TEOTWAWKI happens every day...

Sun, Jan 5, 2014 - 5:25am

...somewhere. To someone.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." – Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities

I apologize for adding to the overuse of this now cliché-like quote. But perhaps it is the destiny of great thoughts that they become so oft-repeated that they lose their original meaning and intent, and become trivialities rather than true passages of wisdom on the lips of the many. The same can be said of various expressions and verses of Scripture (of ALL religions), ‘philosophy quotes’ and even the generational/epochal knowledge contained in legends, folk tales, fables and oral classics like the Iliad. We tend to our history less and less with each passing generation, it seems.

The period around 1989 was yet another era, and Eastern Europe was the yet another place where the turning wheel (spiral?) of history served up Dickensian circumstances in spades. Every single word of the famous passage applied, as the established order of society creaked and crumpled about the ears of the inhabitants. There was no collapse, per se – the ‘backbone’ of social structures remained intact (in fact, to a much greater degree than would have been preferable). Regardless of the calamities of the reverse-domino-effect of communist regimes losing their erstwhile iron grip one after the other, it was never chaos. Despite the queues in front of empty gas stations, and demonstrations over energy and food prices which of course rapidly outpaced wages in rapid sprints of (hyper)inflation, despite actual revolutions, almost all countries in the region managed to hold onto a semblance of rule of law and kept society from unravelling at the seams. Yugoslavia may need to be treated as an exception to this blanket statement, though the case could be made that its individual member states maintained their structural integrity, and proceeded to wage war against one another. Bosnia-Hercegovina lost badly, due to a multitude of factors. In many ways all involved lost a lot there.

A previously existing, artificially constructed and maintained economic system that depended on cheap energy and cheaply manufactured goods, held together by military force and multiple generations of state-controlled propaganda was undercut by insolvency of the sponsoring power (does any of this sound familiar?) – yet there was no mass holocaust, no descent into anarchy.

None of this is to indicate that the ‘transition’ was even remotely easy or pleasant. Several of the currencies in the region experienced (near) hyperinflation, all of them went through painfully high inflation at one point or another. Certain classes of goods became scarce for longer periods than previously endured, as trade agreements broke down or high energy costs made transport and/or production prohibitively expensive. Many countries lost generational wealth as savings evaporated (though of course those who had REAL wealth kept little in local currency, so only the little people were affected). All of this made for a social experiment that I found unique and interesting. My home town, along with many other larger cities in my region at the time, became host to an old-school physical represenatation of a real COMECON market. The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance was the USSR’s trade block, established in 1949 by Stalin. A mere 40+ years later, as the hrivnya became even more worthless than the ruble it split off from, when a lei would buy a fraction of what it once did, the enterprising serfs of these utopian kingdoms took matters into their own hands.

Imagine an open-air market, with steel-framed seller’s stands – row upon row of these covered with tin siding or tarps, alongside a few more permanent market halls. Mostly tarps and siding roofs, though. Within a few hundred square yards on any given weekend, you could find at least one citizen of ALL (at that point) formerly communist European states (and some bolder Vietnamese or Chinese merchants to boot). The reserve currency was the Deutschmark, less frequently the USD – but local fiat was utilized as transactional currency. The East Germans hawked optics and furniture, the Poles brought textiles, the Ukrainians generally had hardware and tooling. The latter were always amusing, as Soviet-made items (whether electric drills or saucepans) often had the price stamped into the steel… During the few frantic months when the Red Army FINALLY did an about face and marched back east, popular rumor had it that entire T-62’s were dismantled and sold for scrap (mainly for copper). Getting your hands on a nice selection of the late Mr. Kalashnikov’s namesakes was rather easy, as both local and neighboring mobsters quickly discovered. I actually saw the private collection of an industrial magnate (mini-oligarch, I guess) which included an older-model Soviet fighter and several (functional) pieces of mechanized armor.

But the market fulfilled a simple set of needs of daily life: it provided a lifeline of ‘hard currency’ to the sellers, and distributed goods otherwise unavailable or unaffordable to the populaces who had access to them. It, and its counterparts region-wide also served as part of the relief valve around the embargo/sanctions Yugoslavia was later put under, allowing for a means for thousands of families to be fed. There was no government gesture of humanitarian relief, or an opening of the borders to accept refugees (except to a token degree) – it was the old ladies who bicycled the 15 miles with their large bags filled with cartons of cigarettes and cheap distilled spirits who made the money to put food on the table.

It was possible to buy anything from tractor transmissions to wedding dresses, stereo systems to pickaxes. Chinese vendors bought containerloads of clothes or electronics, and eventually simply sold out of the opened containers. Ordinary folks from surrounding capitals or small villages would sell the items no longer being made or shipped, as well as sometimes awesome quality handmade items and antiques as well. Think a massive, impromptu Craigslist, with items new and old, valuable and tawdry alike. It was a parody of a modern free marketplace due to its lack of sophistication and technology, but at the same time was also the epitome of supply meeting demand without coercion (if one looks past the twisted currency policies of the countries that made this possible and necessary in the first place). Like in any good bazaar, haggling was expected, indeed almost bad form not to do. It was depressing and life-affirming at the same time.

To greater or lesser degree, the process by which all of this came to pass was just that – a process. Yes, there were milestones along the way, surely there were very specific, significant events that marked the decline of the non-convertible ex-Communist currencies. And in many if not most countries there were significant devaluations in a single day. But in general, for the region as a whole, the theft of wealth and living standards was a process that was drawn out over months and years (and of course continues to this day). Just like Kristallnacht did NOT just materialize out of the blue one November evening, there is always a cadence that seems to be kept to with these things.

Some general, observational points:

  • The drastic income reducing/cost increasing step imposed by the government on the populace is ALWAYS a last resort, adopted only to avoid an even worse outcome. Relieving countermeasures to ease the 'pain of transition' are always immediately offered, or at least confidently forecast for the near future.
  • BUT cops and other security personnel ALWAYS got a substantial raise before major inflationary events
  • Eastern Europe DID live in de facto police states until 1990 or so (and of course some of these are being/have been reestablished) – the effect of economic collapse on the enforcement mechanism was simple: the enforcers needed to feed and clothe their kids too. Yes, corruption and graft became rampant everywhere – but a large part of it was ‘existential corruption’. In any case, the grip of the governments (temporarily, in many cases) slipped and relaxed a bit. Mobs were built, and then entrenched.
  • Bleeding a patient is ALWAYS done gradually. They won’t announce a 10% devaluation, they will do 4%, then follow up later with 6% more.
  • Currency controls work, to a point – they keep the large masses of people from moving wealth, but never those who have substantial amounts of it. Also, when an entire populace becomes incentivized and handsomely rewarded for circumventing said controls, they become very creative and difficult to anticipate.

Even with a collapse as seemingly monumental as the loss of superpower status for the USSR and the ‘cutting loose’ of its satellites, trains were kept running (if not on time), people by and large were free to move about (if anything, slightly freer, though still bound by lack of funding).

A collapse, no matter how epic, is always a process. Freefall can be engineered in standalone single buildings, perhaps, but the steel beams in the case of the current global monetary regime crisscross too far and wide to pancake all at once. The good news is that we may have some time (Days? Weeks? Months?) between plainly obvious, explicit monetary collapse events. The bad new is that the obvious, explicit ones are still yet to come, and are liable to be nasty, if the endgame truly approaches.

But the capacity for human society to regenerate and spontaneously organize is also truly remarkable. And our keepers, no matter how fearsome and powerful they may appear, are not ALL-powerful or omniscient. And they certainly will not have permanent grip on said power. No matter WHAT they would like us to believe.

About the Author


Texas Sandman
Jan 5, 2014 - 5:43am

Short term collapse --- Short term reversal

Silver short term, my take.

Jan 5, 2014 - 6:04am

Banksters have long ago

Banksters have long ago discovered that need for risk capital ( liquid) arises when there is high uncertainly levels ( remember this capital arose in the need to loan money to ancient farmers who were exposed to weather uncertainty and later as mercantile capital connected to ancient international medieval trade which was very risky).

So an obvious strategy for this capital to rule is ensure maximum uncertainty. Whatever it takes. That increases market share of this peculiar type of capital, ensuring it remains always in prominent swing capital position and can tax all other capitals (=in a cartel way, decide the price of ALL capital by increasing or reducing the supply of swing capital via CB decisions and lending decisions of banks) . This strategy had been followed since times immemorial.

I think that is the only politiceconomic law there is today of importance - the strategic game of swing capital vs. others, and as part of it- ensuring that swing capital has big STOCKS and lowest production costs. The need for low production costs means that in all laws that guide the investors and owners of this capital fixed cost in its production shall be minimized or even totally excluded. No attachment to anything outside the commitment of ensuring low production costs long term is permitted.

Today its the stock that is running dry- the gold reserves of swing capital are being depleted. That threatens its existence as such , since if there are no reserves, no one will believe in its ability to increase capacity ( create more trustable paper) .

So possession of GOLD- returning it back from the East - is death and life question for swing capital producers and investors behind this production.

Which means there will be NO capitulation to the East in an easy way. All resources commanded by swing capital will ( and already are) put to use to recover the basis.

First actions will of course be to decrease supply of money so that the leverage over gold stocks is reduced and with strategic aim to create recession in the East that will force them to sell gold back. Next steps depend on the reaction of Turkey, Saudi, India, China. But plans for ME war are already advanced far-in final execution phase. And plans for oil price increase.

But do not hope on easy surrender of the Cartel. They have been winning this game since death of absolute monarchies and appearance of Protestantism . Its a long time to spread influence and create defenses, ensure loyal following , and work out strategic and action plans. Its by definition supranational and cosmopolite as being tied to any country increases its fixed costs and removes liquidity. Israel is also a huge fixed cost as it creates attachment and emotions . If matters get very bad, it can be allowed to expire.

In short, production of swing capital is a profession, ensuring its swing position- ,market share and low costs and huge stocks- a business target.The Rest follows. Including the culture and religion of this cartel corporation, its marketing strategies, human resource allocation, career and succession planing, new cadre growth, political conditions, communication and PR, own courts armies and police, secret service and espionage, foreign policy, own structure of governance etc. It is a geographically dispersed state, in short.

Jan 5, 2014 - 6:56am
Jan 5, 2014 - 7:43am
Jan 5, 2014 - 8:57am

From my post above, the

From my post above, the simplest definition of money ( of different liquidity) :

Money=swing capital

It is only needed when there is uncertainty, nature made but lately mostly human made and on purpose. Lack of harmony in society/humanity is proportional to the need for Money.

In so called Dark Middle Ages we know so little about and its all bad mouthed, there was probably the smallest ratio of Swing Capital to other forms of capital. It was also that time of initial spread of the Christianity when its teachings were not yet corrupted. Which directly forbade making money a god and material wealth an aim in life.

I think we would envy the stability and harmony of those times if our genes were not spoiled by selection of money serfs in the current system where Swing Capital has reached almost 50% of all capital. Which means maximum sustainable uncertainty has been created, and which also means there will be a reaction to decrease Swing Capital share and role.

When we talk about money gold , sound money etc thing number one is to reduce the need for money at all. After that, minimum amount needed shall be created via mechanisms that does permit human made crisis and ensure against too big harm from nature made crisis.

There was time slaves were money when there was not enough swing capital of other accepted forms . So balance is not so easy.

sierra skier
Jan 5, 2014 - 9:36am

Somewhere it is the end of the world every day.

We just have to be ready when it comes to our neighborhood.

Thought provoking post JY. Thanks for the morning read.

I Run Bartertown
Jan 5, 2014 - 9:51am

Great insights JY896

"There was no collapse, per se – the ‘backbone’ of social structures remained intact (in fact, to a much greater degree than would have been preferable)"

IMO, it is not the all-out collapse to be feared. The most dangerous scenario is a collapse of life-sustaining structures while life-controlling structures remain intact. My 'ideal' collapse would see the Rotary Clubs and 4H intact but the DHS/NSA complex crippled. The military would have been disbanded or defeated, the feds a memory, but your local sheriff (complete with posse of locally-trusted men) is still around to advise folks on their fortifications and train them in the use of all the new-found heavy weaponry. An all-around de-concentration of power and the springing up of so many 'centers of power' that dictatorship is a pipe-dream. A cooperative confederacy amongst these groups / locales with no illusions on anyone's part that it shall be allowed to become what Robert Barnwell Rhett described as:

‘A political union can only exist, between independent political entities. Such was the Union constituted by the Constitution of the United States, “between the States.” But this Union – a Union of independent political entities – a Union of free-will and choice -, is gone; and the connexion now existing themselves what were formerly States, is no union at all; but is the operation of the different parts of a central consolidated power, held together by fear and force.’

Ivars - "In so called Dark Middle Ages we know so little about and its all bad mouthed"

I can't find the link at the moment, but I read an interesting piece once about the 'Dark Ages'. The author made the case that it was a relatively wonderful time to be a peasant. Less leviathan powers in place, they got left alone more than was the historical or modern norm. The term 'dark ages' was originally a literary critique of the writings to have made it out of the age. That perception morphed over time into an age that was desperate and dismal, which it apparently wasn't. I was left feeling like the whole characterization was intended, after the fact, to fabricate the ultimate 'bad old days' to convince people that the consolidation of power, and 'firming-up' of control structures was a positive. So as far as the 'Dark Ages', I take the view of Brer Rabbit. "Please don't throw me into that there briar patch."

Br'er Rabbit: The Tar Trap [Part 2] - Song of the South clip
Jan 5, 2014 - 10:04am

@IRB Dark Ages

Yes, I am sure it was nice life with little uncertainty and stress which is created by presence of too much swing capital-money. In those days, most of gold was collected into monastic and church hoards and stayed there. Global Money in circulation was - in Europe- i read somewhere- about 6 times less than in Roman times. I will find the links myself.

I think Chinese in their long history have gone through all variations of this game within one country, had their own moneyed interests, and have some ideas - may be- how to move forward- though its obviously not easy, especially in the world permeated with Moneyed interests. Money is in the fabric of our societies and in our genetic pool. It is not easy to reduce dependence on it.

I Run Bartertown
Jan 5, 2014 - 10:20am


I'm sure there was no shortage of uncertainty or stress. It was just not as likely to be a distant Lord conscripting you for a grand adventure (made possible, if I'm understanding your thesis, by that excess swing capital).

The uncertainties might be related a disease killing your livestock, or your harvest being impacted by bad weather. But at least bad weather is natural (or Godly, depending on your perspective). Being so drastically impacted by something called 'the economy' is like man-made weather*.

*stolen from a description of the media by Mickey Knox in Natural Born Killers

Down Range
Jan 5, 2014 - 10:24am


Thank you JY896. A nice read on a Sunday morning before another day of wonder!

The sun does come up every day, though sometimes we cannot see it.

Key Economic Events Week of 10/14

10/15 8:30 ET Empire State Fed MI
10/16 8:30 ET Retail Sales
10/16 10:00 ET Business Inventories
10/17 8:30 ET Housing Starts and Bldg Perms
10/17 8:30 ET Philly Fed MI
10/17 9:15 ET Cap Ute and Ind Prod
10/18 10:00 ET LEIII
10/18 Speeches from Goons Kaplan, George and Chlamydia

Subscribe or login to read all comments.


Donate Shop

Get Your Subscriber Benefits

Private iTunes feed for all TF Metals Report podcasts, and access to Vault member forum discussions!

Key Economic Events Week of 10/14

10/15 8:30 ET Empire State Fed MI
10/16 8:30 ET Retail Sales
10/16 10:00 ET Business Inventories
10/17 8:30 ET Housing Starts and Bldg Perms
10/17 8:30 ET Philly Fed MI
10/17 9:15 ET Cap Ute and Ind Prod
10/18 10:00 ET LEIII
10/18 Speeches from Goons Kaplan, George and Chlamydia

Key Economic Events Week of 10/7

10/8 8:30 ET Producer Price Index
10/9 10:00 ET Job Openings
10/9 10:00 ET Wholesale Inventories
10/9 2:00 ET September FOMC minutes
10/10 8:30 ET Consumer Price Index
10/11 10:00 ET Consumer Sentiment

Key Economic Events Week of 9/30

9/30 9:45 ET Chicago PMI
10/1 9:45 ET Markit Manu PMI
10/1 10:00 ET ISM Manu PMI
10/1 10:00 ET Construction Spending
10/2 China Golden Week Begins
10/2 8:15 ET ADP jobs report
10/3 9:45 ET Markit Service PMI
10/3 10:00 ET ISM Service PMI
10/3 10:00 ET Factory Orders
10/4 8:30 ET BLSBS
10/4 8:30 ET US Trade Deficit

Key Economic Events Week of 9/23

9/23 9:45 ET Markit flash PMIs
9/24 10:00 ET Consumer Confidence
9/26 8:30 ET Q2 GDP third guess
9/27 8:30 ET Durable Goods
9/27 8:30 ET Pers Inc and Cons Spend
9/27 8:30 ET Core Inflation

Key Economic Events Week of 9/16

9/17 9:15 ET Cap Ute & Ind Prod
9/18 8:30 ET Housing Starts & Bldg Perm.
9/18 2:00 ET Fedlines
9/18 2:30 ET CGP presser
9/19 8:30 ET Philly Fed
9/19 10:00 ET Existing Home Sales

Key Economic Events Week of 9/9

9/10 10:00 ET Job openings
9/11 8:30 ET PPI
9/11 10:00 ET Wholesale Inv.
9/12 8:30 ET CPI
9/13 8:30 ET Retail Sales
9/13 10:00 ET Consumer Sentiment
9/13 10:00 ET Business Inv.

Key Economic Events Week of 9/3

9/3 9:45 ET Markit Manu PMI
9/3 10:00 ET ISM Manu PMI
9/3 10:00 ET Construction Spending
9/4 8:30 ET Foreign Trade Deficit
9/5 9:45 ET Markit Svc PMI
9/5 10:00 ET ISM Svc PMI
9/5 10:00 ET Factory Orders
9/6 8:30 ET BLSBS

Key Economic Events Week of 8/26

8/26 8:30 ET Durable Goods
8/27 9:00 ET Case-Shiller Home Price Idx
8/27 10:00 ET Consumer Confidence
8/29 8:30 ET Q2 GDP 2nd guess
8/29 8:30 ET Advance Trade in Goods
8/30 8:30 ET Pers. Inc. and Cons. Spend.
8/30 8:30 ET Core Inflation
8/30 9:45 ET Chicago PMI

Key Economic Events Week of 8/19

8/21 10:00 ET Existing home sales
8/21 2:00 ET July FOMC minutes
8/22 9:45 ET Markit Manu and Svc PMIs
8/22 Jackson Holedown begins
8/23 10:00 ET Chief Goon Powell speaks

Key Economic Events Week of 8/12

8/13 8:30 ET Consumer Price Index
8/14 8:30 ET Retail Sales
8/14 8:30 ET Productivity & Labor Costs
8/14 8:30 ET Philly Fed
8/14 9:15 ET Ind Prod and Cap Ute
8/14 10:00 ET Business Inventories
8/15 8:30 ET Housing Starts & Bldg Permits

Recent Comments

by Angry Chef, 35 sec ago
by Libero, 12 min 45 sec ago
by Blankone, 20 min 2 sec ago
by allenb, 29 min 58 sec ago

Forum Discussion

by Green Lantern, Oct 16, 2019 - 9:53pm
by zman, Oct 16, 2019 - 8:51pm
by NW VIEW, Oct 16, 2019 - 7:31pm
by ancientmoney, Oct 16, 2019 - 5:23pm