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Our Wile E. Coyote Federal Reserve

August 21, 2019

Whatever the Fed chooses to do, it's already failed..

Wile E. Coyote has gotten a bad rap: in all fairness, his schemes are ingenious, if overly complicated, and it's not his fault that the Acme detonator misfires or the Road Runner doesn't respond as predicted. Every set-up to nail the Road Runner should work. That it fails and leaves him suspended over the cliff for a woefully brief second to intuit his impending doom really isn't his fault.

Wile E. Coyote and the Federal Reserve share a lot of similarities. Just as Wile is always trying to catch the Road Runner, the Federal Reserve and other central banks have been trying for 10 years to trigger a self-sustaining economic expansion, i.e. an expansion based on the self-reinforcing dynamics of increasing productivity driving increasing wages which then fuel consumption and investment in productivity, and so on.

In a self-sustaining expansion based on fundamentals, central banks can "normalize" (raise) interest rates relatively painlessly to levels that are at least 3% above official inflation, so pension funds and other institutions that need low-risk yields can survive.

Official inflation in the U.S. is about 3% (real-world inflation is running between 8% and 13% in urban America, as per the Chapwood Index, but that's another essay), so the Fed Funds Rate should be at 6% minimum, which would set mortgages and other long-term loans at 7% or so.

A Fed Funds Rate of 6% (600 basis points) would give the Fed 500 basis points of leeway in a recession to lower rates to 1% to goose borrowing, investing and spending in a recession.

But all the central banks' intricate plans have failed, and so they are having a Wile E. Coyote moment of impending doom. The Acme Brand detonator they counted on-- negative interest rates--has failed to spark a self-sustaining expansion, and all the Fed's convoluted schemes--Operation Twist, buying a trillion dollars in sketchy home mortgages, etc.--failed to catch the prize.

And so the Fed was only able to raise rates, more or less at the last minute, by 2%-- a pathetic admission that even after a decade of central bank-dependent expansion, the Fed couldn't even raise rates into positive territory, i.e. above the official rate of inflation.

While the other central banks are falling into the abyss, the Fed is clinging to the edge of the cliff by its fingertips. Having failed to spark a self-sustaining expansion, now the Fed is left with two dismal choices: either let go and fall into the abyss of negative interest rates--doing more of what's failed miserably--or cling on and keep rates at 2% so there's some policy response left when the global recession inevitably washes up on America's shores.

Whatever the Fed chooses to do, it's already failed. The Road Runner of self-sustaining expansion got clean away, and the Fed is left holding the ominously ticking Acme Brand detonator.

Recent podcasts: I was blessed to be invited to two terrific podcasts:

Parallels Between The Decline of the Roman Empire and America (46 minutes)
Host: Patrick Vierra of SilverBullion.com.sg

Market Huddle Episode 41 (guest: Charles Hugh Smith)
Hosts: Patrick and Kevin
(I am the first guest, then I get to do the last half-hour informal free-for-all.)


Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 ebook, $12 print, $13.08 audiobook): Read the first section for free in PDF format.


My new mystery The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake is a ridiculously affordable $1.29 (Kindle) or $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format.


If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com. New benefit for subscribers/patrons: a monthly Q&A where I respond to your questions/topics.



(Kindle ebook $6.95, print $12, $13.08 audiobook)

America teeters on the precipice: our government is now captive to special interests and big money, twin cancers that threaten our democracy. This accelerating crisis is exacerbated by a toxic social media-fueled tribalism that has replaced “what do you think?” with “which side are you on?”

Our crisis isn’t just political—it’s structural: as the pace of change explodes from gradual to non-linear, the organizations that dominate our economy—centralized corporations and government—become destined to fail. We see this failure in both the soaring inequality that has hollowed out the American Dream as well as in the rising tide of social and political disunity.

To prevent the fall of our democratic republic, we must transform our economy and society from the ground up. As we enter a new era of rapid, unprecedented tumult, it is we citizens who will need to save our democracy. For our political and financial elites will cling to their centralized power, doing more of what’s failed, even as civil society unravels.

All is not lost--yet. Our way forward starts with understanding the fatal flaws of our brittle, self-serving status quo and embracing this basic truth: better options are available if we’re willing to explore.

To pathfind our way to a better destiny, we must create new localized structures optimized for resilience and adaptability—a flexible, decentralized, sustainable, democratic, opportunity-for-all nation.

Read the first section for free in PDF format.

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic (ebook $6.95, print $12)



Recent entries:

Our Wile E. Coyote Federal Reserve August 21, 2019

A Wobbling Stock Market August 19, 2019

The Road to Hell Is Paved with Virtue-Signaling August 15, 2019

Who Protected Epstein for Decades, and Why? August 14, 2019

The Internal War in the Deep State Claims Its High Profile Casualty: Jeffrey Epstein August 12, 2019

The Gulag of the Mind August 6, 2019

Nothing Is Guaranteed August 5, 2019

Main Street Small Business on the Precipice July 30, 2019

Why Is What Was Once Affordable to Many Now Only Affordable to the Wealthy? July 29, 2019

Once "Prosperity" Falters, the Legitimacy of the Status Quo Evaporates July 26, 2019

It's Not Just the News That's Fake--Everything's Fake July 24, 2019

Our Ruling Elites Have No Idea How Much We Want to See Them All in Prison Jumpsuits July 22, 2019


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Extra-Special Bonus Aphorisms:

"There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity."
(Douglas MacArthur)

"We are what we repeatedly do." (Aristotle)

"Do the thing and you shall have the power." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." (E.F. Schumacher, via Tom R.)

"He who will not risk cannot win." (John Paul Jones)

"When we drink coffee, ideas march in like the army." (Honore de Balzac)

"Progress is not possible without deviation." (Frank Zappa, via Richard Metzger)

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"The man who has a garden and a library has everything." (Cicero, via Lee Bentley)

"A healthy homecooked family meal and a home garden are revolutionary acts." (CHS)

"Do you know what amazes me more than anything else? The impotence of force to organize anything." (Napoleon Bonaparte)

"The way of the Tao is reversal" Or "Reversal is the movement of Tao." (Lao Tzu)

"Chance favours the prepared mind." (Louis Pasteur)

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." (Winston Churchill)

"Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasures." (Rumi)

"The realm of gratitude is boundless." (CHS, 11/25/15)

"History doesn't have a reverse gear." (CHS, 12/22/15)

Smith's Law of Conservation of Risk: Every sustained action has more than one consequence. Some consequences will appear positive for a time before revealing their destructive nature. Some consequences will be intended, some will not. Some will be foreseeable, some will not. Some will be controllable, some will not. Those that are unforeseen and uncontrollable will trigger waves of other unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences. (July 8, 2014)(thanks to Lew G. for retitling the idea.)

Smith's Neofeudalism Principle #1: If the citizenry cannot replace a kleptocratic authoritarian government and/or limit the power of the financial Aristocracy at the ballot box, the nation is a democracy in name only.

The Smith Corollary to Metcalfe's Law (The Network Effect): the value of the network is created not just by the number of connected devices/users but by the value of the information and knowledge shared by users in sub-networks and in the entire network. (CHS, 4/6/16)

My Credo of Liberation: I no longer care if the power centers of our society--the distant, fortified castles of our financial feudal system--are changed by my actions, for I am liberated by the act of resistance. I am no longer complicit in perpetuating fraudulent feudalism and the pathology of concentrated power. I no longer covet signifiers of membership in the Upper Caste that serves the plutocracy. I am liberated from self-destructive consumerist-State financialization and the delusion that debt servitude and obedience to sociopathological Elites serve my self-interests. (Thank you, Klaus-Peter L., for reminding me)

"We've become a culture of excuses rather than solutions: solutions always require sustained effort and discipline." (CHS 4/9/16)

"Fraud as a way of life caters an extravagant banquet of consequences." (CHS 4/14/16)

"Creativity = problem solving = value creation." (CHS 6/4/16)

"Truth is powerful because it is the core dynamic of solving problems." (CHS 7/21/17)

"We live in a system of human emotions that masquerades as a science (economics)." (CHS 1/1/18)

"Always remember, your focus determines your reality." (George Lucas)

"Diversity is for poor people. Sameness is for the successful." (GFB)

"When power dissipates suddenly, it dissipates completely." (CHS 7/14/19)

"Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves." (Henry David Thoreau)

"Markets cannot price in the value of non-monetized natural assets such as diverse ecosystems." (CHS 7/14/19)

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