Kitco News is kicking off its Outlook 2015 coverage with an interview with bestselling author Jim Rickards to see what he thinks will happen to the U.S. economy in the coming year and how it may affect gold. “We’re absolutely in a currency war,” he tells Daniela Cambone. “In 2011, we saw the weak dollar; today, we see the strong dollar. I expect a year from now we’ll see the weak dollar again.” Recent strong economic data out of the U.S. has many analysts expecting ...
Erin sits down with Jim Rickards – author of “The Death of Money” and chief global strategist at West Shore Funds – to discuss the US and Europe. In October, data coming out of the US demonstrated lower mortgage yields and a surge in refis added to 4-year lows in gas prices to give consumers more disposable income. Jim tells us what he thinks of the new data and also gives us his thoughts on divisions at the ECB. He also projects how far Chinese growth will have to fall in order to make a successful rebalancing a possibility and gives us his prediction on what will happen if oil prices continue to stay weak.
Inflation in Japan dropped to a 14-month low in the month of November. The disinflation comes as a relief to consumer who, since April, have been struggling with an increased consumption tax, which put a squeeze on many household finances. It was the first consumption tax in 17 years. However, the latest fall in the core consumer price index – to 0.7% in November, down from 0.9% in October – will cause some concerns for the central bank, which has staked its credibility on hitting a 2% inflation rate within two years. Erin weighs in.
Then, Erin is joined by Jim Rickards – chief global strategist at West Shore Funds and author of “The Death of Money.” Jim tells us if he thinks the Ruble rout is a crisis similar to those of 1998 or 2008 and gives us his take on the strong dollar.
After the break is Defining Moments, featuring comments made by recent Boom Bust guests David Collum, Jim Grant, Steve Hanke, Eswar Prasad on IBM, the Federal Reserve in 1920, emerging markets, Raghuram Rajan, and US GDP.
And in The Big Deal, Erin and Edward Harrison are taking a look at some of the biggest deals of 2014. Enjoy!
As I awoke this morning, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2024, from restless dreams, I found the insect-sized sensor implanted in my arm was already awake. We call it a “bug.” U.S. citizens have been required to have them since 2022 to access government health care.
The bug knew from its biometric monitoring of my brain wave frequencies and rapid eye movement that I would awake momentarily. It was already at work launching systems, including the coffee maker. I could smell the coffee brewing in the kitchen. The information screens on the inside of my panopticon goggles were already flashing before my eyes.
Images of world leaders were on the screen. They were issuing proclamations about the fine health of their economies and the advent of world peace. Citizens, they explained, needed to work in accordance with the New World Order Growth Plan to maximize wealth for all. I knew this was propaganda, but I couldn’t ignore it. Removing your panopticon goggles is viewed with suspicion by the neighborhood watch committees. Your “bug” controls all the channels.
I’m mostly interested in economics and finance, as I have been for decades. I’ve told the central authorities that I’m an economic historian, so they’ve given me access to archives and information denied to most citizens in the name of national economic security.
My work now is only historical, because markets were abolished after the Panic of 2018. That was not the original intent of the authorities. They meant to close markets “temporarily” to stop the panic, but once the markets were shut, there was no way to reopen them without the panic starting again. My work now is only historical, because markets were abolished after the Panic of 2018.
Today, trust in markets is completely gone. All investors want is their money back. Authorities started printing money after the Panic of 2008, but that solution stopped working by 2018. Probably because so much had been printed in 2017 under QE7. When the panic hit, money was viewed as worthless. So markets were simply closed.
Between 2018–20, the Group of 20 major powers, the G-20, abolished all currencies except for the dollar, the euro and the ruasia. The dollar became the local currency in North and South America. Europe, Africa and Australia used the euro. The ruasia was the only new currency — a combination of the old Russian ruble, Chinese yuan and Japanese yen — and was adopted as the local currency in Asia.
There is also new world money called special drawing rights, or SDRs for short. They’re used only for settlements between countries, however. Everyday citizens use the dollar, euro or ruasia for daily transactions. The SDR is also used to set energy prices and as a benchmark for the value of the three local currencies. The World Central Bank, formerly the IMF, administers the SDR system under the direction of the G-20. As a result of the fixed exchange rates, there’s no currency trading.
All of the gold in the world was confiscated in 2020 and placed in a nuclear bomb-proof vault dug into the Swiss Alps. The mountain vault had been vacated by the Swiss army and made available to the World Central Bank for this purpose. All G-20 nations contributed their national gold to the vault. All private gold was forcibly confiscated and added to the Swiss vault as well. All gold mining had been nationalized and suspended on environmental grounds.
The purpose of the Swiss vault was not to have gold backing for currencies, but rather to remove gold from the financial system entirely so it could never be used as money again. Thus, gold trading ceased because its production, use and possession were banned. By these means, the G-20 and the World Central Bank control the only forms of money.
Some lucky ones had purchased gold in 2014 and sold it when it reached $40,000 per ounce in 2019. By then, inflation was out of control and the power elites knew that all confidence in paper currencies had been lost. The only way to re-establish control of money was to confiscate gold. But those who sold near the top were able to purchase land or art, which the authorities did not confiscate.
Those who never owned gold in the first place saw their savings, retirement incomes, pensions and insurance policies turn to dust once the hyperinflation began. Now it seems so obvious. The only way to preserve wealth through the Panic of 2018 was to have gold, land and fine art. But investors not only needed to have the foresight to buy it… they also had to be nimble enough to sell the gold before the confiscation in 2020, and then buy more land and art and hang onto it. For that reason, many lost everything.
Land and personal property were not confiscated, because much of it was needed for living arrangements and agriculture. Personal property was too difficult to confiscate and of little use to the state. Fine art was lumped in with cheap art and mundane personal property and ignored.
Stock and bond trading were halted when the markets closed. During the panic selling after the crash of 2018, stocks were wiped out. Too, the value of all bonds were wiped out in the hyperinflation of 2019. Governments closed stock and bond markets, nationalized all corporations and declared a moratorium on all debts. World leaders initially explained it as an effort to “buy time” to come up with a plan to unfreeze the markets, but over time, they realized that trust and confidence had been permanently destroyed, and there was no point in trying.
Wiped-out savers broke out in money riots soon after but were quickly suppressed by militarized police who used drones, night vision technology, body armor and electronic surveillance. Highway tollbooth digital scanners were used to spot and interdict those who tried to flee by car. By 2017, the U.S. government required sensors on all cars. It was all too easy for officials to turn off the engines of those who were government targets, spot their locations and arrest them on the side of the road.
In compensation for citizens’ wealth destroyed by inflation and confiscation, governments distributed digital Social Units called Social Shares and Social Donations. These were based on a person’s previous wealth. Americans below a certain level of wealth got Social Shares that entitled them to a guaranteed income.
Those above a certain level of wealth got Social Donation units that required them to give their wealth to the state. Over time, the result was a redistribution of wealth so that everyone had about the same net worth and the same standard of living. The French economist Thomas Piketty was the principal consultant to the G-20 and World Central Bank on this project.
By 2017, the U.S. government required sensors on all cars.
To facilitate the gradual freezing of markets, confiscation of wealth and creation of Social Units, world governments coordinated the elimination of cash in 2016. The “cashless society” was sold to citizens as a convenience. No more dirty, grubby coins and bills to carry around!
Instead, you could pay with smart cards and mobile phones and could transfer funds online. Only when the elimination of cash was complete did citizens realize that digital money meant total control by government. This made it easy to adopt former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers’ idea of negative interest rates. Governments simply deducted amounts from its citizens’ bank accounts every month. Without cash, there was no way to prevent the digital deductions.
The government could also monitor all of your transactions and digitally freeze your account if you disagreed with their tax or monetary policy. In fact, a new category of hate crime for “thoughts against monetary policy” was enacted by executive order. The penalty was digital elimination of the wealth of those guilty of dissent.
The entire process unfolded in small stages so that investors and citizens barely noticed before it was too late. Gold had been the best way to preserve wealth from 2014–18, but in the end, it was confiscated because the power elites knew it could not be allowed. First, they eliminated cash in 2016. Then they eliminated diverse currencies and stocks in 2018. Finally came the hyperinflation of 2019, which wiped out most wealth, followed by gold confiscation and the digital socialism of 2020.
By last year, 2023, free markets, private property and entrepreneurship were things of the past. All that remains of wealth is land, fine art and some (illegal) gold. The only other valuable assets are individual talents, provided you can deploy them outside the system of state-approved jobs.
A money illusion sounds like something a prestidigitator performs by pulling $100 bills from a hat shown to be empty moments before. In fact, money illusion is a longstanding concept in economics that has enormous significance for you if you’re a saver, investor or entrepreneur.
Money illusion is a trick, but it is not one performed on stage. It is a ruse performed by central banks that can distort the economy and destroy your wealth.
…that people prefer a raise over a pay cut while ignoring inflation is the essence of money illusion.
The money illusion is a tendency of individuals to confuse real and nominal prices. It boils down to the fact that people ignore inflation when deciding if they are better off. Examples are everywhere.
Assume you are a building engineer working for a property management company making $100,000 per year. You get a 2% raise, so now you are making $102,000 per year. Most people would say they are better off after the raise. But if inflation is 3%, the $102,000 salary is worth only $98,940 in purchasing power relative to where you started.
You got a $2,000 raise in nominal terms but you suffered a $1,060 pay cut in real terms. Most people would say you’re better off because of the raise, but you’re actually worse off because you’ve lost purchasing power. The difference between your perception and reality is money illusion.
The impact of money illusion is not limited to wages and prices. It can apply to any cash flow including dividends and interest. It can apply to the asset prices of stocks and bonds. Any nominal increase has to be adjusted for inflation in order to see past the money illusion.
The concept of money illusion as a subject of economic study and policy is not new. Irving Fisher, one of the most famous economists of the 20th century, wrote a book called The Money Illusion in 1928. The idea of money illusion can be traced back to Richard Cantillon’sEssay on Economic Theory of 1730, although Cantillon did not use that exact phrase.
Economists argue that money illusion does not exist. Instead, they say, you make decisions based upon “rational expectations.” That means once you perceive inflation or expect it in future, you will discount the value of your money and invest or spend it according to its expected intrinsic value.
In effect, inflation is a hidden tax used to transfer wealth from savers to debtors…
Like much of modern economics, this view works better in the classroom than in the real world. Experiments by behaviorists show that people think a 2% cut in wages with no change in the price level is “unfair.” Meanwhile, they think a 2% raise with 4% inflation is “fair.”
In fact, the two outcomes are economically identical in terms of purchasing power. The fact, however, that people prefer a raise over a pay cut while ignoring inflation is the essence of money illusion.
The importance of money illusion goes far beyond academics and social science experiments. Central bankers use money illusion to transfer wealth from you — a saver and investor — to debtors. They do this when the economy isn’t growing because there’s too much debt. Central bankers try to use inflation to reduce the real value of the debt to give debtors some relief in the hope that they might spend more and help the economy get moving again.
Of course, this form of relief comes at the expense of savers and investors like you who see the value of your assets decline. Again a simple example makes the point.
Assume a debtor bought a $250,000 home in 2007 with a $50,000 down payment and a $200,000 mortgage with a low teaser rate. Today, the home is worth $190,000, a 24% decline in value, but the mortgage is still $200,000 because the teaser rate did not provide for amortization.
This homeowner is “underwater” — the value of his home is worth less than the mortgage he’s paying — and he’s slashed his spending in response. In this scenario, assume there is another individual, a saver, with no mortgage and $100,000 in the bank who receives no interest under the Fed’s zero interest rate policy.
Suppose a politician came along who proposed that the government confiscate $15,000 from the saver to be handed to the debtor to pay down his mortgage. Now the saver has only $85,000 in the bank, but the debtor has a $190,000 house with a $185,000 mortgage, bringing the debtor’s home above water and a giving him a brighter outlook.
The saver is worse off and the debtor is better off, each because of the $15,000 transfer payment. Americans would consider this kind of confiscation to be grossly unfair, and the politician would be run out of town on a rail.
Now assume the same scenario, except this time, the Federal Reserve engineers 3% inflation for five years, for a total of 15% inflation. The saver still has $100,000 in the bank, but it is worth only $85,000 in purchasing power due to inflation.
If you look at Greenspan’s record, before he became Chairman of the Federal Reserve he said many positive things about gold. Since leaving the chairmanship, he’s said positive things about gold on numerous occasions – for instance at the Council on Foreign Relations this week. He has a history of looking on gold favorably but during the entire 20 years that he was Chairman of the Federal Reserve, he never had a good thing to say about gold. I think it says more about the constraints on central bankers; in other words, central bankers can’t tell the truth or what they really think because the market impact would be too great. I think that Greenspan is reverting to saying things today that he was saying 40 years ago but could not say when he was Chairman of the Fed.
The models that LTCM was using the 1990’s were the same models that Wall Street was still using in the early 2000’s and, for that matter, the same models being used today. They are called ‘dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models’ and also risk management models like ‘value at risk’ or VaR models. They were the ones that we used in the 90’s and have continued to use for the last 16 years. They’re still being used now. They do not correspond with how markets actually work or to actual human behavior. They have failed in the past and they will fail again. If you have the wrong model, you will get the wrong policy and you will be negatively surprised by results every single time.
According to Greenspan, the Fed expanded its balance sheet not to boost the economy or to keep inflation moving higher. It was because the Federal government had such large expenditures that it would have ‘crowded out’ private borrowers if the Fed had not increased the size of its balance sheet. Do you think that’s true? Is the Fed directing the economy? Or just reacting to the capital demands of the US government?
I think both things are true. I think Greenspan is right that we are seeing monetization of debt. This is what Frederick Mishkin, the former member of the Federal Reserve board of governors refers to as ‘fiscal dominance.’ Yes, I think Greenspan is right about that but it’s also true that they’re trying to fulfill the dual mandate of price stability and creating jobs. As between the two, the Fed is willing to tolerate higher inflation if they can create more jobs. They don’t talk about ‘fiscal dominance’ and they don’t explicitly say they’re monetizing the debt. In fact they deny that they’re monetizing the debts.
Greenspan’s right. When the credit demands of the Federal government are that great, you either have to accommodate the demands or somebody is going to be crowded out. I think that the result would be deflationary. Governments cannot tolerate deflation. So rather than choose between stimulus from monetary ease and monetization of debt, I think that they are doing both.
I have discussed financial war, which is different from currency war. Currency war is an economic policy countries use to fight deflation and encourage inflation by cheapening the currency and creating inflation in the form of higher import prices. It’s a way of creating monetary easing. It’s an age-old economic policy, used most famously in the late 1920’s and 1930’s in what became known as ‘beggar they neighbor.’ Countries were stealing growth from each other by debasing their currencies, trying to import inflation and improve their trade balances by causing cheaper exports to foreign buyers and more expensive imports for domestic buyers. That combination was seen to bolster growth.
Financial war is different. Financial war involves countries that are traditional rivals or even enemies, for instance the US, Russia, and China, with competing interests everywhere from Eastern Europe to the South China Sea. Countries have fought wars in the past using traditional kinetic methods – armies, navies, air forces, missiles, submarines and so forth. We now live in an age where, thinking about warfare, you have to look at asymmetric forms of warfare – not just traditional forms – like chemical, biological, radiological weapons, guerilla warfare, terrorism, and financial warfare. So the scenario I was discussing that involves China buying gold and selling the dollar was not a currency war; it was a financial war. There you are trying to destroy the economy of your opponent, which is a very different situation.
I expect a collapse in the value of currencies relative to real goods, real assets and real services. This will happen to all currencies, not just the dollar. I don’t expect a word where people lose confidence in the dollar and the euro does really well. On a relative basis, I’ve been bullish on the euro for some time. In the endgame, however, if people lose confidence in the dollar this will be inflationary in all countries around the word and I don’t think that any currency will be able to withstand it. When I say ‘the death of money’ what I really mean is the loss of confidence in the purchasing power of money. That’s very likely to be a global phenomenon not confined to any particular country.
Currency wars are part of the picture because the way you fight a currency war is by cheapening the currency, cutting rates and quantitative easing. We saw that recently with the announcement of more quantitative easing from Japan, which took the markets by surprise and caused the Japanese Yen to fall by over 2 percent in a single morning. That is a huge move in the currency markets.
Another big factor in currency wars is the question of paying sovereign debts. It’s the sovereign deficits that are really the problem and the question is how to deal with them. One way to deal with them is through inflation, which, of course, is the goal in a currency war. The problem is that not everybody can devalue against everybody else all at once. You have to take turns. So it goes back and forth and back and forth. That’s what happened in the 1920’s and 1930’s and it’s happening again today.