Because I think it is important for every organization to constantly challenge its own assumptions, I’ve long acted as something of a devil’s advocate here at Casey Research. By constantly pushing our analysts to revisit their assumptions and calculations, it is my firm intention for us to spot the fork in the road that indicates it is time to shift strategies away from investments designed to do well in the face of a currency debasement and to something else.
Doug Casey has often said that the unfolding crisis is going to be even worse than he expects (which is saying something), and the longer the rest of us at Casey Research study the tea leaves, it is hard to disagree that the Greater Depression is still ahead.
- The eurozone is growing increasingly desperate. Watching the heads of Europe dither and debate over further bailouts to the unhappy Greeks and other troubled PIIGS – before ultimately reaching back into the pockets of the equally unhappy citizens in Germany and the decreasing number of still-functioning economies in the eurozone – reminds me of a down-on-his-luck blackjack player. He’s mortgaged his home to play the game but is now down to his last chips. He doesn’t want to risk his remaining resources but has no choice, because to walk away now will mean taking up residence in a cardboard box. And so, reluctantly, he shoves across another pile. The problem is that the game is rigged – and not in his favor. As the PIIGS start to default and either leave the eurozone entirely or are shunted off into some sort of sidecar organization, there will be great volatility in the euro and in the European markets.
- The U.S. debt situation is far worse than anyone in Washington is willing to admit. We keep hearing calls for more, not less debt creation. But if people would stop kidding themselves and tally up all the many demands the U.S. government has against it, the actual debt-to-GDP ratio rises to something on the order of 400% – and even that is likely understating things. The fundamental flaws in the U.S. monetary system – flaws that have given license to the bureaucrats to smash the limousine of state straight into a wall – have required a remaking every 20 to 30 years or so. The problem is that there is pretty much nothing else that can be done to save the status quo at this point, and so the monetary system is likely to collapse. That means big changes ahead, including – or perhaps starting with – a poisonous ratcheting up of interest rates.
- China’s miracle mirage. While having aspects of a free market, the hard truth is that China is run as a command economy by a cadre of communist holdovers. This is apparent in the cities that have been built for no purpose other than creating jobs and boosting GDP. It is also apparent in the growing inflation in China – the inevitable knock-on of the government’s decision to yank on the levers of money creation harder than any other nation at the onset of the Greater Depression. Meanwhile, signs of social unrest crop up here and there. Though so far they have been swiftly put down, there is no question that the ruling elite has to walk a very fine line. If the Chinese economy stumbles seriously, all bets are off. That we are talking about the world’s second-largest economy means this is not of small consequence.
- Japan is essentially offline. Reports from friends in Japan – including one who was initially skeptical about the scale of the problems at Fukushima – have now changed in tone by 180 degrees. You can almost feel the growing sense of desperation as the already massively indebted nation begins to slide toward an abyss. There is little standing in the way of the world’s third-largest economy’s slide.
- The Middle East is in flames. This, too, is far from settled. As usual, the U.S. government has been hopping here and there in an attempt to maintain its influence, but at this point pretty much everything is up for grabs. The odds of the U.S. retaining the same level of influence in the region that it has enjoyed over the last century are slim to none, especially now that even the Saudis are shipping more of their oil to China than to the U.S. Again, big changes are ahead.