet age pose a profound challenge, the scale of which is only gradually becoming apparent. First email achieved a dramatic improvement in the ability of ordinary citizens to communicate with one another. Then the internet came to have an even greater impact on the ability of citizens to access information. The emergence of search engines marked a quantum leap in this process. The advent of laptops, smartphones, and other portable devices then emancipated electronic communication from the desktop. With the explosive growth of social networks came another great leap, this time in the ability of citizens to share information and ideas.

It was not immediately obvious how big a challenge all this posed to the established state. There was a great deal of cheerful talk about the ways in which the information technology revolution would promote “smart” or “joined-up” government, enhancing the state’s ability to interact with citizens. However, the efforts of Anonymous, Wikileaks and Edward Snowden to disrupt the system of official secrecy, directed mainly against the U.S. government, have changed everything. In particular, Snowden’s revelations have exposed the extent to which Washington was seeking to establish a parasitical relationship with the key firms that operate the various electronic networks, acquiring not only metadata but sometimes also the actual content of vast numbers of phone calls and messages. Techniques of big-data mining, developed initially for commercial purposes, have been adapted to the needs of the National Security Agency.

The most recent, and perhaps most important, network challenge to hierarchy comes with the advent of virtual currencies and payment systems like Bitcoin. Since ancient times, states have reaped considerable benefits from monopolizing or at least regulating the money created within their borders. It remains to be seen how big a challenge Bitcoin poses to the system of national fiat currencies that has evolved since the 1970s and, in particular, how big a challenge it poses to the “exorbitant privilege” enjoyed by the United States as the issuer of the world’s dominant reserve (and transaction) currency. But it would be unwise to assume, as some do, that it poses no challenge at all.

Clashes between hierarchies and networks are not new in history; on the contrary, there is a sense in which they are history. Indeed, the course of history can be thought of as the net result of human interactions along four axes.

The first of these is time. The arrow of time can move in only one direction, even if we have become increasingly sophisticated in our conceptualization and measurement of its flight. The second is nature: Nature means in this context the material or environmental constraints over which we still have little control, notably the laws of physics, the geography and geology of the planet, its climate and weather, the incidence of disease, our own evolution as a species, our fertility, and the bell curves of our abilities as individuals in a series of normal distributions. The third is networks. Networks are the spontaneously self-organizing, horizontal structures we form, beginning with knowledge and the various “memes” and representations we use to communicate it. These include the patterns of migration and miscegenation that have distributed our species and its DNA across the world’s surface; the markets through which we exchange goods and services; the clubs we form, as well as the myriad cults, movements, and crazes we periodically produce with minimal premeditation and leadership. And the fourth is hierarchies, vertical organizations characterized by centralized and top-down command, control, and communication. These begin with family-based clans and tribes, out of which or against which more complex hierarchical institutions evolved. They include, too, tightly regulated urban polities reliant on commerce or bigger, mostly monarchical, states based on agriculture; the centrally run cults often referred to as churches; the armies and bureaucracies within states; the autonomous corporations that, from the early modern period, sought to exploit economies of scope and scale by internalizing certain market transactions; academic corporations like universities; political parties; and the supersized transnational states that used to be called empires.

Note that the environment is not wholly a given; it can be shaped by, as well as shape, humanity. It may well be that, in the foreseeable future, our species’ impact on the earth’s climate will become the dominant driver of history, but that is not yet the case. For now, the interactions of networks and hierarchies are more important. Networks are not planned by a single authority; they are the main source of innovation but are relatively fragile. Hierarchies exist primarily because of economies of scale and scope, beginning with the imperative of self-defense. To that end, but for other reasons too, hierarchies seek to exploit the positive externalities of networks. States need networks, for no political hierarchy, no matter how powerful, can plan all the clever things that networks spontaneously generate. But if the hierarchy comes to control the networks so much as to compromise their benign self-organizing capacities, then innovation is bound to wane.

Consider some examples of history along these four axes. The population of the entire Eurasian landmass was devastated by the Black Death of the 14th century, a natural disaster transmitted along trade networks. But the impact was very different in Europe compared with Asia. The main difference between the West and the East of Eurasia after 1500 was that networks in the West were much freer from hierarchical dominance than in the East. No monolithic empire rose in the West; multiple and often weak principalities prevailed. Printing existed in China long before the 15th century, but its advent in Germany was explosive because of the network effects generated by the rapid spread of Gutenberg’s easily replicated technology. The Reformation, which was printed as much as it was preached, unleashed a wave of religious revolt against the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. It was only after prolonged and bloody conflict that the monarchies were able to re-impose their hierarchical control over the new Protestant sects.

European history in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries was characterized by a succession of network-driven waves of innovation: the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution. In each case, the sharing of novel ideas within networks of scholars and tinkerers produced powerful and mainly positive externalities, culminating in the decisive improvements in economic efficiency and then life expectancy experienced in the British Isles, Western Europe, and North America from the late 18th century. The network effects of trade and migration were especially powerful, as European merchants and settlers exploited falling transportation costs to export their ideas, as well as their techniques and goods, to the rest of the world. Thanks to those ideas, this was also an era of political revolutions. Ideas about liberty, equality, and fraternity crossed the Atlantic as rapidly as pirated technology from the cotton mills of Lancashire. Kings were toppled, aristocracies abolished, and churches dissolved or made to compete without the support of a state.

Yet the 19th century saw the triumph of hierarchies over the new networks. This was partly because hierarchical corporations—which began, let us remember, as state-sponsored monopolies like the East India Company—were as important in the spread of industrial capitalism as horizontally structured markets. Firms could reduce the transaction costs of the market as well as exploit economies of scale and scope. The railways, steamships, and telegraph cables that made possible the first age of globalization had owners.

The key, however, was the victory of hierarchy in the realm of politics. Why revolutionary ideologies like Jacobinism and Marxism-Leninism so quickly produced highly centralized hierarchical political structures is one of the central puzzles of the modern era, though it was an outcome more or less accurately predicted by much classical political theory. Whatever the democratic aspirations of the revolutionaries, their ideologies ended up as sources of legitimation for autocrats who were markedly more power-hungry than the monarchs of the ancien régime.

True, the energies unleashed by the overthrow of the Bourbons were (just barely) insufficient to overcome those produced by the British synthesis of monarchism and the pursuit of Mammon, which restored or revived the continental monarchies, including, temporarily, the Bourbons themselves. But the old order was only partially restored. Napoleon had taught even his most ardent enemies an unforgettable lesson, as Clausewitz understood, about how an imperial leader could wield power by commanding a people in arms.

For a time it seemed that a modus vivendi had arisen between the new networks of science and industry and the old hierarchies of hereditary rule. Half the world fell under the sway of a dozen Western empires, and much of the rest was under their economic sway. But optimists, from Norman Angell to Andrew Carnegie, felt sure that these empires would not be so foolish as to jeopardize the benefits of international exchange. After all, it was partly by taxing the fruits of the first era of globalization that the empires could finance their vast armies, navies, and bureaucracies. This proved wrong. So complete was the imperial system of command, control, and communication that when the empires resolved to go to war with one another over arcane issues like the status of Bosnia-Herzegovina or the neutrality of Belgium, they were able to mobilize in excess of seventy million men as soldiers or sailors. In France and Germany about a fifth of the prewar population ended up in uniform, bearing arms.

The triumph of hierarchy over networks was symbolized by the complete failure of the Second International of socialist parties to prevent the World War. When the leaders of European socialism met in Brussels at the end of July 1914, they could do little more than admit their own impotence. What the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus called the alliance of “thrones and telephones” had marched the young men of Europe off to Armageddon. Those who thought the war would not last long underestimated the hierarchical state’s ability to sustain industrialized slaughter.

The mid 20th century was the zenith of hierarchy. Although World War I ended with the collapse of no fewer than four of the great dynastic empires—the Romanov, Habsburg, Hohenzollern, and Ottoman—they were replaced with astonishing swiftness by new and stronger states based on the normative paradigm of the nation-state, the ethno-linguistically defined anti-imperium.

Not only did the period after 1918 witness the rise of the most centrally controlled states of all time (Stalin’s Soviet Union, Hitler’s Third Reich and Mao’s People’s Republic); it was also an era in which hierarchies flourished in the economic, social and cultural spheres. Central planners ruled, whether they worked for governments, armies or large corporations. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), the Fordist World State controls everything from eugenics to narcotics and euthanasia; the fate of the non-conformist Bernard Marx is banishment. In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) there is not the slightest chance that Winston Smith will be able to challenge Big Brother’s rule over Airstrip One; his fate is to be tortured and brainwashed. A remarkable number of the literary heroes of the high Cold War era were crushed by one system or the other: from Heller’s John Yossarian to le Carré’s Alec Leamas to Solzhenytsin’s Ivan Denisovich.

Kraus was right: The information technology of mid-century overwhelmingly favored the hierarchies. Though the telegraph and telephone created vast new networks, they were relatively easy to cut, tap, or control. Newsprint, radio, cinema, and television were not true network technologies because they generally involved one-way communication from the content provider to the reader or viewer. During the Cold War the superpowers were mostly able to control information flows by manufacturing or sponsoring propaganda and classifying or censoring anything deemed harmful. Sensation surrounded every spy scandal and defection; yet in most cases all that happened was that classified information was passed from one national security state to the other. Only highly trained personnel in governmental, academic, or corporate research centers used computers, and those were anything but personal computers. The self-confidence of the technocrats at that time is nicely exemplified by MONIAC (the Monetary National Income Analogue Computer), a hydraulic device designed by Bill Phillips (of Phillips Curve fame) that was supposed to simulate the effects of Keynesian economic policy on the UK economy.



There were moments of truth, particularly in the 1970s, when classified information reached the public through the free press in the West or through samizdat literature in the Soviet bloc. Yet the striking feature of the later Cold War was how well the national security state managed to withstand exposures like the report of the Church Committee or the publication of the Gulag Archipelago. George H.W. Bush, appointed head of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1976—in the midst of the Church Committee’s work—went on to serve as Vice President and President. Within a decade of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation had a former KGB operative as its President. The Pentagon proved to be mightier than the Pentagon Papers.

Today, by contrast, the hierarchies seem to be in much more trouble. The most obvious challenge to established hierarchies is the flow of information unleashed by the advent of the personal computer, email, and the internet, which have allowed ordinary citizens to organize themselves into much larger and more dispersed networks than has ever been possible before. The PC has empowered the individual the way the book did after the 15th-century breakthrough in printing. Indeed, the trajectories for the production and price of PCs in the United States between 1977 and 2004 are remarkably similar to the trajectories for the production and price of printed books in England from 1490 to 1630. The differences are that our networking revolution is much faster and that it is global.

In a far shorter space of time than it took for 84 percent of the world’s adults to become literate, a remarkably large proportion of humanity has gained access to the internet. Although its origins can be traced back to the late 1960s, the internet as a system of interconnected computer networks did not really begin until the standard protocol suite (TCP/IP) was adopted at universities in the 1980s. As recently as 1998 only around 2 percent of the world’s population were internet users. Today the proportion is 39 percent; in the developed world, 77 percent.

Google was incorporated in 1998. Its first premises were a garage in Menlo Park. Today its has the capacity to process more than a billion search requests and 24 petabytes of user-generated data every day. Facebook was founded at Harvard ten years ago. Today it has 1.23 billion regular users a month. Twitter was created eight years ago. Now it has 200 million users, who send more than 400 million tweets daily.

The challenge these new networks pose to established hierarchies is threefold. First, they vastly increase the volume of information to which citizens can have access, as well as the speed with which they can have access to it. Second, they empower individual citizens to publicize things that might otherwise remain secret or known only to a few. Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg did the same thing by making public classified documents, but Snowden has already revealed much more than Ellsberg and to vastly more people, while Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has far out-scooped Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (even if he has not yet helped to bring down an American President). Third, and perhaps most importantly, the networks expose by their very performance the inefficiency of hierarchical government.

Politicians and voters remain the captives of a postwar campaign vocabulary in which the former pledge to the latter that they will provide not just additional public goods but also “create jobs” without significantly increasing the cost to most voters in terms of taxation. The history of President Barack Obama’s Administration can be told as a series of pledges to increase employment (“the stimulus”), reduce the risk of financial crisis, and provide universal health insurance. The President’s popularity has declined fastest when, as with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the inability of the Federal government to fulfill these pledges efficiently has been most exposed. The shortcomings of the website Healthcare.gov in many ways epitomized the fundamental problem: In the age of Amazon, consumers expect basic functionality from websites. Daily Show host Jon Stewart spoke for hundreds of thousands of frustrated users when he taunted former Health and Human Services head Kathleen Sebelius: “I’m going to try and download every movie ever made, and you’re going to try to sign up for Obamacare, and we’ll see which happens first.”

Yet the trials and tribulations of “Obamacare” are merely a microcosm for a much more profound problem. The modern state, at least in its democratic variant, has evolved a familiar solution to the problem of increasing the provision of public goods without making proportionate increases to taxation, and that is to finance current government consumption through borrowing, while at the same time encouraging citizens to increase their own leverage by various fiscal incentives, such as the deductibility of mortgage interest payments. The vast increase of private debt that preceded the financial crisis of 2008 was succeeded by a comparably vast increase in public debt. At the same time, central banks took increasingly unorthodox steps to shore up tottering banks and plunging asset markets by purchases of securities in exchange for excess reserves. With short-term interest rates at zero, “quantitative easing” was designed to keep long-term interest rates low too. The financial world watches with bated breath to see how QE can be “tapered” and when short-term rates will be raised. Most economists nevertheless take for granted the U.S. government’s ability to print its own currency without limit. Many assume that this offers some relatively easy way out of trouble if rising interest rates threaten to make debt service intolerably burdensome. But this assumption may be wrong.

Since ancient times, states have exploited their ability to issue currency, whether coins stamped with the king’s likeness or electronic dollars on a screen. But if the new networks are in the process of creating an alternative form of money, such as Bitcoin purports to be, then perhaps the time-honored state privilege to debase the currency is at risk. Bitcoin offers many advantages over a fiat currency like the U.S. dollar. As a means of payment—especially for online transactions—it is faster, cheaper, and more secure than a credit card. As a store of value it has many of the key attributes of gold, notably finite supply. As a unit of account it is having teething troubles, but that is because it has become an attractive speculative object. It is too early to predict that Bitcoin will succeed as a parallel currency, but it is also too early to predict that it will fail. In any case, governments can fail, too.

Where governments fail most egregiously, new networks may well increase the probability of successful revolution. The revolutionary events that swept the Middle East and North Africa beginning in Tunisia in December 2010—the so-called Arab Spring—were certainly facilitated by various kinds of information technology, even if for most Arabs it was probably the television channel Al Jazeera more than Facebook or Twitter that spread the news of the revolution. Most recently, the revolutionaries in Kiev who overthrew Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych made effective use of social networks to organize their protests in the Maidan and to disseminate their critique of Yanukovych and his cronies.

Yet it would be naive to assume that we are witnessing the dawn of a new era of free and equal netizens, all empowered by technology to speak truth to (and about) power, just as it would be naive to assume that the hierarchical state is doomed, if not to revolutionary downfall then at least to a permanent diminution of its capacity for social control.

Modern networks have prospered, paradoxically, in ways that are profoundly inegalitarian. That is because ownership of the information infrastructure and the rents from it are so concentrated. Google at the time of writing is worth $359 billion by market capitalization. About 16 percent of its shares, worth $58 billion, are owned by its founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The market capitalization of Facebook is $161 billion; 28 percent of the shares, worth $45 billion, are owned by its founder Mark Zuckerberg. If Thomas Piketty needs further proof of his thesis that the world is reverting to the inequality of a century ago because, absent world wars and revolutions, the rate of return on capital (and the rate of growth of executive compensation) tends to outstrip the rate of growth of aggregate income, it is there in abundance in Silicon Valley. Granted, the young and very wealthy people who literally own the modern networks tend to have somewhat liberal political views. A few of them are libertarians. But few of them would welcome Gallic rates of taxation, much less a French-style egalitarian revolution.



At the same time, the hierarchical state has not been slow to appreciate the opportunities that the new social networks present. Edward Snowden’s most startling revelation was the complicity of companies like Google, Apple, Yahoo, and Facebook in the National Security Agency’s global surveillance programs, notably PRISM. It is all very well for Mark Zuckerberg to complain that he has been “so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the U.S. government” and to declare self-righteously: “When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.” But he knows full well that since at least 2009 Facebook has responded to tens of thousands of U.S. government requests for information about Facebook users. If not for Snowden’s leaks, we would not have known just how freely the NSA was making use of the provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The owners of the networks are also well aware that plotting jihad is not the principal use to which their technology is put, any more than plotting revolution is. They owe their security much more to network surfers’ apathy than to the NSA. Most people do not go online to participate in flash mobs. Most women seem to prefer shopping and gossiping; most men prefer sports and pornography. All those neural quirks produced by evolution make us complete suckers for the cascading stimuli of tweets, Instagrams, and Facebook pokes from members of our electronic kinship group. The networks cater to our solipsism (selfies), our short attention spans (140 characters), and our seemingly insatiable appetite for “news” about “celebrities.”

In the networked world, the danger is not popular insurrection but indifference; the political challenge is not to withstand popular anger but to transmit any kind of signal through the noise. What can focus us, albeit briefly, on the tiresome business of how we are governed or, at least, by whom? When we speak of “populism” today, we mean simply a politics that is audible as well as intelligible to the man in the street. Not that the man in the street is actually in the street. Far more likely, he is the man slumped on his sofa, his attention skipping fitfully from television to laptop to tablet to smartphone and back to television. And what gets his attention? The end of history? The clash of civilizations? The answer turns out to be the narcissism of small differences.

Liberals denounce conservatives with astonishing vituperation; Republicans inveigh against Democrats. But to the rest of the world what is striking are the strange things nearly all Americans agree about (for example, that children should be packed off to camps in the summer). Many English people are outraged about immigrant Romanians. But to East Asian eyes the English are scarcely distinguishable from Romanians. (Indeed, in many parts of formerly working-class England people live much as the reviled Roma are alleged to: in squalor.)

It is no accident that most of the world’s conflicts today are not between civilizations, as Samuel Huntington foresaw, but between neighbors. That, after all, is what is really going on in Syria, Iraq, and the Central African Republic, not to mention Ukraine. Can anyone other than a Russian or a Ukrainian tell a Russian and a Ukrainian apart? And yet how readily one is pitted against the other, and how distractingly.

At times, it can seem as if we are condemned to try to understand our own time with conceptual frameworks more than half a century old. Since the financial crisis that began in 2007, many economists have been reduced to recycling the ideas of John Maynard Keynes, who died in 1946. At the same time, analysts of international relations seem to be stuck with terminology that dates from roughly the same period: “realism” or “idealism”, containment or appeasement. (George Kennan’s “Long Telegram” was dispatched just two months before Keynes’s death.)

Yet our own time is profoundly different from the mid-20th century. The near-autarkic, commanding and controlling states that emerged from the Depression, World War II, and the early Cold War exist only as pale shadows of their former selves. Today, the combination of technological innovation and international economic integration has created entirely new forms of organization—vast, privately owned networks—that were scarcely dreamt of by Keynes and Kennan. We must ask ourselves: Are these new networks really emancipating us from the tyranny of the hierarchical empire-states? Or will the hierarchies ultimately take over the networks as they did a century ago, in 1914, successfully subordinating them to the priorities of the national security state?

A libertarian utopia of free and equal netizens—all networked together, sharing all available data with maximum transparency and minimal privacy settings—has a certain appeal, especially to the young. It is romantic to picture these netizens, like the workers in Lang’s Metropolis, spontaneously rising up against the world’s corrupt hierarchies. Yet the suspicion cannot be dismissed that, despite all the hype of the Information Age and all the brouhaha about Messrs. Snowden and Assange, the old hierarchies and new networks are in the process of reaching a quiet accommodation with one another, much as thrones and telephones did a century ago. We shall all know what it means when (as begins to be imaginable) Sheryl Sandberg leans all the way into the White House. It will mean that Metropolis lives on.


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The article Outside the Box: Networks and Hierarchies was originally published at mauldineconomics.com.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Golden Age of Silver


Dan Cruickshank visits Britain's finest country houses, museums and factories as he uncovers the 18th- and 19th-century fascination with silver. Delving into an unsurpassed era of shimmering opulence, heady indulgence and conspicuous consumption, Dan discovers the Georgian and Victorian obsession with this tantalising precious metal which represented status, wealth and excellent taste. He gives us a glimpse of some of the most extensive collections and exquisite pieces of silverware to have ever been made on British shores.

- Source, BBC

The Colder War and the End of the Petrodollar

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why Negative Interest Rates Are Only the First Step

By Jeff Thomas, International Man

In 1946, an American singer, Merle Travis, recorded a song called "Sixteen Tons." The song told the story of a poor coal miner in Kentucky, who lived in a small coal mining town. The town's economy revolved entirely around the mine.

The mining company owned a "company store," which had a monopoly on the sale of provisions. It charged rates that were designed to use up the weekly paycheque of the miner, so that the miner, in effect, was a slave to the mining company. As the song states,

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

Negative Interest Rates


Let's put the song aside for the moment and have a look at a concept that has been bandied about by the European Central Bank (ECB) for a while now. Since the collapse of the central banks would doom the world (their claim, not mine), it is essential that the banks be saved no matter what else must be sacrificed. Efforts to "save" the situation have been implemented through quantitative easing (QE) and the setting and continuation of low interest rates.

Unfortunately, in spite of record profits by banks and staggering bonuses handed out to senior bank executives, somehow the QE and low interest rates have not created the prosperity desired. The economy is still in the tank. What to do?

A solution being considered is to create "negative interest rates." Sounds logical, doesn't it? If low interest rates have kept the economy from crashing but haven't fixed it, surely, negative interest rates can only be more positive.

And what are negative interest rates? Well, it simply means that, if you keep your money in a bank, instead of the bank paying you interest, you pay the bank to hold your money.

No central bank has ever done such a thing, so, not surprisingly, it sounds like a bitter pill to swallow. However, the ECB will present it as an "unfortunate necessity."

Electronic Currency


Let's once again change subjects for the moment. If the fiat currencies, such as the euro and the dollar, collapse (as I believe is all but inevitable), the EU and US are likely to immediately come up with an alternate currency (or currencies), since if an alternative is not made readily available, people will turn to whatever currency is handy in order to be able to continue to purchase goods and to trade.

We are in the electronic age. We are also seeing the EU and US heading in a direction that is marked with increasing controls on the capital held by their citizens. Therefore, the ideal currency would be an electronic one. No more paper notes in the wallet, no more coins in the pocket; just a plastic debit card to take care of all purchases.

All purchases. Whether the purchaser buys something as major as a car or as insignificant as a Cadbury bar, the card would be used for every monetary transaction.

This, of course, is a handy solution to the fuss of dealing with what was formerly regarded as money. But there is an extra advantage—quite a major one, in fact—to the government. It now has a record of every single transaction that you make. There could be no "under the table" transactions, as only the debit card would represent currency.

Of course, a bank would be needed to handle the transactions. The bank would receive your electronic paycheck directly from your employer, and you would spend what you had in your account. The bank would be the central clearing house though which all your financial transactions took place.

An extra advantage to the government would be that they would no longer need to chase their citizens for taxation. Since they had a full record of every penny you earned and spent, they could advise you of the amount of your tax obligation and simply deduct it periodically. If you presently pay tax annually, the deductions could be broken up—say, monthly, or even weekly.

And the tax need not be under one heading. Just as your bank now lists a host of confusing charges on your credit card, so the government may have a wide variety of confusing and even redundant taxes that it deducts on a regular basis. Just as with the bank, the rates for each tax might go up or down (but mostly up) without explanation. (The more numerous the tax categories and the greater the frequency of deductions, the more confusion and, therefore, the fewer the complaints.)

How Does All This Fit Together?


Let's go back to the ECB. If a negative interest rate exists, the bank no longer pays you interest to encourage you to keep your money with them. They now control all your monetary transactions, and you cannot function without them. The servant has become the master. Therefore, it would not be possible to cease to use the bank for your transactions, should their "negative interest rates" start to climb.

At this point, the government and the bank would, between them, control your money totally. You would find yourself, in effect, "owned by the company store." It's even possible that bank fees and tax rates could be increased as your income increased, so that you might never be able to truly save money, invest, or indeed, act independently of your "owners." The flow of your money would have become centralised, and you could not function without them.

Of course, this is all theory. Surely, this could not come to pass, because people inherently do not wish to be enslaved.

And yet it happened on a wholesale basis in Kentucky and other mining areas in the US. So the question really is, "How did it become possible that people in mining towns volunteered for their own slavery?"

First there was a depression. Many people lost their jobs and their incomes and were prepared to do anything in order to feed their families. So they signed up for the only game in town: the mines. It was dangerous work, there were no benefits, and the coal dust would kill a miner after a time. But as long as he lived, his family had enough to eat. He accepted the deal, because (again) it was the only game in town.

So, back to the present day, where the Greater Depression will soon be on us in full force. A large percentage of jobs will be destroyed, but in addition, this time around, the currency will also be destroyed. In order to pay for goods, particularly food, people will do whatever they have to, to obtain currency. Desperate times, indeed.

But there's a light at the end of the tunnel! The government has chosen to eliminate bank notes and coins, as they ultimately proved to be so destructive. Never again will this be allowed to happen. The new Electronic Currency System will ensure that all money is centrally managed.

The press will declare the new system brilliant, and the harder an individual has been hit by the Greater Depression, the more quickly he will jump on board. The greedy rich have all but destroyed his life, and his government, like a knight in shining armour, has come to save him. Like the miner, he will not be musing on how this will all play out over the decades; he will opt for the promise of relief for his family now.

If this all plays out as described above, it will not be just Kentucky, but entire nations.

Editor's note: The day after this article was written, the ECB announced the introduction of a negative interest rate: 0.1% on deposits. As predicted, the media have already begun to the praise the measure.

To see what the consequences of economic mismanagement can be, and how stealthily disaster can creep up on you, watch the 30-minute documentary, Meltdown America. Witness the harrowing tales of three ordinary people who lived through a crisis, and how their experiences warn of the turmoil that could soon reach the US. Click here to watch it now.


The article I Owe My Soul—Why Negative Interest Rates Are Only the First Step was originally published at caseyresearch.com.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Age of Transformation

By John Mauldin

One of the many luxuries that my readers have afforded me over the years is their willingness to allow me to explore a wide variety of topics. Not all writers are so blessed, and their output and responses to it tend to stay focused on specific, often quite narrow topics. While this approach allows them to dig very deep into particular subject matter, it can reduce the total scope of their research, vision, and advice. But don’t get me wrong; these types of letters are very important. I benefit greatly from being a subscriber to a number of letters that give me detailed analysis for which I simply don’t have the time to do the research. There’s just too much going on in the world today for any of us to be an expert in more than a few areas.

I seem to find the most enjoyment and elicit the best response when I try to give my readers the benefit of my broad scope of reading and research as I try to figure out how all the various and sundry pieces of the puzzle fit together. For me, the world is just that: a vast and very complex puzzle. Trying to discern the grand themes and detailed patterns as the very pieces of the puzzle go on changing shape before my eyes is quite a challenge.

To try to figure out which puzzle pieces are going to have the most influence and impact in our immediate future, as opposed to languishing in the background, can be a frustrating experience. I often find myself writing about topics (such as a coming subprime crisis or recession) long before they manifest themselves. But I think it is important to see opportunities and problems brewing as far in advance as we can so that we can thoughtfully position ourselves and our portfolios to take advantage.

Today I offer some musings on what I’ve come to think of as the Age of Transformation (which I have been thinking about a lot while in Tuscany). I believe there are multiple and rapidly accelerating changes happening simultaneously (if you can think of 10 years as simultaneously) that are going to transform our social structures, our investment portfolios, and our personal futures. We have had such transformations in the past. The rise of the nation state, the steam engine, electricity, the advent of the social safety net, the personal computer, the internet, and the collapse of communism are just a few of the dozens of profound changes that have transformed the world in which we live.

Therefore, in one sense, these periods of transformation are nothing new. I think the difference today, however, is going to be the simultaneous nature of multiple transformational trends playing out within a very short period of time (relatively speaking) and at an accelerating rate.

It is self-evident that failure to adapt to transformational trends will consign a business or a society to the ash can of history. Our history and business books are littered with thousands of such failures. I think we are entering one of those periods when failing to pay close attention to the changes going on around you could prove decidedly problematical for your portfolio and fatal to your business.

This week we’re going to develop a very high-level perspective on the Age of Transformation. In the coming years we will do a deep dive into various aspects of it, as this letter always has. But I think it will be very helpful for you to understand the larger picture of what is happening so that you can put specific developments into context – and, hopefully, let them work for you rather than against you.

We’re going to explore two broad themes, neither of which will be strange to readers of this letter. The first transformational theme that I see is the emerging failure of multiple major governments around the world to fulfill the promises they have made to their citizens. We have seen these failures at various times in recent years in “developed countries”; and while they may not have impacted the whole world, they were quite traumatic for the citizens involved. I’m thinking, for instance, of Canada and Sweden in the early ’90s. Both ran up enormous debts and had to restructure their social commitments. Talk to people who were involved in making those changes happen, and you can still see some 20 years later how painful that process was. When there are no good choices, someone has to make the hard ones.

I think similar challenges are already developing throughout Europe and in Japan and China, and will probably hit the United States by the end of this decade. While each country will deal with its own crisis differently, these crises are going to severely impact social structures and economies not just nationally but globally. Taken together, I think these emerging developments will be bigger in scope and impact than the credit crisis of 2008.

While each country’s crisis may seemingly have a different cause, the problems stem largely from the inability of governments to pay for promised retirement and health benefits while meeting all the other obligations of government. Whether that inability is due to demographic problems, fiscal irresponsibility, unduly high tax burdens, sclerotic labor laws, or a lack of growth due to bureaucratic restraints, the results will be the same. Debts are going to have to be “rationalized” (an economic euphemism for default), and promises are going to have to be painfully adjusted. The adjustments will not seem fair and will give rise to a great deal of societal Sturm und Drang, but at the end of the process I believe the world will be much better off. Going through the coming period is, however, going to be challenging.

“How did you go bankrupt?” asked Hemingway’s protagonist. “Gradually,” was the answer, “and then all at once.” European governments are going bankrupt gradually, and then we will have that infamous Bang! moment when it seems to happen all at once. Bond markets will rebel, interest rates will skyrocket, and governments will be unable to meet their obligations. Japan is trying to forestall their moment with the most breathtaking quantitative easing scheme in the history of the world, electing to devalue their currency as the primary way to cope. The US has a window of time in which it will still be possible to deal with its problems (and I am hopeful that we can), but without structural reform of our entitlement programs we will go the way of Europe and numerous other countries before us.

The actual path that any of the countries will take (with the exception of Japan, whose path is now clear) is open for boisterous debate, but the longer there is inaction, the more disastrous the remaining available choices will be. If you think the Greek problem is solved (or the Spanish or the Italian or the Portuguese one), you are not paying attention. Greece will clearly default again. The “solutions” have so far produced outright depressions in these countries. What happens when France and Germany are forced to reconcile their own internal and joint imbalances? The adjustment will change consumption patterns and seriously impact the flow of capital and the global flow of goods.

This breaking wave of economic changes will not be the end of the world, of course – one way or another we’ll survive. But how you, your family, and your businesses are positioned to deal with the crisis will have a great deal to do with the manner in which you survive. We are not just cogs in a vast machine turning to powers we cannot control. If we properly prepare, we can do more than merely “survive.” But achieving that means you’re going to have to rely more on your own resources and ingenuity and less on governments. If you find yourself in a position where you are dependent upon the government for your personal situation, you might not be happy. This is not something that is going to happen all of a sudden next week, but it is going to unfold through various stages in various countries; and given the global nature of commerce and finance, as the song says, “There is no place to run and no place to hide.” You will be forced to adjust, either in a thoughtful and premeditated way or in a panicked and frustrated one. You choose.

I should add a note to those of my readers who think, “I don’t have to worry about all this because I am not dependent on Social Security.” Wrong. A significant majority of the retiring generation does depend on Social Security and also on government-controlled healthcare, and their reactions and votes and consumption patterns will have an impact on society. Ditto for France, Germany, Italy, and the rest of Europe. The Japanese have evidently made their choice as to how to deal with their crisis. If you are a Japanese citizen and are not making preparations for a significant change in your national balance sheet and the value of your currency, you have your head in the sand.

There’s no question that the reactions of the various governments as they try to forestall the inevitable and manage the crisis will create turmoil and a great deal of volatility in the markets. We have not seen the last of QE in the US, but Japan is going gangbusters with it, and it is getting fired up in Europe and China.

To continue reading this article from Thoughts from the Frontline – a free weekly publication by John Mauldin, renowned financial expert, best-selling author, and Chairman of Mauldin Economics – please click here.

The article Thoughts from the Frontline: The Age of Transformation was originally published at mauldineconomics.com.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Global Austerity and the US War Agenda


In this stage of advanced globalization, banks earnings and corporate profits continue to soar even as real wages continue to plummet. This does not just lead to mass poverty and unrest, but it sows the seeds for geopolitical conflict and military confrontation. Find out more about this relationship in this week's GRTV Backgrounder on Global Research TV.


Good Reason for Doom and Gloom

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Colder War and the End of the Petrodollar

By Marin Katusa, Chief Energy Investment Strategist


The mainstream media are falling over themselves talking about Russia’s just-signed “Holy Grail” gas deal with China, which is expected to be worth more than $400 billion. But here’s what I think the real news is… and nobody’s talking about it—until now, that is.

China’s President Xi Jinping has publicly stated that it’s time for a new model of security, not just for China, but for all of Asia. This new model of security, otherwise known as “the new UN,” will include Russia and Iran, but not the United States or the EU-28.

This monumental gas deal with China does so much more for Russia than the Western media are reporting. First off, it opens up Russian oil and gas supplies to all of Asia.

It’s no coincidence that Russian President Putin announced the gas deal with China at a time when the tensions with the West over Ukraine were growing. Putin has US President Obama exactly where he wants him, and it’s only going to get worse for Europe and America.

But before I explain why that is, let’s put this deal in terms we can understand. The specific details have not been announced, but my sources tell me that the contract will bring in over US$10 billion a year of revenue to start with. The 30-year deal states that every year, the Russians will deliver 1.3 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas to China. The total capital expenditure to build the pipeline and all other infrastructure for the project will be more than $22 billion—this will be one of the largest projects in the world.

You can bet the Russians won’t take payment in US dollars for their gas. This is the beginning of the end for the petrodollar.

The Chinese and Russians are working together against the Americans, and there are many countries that would be happy to join them in dethroning the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. This historic gas deal between Russia and China is very bad news for the petrodollar.

Through this one deal, the Russians will provide about 25% of China’s current natural gas demand. In a word, this is huge.

It’s also not a coincidence that Putin sealed the deal with China before the Australian, US, and Canadian liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals are completed. If you read our recent Casey Energy Report issue on LNG, you know to be wary of the hype about LNG’s “bright future.” Take note: this deal is a serious negative for the global LNG projects.

I also stated in our April 2012 newsletter:

Putin has positioned Russia to play an increasingly dominant role in the global gas scene with two general strategies: first, by building new pipelines to avoid transiting troublesome countries and to develop Russia’s ability to sell gas to Asia, and second, by jumping into the liquefied natural gas (LNG) scene with new facilities in the Far East.

Pretty bang on for a comment that was made over two years ago in print, don’t you think?

So, what’s next? Lots.

Putin will continue to outsmart Obama. (Note to all Americans: the Russians make fun of you—not just for your poor choice of presidents, but also for your failed foreign policy that has led to most of the world hating America. But I digress.)

You will see Russia announce a major nuclear deal with Iran, where the Russians will build, finance, and supply the uranium for many nuclear reactors. The Russians will do the same for China, and then Syria.

With China signing the natural gas deal with Russia and the president of China publicly stating that it’s time to create a new security model for the Asian nations that includes Russia and Iran, it’s clear China has chosen Russia over the US.

We are now in the early stages of the Colder War.

The European Union will be the first victim. The EU is completely dependent on Russia for its oil and natural gas imports—over one-third of the EU-28’s supply of oil and natural gas comes from Russia.

I’ve been writing for years about this, and I’m watching it come true right now: the only way out for the EU countries is to use modern North American technology to revitalize their old proven oil and gas deposits. I call it the European Energy Renaissance, and there’s a fortune to be made from it.

Our Casey Energy Report portfolio has already been doing quite well from investing in the European Energy Renaissance, but this is only the beginning. If Europe is to survive the Colder War, it has no choice but to develop its own natural resources. There are naysayers who claim that Europe cannot and will not do that, for many reasons. I say rubbish.

Of course, to make money from this European dilemma, it’s imperative to only invest in the best management teams, operating in those countries with the political will to do what it takes to survive… but if you do, you could make a fortune. Doug Casey and I plan on doing so, and so should you.

For example, two weeks ago in this missive, I discussed 
The Most Anticipated Oil Well of 2014,” where if you invested, in just two weeks you could be up over 40%. Not only did I write in great detail about the company, I even interviewed the CEO because of the serious potential this high-risk junior holds.

I said in that Dispatch that the quality of the recorded interview wasn’t first class, but the quality of information was. The company just put together a very high-quality, professional video showing its potential, and I 
include it here for all to watch.

Since my write-up, the company has announced incredible news. It’s only months away now from knowing whether or not it has made a world-class discovery. Subscribers to the Casey Energy Report are already sitting on some good, short-term profits with this story, but it keeps getting better.

The more the tension is building in Ukraine (and it’s going to get worse), the more money we’re going to make from the Colder War. There’s nothing you can do about the current geopolitical situation, but you can position yourself and your family to benefit financially from the European Energy Renaissance.

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We expect great things from this company and other companies that are exposed to the European Energy Renaissance. You can read our ongoing guidance on this and our other top energy stocks every month in the Casey Energy Report. In the current issue, for example, you’ll find an in-depth report on the coal sector, uranium, and updates on all of our portfolio companies that are poised to benefit most from the European Energy Renaissance.

There’s no risk in trying it: If you don’t like the Casey Energy Report or don’t make any money within your first three months, just cancel within that time for a full, prompt refund. Even if you miss the cutoff, you can cancel anytime for a prorated refund on the unused part of your subscription. You don’t have to travel 300+ days a year to discover the best energy investments in the world—we do it for you. Click here to get started.


The article The Colder War and the End of the Petrodollar was originally published at caseyresearch.com


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Rubby Dubby Market Rigging


In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss chumming in financial markets being the rigging of prices and indexes, like Libor, forex and gold, which convinces people it is safe enough to get back into the markets. The fraud is now so huge, Max says, that the ECB needs a bigger boat. In the second half, Max interviews David Graeber, author of Debt: The First 5000 Years, about the scariest monsters being those that you turn into - like zombies or vampires - and that is what the modern economy has become as we are all forced to think and act like bankers. David Graeber all suggests that BS jobs are the Sovietization of capitalism.


- Source, Russia Today

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Friday, June 13, 2014

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- Source, Silver Gold Bull


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Did I Lose $10 Million From the Barclays Gold Take Down?



I spend alot of time looking at the physical markets. I would reference back to an article I wrote in 2012 which asked: Do Western Central Banks Have Any Gold Left?

My analysis suggested that boy, these guys have got to be suppressing the price of gold, and they can’t have much left. I think they were getting very close to being out of gold, and that’s why they had the raid in 2013, they took 900 tons of gold out of the various ETF’s in the world, which was of course consumed, and it shows the amount of physical consumption vs. supply.
Supply is something like only 2700 tons from the mines, maybe 1300 tons from recycling, we had the 900 tons from the ETFs, and it all got consumed. Of course it all got consumed by the Eastern countries.

There are various people (myself included) who suggest that Chinese demand is equivalent to all Western mining. Between what they produce for themselves and import, both through Hong Kong and directly into China, it just looks like they are almost consuming all of global mining production!

Which begs the question- where is the gold coming from, and where is the silver coming from?
We’ve seen data from Switzerland now that shows where the imports come from, and they come from the UK, & the US. The UK produces no gold, so whose gold is it that the UK is exporting to Switzerland?

The US is exporting WAY BEYOND what they produce- so where’s that gold coming from?
Of course its always been my conclusion that the Western Central Banks continue to find gold somewhere.
We’ve had various commentators stating they must be getting down to the bottom of the vaults because the bars are backdated back to the 60′s.
Whenever I look at demand, I think man, there’s more demand than there is supply, yes you can mess around with COMEX all you want until someday somebody asks for delivery, and they’re not going to get delivery.

I’m quite impressed by the demand for the metals on all fronts, and you can even include Platinum and Palladium in there! All the metals really look like there is a shortage, it just hasn’t been able to manifest itself because of the control of the futures markets.

We’ve seen by the Barclays example what you can do in the futures markets.
I might point out Doc, that one of the things I find interesting is that Palladium, which doesn’t have futures trading, is within about 3% of its all-time high.
I think if it goes to a new high, it will tell you what a non-futures market can do, and should do.
Both Platinum and Palladium are both screaming that there has to be a shortage. Unfortunately in Platinum there is a futures market, and the commercials have gone massively short to keep things under control. I’ve always speculated that some day there will be that failure.

So the demand seems to be there, the reasons to own gold get better by the day, there is no economic recovery.
The former Chairman of the ECB said that we live in a fictional financial system. That’s what we live in!
We live in a fictional financial system! There is no recovery! We spent trillions and trillions of dollars buying bonds- what did we get for it? We got hardly anything for it!

The middle class is just getting ROUTED here because of the serious inflation that they have to face- whether its education, healthcare, food costs- everything is going up. Its not 2%, we know that, and the wages don’t go up by even 2%.

We have a very great environment for gold to go higher, it has not been allowed to go higher.
It has not been allowed to go higher because anyone in their right mind knows that printing money is vastly irresponsible, and the irresponsibility will show up in a higher gold price.

Meanwhile we have everyone saying, oh, the market’s going up, there’s no inflation, everything’s fine, and everyone is staying calm, but the day is coming when they won’t be staying calm because of all these forces that are at work today.

There are so many things going on today that are all gold positive, but gold isn’t allowed to rise….yet.
But it will.




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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

U.S. Has Plans for Preemptive Nuclear Attack


Is America safe if the U.S. makes a preemptive nuclear strike? Dr. Paul Craig Robert's says no-way and explains, "Even if every American city is spared retaliation, all the Americans would die too due to the radiation and due to the nuclear winter. . . . all of the temperate climates would have freezing temperatures every day of the year for three years. So, clearly there wouldn't be any food grown. This is over and above whatever the radiation does to people."

What about Russia and China making a first strike of their own? Do you think that is far-fetched? Dr. Roberts points out, "What I am telling you is in the public record. This isn't an opinion. This is all in the public record. Anyone can read it. The Russians and the Chinese are both fully aware of it. . . . This is very dangerous for Washington to have this doctrine and to be implementing it by putting ABM bases in Poland. . . . Of course, these systems never work like people think they will work, they never do. There are no winners. It is impossible to win. This is ignorance, and the belief you can win a nuclear war makes it possible, makes it likely."


- Source, USA Watchdog


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Friday, June 6, 2014

John Embry on Silver Fix Closure & First Quarter US Economy Results


Sprott Asset Management's John Embry shares his thoughts on big banks "too big to fail" attitude, the closing of the Silver Fix and the future of precious metals manipulation, Chinese and Indian gold consumption, and US Economy First Quarter results, and More...

- Source, Sprott Money



Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Chinese Weekly Gold Demand Highest Since Late February

In week 21 (May 19 – 23) Chinese wholesale gold demand, measured by SGE withdrawals, was 36.4 metric tonnes, up 22.98 % from the week before. This is the highest weekly demand since week 9 (February 24 -28). 36.4 tonnes is just shy of the year to date weekly average of 37.5 tonnes. Chinese gold demand has been down in recent weeks from extremely strong in the first 9 weeks of 2014 to less strong in the last 12 weeks.



The insight SGE withdrawals give us has again been confirmed by the latest trade data from Hong Kong and Switzerland. Net export of both counties to China mainland in April was down from the previous month. Hong Kong net exported 65.4 tonnes to the mainland in April, down from 85.1 tonnes in March, Switzerland net exported 12 tonnes to the mainland in April, down from 26 tonnes in March. These numbers were expected as they match SGE monthly withdrawal numbers. SGE withdrawals in April were 130 tonnes, down from 147 tonnes in March.

In April the mainland was supplied by 77.4 tonnes from Hong Kong and Switzerland, 33 tonnes came from domestic mining and an additional 19.6 tonnes of supply came from scrap and/or import from other countries. Note, there can be gold en route from being imported till its sold on the SGE and not all gold supplied to the SGE will be withdrawn from the vaults, some members/individuals hold it in their SGE account.

- Source, In Gold We Trust


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Monday, June 2, 2014

Nigel Farage May Team Up With Italy's Beppe Grillo

Reuters reports that UKIP's Nigel Farage has held talks with the leader of Italy's 5-Star movement, Beppe Grillo, to explore the idea of the two parties teaming up in the European parliament. Farage repeated previous comments that he would not work with France's National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who this week struck a deal with four other Euro-skeptic parties.

- Source, Zero Hedge


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