Earlier this week, I asked readers to submit their opinions as to which of our articles have made the most difference in their lives – and would be suitable for submission in annual “column writing” competitions.
So to start the year off, here’s a recent article from our subscriber side, www.peoplenomics.com where we deal quite seriously with the future before-it-gets-here.
The accompanying reader email says it all.
The article below was from this month’s Peoplenomics.
Best insight I’ve seen in 25 years (bold). I had a paradigm shift within 5 seconds of reading and haven’t looked at the world the same since. It completely reframed and re-ordered my priorities for 2016, with the first priority being to connect with people face-to-face and genuinely listen to them. Christmas was different this year for me because of this shift.
Thank You for sharing. You made a difference, again.
Keep up the great work and good luck with the technical issues out there.
Doug only included a part of this Peoplenomics report. Here (minus the charts and transient analysis) is the “Focus” section from Issue #744-B,l Dec. 15, 2015. Enjoy.
7 Billion Ants and One Gorilla
We begin this morning with the deepest ponder of them all:
“What is the mood of the crowd preceding the arrival of a Great Crash?”
The mindset is important and perhaps somewhat elusive. It involves stepping back from the currently prevailing mindset and looking at things as though a new paradigm has just landed and we may be among the first to see it…
Now, about those ants and the gorilla:
There is an old joke that can be set up one of two ways:
1. “Where do 7-billion ants go?”
2. “Where does an 800-pound gorilla go?”
The answer to the first one is “Anywhere they want” and the answer to the second one is “Anywhere he wants.”
And that’s the problem of trying to be a rational investor in today’s economy.
In a more normal world (and this one isn’t even in the running for that), a person would take government policy, current economic data, have a look at the quality of money, how fast it is being created, and be able to make a fairly intelligent guess as to what’s going to happen next.
In our case, since we base so much of our work on what has occurred in previous major economic events, it is only natural to look (however briefly) at the quality of human endeavor which was floating about at the time.
In the lead-in to the 1920’s lead-in to the Great Depression, for example, the country had been undergoing a massive population migration.
I have mentioned this many times over the years, but the format for the Depression set-up going into the 1930’s was this massive migration in America from being a rural / agrarian economy, into being an industrial economy.
This was largely due to the introduction of the automobile, light trucks, and the evolution of the “traction engine” which in today’s world we call a “tractor.”
When the 20th Century began (e.g. 1900), virtually all American industrial effort was aimed at two things: Providing people an evolving supply of a stable food supply and distribution chain. And, along with that, providing for the tools to expand “conquering” the American countryside.
There were new technologies back then, including (and especially) Radio – and the Radio Trust was one of the high-flyers on the stock market. The other core “new industries” were doing very well. There was the auto industry with Ford and the assortment of brands that had already become one under the banner “General Motors.”
Excuse the long quote from the Wikipedia entry on G.M., but this is terribly important stuff to keep in mind over the next year, or two:
“GM’s headquarters were located in Flint until the mid-1920s when it was moved to Detroit. Its building, originally to be called the Durant Building, was designed and began construction in 1919 when Durant was president, was completed in 1923. Alfred P. Sloan became president that year, and the building was officially dedicated as the General Motors Building in 1929. GM maintained this headquarters location, now called Cadillac Place, until it purchased the Renaissance Center in 1996. The Buick Division headquarters remained in Flint until 1998 when it was relocated to the Renaissance Center.
(extract abbreviated – see the whole entry on GM here.)
The Quest for a Modern Analog
In attempting to see how and where the modern analog to the last Depression could play out, I think we need to pause for one more ingredient to toss into this morning’s “breakfast scramble.”
That would be the huge MIGRATION of people.
Prior to the arrival of the traction engine (tractors), it was widely-held that at least 7-million acres of land in America was devoted to the maintenance of the draft animals that powered most farms. (Ely, R.T. Northwestern Univ. “Hard Times: The Way In, the Way Out,”1934)
Donkeys and draft horses were more than just centerpieces as the Bud Clydesdales. They were what pulled the ice trucks, created a mess on big city streets as they carried out commercial deliveries. The big ones were 19-hands tall.
And – most important of all – they provided for a very large portion of the country’s economic activity. There were all kinds of draft animal-related products. Things like harnesses and the fabled “buddy whips” – all of which were real, necessary, and provided employment.
But as the need for grazing animals declined (displaced by outfits like International Harvester and Allis-Chalmers equipment), huge masses of humans began to migrate FROM the small family farm and TO the big cities looking for meaningful work.
It didn’t take long for things to get out of whack.
In the latter part of the 1920’s, the Fed began tinkering with the discount rate, raising it because they feared a runaway economy.
As the Fed meets today (Dec. 15) to ponder raising the rates, which they are likely to bump up by a quarter point, they will be doing nothing more than re-enacting the run-in to the all-time stock market bubble top that checked in September 3, 1929.
From there, it was all down-hill until long term rates his the 1% range (measured by the discount rate) during the darkest hours of World War II – in 1942.
So where is our modern analog to all this? It’ is indeed a worthy question. But the cyclical view of economics has a ready answer.
1. (And here’s where we get to the key insight in this morning’s discussion): The time from the invention of the traction engines and other drivers of the massive displacement , was on the order of 25-30 years.
We can see this by simply inspecting the founding dates of so many auto and farm equipment companies.
If we use 1905 and 1931 (the completion of the first major move down in the Great Depression) we see it is 26-years.
When we look at the period when us early-adopters of personal computers were buying our first Compaq’s and HP-110C’s, we can see the leading wave starting in 1983-1985. However the first really widespread penetration of the PC’s into the marketplace was actually later.
I like to use 1990 as a good starting date and 26-years on top of that would put us into 2016.
2. That leads to the second major point in our chat today: Where is the migration?
Well, one of the reasons that I like to get out and roll around the countryside a bit (and it’s the kind of insight into humans that can’t be had sitting in the isolation that is our ranch out in the hinterlands of the East Texas Outback) you need to be with humans, then go away for a while, and then come back and look at them again. (Humans shape-shift.)
I must be thicker than a brick, because I saw the mass migration that I had been missing when Elaine and I were sitting at dinner downstairs here at the gambling emporium (in Shreveport, LA.).
A group of 4-men had come in to eat. They were sitting together and since it was a bar, I watched them to see what they would drink. (Beer.)
But as they were drinking their cold ones, something else happened – they migrated!
Right, then, Poof! They all hauled out their phones in unison and for the next 15-minutes while their food (one cheeseburger, a chicken-friend steak, and so on) was being prepared, they hardly spoke a word..
They had gone into Virtual Land.
“By God, George, you’ve had it all wrong…” Reader Insert: You aren’t the only one George.
The light came on! I recognized, at long last, where the massive migration analog had gotten to:
Oh, sure, the Obama administration has been acting out a huge portion of the 1920’s migration dynamic by hauling into America as fast as possible through the leaky border program and wanting to bring in people who want to kill us.
But there is a keen insight here into where the real, economically fundamental migration has been: People have moved their psychological being into this new realm of virtual
Mapping the New Dynamic of Collapse
It has long been held that history doesn’t really repeat itself, but it sure as hell rhymes loudly, on occasion. (Mark Twain, I think it was.)
So here’s how the mapping could be penciled in:
1920’s: New Core Technology: Internal Combustion Engines, Radio
2000’s: New Core Technology: Networked Computers, wireless phones
1920’s: Huge population migration: From farms to cities.
2000’s: From physical locations into a Virtual World.
1920’s: Fed discount rate increases: August 4, 1927, February 1, 1928, April 23, 1928, and July 19, 1928. The Fed then held rates until the 50 BPS decline in 1930 after the Depression had already begun to set it.
2000’s: In my work, the current week is analogous to June 7, 1928. the modern Fed has missed a total of three opportunities to raise rates, but what they did instead was attempt to “jawbone” the markets into compliance.
As of today’s Fed meeting, we are in-between the April 23, 1928 rate hike and the July 1928 increase.
Therefore, as our charts help us to understand and possibly draw some possible futures, we might reasonably expect today’s (expected) rate hike to be the ONLY rate increase before things hit the fan in late 2016 to mid 2017, if not earlier.
This may seem extraneous at this hour, but I believe as events unfold, having this important background will help you understand what could be coming down the road.
For one, we may already be seeing the slowing of the population migration dynamics. One reason is that although in the “new virtual lands” there is only so much revenue that can be derived from App Building.
This is somewhat like the early days of the Internet, and before that, the earlier evolution of a zillion and one programs to fit on the long-ago personal computer platform.
While lots of apps might seem like they might make sense, there is a fundamental problem which few bother to ask. Write this one down:
“Is this App providing me with a service than I can’t live without?”
In other words, if you are driving part-time for Uber or Lyft,. then sure, the Smartphone plug-ins and apps that provide for payment processing are necessary and useful. But take away the payment portals and what’s left?
Can you get along without the daily subscription to an astrology outlook, or other similarly near-useless head-space? You bet!
There is one exception of this, of course: And that is the immersive worlds/ networked virtual reality space.
We have talked about the long-term aspect of lowering consumptive demand elsewhere in past Peoplenomics reports. For example, our discussion of micro housing.
To be sure, this is almost certainly likely to be a long-term trend: Humans will eventually enjoy the option of living in a virtual world or out here in the physical one.
In the meantime, though, we are into a very bumpy period because we have some major paradigm collisions to work through.
And we will see how they work out, as soon as we get through today’s Fed meeting.
The rest of the headlines?
Well, if my assessment of history and the replay we seem to be in is correct, the only thing that matters is who will be the next “President Hoover?”
Waiting for Hoover II
Herbert Hoover took office in January of 1929, having won the 1928 presidential election. Although the “lag-time” between election and the onset of the Great Depression was on the order of 10-months in the Great Depression, my expectation is that the onset of the Greater Depression will come a bit sooner, but not before we make it through the presidential cycle we’re now in. That is characterized by “optimism.”
That’s why, when a read stories like this one about currently evolving financial problems for three financial firms, I don’t get too worked up over it.
When you have 7-Billion Ants, or One Gorilla, it takes huge events to derail where things seems to be heading.
So toward that end, we continue to hold that a massive economic collapse won’t come until after the 2016 elections and more likely into the spring of 2017 when a terrible presidential misfortune should arrive to trigger the Greater Depression.
When it does, as in the 1930’s and its aftermath, we are likely to look back at the modern migratory analogs and judge ourselves stupid and foolish for not seeing things in greater detail and perspective at the time.
But that’s OK with me: This is one of those periods when “thinking the unthinkable” is actually somewhat reassuring if not downright comforting.
But here’s the biggie: What are we going to do with the physical world when all the virtuals return from their sojourns into the lands of Smartphones the 2017-2020 timeframe?
And what will be the breakthrough paradigm to slow the exit and to till the soil for the next migration into virtual reality – a vastly expanded opportunity compared to the two-dimensional space which we are presently confined to in the Virtual Lands where the first off-planet migration of human thought has taken us…
As we stalk the future in our Peoplenomics.com work (more serious and thoughtful than our early-morning reports on UrbanSurvival), the data has continued to pour in.
This morning’s flooding on the middle Mississippi had its analog with flooding in 1927.
Pardon this Wikipedia quote, but again, this is important to keep in mind:
The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States, with 27,000 square miles inundated up to a depth of 30 feet. To try to prevent future floods, the federal government built the world’s longest system of levees and floodways.
Ninety-four percent of the more than 630,000 people affected by the flood lived in the states of Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, most in the Mississippi Delta. More than 200,000 African Americans were displaced from their homes along the Lower Mississippi River and had to live for lengthy periods in relief camps. As a result of this disruption, many joined the Great Migration from the South to northern and midwestern industrial cities rather than return to rural agricultural labor.  This massive population movement increased from World War II until 1970.
If we are indeed replaying this bit of meteorological history, then we should expect to see rains in our part of East Texas to decline from the 70-inches of rainfall experienced in 2015, to half that within five years.
History says it has happened before. And frankly, we’re due according to the economic replay.
That’s because we had the great Dust Bowl of the 1930’s arriving after the 1927 floods..
As my friend (and Elliott Wave sage ) Robin Landry notes: “What tips a Recession into a major Depression is Drought.”
Knowing of these possible “fits” we can set a large number of “expectation points.” How well will events go around this time referenced to the previous cycle of human affairs? It remains to be seen, but we can look for expected events.
More became apparent in this week’s Peoplenomics report as we compared the rate of growth of various European countries with their stock market performances since 2009. Immigration and stock market growth is highly correlated.
That exercise revealed another Truth that somehow isn’t in the headlines: Migrations are how governments create growth. Lacking organic growth, import bodies to create demand-push.
An inference arises that terrorism and migrations have been the only major sectors of economies to grow lately.
China is in steep decline, for example. In fact, if you zoom out to the maximum on this chart of the Hang Seng index, you’ll find a convincing argument that China’s growth likely peaked in 2007. Same as ours.
It is therefore not at all surprising that Germany has received the most migrants of the major European countries and, thus, has experienced the most euphoric market.
This fact has not been lost on the professional politician class: They have sighted the New Temporary Reality: Immigration Equals Growth. And, except for the fact that the growth is of a cancerous sort that doesn’t wish to assimilate, it might be a workable scheme. But only for a while…
But it’s not…and our future has been bartered away by the Pelosi’s and Ryan’s of this world, more interested in power than history; as expediency runs rampant as a massive topping formation builds in markets. So comes the end of Grand Super-Cycle Five.
One of these days, I should collect all the great economic insights into how the world operates and put them in a handbook.
It isn’t needed now, but like old issues of Mother Earth News, the time to study certain great lessons of the farm, of history, and of human behavioral economics will be along.
As we begin the New Year, we are what I’d call the “Tainter Point” – so named after the work of anthropologist Joseph Tainter in his book “the Collapse of Complex Societies.”
The main idea of his work (and similar perspectives appear in Jared Diamond’s works, as well) is that when marginal rate of return on additional effort of a civilization falls below zero (for a long-enough time), people simply “walk-out” on society.
Which is why the Anasazi are no longer dominant in the American Southwest.
In order to understand (and invest wisely in) the future, we first need a sense of where we have been, and where we are going. Add to that: a critical search for how we are repeating the errors of our forefathers.
Here’s one last gift from Peoplenomics subscribers, although if you were seriously interested in economic future-stalking you’d be one.
It is simply today’s date equivalence to the last Depression.
Welcome to June 21, 1928.
While a fabulous stock bubble should appear between now and election time this fall, remember it’s all been done before.
In early 2001, a colleague and I wrote a paper on the idea that a currency would collapse when it had lost all but a few percent of its value. We pegged the regression at 83-years maximum, but based on our current studies, it looks like it will be 88-89 years.
How could we have anticipated the “instant industry” of “Terrorism” which is now a massive economic stimulus? Or, how could be have anticipated that there would be a global wink-wink, nudge-nudge to move huge populations around in order that greedy EU bureaucrats would be able to retire with fat lifelong benefits at age 55? The result is Eurabia.,
Still, all cycles end.
If you had a $100 bill in 1913, by 2015 it would have taken $2,394.74 to hold onto equivalent purchasing power based on monetary inflation. There’s simply that much money that has been “made-up” to account for
Put the other way around, today’s “dollar” holds only 4.1758% of its 1913 purchasing power. That is before taking into account the 6.2% increase in the money supply (at M2, seasonally adjusted) during 2015.
In Thursday’s column I referred you to the S&P 500 as a decent proxy for markets: Where was it at this time a year go? 2,058.90.
The S&P ended 2015 at 2,43.94.
At some point, the public will wake up to the fact of lower markets (and that’s before the additional 6% haircut due to watering down the money!) and they’ll be pissed.
But not yet. A 20% rally is being planned.
The Obama administration is importing as many people as possible in order to “create demand” yet no one is being forthright. The underlying behavioral economics are a secret in plain sight.
In the same vein, the federal government continues to prosecute the fledgling marijuana industry. It’s yet another lie Obama has been caught in due to economic expediency. Billions of known tax revenues are in chemical drug companies, the organics are not big enough to challenge – yet.
Besides, if weed were legalized, what would happen to the U.S. prison industry? Another huge job loss and federal budget decline. Another crack in the dam.
So it goes across the board: An economic conundrum; the anti-human death-dance on all fronts. But that’s how economics is at the wrong end of the cycle.
Still, we believe the market may stage a blow-off (Dow 21,562 ideally and there’s a chance of making it to the fall of 2017). But after that, you might consider the virtues of having lived below your income and building a survivable platform for your family and loved ones. Full grocery stores and empty wallets is not a happy social plan. But with a full garden, a cow or two out back, what is the purpose of “money?”
We hope to continue providing the play-by-play as unspoken political expediency runs the clock of history. Make no mistake: it’s still ticking.
The only question is? When does the “digital Rapture” implode?
Will it come via EMP? Sunspots? Mega virus? Or licensing of the internet to suppress hate-speech and control content as one more “last-gasp” to defend the broken world?
I’ll update my book Broken Web when it becomes clear.
In the meantime, is there a business reason to play Candy Crush?
Write when you break-even,