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Aug 12

Welcome to the Age of Instability

By Charles Hugh Smith

The phony fixes have failed, and the dam of toxic sludge and debt is leaking; instability will be the New Normal until the dam finally bursts and the financial Status Quo is swept away. If you liked the past two weeks, you’re going to love the next two years: welcome to the age of instability. As I explained yesterday, the quasi-religious belief in the stock market as a secure store of wealth has faded, and for good reason: The Junkie in the Pool and False Idols: Faith in Wall Street and The Fed Has Has Eroded (August 10, 2011).

In a nutshell, the Federal Reserve and Federal government’s extend-and-pretend, mark-to-fantasy, paper over bad private debt with trillions in public bad debt “fixes” of the broken economy have failed, completely, utterly, miserably. Rather than drain the cesspool of impaired debt, risky bets gone bad and rampant abuse of the rule of law, the Fed and the Central State have poured trillions of dollars more bad debt into the fetid pool of sewage and sludge, which is now full to bursting.

For a deeper explanation of why instability is now the norm, and destabilization is now inevitable, I turn to my new book An Unconventional Guide to Investing in Troubled Times for this excerpt.

As Nassim Taleb of “black swan” fame has explained, it is misleading to say the last few grains of sand on the debt pile, for example, subprime mortgages in the housing bubble, are responsible for the entire sand pile collapsing: the masking of risk was systemic, and thus the sand pile was doomed to collapse regardless of the nature of the final few grains of sand.

Similarly, it won’t really matter what the final trillion dollars of Federal debt was borrowed for; the default/collapse of the government debt pile is inevitable.

In betting the farm to prop up a façade of financial stability, the Federal Reserve and the Federal government have doomed the entire system to collapse. Taleb explained why in the June 2011 issue of Foreign Affairs: “Complex systems that have artificially suppressed volatility become extremely fragile, while at the same time exhibiting no visible risks.” That describes the global economy in 2007, just before the financial meltdown of 2008 “surprised” conventional economists and Wall Street apologists.

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