PART 1/4 – FREE MARKET?
First off, let’s set the scene.
The stock market is telling you nothing about the real economy anymore.
Economic fundamentals have never mattered as little for the stock market as has been the case during this 11-year bull market.
The correlation between gross-domestic-product growth and the direction of the S&P 500 Index has only been 7% in this cycle – historically it has been 30% to 70%.
Well, it is the Central Banks, led by the Fed, who printed their way out of the Recession in ’08.
In doing so, they have papered over the cracks, and we have seen the longest economic expansion in US history.
However, this is not a particularly meritocratic process: money creation itself increases inequality via the Cantillon Effect, as money printing leads to asset price inflation, which disproportionately benefits the rich and hurts the poor.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker told the New York Times in 2018:
“The central issue is we’re developing into a plutocracy. We’ve got an enormous number of enormously rich people that have convinced themselves that they’re rich because they’re smart and constructive.”
The reality of course is that this is largely not the case – it is because the game is rigged in their favour.
Now, it is important to emphasise the fact that the path we have taken has resulted in the highest living standards we have seen in human history.
However, the issue, particularly since the US completely abandoned the gold standard in 1971, is that debt has exploded to obscene levels.
We are not operating in a free market if it takes $185 trillion of debt over the last 20 years to create ‘growth’.
In fact, the global debt to GDP ratio hit an all-time high of 322% in the third quarter of 2019.
Inflation means that your dollar loses value and thus your purchasing power goes down.
Deflation means that the value of your dollar goes up and your purchasing power goes up.
That’s a good thing right? You get more goods and services for less.
If you have deflation, debt explodes in real terms and you can never pay it back.
As the economy is based on debt, if you allow deflation, then you have to reset the debt.
This is why central banks fear deflation so much.
However, the major force driving the human race is technological progress – and this stops for no mortal…
PART 2/4 – TECHNOLOGICAL DEFLATION:
The increased abundance created by technology will result in massive job losses.
Throughout history, doom porn enthusiasts have screamed that the machines are coming for jobs. This is not a new phenomenon.
All technological revolutions are deflationary – since they create “supply side shocks”, meaning that they allow for more intensive use of resources and thus higher production. With more goods being produced, all other things being equal, the price of those goods will fall.
In the last 20 years or so, software has disrupted and replaced many established goods and services.
It is in the next 20 years that another disruptive technology is set to take the stage: AI
According to Steve Schwarzman, the co-founder and CEO of The Blackstone Group who has a net worth of $17.6BN:
“This is going to touch everyone’s life….you’re not going to be able to get away from this technology”
Moreover, this virus will only accelerate this trend towards tech. Zoom is a fantastic example of exactly this.
Old legacy economic systems were not built for this tech deflation, and the thing about exponential growth is that we humans do not intuitively understand it.
As an example, if you folded a piece of paper 51 times, of course you can only fold it seven times, but if you could fold it 51 times, it would reach the Sun!
PART 3/4 – IMPLICATIONS FOR SOCIETY:
The question is: how does this play out?
In the long term, it is the fundamental structure of the economic system that has a significant impact on people’s lives, not who is President for 4 to 8 years.
In reality, politicians have limited power and are effectively all puppets. We have seen what happens when a President doesn’t stay in their lane…
One could argue that the two main mechanisms of control are:
Divide and Conquer and
As we have seen many times in the past, herd psychology is worryingly easy to manipulate…
Speaking of the censorship, in his book Antifragile, Nassim Taleb discusses the anti fragility of information.
Information feeds more on attempts to harm it than it does on efforts to promote it.
A fantastic example of this process is what has happened with London Real: they were banned on LinkedIn and David Icke’s interview was censored. Now, regardless of what you think of this particular channel or your thoughts on David Icke and the theories provided, censoring information in this way actually spreads it more virally.
It’s fascinating to observe how many views the videos regarding the bans and censorship have relative to the others. And the impact this has had on subscribers.
It is always easier to blame a bigger enemy (or create a new one) rather than to admit it’s a structural problem.
Therefore, you avoid short term pain…whatever the cost.
The real question is if and when this situation will lead to social unrest…
PART 4/4 – INTELLECTUAL CAPITALISM:
The depth and width of jobs impacted by AI will continue to increase in the future.
Now this will not necessarily happen straight away.
However, our transition from commodity capitalism to intellectual capitalism is inevitable and the people and nations who fight against this trend will be on the wrong side of history.
From a practical investment perspective, and disclaimer this is not investment advice, network effects are a crucial aspect to consider moving forwards.
Essentially, this means that the value of the network increases with each additional user – all of the tech monopolies have exhibited this property.
An asset which could in time demonstrate very strong network effects is Bitcoin.
Looking at the market cap relative to other asset classes, Bitcoin provides an asymmetric investment opportunity.
Only time will tell…