How We Stumbled to the Edge of the Cliff, by Charles Hugh Smith

Like Butch and Sundance (I know I’m dating myself, I don’t care) at the edge of the cliff, the economy’s got nowhere to go but down. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Oops. Looks like the Fed’s magic (and our luck) have finally run out.

Now that we’re teetering on the edge of the cliff, it might be a good idea to retrace how we stumbled down to this crumbling, precarious ledge. As I’ve discussed for the past 15 years, there are a handful of systemic forces that have taken us to the point of no return.

1. Demographics have reversed from tailwinds to headwinds. All sorts of extravagant promises could be made back when there were 10 workers paying taxes to support each retiree/state dependent. Now that we’re down to less than 2 full-time workers for each retiree/state dependent, the promises are impossible to keep, with the one exception of printing the trillions of dollars that were anticipated to be paid in taxes–that is, creating near-infinite sums of funny-money out of thin air and hoping the rest of the world will continue to accept it. History doesn’t have any examples of that working, but hey, we’re special and this time it’s different. Oh, right…

The Narrative Of Inflation Amid Depopulation

Just Charts of Demographics (Econimica)

2. The fuel of postwar prosperity, oil, is no longer cheap enough or abundant enough. A great many people are delighted to put their faith in renewables (actually replaceables, as Nate Hagens has described) but as Tim Morgan has explained, the era’s secular stagnation that so puzzled conventional economists can be traced back to the decline in cheap energy available per capita: Mapping the economy:

“The cost element is known here as ECoE (the Energy Cost of Energy), which has been rising relentlessly over an extended period. Whilst ECoE remained low, its omission mattered much less than it does now. This is why conventional, money-based economic modelling appeared to work pretty well, until ECoE became big enough to introduce progressive invalidation into economic models. This process can be traced to the 1990s, when conventional interpretation noticed — but could not explain — a phenomenon then labelled ‘secular stagnation’.”

I addressed the relationship between hydrocarbons and stagnation in Oil and Debt: Why Our Financial System Is Unsustainable. (2/25/21)

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