Warnings from Mount Vesuvius

“Injustice, swift, erect, and unconfin’d,
Sweeps the wide earth, and tramples o’er mankind” – Homer, The Iliad

When Mount Vesuvius Blew

Everything was just the way it was supposed to be in Pompeii on August 24, 79 A.D.  The gods had bestowed wealth and abundance upon the inhabitants of this Roman trading town.  Things were near perfect.

The lucky residents of Pompeii lived in large homes with elegant courtyard gardens and all the modern conveniences.  Rooms were heated by hot air flowing through cavity walls and spaces under the floors.  Running water was provided to the city from a great reservoir and conveyed through underground pipelines to houses and public buildings.

Fresh fish from the Bay of Naples were readily available in the Macellum (great food market) and countless cauponae (small restaurants).  Entertainment was on hand at the large amphitheatre.  Life was agreeable, affable, and idyllic for all – and it was only getting better.  Everyone just knew it.  They could feel it.  They believed it. Continue reading

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How to Stick It to Your Banker, the Federal Reserve, and the Whole Doggone Fiat Money System

Somehow, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke found time from his busy hedge fund advisory duties last week to tell his ex-employer how to do its job.  Namely, he recommended to his former cohorts at the Fed how much they should reduce the Fed’s balance sheet by.  In other words, he told them how to go about cleaning up his mess.

We couldn’t recall the last time we’d seen or heard from Bernanke.  But soon it all came back to us.  There he was, in the flesh, babbling on Bloomberg and Squawk Box, pushing the new paperback version of his mistitled memoir “The Courage to Act.”  Incidentally, the last time we’d heard much out of the guy was when the hard copy was released in late 2015.

With respect to the Fed’s balance sheet, Bernanke remarked that the Fed should cut it from $4.5 trillion to “something in the vicinity of $2.3 to $2.8 trillion.”  What exactly this would achieve Bernanke didn’t say.  As far as we can tell, a balance sheet of $2.8 trillion would still be about 300 percent higher than it was prior to the 2008 financial crisis. Continue reading

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The Coming Debt Reckoning

American workers, as a whole, are facing a disagreeable disorder.  Their debt burdens are increasing.  Their incomes are stagnating.

There are many reasons why.  In truth, it would take several large volumes to chronicle all of them.  But when you get down to the ‘lick log’ of it all, the disorder stems from decades of technocratic intervention that have stripped away any semblance of a free functioning, self-correcting economy.

The financial system circa 2017, and the economy that supports it, has been stretched to the breaking point.  Shortsighted fiscal and monetary policies have propagated it.  The result is a failing financial order that has become near intolerable for all but the gravy supping political class and their cronies.

Take consumer spending.  This is the primary driver of the U.S. economy.  Yet it requires vast amounts of credit.  In fact, American consumers presently hold $1 trillion in revolving credit.  At the same time, they have nowhere near the income needed to finance these debts, let alone pay them off. Continue reading

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Ludwig von Mises’s Century of Validation

It has been said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  No one quite knows who first uttered this remark; it has been attributed to Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, and even an Ancient Chinese Proverb.  What is known is that this cliché has been repeated over and over again so often that its mere mention substantiates its own definition.

Nonetheless, we repeat it again because it’s particularly fitting to today’s contemplations.  Here we begin with a look back to the past in search of edification.  For the miscalculations of the past continue to dictate the insanity of the present.

Many years ago, for example, a bright minded and well intentioned Italian pursued a devious undertaking.  His efforts were to conceive a pure theory of a socialist economy.  His objective was to take the sordid teachings of Marx and pencil out the mechanics of how a centrally planned economy could bring a life of security and abundance for all.  What follows is an approximation of how the dirty deed went down. Continue reading

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