Introduction: Frederick J. Sheehan Jr. is an investor, investment adviser, writer, and public speaker. His website is AuContrarian.com. He is the author of Panderer to Power: The Untold Story of How Alan Greenspan Enriched Wall Street and Left a Legacy of Recession (McGraw-Hill, 2009) and co-author, with William A. Fleckenstein, of Greenspan's Bubbles: The Age of Ignorance at the Federal Reserve (McGraw-Hill, 2008). He writes regularly for Marc Faber's Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, most recently co-authoring with Joseph Calandro Jr. "Catastrophe Insured: Cat Bonds," (November 2013, GB&D Report). Sheehan and Calandro have designed a value-based, actively-managed, catastrophe-bond strategy. He serves as an advisor to investment firms and endowments. He is the former Director of Asset Allocation Services at John Hancock Financial Services. He lives in the Boston area.
Daily Bell: How did you evolve from a director of asset allocation services to a person who obviously sees through the investment charade?
Fred Sheehan: By the mid-1990s, distortions were growing more difficult to understand. The artificiality of jobs, for one. The hollowing out of the economy. The enormous layoffs of mid-level office workers at the beginning of that decade, auto companies, and the like, seemed like a hole where millions of mid-level workers had disappeared. I'd hear they had been earning a $70,000-a-year salary but now were scurrying for $40,000 a year. How could this work, support families?
I came to understand, by the huge increase in credit. It was interesting to me when I read FOMC transcripts from those years that Fed governor Larry Lindsey instructed the Greenspan Fed, at every meeting between roughly 1993 through 1995, at some length, that the average family was receiving less in cash pay, saving less, borrowing more. He even calculated on his own how the lower-income quintiles were falling behind. They couldn't make ends meet. Sub-prime lending was becoming the norm. He had some experience with sub-prime lending at an inner-city agency and kept telling the board that subprime lending requires a lot of handholding. It cannot be done on a large scale. Nobody listened, of course. The hot subprime lenders of the '90s collapsed in 1997. Lindsey had left by then. Greenspan, of course, remained.
This was, looking back now, after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had turned themselves into enormous consumers and producers of credit. The exponential growth of their balance sheets was essential to controlling the credit collapse of 1994. It was also the time when the Federal Reserve effectively eliminated reserve ratios for banks. "Anything goes," and so it went.
Daily Bell: You seem to be an Austrian economist at this point. Correct?
Fred Sheehan: I am inclined to believe the only formal economics taught in the past 80 years in the U.S. of any use were the "home economics" courses taught to high school girls many moons ago. I did not receive such training, but the Austrian economists are the only school that makes common sense.
The central teachings of Austrian economics are commonly understood. It is the hieroglyphics called "economics" at colleges today that is rubbish. It will join the ash heap of history.
The Austrians taught – and do teach, on isolated campuses – that an accumulation of debt in excess of what can be paid back has consequences, either in default or inflation. To someone dropping in from 1910, that might seem so fundamental, it isn't even worth mentioning. Oh, what that out-of-date relic has missed.
Second, Ludwig von Mises was right: "There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved." (Chapter XX: Interest, Credit Expansion, The Trade Cycle, § 8 , The Monetary or Circulation Theory of the Trade Cycle)
We may not have passed that point of no return in 2008, even though our recently retired Fed chairman, Simple Ben Bernanke, saved his skin by making that claim over and over. If not for his nationalizing America, he continually reminded us, "the world would have ended."
I think we have passed that point today. The central bank balance sheets absorbed enough bad paper (bonds, mortgages, CDOs, Maiden Lane) to assert the solvency of the world's banking system by 2009. Having done nothing to restore the foundations of banking over the past five years, the central banks are in no position to absorb the "final and total catastrophe." Their credit-ability is on borrowed time.
They did nothing because they are not economists, they are bureaucrats: the mammoth growth of the bureaucracy across the twentieth century shackled humanity, but never solved a single problem.
Daily Bell: Where do you see the stock market headed? Why?
Fred Sheehan: All asset markets are disengaged from their foundations. They have been elevated by governments and their central banks. Central banks have done so by prodding savers into stocks and bonds. They have set artificially low borrowing rates. These artificially low rates are the source of so many perversities that are not immediately evident but have fractured the structure of companies, industries and the stock market. With Treasury rates so low, the issuance of investment grade, junk, covenant lite, PIKs and almost every other category of sloppy finance that met its maker in 2007 set new world records in 2013. The present and future consequences should be obvious.
Regarding your question about stocks, U.S. stocks were up about 30% last year. U.S. stock market capitalization rose $13 trillion in 2013. On what? "Record earnings," we hear.
But sales growth was zip. Three reasons for this strange combination in 2013 were a lack of capital investment, the substitution of operating earnings for GAAP earnings and stock buybacks. These all boosted earnings-per-share.
Capital spending is zero or negative. The amount being spent on new equipment is probably less than the depreciation of old equipment. Without keeping up, companies rust. Andrew Smithers wrote in The Road to Recovery (2013) that in the U.S., since 2008, "the proportion of cash flow invested in capital equipment has been the lowest on record." (p. 18)
The substitution of operating earnings for GAAP earnings produces flattering P/E ratios. Wall Street rattles off operating earnings since these do not include one-time write-offs. It used to be that one-time write-offs were occasional. Now, companies are constantly admitting to asset write-downs. "Restructuring charges" are generally an admission that management has destroyed shareholder equity: mergers and acquisitions gone bad, terrible investments.
For such performance, management thinks it deserves stock-option payouts. To do so, the A team needs to get the share price up. Thus, the share buyback ritual. Management reduces the number of shares. This cuts the number of shares across which the earnings are spread. Ergo, earnings-per-share rises and Wall Street says "buy."
This is how it has worked: Investment-grade companies issued over $1 trillion of debt last year, 2013. The money has not gone into investment, but we know U.S. corporations have bought back $1 trillion worth of stock nearly every year since 2008. (Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, December 2013, p. 7, quoting Bill Gross) So what did companies do with all that borrowing?
In 2013, share buybacks accounted for 75% of the increase in S&P 500 earnings. (Andy Lees, 1/14/14, my notes from 2/5/14) In the third quarter alone, these companies bought back $128 billion of shares: the most for any quarter since 2007. (Wall Street Journal, December 24, 2013) (That reckless year, again.) Buybacks and dividends for the third quarter were $207 billion, also the highest in any quarter since 2007. (Wall Street Journal, December 24, 2013) Most every measure – price: sales, price: earnings – was higher at the end of 2013 than at the beginning.
Harry Singleton, who ran Teledyne for several decades, offered a casebook study of how to manage the number of common stock shares in existence. He bought shares back from the market when he gauged Teledyne stock was cheap. He sold more stock to the public when he thought it was expensive. Companies – and analysts – remain untutored on this point. Companies should buy back shares when they are undervalued, not overvalued, when the company is trading at an 8:1 P/E ratio, not 40:1.
None of the three practices I have discussed is sustainable: lack of capital spending, substitution of operating for GAAP earnings, or borrowing to reduce equity.
Daily Bell: Is the US stock market "rigged" to go up?
Fred Sheehan: The riggers have stated so. Adding a trillion dollars a year of Monopoly money to the financial system is one of their methods. Separating savings from the desperate is another. On the latter, we have their word. A couple of instances:
Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board (at the time) Donald Kohn, in October 2009: "[R]ecently the improvement, in risk appetites and financial conditions, in part responding to actions by the Federal Reserve and other authorities, has been a critical factor…. Low market interest rates should continue to induce savers to diversify into riskier assets, which would contribute to a further reversal in the flight to liquidity and safety that has characterized the past few years." (Donald Kohn, speech, October 2009)
Now, who decided the Federal Reserve, or anybody, should be prodding "risk appetites"? As I say, these are not economists; they are bureaucrats, and a bureaucrat's job is to sustain and grow the bureau. If I ran the country for a day, I'd put them all in Army boots and make them march across Afghanistan.
Here's another. New York Federal Reserve President William Dudley, in October 2010: "We have tools that can provide additional stimulus…. [P]urchases of long-duration assets [by the New York Fed will] pull down the level of long-term interest rates…. [L]ower long-term rates would support the value of assets, including houses and equities and household net worth." How might that help the economy? Dudley explained, by "boosting consumption in households that can refinance their mortgages at lower rates." In other words, borrowing home equity and splurging again.
Aside from Dudley's wand-waving and interference in our lives, he was wrong. The Fed bought up long-term bonds. In its latest round, QE3, it lost control of the long-term bond market. The 10-year Treasury rose from 1.4% on July 27, 2013, to 3% a few weeks ago. It's around 2.7% now. It has backed off from 3%, in my estimation, because the various carry trades, particularly those that have borrowed in yen, gold, and emerging markets are in trouble.
When the markets tumble, the cry follows: "There was no warning." But please note: The Fed has lost control of the long-term Treasury market.
Daily Bell: When did a financial system operated by a few for the benefit of a few turn into a system the support of which has become a national US priority?
Fred Sheehan: It is necessary to retain control. The economy is in a depression: Just look at median wages, costs of living (not calculated by the government). Costs are spiraling and the people are suffering. The QE nonsense helps to leverage speculators' positions, but not much else.
Daily Bell: Why is the system conflated with stability? Wouldn't people be better off if the system collapsed and people saw it for what it was?
Fred Sheehan: I am reluctant to say what makes people better off since nothing has done more damage to the West than the Progressive Movement and Reformers who decided they knew what was best for the people. I won't continue on that topic other than to note sandwiching the activities of two Princeton administrators, Woodrow Wilson and Simple Ben, could reduce an ungainly subject into a coherent thesis.
Back to your proposition, the financial system will collapse, not that it's a "system" any longer. The central planners are left with the need to continually expand credit to paper over the losses. When that ceases to work: "poof."
Daily Bell: We suggest this because the system is going to collapse anyway. Your thoughts?
Fred Sheehan: I think you are correct. It is filled with irreconcilable contradictions. Even if it is sometime off, one should prepare.
Daily Bell: Let's talk about John Maynard Keynes. Can you describe his theories?
Fred Sheehan: No. He is a mass of contradictions. He was a political opportunist of the highest order. Younger readers can learn a lot from his antics. That's how you make it to the top today.
His General Theory is difficult to understand. Benjamin Anderson, an economist of the first order, explained that Keynes' General Theory was slapdash journalism. (My description, not Anderson's.)
In Economics and the Public Welfare, he, the Good Ben (Anderson), as opposed to the Ben Who Got Away, wrote a chapter on Keynes, mostly about his General Theory. Keynes used economic terms and words through the book with different meanings in different chapters and did not reconcile – did not even mention – that he had used the same word with a different meaning earlier. Anderson also wrote how Keynes interchangeably mixes static and dynamic models to "prove" some point.
To take one term, following are different and unreconciled uses of "interest rate":
Early in General Theory Keynes writes the rate of interest can be identified with the "rate of time-discounting, that is, the ratio of exchange between present and future goods." (Benjamin Anderson, Economics and the Public Welfare, 1948, p. 348)
Later in General Theory Keynes writes "the rate of interest depends on liquidity preference and the quantity of money." Keynes also states (at this point) that interest is paid not for inducing men to save but for inducing men not to hoard."
A bit later, Keynes claims that "the supply of money in relation to liquidity preference will govern the whole complex of interest rates, long and short…" (Anderson, p. 394)
Plunging on, Keynes wrote the Fed's open-market policy in 1933 and 1934, a policy of only buying short-term securities, may have had the effect (quoting from General Theory) "confined to the very short-term rate of interest and have very little reaction on the much more important long-term rates of interest."
Anderson was lost as to the influence and success of the book. In Economics and the Public Welfare, Anderson thinks the consensus he heard in London was as good as any. That is, the British government's early management of The Great War accounted for Keynes's success: "England, in the first two and one half years of the war, had the terrible volunteer system under which her best and finest rushed first into the battlefield. And this included very many of the younger men and even men no longer young who would normally become, in a short time, the leaders of industry and finance." The result, "was that in the City in the middle 1920s you would find a few fine old veterans who remembered the ancient wisdom of London, and who would find their grandsons 'miseducated by Keynes.' "
This makes sense to me. In any case, the deterioration of thinking across the twentieth century (and counting) is a fact.
American Keynesians, which may or may not have much to do with Keynes, have used the label to increase monetary stimulus with no limit. Economics is a dreadful example of the deterioration of thinking. But again, the crop in control was not taught economics; it was trained to build its bureaucracies.
Now, one word about Keynes that may surprise readers. It at least surprised me. William McChesney Martin, head of the Fed from 1951-1971, and my hero among central bankers, kept a quote in his desk. It comes from John Maynard Keynes, spoken in 1948: "The U.S. is becoming a high cost, high living country." (Robert P. Bremner, Chairman of the Fed: William McChesney Martin Jr., 2004, p. 146)
Daily Bell: We think his system may have been set up as a deliberate fraud. In other words, it justifies state interference in the marketplace. He created his General Theory with this in mind. Your reaction?
Fred Sheehan: Keynes was a nationalist. In his autobiography, Felix Somary, and Austrian (later Swiss) economist, banker and diplomat, wrote of Keynes in the late 1920s: "He came to Berlin with a speech titled 'The End of Laissez-Faire', a lot of vulgarities that the [German] nationalists greeted with fervour….Keynes was English through and through, and his entire mind was influenced by the difficult situation his country was then going through….And now Keynes justified these" German critics of free trade "and shook the field of economics itself: the science of economics appeared to be merely a cover for temporary local economic policies." (Felix Somary, The Raven of Zurich, 1986; first translation in English, St. Martin's Press, p. 146)
In the German edition to the General Theory, Keynes added an introduction, with my underlining: "The theory of aggregated production, which is the point of the following book, nevertheless can be much easier adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state [eines totalen Staates] than the theory of production and distribution of a given production put forth under conditions of free competition and a large degree of laissez-faire. This is one of the reasons that justifies the fact that I call my theory a general theory. Since it is based on fewer hypotheses than the orthodox theory, it can accommodate itself all the easier to a wider field of varying conditions. Although I have, after all, worked it out with a view to the conditions prevailing in the Anglo-Saxon countries where a large degree of laissez-faire still prevails, nevertheless it remains applicable to situations in which state management is more pronounced. For the theory of psychological laws which bring consumption and saving into relationship with each other, the influence of loan expenditures on prices, and real wages, the role played by the rate of interest—all these basic ideas also remain under such conditions necessary parts of our plan of thought." (John Maynard Keynes, September 7, 1936, Foreword to General Theory, German edition.)
Daily Bell: Why doesn't the mainstream media explain this better?
Fred Sheehan: That is too complicated a question for a good answer, at least by me.
Laziness, certainly, is a reason. Living within its own fishbowl. Never leading, always following. Pressure from so many points on the compass. Defense Secretary James Schlesinger said, "The press can never rise above a cliché."
Really, it wouldn't take much for a newspaper to hire someone who knows how government numbers, such as GDP, unemployment, inflation, are constructed. Just subscribe to John Williams's ShadowStats. Today, every such announcement is an accumulation of misrepresentations that have built up for decades – in the authorities' favor, and in direct contradiction to the interests of the readers. Wouldn't the revelations make good copy?
And since I'm on the topic, wouldn't readers be more interested in reading how Bernanke, Yellen, or all those other awful people running and ruining our lives just made an announcement in direct contradiction to what they stated three months ago? It wouldn't even have to be a story. Just cut-and-paste quotes on the front page. Readers would love to have a good laugh at the phonies' expense.
Daily Bell: You've written, "The stock market is a mood ring for faith in the Fed." What did you mean?
Fred Sheehan: The stock market rises and falls depending on the degree to which those who invest and speculate believe the Fed is in control. The leverage is so tremendous now, and the collateral has been rehypothecated so many times, some of the participants have no idea how to get it back. Art Cashin at UBS, who's been as close to the market as anyone over the past 50 years, wrote on February 5 that, "The carry trade is unwinding upon speculators who have little or even zero equity as margin." This is a faith-based market.
Daily Bell: Ben Bernanke recently told an audience at the Brookings Institute: "[T]he markets currently seem to be broadly within the metrics of market valuation – valuation seems to be broadly within historical ranges. The financial system is strong. The key financial institutions are well-capitalized." What is wrong with Mr. Bernanke? Doesn't he understand what he's done?
Fred Sheehan: I doubt it, but my opinion of what rolls around that tiny brain is unimportant.
A very brief history of this simple man from which readers can make their own judgments: He was born in Dillon, South Carolina. This only child won the seventh-grade South Carolina spelling bee championship. He received praise for delivering the correct answers. He was good at test-taking. He matriculated to Harvard, majored in economics, and graduated in 1975. Harvard's reputation is inversely related to the distance from where one was raised. To Ben, graduating from Harvard meant he had been anointed. He talks much more often of himself as a "policy maker" than as an "economist." He should have gone back to Dillon, South Carolina and ruined his hometown but left the rest of alone. What a mess he's made!
Back to the seventies. Nothing the economists were selling worked. They were a joke. A student at Harvard Business School (at that time) told me you could get a room rocking with laughter by saying "Phillips curve." There was a flight from the Harvard and MIT economics departments to remote and less humiliating campuses, such as Texas. The late-1970s was a difficult job market for a college grad. This created an incentive to remain at school, but to find a godfather who would sponsor a student for a doctoral thesis in economics was difficult. The professors in such a position got the pick of the litter. They chose those students who were good test-takers, those who took careful notes in class and regurgitated them on exams. The favored few not only repeated what they were told, but also, the combination is key – those whose minds were content with life as it is engraved in a textbook. The students produced by M.I.T., Harvard and a few other sources of agitprop, include most of the names who figure most prominently in the roster of "policymakers." They have never been correct about anything.
I'm not talking now just of the Fed or economics; the mediocrity covers the range of "experts."
Bernanke has never gotten anything right. He would not know that, however. One of his doctoral advisers at M.I.T. was Stanley Fischer, vice chairman presumptive of the Federal Reserve Board.
Bear Stearns had been purchased by J.P. Morgan on March 16, 2008. Stanley Fischer was running the Bank of Israel at the time. Fischer was interviewed by Bloomberg on March 17, 2008. This looked very much like a coach revving up a demoralized team during halftime. Bear Bryant among central bankers. He offered Ben Bernanke advice: "You can inject liquidity into the economy and Ben Bernanke is an expert on this issue." Later: "That the Fed will get on top of this, I don't doubt." And: "Ben Bernanke is an outstanding economist." Go, team.
In the late-1970s, Fischer wrote papers that anticipated the inflationary endgame. The game continues. In the 1990s, while at the IMF, he wrote a paper that spoke kindly of a negative 8% interest rate. Ben has undoubtedly been told by his adviser what a swell job he has done. Stanley Fischer started buying U.S. common stocks for the Bank of Israel in 2013. Go, team.
So, to get back to your question: No, I doubt Ben has considered the possibility of miscalculation.
Yet he has been unerringly and exactly wrong in how each of his QEs would work. But, from the coach: "Ben Bernanke is an outstanding economist." Fischer was also adviser to Mario Draghi and Greg Mankiw. Mervyn King sat in the adjoining cubicle to Bernanke.
This is depressing. I'm stopping here.
Simple Ben is now at the Brookings Institution. These well-regarded institutions have shown no awareness of their precarious standing. This goes for the media, too.
When the inflation endgame comes a cropper, an accumulation of pent-up frustration and anger will attenuate their influence and threaten their existence.
Daily Bell: You've written that JP Morgan has a $71 trillion derivatives book. Is it sustainable?
Fred Sheehan: As long as the emperor wears no clothes. Any time J.P. Morgan's derivative book moves by 10 basis points, it has absorbed the firm's capital. How many times a day does that happen? As I say, it will go on until it doesn't.
Daily Bell: You've written of Bernanke that he "remains completely unaware (otherwise, he would not have reminisced in such an affable manner) that he was the master cylinder for the car crash. Yes, Alan Greenspan laid the foundation, the brickwork, and the decrepit plumbing, but Bernanke built the structure with plywood." What did you mean by this?
Fred Sheehan: Greenspan caused the credit bubble. He is the man. Not Lloyd Blankfein or Jamie Dimon. They are irresponsible, but without the Federal Reserve's money creation under Greenspan, the banks could not have fostered the credit bubble and Jamie Dimon would be running a Greek pizza joint on 8th Avenue now.
Daily Bell: You've actually written a book about Greenspan, Greenspan's Bubbles: The Age of Ignorance at the Federal Reserve. Can you tell us about it?
Fred Sheehan: It will take some time before the book is understood, but the ascendancy and influence of Alan Greenspan is the central illustration of the end of the modern age. That age has now passed.
I will borrow the first paragraph from a speech I delivered: "Alan Greenspan was the right Federal Reserve chairman for his times. His reputation was a creation of inflation, and this was a century of inflation. His knowledge was superficial when America tended toward superficiality. He was a creation of publicity in an age that craved celebrities. He was inarticulate at a time when minds were growing more confused. He took short cuts to the top when Americans more readily took the easy route."
Alan Greenspan, the man, is not interesting. It is his capacity to illuminate the passing of the modern age, from the material to the abstract, that makes the book worth reading.
Daily Bell: We believe that the globalists who want a more international world are trying to drive the stock market still higher. They want one last Wall Street Party before a chaotic blow off that sets the stage for world money and a worldwide central bank. Your perspective?
Fred Sheehan: The globalists will be sorely disappointed. You are probably correct in what they want. The opposite is happening. We are in a period of disintegration. For instance, the Eurocrats have so abused any trust – any willingness among the people to sacrifice to the greater good – that their only future is to be filleted and served alongside a plate of Brussels sprouts.
The globalists are aligned with vast bureaucracies filled with the sort of self-satisfied, test-taking, personally ambitious, know-nothings who only serve their own interests. They have no sense of duty, honor, self-sacrifice, all of which are necessary to achieve what they wish. They will crumble.
Daily Bell: When this market unwinds will derivatives go with it?
Fred Sheehan: We don't need derivatives, except to hedge maybe some basic materials such as corn or gold.
Derivatives are the greatest propaganda device ever devised for the propagation of central banking and Too-Big-to-Fail Banks. The possibility of a derivative avalanche is like the Giant Rat of Sumatra, in the Sherlock Holmes oeuvre: "a story for which the world is not yet prepared."
In 2008, the parties who were mismatched or on the losing end of a derivative arrangement could have been told to sit down and cancel out exposures. What was left, and still exposed, would have needed more capital. If it was General Electric, GE could have issued 10 billion shares of stock. Lord knows, that's the last thing GE wanted to do. As David Stockman makes clear in The Great Deformation, the government's bailout of GE was for the greater good of Jeff Immelt's stock options. If GE still could not clear itself from insolvency, it had valuable assets that financially sound industrial companies would have bought. This goes for Too-Big-To-Fail banks, too. They had plenty of valuable assets in their portfolios that could have been sold, while the institutions were liquidated. We don't need huge banks. We need local banks that know local businesses.
Derivatives are a topic Simple Ben Bernanke was never prepared to discuss, and, he never addressed them. Read through, if you have the time and stomach, Bernanke's explanations of Lehman Brothers' and AIG's drama.
Here he is before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) on November 17, 2009: "Two days [after Lehman's failure], AIG, again, we felt that its failure would threaten the stability of the global financial system. Among other things, they had as counterparties many of the world's largest bank financial institutions, many of the world's largest banks." (FCIC Transcript, November 17, 2009)
Here is the moldy prof before the students of George Washington U. on March 28, 2012: "[N]ow, the failure of AIG in our estimation would have been basically the end. It was interacting with so many different firms. It was so interconnected with both the U.S. and the European financial systems, global banks."
No one had caught up with the imposter. He signed off in January 2014 with the same "it would have been the end of the world" if I hadn't saved it. Your question arises, again, about the media's lack of interest when there is such an obvious, and simple, story to engage the public's perplexity and anger.
The derivatives were sold by AIG's Financial Products Division, a holding company of AIG. AIG's insurance policies were not the least bit endangered. Bernanke told the FCIC the "reason AIG was set up the way it was originally, the financial products division, which did the CDS, attached itself precisely because it was a large, highly-rated insurance company with lots of assets…. It was precisely because of that reason when [AIG] financial products [division] had to sell – had to come up with the collateral – and was facing a run on its positions, that the Fed – that there existed the collateral, the assets that the Fed could lend against." [My italics – FJS]
Not one word of this is true. There was no run on AIG's collateral since the collateral was entirely separated from the holding company. And derivatives remain the Giant Rat of Sumatra.
Daily Bell: Is central banking close to extinction?
Fred Sheehan: I hesitate because it is hard to separate the wish from the fact, but they could not have done a better job of setting themselves up for elimination. Their credit-ability is all that's left.
Daily Bell: Is the Internet making it harder for elites to promote their worldview and practice their manipulations?
Fred Sheehan: I don't know. We like to think because the source of news is no longer so centralized, that such publications as The Daily Bell are the fax of the 21st century. (Faxes from Eastern Europe in 1989 were often the source of truth during the uprisings.) But, I wonder if we are writing to ourselves. As I said before, that bunch is doing itself in. The sort of people who have gravitated to globalcrat positions will defend their personal benefit package to the final G-20 love-in.
Daily Bell: Will the 21st century excavate itself from this merciless, monopolist central banking system?
Fred Sheehan: Let me reword this into the question of whether the currencies we use will remain monopolies of the state.
I do not think so. You had an excellent interview with Larry Parks on this subject to which I can add nothing.
Daily Bell: If so, how so? Via a gold standard of some sort?
Fred Sheehan: I am sure gold will be a medium of exchange when fiat currency fails. But how that might be written into law, I do not know.
Daily Bell: Thank you.
Well, talk about "telling it like it is"! This is a merciless interview, as Fred Sheehan is remorseless about truth-telling when it comes to the US economy. Here at High Alert, we prize this sort of approach. In fact, the more we watch the system in action, the more astonished we become.
We've been writing about John Maynard Keynes recently. There is nothing about Keynes, for instance, that makes much sense (in a real-world context) and his historical profile has surely been obscured on purpose by academic apologists. It seems more and more obvious to us as we read about Keynes and see his theories put into practice that he wrote his General Theory mainly to provide governments with the justification to interfere with economies.
People forget that Keynes worked directly in central banking as a young man. Apologists might claim that Keynes never expected his theories would be applied as they have been, but given his background, his explanations and predictions (flawed as they are) make perfect sense.
When you begin an economic treatise without ever explaining how a downturn happens, except to attribute a drop in "animal spirits," anything else that comes out of this theory is bound to be questionable.
And it is. Because there is a decline in "spirits," the "government" must step in to "stimulate." All of this exceptionally muzzy and undefined. What modern academics have done is to overlay this pabulum with econometric analysis that makes an essentially illogical theory indecipherable as well.
And yet, incredibly, Keynes's General Theory underpins the world's economic system. Keynesian analyses are the currency of the business pages and university lectures. Hundreds of millions in the West and increasingly in Asia speak with faux-wisdom about financial applications that have little or nothing to do with the real world as a result.
It's like a mass psychosis, though in the 21st century it is perhaps less persuasive than in the 20th. That's in large part thanks to the Internet. Our modern Internet is populated by (among others) people like Sheehan who can eloquently, if brutally, dissect the accepted wisdom.
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