Are We Addicted to Failure?   (July 25, 2014)

Like all addicts, Central Planners are confident they can manage the monkey on their back. But this is a self-serving illusion.

Addiction is many things, but beneath its complexities it is a self-destructive expression of the desire to avoid or suppress pain. The pain might be physical or the stuff of the mind, memories or inner demons or tortured misgivings about one's choices, soul and life.

Though the self-destructive aspects of the addiction are painfully visible to observers, to the addict they represent a solution: perhaps not the ideal one or even a good one, but a solution nonetheless.

Fear plays a big part in many addictions--fear of life without the addictive salve. The fear in an addict's eyes when the fix is not forthcoming is haunting to all who witness it.

To the non-addicted observer, addictions are not successes; they are failures of one kind or another, and those who care about the addict seek some way to extract the addict from the grip of his/her addiction, and from the fear that often drives it.

I have recently been wondering if America is addicted to failure. The oft-repeated definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, generally attributed to Albert Einstein.

But given the right mix of blindness and fear, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results might not be insanity but a self-destructive addiction to failure.

In this light, please consider this chart of the broad-based U.S. stock market index, the S&P 500, which I have marked up as an addiction to failure:

The source of this addiction is a fear of life without credit/asset bubbles. Fearing life without the rush and high of asset bubbles, we see an addiction to financial bubbles as a solution in the same terrible way a heroin addict sees smack as a solution: not as a long-term solution or even a good one, but a solution nonetheless, because it makes the pain of facing life without Central Planning financial bubbles go away at least temporarily.

But bubbles inevitably leads to overdose and a subsequent self-destructive crash. Our central bankers/planners have injected enough monetary heroin into the nation to guarantee not just the rush and the high but the overdose that leads to a destructive crash.

Like all addicts, Central Planners are confident they can manage the monkey on their back. But this is a self-serving illusion; it's the monkey who controls the addict, not the other way round.

If we're not addicted to failure, why do we tolerate a central bank that creates one rush-high-overdose-crash after another? Perhaps it's time to confess that we're addicted to failure because we're too afraid to face life without this financial addiction.

Pretty sad, huh? Like all observers, those of us without monetary heroin in our veins wonder when the poor addict will finally wake up and choose a path that isn't self-destructive. But as many of us know from personal experience, it often takes a near-death experience to awaken the instinct for survival in the addict. Sadly, sometimes not even that is enough, and a once-great nation spirals down to ruin.

If you missed this week's series:

The Rot Within, Part III: Our Political Order Is Defined by Favoritism and Extortion

The Rot Within, Part II: Inflation Is Not "Growth"

The Rot Within, Part I: Our Ponzi Economy

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