Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Our Spoiled-Brat Economy

By insuring spoiled brats/vested interests never face the consequences of their actions and choices, we guarantee failure of the entire system.
Spoiled brats do not take kindly to being called out as spoiled brats. Since economies are aggregates of individuals, we can anticipate howls of outraged denial at our economy being identified as spoiled rotten.
The two essential characteristics of spoiled brats are 1) a complete disregard for the burdens of those paying the bills and 2) a childishly self-absorbed sense of overweening entitlement. Spoiled brats have no sense of fiscal discipline. Indeed, it is their defining characteristic. They want what they want, and they want it now, regardless of the cost to others or the system as a whole.
In America's Spoiled Brat Economy, no vested interest is ever allowed to fail. Lost billions gambling with borrowed money? Just throw a K Street temper tantrum and threaten to close all the ATMs when you go broke, and voila, Mommy and Daddy (the federal government and Federal Reserve) come rushing with trillions of dollars to make all the bad things like well-deserved bankruptcy go away.
That tens of millions of savers must be robbed of hundreds of billions of dollars in lost interest to rebuild your banks' profits and balance sheets--the sacrifices of others are of no concern to spoiled brats.
What does not allowed to fail bring to mind? How about coddled children who are crippled by helicopter parents who do their homework for them and schools that give everybody passing grades and gold stars?
A system that doesn't allow individuals and enterprises to fail is a system that is simply taking another path to failure. Students who are given gold stars and 9th place ribbons (Meet the Fockers) cannot possibly establish a real sense of accomplishment or learn how to make a realistic assessment of their deficiencies or strengths. They are crippled by all the "help" enablers press on them.
The same is true of spoiled-brat economies. Enterprises that are never allowed to fail (for example, too big to fail banks, bankrupt cities, counties and states, defense contractors who produce failed weapons systems, healthcare organizations that cheat the government and patients, etc. etc. etc.) become deadwood that saps the vitality of the economy, dragging down the few productive sectors.
The "help" lavished on vested interests include sweetheart contracts, direct subsidies, tax credits, lines of credit, zero interest rates and a vast range of other subsidies. The entire point of the vast lobbying machine that funnels federal and Federal Reserve largesse to vested interests is about staving off the very failure that keeps economies from imploding (creative destruction).
By insuring spoiled brats/vested interests never face the consequences of their actions, choices and self-absorbed greed, we guarantee failure of the entire system. So by all means, keep passing out subsidies to too big to fail banks and 9th-place ribbons, and give the brats whatever they want as soon as they start wailing, regardless of the cost to the system itself.

NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.
Thank you, Donald C. ($60), for your marvelously generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.

Read more...

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Global Template for Collapse: The Enchanting Charms of Cheap, Easy Credit

Cheap, easy credit has created moral hazard and nurtured magical thinking throughout the global economy.
According to polls, the majority of Greek citizens want the benefits of membership in the euro/EU and the end of EU-imposed austerity. The idea that these are mutually exclusive doesn't seem to register.
This is the discreet charm of magical thinking: it promises an escape from the difficulties of hard choices, tough trade-offs, the disruption of vested interests and most painfully, the breakdown of the debt machine that has enabled the distribution of swag to virtually everyone in the system (a torrent to those at the top, a trickle to the majority at the bottom, but swag nonetheless).
If we had to summarize the insidious charm of magical thinking, we might start with the overpowering appeal of using credit to ease all difficulties.
Need money to fund various healthcare/national defense rackets? Borrow the money. Need to keep people employed building ghost cities in the middle of nowhere? Borrow the money. Need to keep buying shares of the company's stock to push the value of each share ever higher? Borrow the money.
The problem with cheap, easy credit is Cheap, easy credit destroys discipline. Thelifetime costs of debt taken on to fund bridges to nowhere, healthcare/national defense rackets, ghost cities, stock buybacks, etc. are never calculated. Theopportunity costs are also never calculated.
When credit is costly and hard to get, marginal borrowers can't get loans and nobody dares borrow at high rates of interest for low-yield, high-risk schemes.When credit is costly and hard to get, what doesn't pencil out doesn't get funded.
When credit is cheap and easy to get, every scheme and racket gets funding because hey, why not? The cost is low (at the moment) and the gain might be fantastic. But even if the gain is unknown, the kickback/campaign contributions make it worthwhile even if the scheme fails.
Professional economists are duty-bound to claim national economies are not merely extensions of households. But this is just another falsity passed off assophisticated truth by a profession that is being discredited by the reality of its failed policies, failed theories and failed predictions.
Since human psychology remains the dominant force in all economics, the household and national economies can only differ in scale.
In the 1970s, credit was scarce and hard to get. Young workers qualified for a $300 limit credit card, and it took careful management of that responsibility (always paying on time, etc.) to get a meager increase to $500. Mortgage rates were high (10%+) and your income and household balance sheet were scrutinized before any lender took a chance on lending you tens of thousands of dollars to buy a house. After all, the bank would be stuck with the losses if you defaulted.
Then came financialization. Banks could skim the profits from originating loans and offload the risk of default onto towns in Norway, credulous pension funds and other greater fools.
And if a default threatened the bank--for example, Greece in 2011--the bank simply bought political power and shifted the debt onto taxpayers. "The ATMs will stop working," the bankers threatened their political flunkies in Congress in 2008, and the bought-and-paid-for toadies in Congress and the Federal Reserve obediently shifted trillions of dollars in private liabilities and sketchy debt-based "assets" such as mortgages onto the taxpayers and the Fed balance sheet.
The same transfer of risk and losses occurred in Europe, as these charts demonstrate: (Source: If Greece Defaults, Europe's Taxpayers Lose)
Here is the debt in 2009--mostly owed to private banks and bondholders:
Here is the debt in 2015--almost all was shifted onto the backs of taxpayers:
Ask yourself this: if you could shift risk and losses to the taxpayers, how would that affect your investing/gambling? Wouldn't you take much higher risks, knowing that losses would not fall to you but to abstract taxpayers? Of course you would, and this is the essence of moral hazard--the disconnect of risk and consequence.
Cheap, easy credit has created moral hazard and nurtured magical thinking throughout the global economy. The heart of magical thinking is that consequences have been disappeared or shifted onto others by financial enchantment.
The interest on the debt will be paid by growth.
We will make so much money on this investment/gamble, paying off the debt will be easy.
This bet can't lose because the Fed/People's Bank of China/ECB/Bank of Japan etc. will never let the market decline.
When I write about the Martian Central Bank issuing quatloos to save Earth's bankrupt financial system, we know it's a joke: the Martian Central Bank and the quatloo do not exist.
But there is no difference between believing in cheap, easy credit as the solution to all problems and believing that the Martian Central Bank will save us from the consequences of cheap, easy credit and the destruction of fiscal discipline.

NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.
Thank you, David E. ($100), for your outrageously generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.



Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy (Kindle, $9.95)(print, $20)

go to Kindle edition
Are you like me? Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I've been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.


And like most of you, the way I've moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.

You don't have to be a financial blogger to know that "having a job" and "having a career" do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.

Even the basic concept "getting a job" has changed so radically that jobs--getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them--is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.

So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

It details everything I've verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.

I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.

Test drive the first section and see for yourself.     Kindle, $9.95     print, $20

"I want to thank you for creating your book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. It is rare to find a person with a mind like yours, who can take a holistic systems view of things without being captured by specific perspectives or agendas. Your contribution to humanity is much appreciated."
Laura Y.


Gordon Long and I discuss The New Nature of Work: Jobs, Occupations & Careers (25 minutes, YouTube)
The Old Models of Work Are Broken

Read more...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Greece, Democracy and Magical Thinking

Regardless of what the Greek people choose, at least the choice will be theirs, along with the consequences.
What is representative democracy but organized bribery on a mass scale?Politicians seeking control of the spigots of state wealth and power promise endless swag to voters. Those who promise the most swag and do so with the most inspirational Soaring Rhetoric (tm) win elections and gain control of the spigots of state wealth and power.
What are promises of endless swag but lies cloaked in magical thinking? The magical thinking has many manifestations: the aptly named Laffer Curve, used to justify cutting taxes to the already-wealthy; entry into the Eurozone, a magical land of unicorns and endless prosperity, based not on hard work and the creation of value, but on membership alone; the blowing of serial asset bubbles in real estate and stocks (works equally well in Asia and the West), and various iterations of Manifest Destiny: it's our right to grow rich, preferably on the labor and resources of others.
Representative democracy offers choices with no consequences: no matter which politico and party is elected, the promises of endless swag remain unchanged.
In contrast, direct democracy offers choices with consequences: voters make a choice of policies that, whether intended or not, have consequences.
This forces voters to actually ponder consequences rather than indulge politico promises of endless swag in return for supporting a corrupt, predatory, parasitic status quo that benefits the few at the expense of the many.
Even direct democracy is easily corrupted by magical thinking. The actual consequences may be ignored in favor of magical-thinking dreams of only good consequences and no trade-offs or sacrifices, all powered by the magic of debt.
Debt is the ultimate political aphrodisiac, for it enables an orgy of consumption and a bacchanalia of spending on the backs of children and the yet unborn who don't vote.
The most potent of all political fantasies is that growth will solve every problem, i.e. we can grow our way out of corruption, artifice, lies, kleptocracy and most importantly, out of debt.
And so now, at long last, the Greek people have a direct say on whether they prefer magical thinking (i.e. that a debt-based, Elite-ruled kleptocracy can produce endless swag for all as long as the kleptocracy is within the European Union) or the real world of trade-offs, opportunity costs, sacrifices and broad-based growth that must be earned by producing more than is spent and investing the surplus in productive assets rather than being squandered on interest payments for past consumption.
Direct democracy is anathema to politicos, Elites, state bureaucracies, vested interests and kleptocracies, because the people might refuse to be bribed by magical thinking promises.
Elected representatives and the public can both be bribed or threatened into compliance, but when the promises of endless debt-based swag for all fade, it's the people who bear the consequences, not the politicos.
There are no guarantees that the people will choose more wisely than their representatives. The masses can choose magical thinking over reality, too. But with direct democracy, at least the people have an opportunity to choose wisely.
Regardless of what the Greek people choose, at least the choice will be theirs, along with the consequences.

NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.
Thank you, Cudick A. ($100), for your outrageously generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.

Read more...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Chinese Stock Bubble Bursts: Any Questions?

June 26, 2015

When financial authorities are in full-blown panic, they cut rates.
Take a quick glance at this weekly chart of the Shanghai stock market:
1. Uptrend broken: check
2. MACD rolled over into a sell signal: check
3. Stochastic breaks down: check
Any questions on what's happening to the Chinese stock market bubble?
Those still entertaining hopes the bubble hasn't burst might want to ponder the frantic flailings of Chinese authorities as A Desperate China Cuts Key Policy Rates.
When financial authorities are in full-blown panic, they cut rates. When financial authorities are in full-blown panic, they deny being in a panic, which proves they are in a full-blown panic.
A reasonable technical target is the 200-week moving average, roughly 50% of the recent high. "Impossible," say recent buyers of Chinese stocks. Yes, of course it is. The authorities will never let the market decline by 50%. As always, this time it's different.

Thank you, Herb H. ($100), for your outrageously generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.

Read more...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Collapse, Part 5: Things Fall Apart

It is impossible to wean an economy that relies on debt and leverage for its "growth" of excessive debt and leverage.


As noted earlier in this series, collapse is not an event, it's a process, a process we experience as things fall apart. The phrase famously appears in William Butler Yeats' 1919 poem, The Second Coming:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


Why do things fall apart? I have addressed a number of dynamics in the first four essays of this series, but there are many more expressed in Yeats' few brief lines.

1. Magical thinking dominates all discussions. The truth, being too fearful to contemplate, is sidelined in favor of magical thinking:

-- we can grow our way out of debt by expanding debt

-- if we simply print enough money, we can pay for everything we want

-- a miraculous new technology (insert current example) will provide limitless energy/food at near-zero cost

-- if we tweak the system with some minor reforms, all the big problems will go away

-- new technology always creates more jobs than it destroys

and so on.

2. Same as it always was: politics was always corrupt, humans have always been greedy, etc.--in other words,today's problems are no different from those of the past, which we handled without major difficulty. The possibility that today's extremes of financialization and political decay might actually be quantitatively and qualitatively different from the past 50 years is dismissed.

3. The political and financial Elites have lost touch with the citizenry. The falcon cannot hear the falconer, for the Elites have withdrawn into protected circles of privilege with little contact with the rest of us. Since all is well within these circles of wealth and power, all must be well in the system as a whole.

And if it isn't, the solution is to withdraw even deeper into circles of privilege and cast off in a luxury lifeboat, leaving the citizenry to muddle through on the doomed Titanic.

4. Things stop working well or stop working, period. The causes are many: inefficiency born of self-interest and historical habit, loss of accountability, The Ratchet EffectBureaucratic Complexity, diminishing returns, unproductive friction--the list is long.

The net result is things don't work well even when stupendous sums are thrown at them. Flush with the tax revenue bounty of a gargantuan bubble in housing and tech start-ups, the city and county of San Francisco now has an annual budget of $9 billion--a sum greater than the budgets of many states, all to serve a population of about 850,000.

One would be forgiven for assuming all the essential systems of a metropolis would be working smoothly, greased with an astonishing $9 billion. (It wasn't that long ago--the late 1990s--that San Francisco's budget was a mere $3 billion.)

But citizens aren't experiencing the system as working well. Lapses in public services tax San Franciscans’ patience:

Two weeks ago, we asked City Insider readers what they think of the fact that San Francisco’s budget hit a whopping $9 billion a year — more than the budgets of at least 10 states.

Now that more taxes are pouring into city coffers than ever before, do residents think they’re getting their money’s worth?

We were surprised by the deluge of e-mails, which continue to roll in, and the very vehement responses. Every single person who wrote had valid complaints, and not one thought city services were up to snuff for one of the richest cities in the world.

“One thing is for sure,” wrote Philip Snyder, a retired inspector for the Department of Public Health who lives North of the Panhandle. “If money was blood, San Francisco would make Dracula look like a mosquito.”

What happens when the budget declines by $1 billion in a run-of-the-mill recession? Right now, magical thinking reigns supreme, and the idea that bubbles need only stop expanding to trigger a business-cycle recession isn't in many minds. But recessions do happen, and those following explosive bubbles tend to be deeper than the average, so a $1 billion drop in tax revenues is to be expected.

In the same vein, the state of California, also flush with revenues from these same bubbles, has a "rainy day fund" of $3.46 billion and an annual budget of $117 billion. In previous recessions, state revenues drop by $10 to $20 billion--meaning the rainy day fund is woefully inadequate.

Here is the budget reality in Greece:


These budget numbers are dated--the current figures are much worse.


The European Status Quo is expending the last dregs of its legitimacy and cash defending its financial Elites. It is impossible to "reform" a Status Quo whose foundation is kleptocracy, just as it is impossible to wean an economy that relies on debt and leverage for its "growth" of excessive debt and leverage: financialization isn't a feature of the economy, it is the economy.

Things fall apart for systemic reasons that are deeply intertwined; minor policy tweaks and printing more money are simply expressions of magical thinking.

Of related interest:




Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy(Kindle, $9.95)(print, $20)
go to Kindle editionAre you like me? Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I've been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.


And like most of you, the way I've moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.

You don't have to be a financial blogger to know that "having a job" and "having a career" do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.


Even the basic concept "getting a job" has changed so radically that jobs--getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them--is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.


So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.


It details everything I've verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.


I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.

Test drive the first section and see for yourself.     Kindle, $9.95     print, $20

"I want to thank you for creating your book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. It is rare to find a person with a mind like yours, who can take a holistic systems view of things without being captured by specific perspectives or agendas. Your contribution to humanity is much appreciated."
Laura Y.

Gordon Long and I discuss The New Nature of Work: Jobs, Occupations & Careers(25 minutes, YouTube)
The Old Models of Work Are Broken 



NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, Carey W. ($10), for your most welcome generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

Read more...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Collapse, Part 4: Loss of Faith in Public Institutions

Public institutions are now devoted to serving their own vested interests or the interests of private financial Elites.


Though we may think of collapse in terms of ATMs not working and rampaging mobs, collapse actually starts with the intangible loss of faith in public institutions:elected officials, law enforcement, the justice system and the agencies of financial regulation (anti-trust, etc.).

Unsurprisingly to those who discern the structural rot of the status quo,Americans No Longer Believe In Their Institutions:

“Americans’ confidence in most major U.S. institutions remains below the historical average for each one,” a Gallup spokesman said in a news release. All in all, it’s a picture of a nation discouraged about its present and worried about its future, and highly doubtful that its institutions can pull America out of its trough.

Only 8 percent have confidence in Congress, the lowest of all institutions rated. No wonder, given the Congressional credo that we have to pass this bill to find out what's in it.The latest monstrosity that is cloaked in secrecy and mumbo-jumbo is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Ellen Brown rightly describes as Straight out of Alice in Wonderland:

The terms of the TPP and the TiSA are so secret that drafts of the negotiations are to remain classified for four years or five years, respectively, after the deals have been passed into law. How can laws be enforced against people and governments who are not allowed to know what was negotiated?

If the Trans-Pacific Partnership is so good for the average American, then why not let us read it and be persuaded by the document itself? Instead, the vast machinery of the American central state is devoted to maintaining the secrecy of the bill and crushing all opposition with threats that are no longer even veiled.

One of the 39 senators who voted against the TPP, Jeff Sessions, concluded "They Won The Vote, But Lost The Trust Of The American People"

Americans increasingly believe that their country isn’t serving its own citizens. They need look no further than a bipartisan vote of Congress that will transfer congressional power to the Executive Branch and, in turn, to a transnational Pacific Union and the global interests who will help write its rules.

The same routine plays out over and again. We are told a massive bill must be passed, all the business lobbyists and leaders tell how grand it will be, but that it must be rushed through before the voters spoil the plan. As with Obamacare, the politicians meet with the consultants to craft the talking points—not based on what the bill actually does, but what they hope people will believe it does.

And when ordinary Americans who never asked for the plan, who don’t want the plan, who want no part of the plan, resist, they are scorned, mocked, and heaped with condescension.

Washington broke arms and heads to get that 60th vote--not one to spare--to impose on the American people a plan which imperils their jobs, wages, and control over their own affairs. It is remarkable that so much energy has been expended on advancing the things Americans oppose, and preventing the things Americans want.

No wonder Americans have lost faith in their institutions: those institutions are now devoted to serving their own vested interests or the interests of private financial Elites.

This same loss of trust is underway in Europe. The entire Greek debt issue could have been resolved with fewer losses and much less suffering if Greece had defaulted on the private bank debt in 2010.

But with the complicity of the public institutions that were supposed to serve the citizens' interests, private banks quickly shifted the vast majority of the Greek debt to the taxpayers: If Greece Defaults, Europe's Taxpayers Lose.

Here is the debt in 2009--mostly private:
a

Here is the debt in 2015--almost all public debt on the backs of taxpayers:
a

When institutions serve the interests of the few at the expense of the many, democracy is just a label slapped on financial totalitarianism. In case you missed it, here is Smith's Neofeudalism Principle #1:: "If the citizenry cannot replace a dysfunctional government and/or limit the power of the financial Aristocracy at the ballot box, the nation is a democracy in name only."

Of related interest:




Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy(Kindle, $9.95)(print, $20)
go to Kindle editionAre you like me? Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I've been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.


And like most of you, the way I've moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.

You don't have to be a financial blogger to know that "having a job" and "having a career" do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.


Even the basic concept "getting a job" has changed so radically that jobs--getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them--is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.


So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.


It details everything I've verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.


I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.


Test drive the first section and see for yourself.     Kindle, $9.95     print, $20


"I want to thank you for creating your book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. It is rare to find a person with a mind like yours, who can take a holistic systems view of things without being captured by specific perspectives or agendas. Your contribution to humanity is much appreciated."
Laura Y.

Gordon Long and I discuss The New Nature of Work: Jobs, Occupations & Careers(25 minutes, YouTube)
The Old Models of Work Are Broken 



NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.


Thank you, Francis M. ($60), for your superlatively generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your ongoing support and readership.

Read more...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Collapse Part 3: No Institutional Path to Contraction

Collapse is not an event, it is a process.


One poorly understood source of collapse is the lack of pathways to contraction and a reduction of complexity/cost. The only pathway that is clearly marked is the one to expansion--of production, debt, credit, government, income, benefits, costs and complexity: more agencies, more regulations, more committees, more staff, more of everything.
The path to less complexity, less debt, less production and a contraction of the entire system doesn't exist in most institutions.

Many dismiss any talk of collapse as mere fear-mongering. This is a legitimate issue to discuss, for if we focus exclusively on the lurid horrors of being killed by a shark in open water (for example) while ignoring the much higher risks of being killed by falling off a ladder at home, we have distorted the risks of accidental death and done a disservice to our understanding of various risks.

But collapse is not an event, it is a process. As a result, systemic collapse doesn't lend itself to statistical calculations of probability. Processes are driven by dynamics, not odds.

So those dismissing any discussion of collapse as mere fear-mongering are doing a disservice to our understanding of processes--or lack thereof. One interesting feature of collapse is that it can result from either a choking over-abundance of complex, costly processes or a complete lack of essential processes, conceptually and practically.

Which brings us to the process that is lacking virtually everywhere--the process of contraction: shrinking the system, income, headcount, complexity and being productive with less of everything.

The corporate world offers many examples of what happens when the process of contraction and reducing complexity does not exist: companies buckle, fold and go bust. The world's corporate darling Apple experienced this precise death-spiral in 1996-1997 before the company's board brought Steve Jobs back as CEO. (So tentative was the board that Jobs was appointed "interim CEO.")

Apple had only one path: expansion. More fiefdoms, more staff, more product lines, more models, more sales, more profits. The reversal from profits to losses marooned the company, for there was no institutional history of a vast reduction in products, fixed costs and organizational complexity.

Not only was there no institutional history of downsizing, there was no conceptual or practical pathway from unprofitable bloat and institutional failure to a leaner, flatter more productive system. Without an emergency infusion of cash from Microsoft and the appointment of a manager empowered to slash and burn fixed costs and re-set priorities and product lines, Apple would have collapsed.

The same can be said of the European Union. The bylaws of the EU (as I understand them) define the pathway of expanding the EU but not the pathway of forcibly shedding members. Member nations may elect to leave the EU of their own volition, but there is no mechanism in place for the EU to eject member nations such as Greece.

In other cases, systems are structured so any contraction leads to collapse. This is the nature of our debt/leverage-based financial system: any contraction in debt, credit or inflation will bring the system down because the system is predicated on the permanent expansion of collateral to support more debt and the expansion of income to service debt.

If either collateral or income declines, the system implodes:

This is not an event, it is a process. If debt and leverage expand while collateral and income decrease, the system becomes systemically more fragile and prone to destabilization. The financial system is dynamic and has multiple inputs; on its current setting, the system will become increasingly fragile. If alternative policies were put in place, it could become increasingly resilient.

Systems with no conceptual or practical pathway to contraction and reduced complexity/fixed costs are more at risk of collapse than systems with institutional pathways for successful reductions in debt, credit, income, fixed costs and complexity.

How many institutions have proven pathways for becoming smaller, leaner, and flatter in organizational structure? Very few, as the default setting for the past 60 years has been expansion and more of everything. Less of everything does not compute. 



Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy(Kindle, $9.95)(print, $20)
go to Kindle editionAre you like me? Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I've been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.And like most of you, the way I've moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.


You don't have to be a financial blogger to know that "having a job" and "having a career" do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.


Even the basic concept "getting a job" has changed so radically that jobs--getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them--is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.


So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.


It details everything I've verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.


I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.

Test drive the first section and see for yourself.     Kindle, $9.95     print, $20

"I want to thank you for creating your book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. It is rare to find a person with a mind like yours, who can take a holistic systems view of things without being captured by specific perspectives or agendas. Your contribution to humanity is much appreciated."
Laura Y.

Gordon Long and I discuss The New Nature of Work: Jobs, Occupations & Careers(25 minutes, YouTube)
The Old Models of Work Are Broken 



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Thank you, Robert K. ($20), for your much-appreciated generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your ongoing support and readership.

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