Here is a list of popular personages who predicted this credit implosion and depression while the bubble was still being blown:
- Robert Prechter. In 2002, he published Conquer the Crash, How to survive and prosper in a deflationary depression. So far right on the money except gold hasn’t fallen hard (yet).
- Jim Grant. Erudite writer of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, he was never in the super-bear category, but he saw the writing on the wall.
- Jim Rogers. The man has good timing when it counts. He bought a NYC townhouse for 107k in 1977 and sold it for 16 million last year and got the heck out of Dodge. He moved his family, business and money to Singapore and shorted the US market. Missed the turn in commodities, though, and refused to sell China out of some kind of principle.
- Peter Schiff. Published Crash Proof in 2006, which has been pretty accurate other than Schiff’s missing the deflation stage and holding commodities and foreign stocks too long. The results of the New Deal and bailouts are likely end with the currency failure he predicts.
- Mish Shedlock. Publisher of a popular blog, Mish has been warning of a deflationary depression since 2005 or 2006, and now has the best record of predicting its course (deflation, bailouts, gold and the dollar doing well).
- David Tice. Manager of the Prudent Bear Fund, BEARX, which is performing spectacularly.
- Marc Faber, writer of the Gloom, Boom, Doom Report. Nailed it, along with the turn in commodities.
- Doug Casey, the original international speculator, and publisher of the Casey Research newsletters. Missed the deflation part, also burned by commodities, but spot on about fascism.
There are countless others who saw this coming, including Congressman Ron Paul, who’s own studies of monetary policy inspired him to first run for office.
What do all of these men have in common that allowed them to see around the corner? They understand money and the credit cycle. How did they learn it? Not in college, that’s for sure, because colleges teach perverse Keynesian claptrap. They have all read the Austrian economists, in particular Ludwig von Mises and his American pupil Murray Rothbard. Their explanation of the business cycle as the credit cycle is both elegant and extremely powerful.
And what do all of these followers of the Austrian School think we (meaning our governments) should do, now that their worst fears are coming true? In a word, to a man, nothing.
Don’t fear the crash. Fear fascism.
You see, the very worst fear of Austrians is not a crash or a depression, which is actually the healthy restoration of sanity after a credit-fueled mania, but the expansion of government that seems to follow these events like day follows night. Frederic Hayek laid out these fears in The Road to Serfdom, and that is exactly where we are going: utter economic collapse. The government is going to hamstring the markets and drain our resources for its pet projects and wars, all for our own good. Their aim is to stave off a proper accounting of the losses that have already taken place, and to preserve the power of those who inflated our way into this mess.
The damage from the bubble is already done. Government adds new damage.
What not one person in 10,000 understands is that the losses have already taken place. The losses were the waste of resources and labor for doomed endeavors that never made sense: think McMansions in the desert, and the roads, power plants and strip malls that served them. The price declines that we are now experiencing are necessary to restore valuations that reflect true values, because proper pricing clears markets — it allows people to accurately assess the worth of certain items against that of others.
A 5000 sqaure foot house on a dry hillside 20 miles outside of Phoenix is a money pit, not a million dollars. It was never properly valued in terms of the labor and raw materials that went into it. But because bankers, backed up by the Fed and various government programs and guarantees, would lend $1 million to buy it, those resources were drawn out into the desert instead of to sustainable productive uses.
An honest, gold-backed monetary system and a free-market banking system with no government support would never have allowed bankers to misprice assets so greatly. Any that did would face severe difficulties inducing the public to trust them with deposits. But with FDIC, who cares what your bank does with your money? And bankers say, “with the Fed to bail me out, who cares if all my loans blow up?”
What will happen if government doesn’t lift a finger?
The owners of McMansions will lose them to the banks or other mortgage holders, and those mortgage holders, if they bought the paper with loans of their own, will lose them to others, and so on. Almost every bank in the world will fail. They have all come to depend on deposit insurance and central banks to cover for the fact that they have been reckless and insolvent from nearly day one. There will be no bank lending at all.
What will happen to the depositors? Well, almost all of their money will be lost.
So, that is what we are looking at: every bank failing, zero bank lending, almost all the money in the world going to heaven. How is that not the end of the world? Simple: It is a reverse split. In 2006, let’s say, there was a million dollars in total bank deposits. Then in 2008 all the banks go under. All that is left is the cold cash in people’s pockets, let’s say $100,000 in all.
That remaining cash becomes extremely valuable. It has to work where one million did before. If you had $10 in your pocket and $90 in the bank, you now treat each dollar as if it were ten. The key is that so does everyone else. The world still has its unit of account and medium of exchange, we have just moved the decimal point over on all prices. (Note: gold and silver would rapidly re-enter circulation and quickly become the preferred money, as they always do until government outlaws them).
Of course, deflation on this scale makes debts unpayable, so essentially all debt is defaulted upon, but of course most creditors are bankrupt too. Contracts have to be renegotiated or annulled. No big deal, really. The assets are all still there, just the same as before. Nothing has burned down. A car bought on credit still gets the same mileage as before its loan went bad, a house keeps you just as dry.
Trust the prudent and smart, not bankers and politicians.
Such an event brings about a massive transfer of wealth from the reckless to the prudent and farsighted, who are exactly the people you want making the decisions about what to do with money and assets after the crash. They are statistically and philosophically the best equipped to decide what will generate the highest returns with the lowest risk. Life goes on. There is nothing to rebuild because nothing was destroyed. It is all just reordered in a more sensible fashion. The house in the desert is scrapped for materials. The Lehman mortgage traders find something productive to do, like drive cabs.
But that outcome is so quaint, so 1800s, so gold standard. We’re more scientific today. Bernanke is a wise economist. Congress is benevolent. War is peace, and lies are truth.