The End of the Ponzi Scheme (Transcript excerpt)
When we go out and do a curbside chat or, really, you go back to the beginnings of this movement, the entire thing started with this notion of a Growth Ponzi Scheme. The idea that our post World War II development pattern was different in some substantive ways that made the financing of it function like a Ponzi scheme.
I go to great lengths to not emphasize the automobile in this, although the automobile is intrinsically linked to it. I don’t think that is the major component of this. It’s more like the accelerant.
I go to great lengths in the curbside chat to start out and talk about ancient Rome, and ancient Ur, and all these ancient civilizations, and how they built and grew, and how that was very similar to the way to the way that my home town, here in central Minnesota, grew thousands of years later, how the layout, the design, the financing, the techniques, everything was very localized. It all grew very incrementally.
I set up this notion that the knowledge to do this was developed by trial and error. This is stuff that came from Jared Diamond. Jared Diamond’s work, looking at what we would label as primitive cultures.
I think he even calls them that in his books, primitive cultures. Cultures that are not advanced. They’re not technologically savvy. He’s been to Papua, New Guinea, parts of South America. He’s lived with these people that are still living primitive hunter-gatherer lifestyles. He’s like, “We can learn a lot from these people. Here’s some of the things we’ve learned.”
I think that the most fascinating thing of his research is when he juxtaposes the things we think we know with the things that they know.
The best one ever, and I had it on podcast a couple of years ago, was the juxtaposition of the economist going into this South American tribal area and looking at these people who had seven different garden plots stretched out all over. They’d have 7 to 10 garden plots in different parts of the rainforest.
The economist said, “Look at how silly and primitive these people are. They’re just not very bright. Anyone can see that it’s not very efficient to have these different plots all over the place. A smart, thinking, rational human being, modern human would consolidate. Swap if there was a market. People would swap their land holdings and you could get all your holdings closer, in one spot, and then you wouldn’t be spending so much time walking between them.”
It took an anthropologist to go down and actually look at this again, and say, “No, these people are genius. These people are brilliant,” because what they’re doing is they’re not trying to maximize the growth potential of their land. They’re not trying to. A modern ethic [is to] increase the efficiency of their operation, but they’re trying to do is survive.
By having seven plots spread out all over the place, you ensure that if one is hit by a hailstorm and another one has a tree fall on it, and another one is attacked by [pests, e.g.,] some rodents come in and forage through the garden and wreck most of it. You’re likely to have stuff that will allow you to survive.
In fact, the anthropologist worked out mathematically, you would need at least the seven plots to make sure that you always survive. If you think about that for a second, you realize how that knowledge came about. It’s not like any of them in the civilizations said, “Well, we’ve sit down and mathematically compute that we need seven plots.”
What happened? Over time, over thousands of years of human history, families who didn’t create seven different plots died. They didn’t make it. The ones that did had this knowledge of you got to have at least seven. You see how these things come about.
What I like to point out at the beginning of the Curbside Chat is that we have this way of building that was developed by that method, by trial and error. This is what works. This method has been refined, not only through times that were plenty but through times that were difficult. Through wars, through famines, through siege, through all kinds of things. These are the places that survive, and they survive enough to be copied by others.
I point this out because, starting in the Great Depression, accelerating after World War II, we not only began this different style with different building types and different ways of laying things up, but we began a different form of financing.
We actually shifted from an economy that was based largely on local types of things going on. Jobs, growth, all this was a byproduct of things we did locally, [and that changed] to one where [growth] was the national objective. It was the national objective with jobs and growth. We were going to maximize those things, and we had all kinds of theories and notions of how we were going to do this.
Particularly by making investments in infrastructure and other things at the local level to accelerate this growth. I walk through this scenario where cities experience growth and it gives them all these cash, and then they go through the second life cycle where they have to maintain this stuff and the liabilities start to build up and overwhelm them.
By the time they get to the third life cycle, they’re swamped in debt. They’re swamped in liabilities and they are essentially where Detroit is today. I go through this and I call the first phase the illusion of wealth phase, then I show them the decline and audiences, [and they] look at this.
It’s intuitively obvious, but I think the question that I began answering over the last year that really comes from the work of Jared Diamond and sociologists and others that I’ve been reading is the question, “What happened to other civilizations?” Because we’re human. We’re human the way people were human a thousand years ago. 2000 years ago, there’s not a lot of difference between us in terms of intellect.
People try crazy things 2000 years ago. What happened to them? They failed. They failed and they weren’t copied. Those approaches went away. What makes us different? What makes us different is that we’ve been able to do this experiment, the one we’re on now, in a continental scale.
We’re not some lonely place on the African savanna. We are the most powerful nation in the world. We do [things] — in an entire continent within a generation — around a new set of theories of how our people and our economy should work. We went all in. We didn’t try it out. We didn’t try it out in Wisconsin to see how it would work and then bring it here to Minnesota.
We just did this across the whole continent, all at once. Now, we’re at the end game. The end game. We’re at this place where we’ve strung it out as far as things seem like they’re going to go. We’ve got some harder times ahead.
I’ve been listening to an economist, a guy named Tomas, and I’m going to say it as an American, Tomas Sedlacek. He’s Czech, he’s from the Czech Republic. He actually was, at a very young age, an advisor to Vaclav Havel.
For those of you a little bit younger in our audience, Vaclav Havel was a fascinating character in the disintegration of the old Soviet Bloc. He was a playwright. Actually, as a playwright, became the first post-Soviet freely elected leader of the Czech Republic, and a very influential European in terms of European circles.
This guy, Sedlacek, was one of his economic advisors. He was in his early twenties at the time, too. This guy’s brilliant, incredibly brilliant.
In fact, this week, if you head to the website, you’ll see I’ve posted some videos and some other things from Sedlacek. I’ve seen his first name pronounced Tomae and all different European sounding. In English, it’s written Tomas. Then Sedlacek is, SEDLACEK. As an economist, this guy does not fit the standard mold.
In fact, one of the things he said in one of the interviews that I listened to is, he said, “Economist should be treated with respect, like any religious minority would.” His views are that the field of economist is, as we’ve said on this show, needing “The Einstein Revolution.”
We’ve got into the Galileo or Newton’s spot, where we’ve calculated things, but now we need to get a little bit more abstract and philosophical, and start asking some harder questions. He puts forth the notion that before World War II nations had this fetish of conquering.
We felt that the way that we were going to become strong and powerful as nations was to actually conquer territory, to go out and seize others’ lands, kill them, drive them off, or incorporate them into your own existence and occupy their lands. That was what made a nation great.
He points out that, today, if you came to the Czech Republic and said, “We’ll give you a half of Poland,” the Czech Republic will say, “Well, we don’t want a half of Poland. Then we would have a half of Poland’s problems, and a half of Poland’s people, and we got our own problems and stuff to care. We’re not interested in that. We’ve gone beyond this fetish of conquering.”
He said, “We’ve replaced the fetish of conquering with the fetish of growth, the notion that we can out-compete other countries by having higher rates of growth than they do.” We’ve become obsessed with things like GDP, and measuring this very abstract and, when you dig into it, rather bogus number.
When you lay your assumptions upon assumptions, upon assumptions with really sketchy data, you don’t wind up with a hard science number. It’s always been a joke to me when we report economic growth is 1.3 percent. As if we could ever measure anything to that degree of accuracy.
It’d be more honest to say, “Well, somewhere between zero and three, in there,” but we don’t. We measure it to 1.2 percent. Then we come back to the next quarter, and revise it upward or downward by a fraction of a percentage point as if we can obtain that kind of accuracy on something.
He points out that we’ve replaced this fetish of conquering with this fetish of growth, and growth has its own high priest. In this country it would be the central bankers [who] prophesize what growth will be for the next year, and the next five years, and the next 20 years. They issue these reports and they say, “Here’s what we see in the future.”
All the people lined up to listen to these prophets and then they run around and do crazy things in response. We’ve built an entire economy around this. It’s interesting because, as I hear them talk, I hear the local prophets, too, like the planners and the engineers.
I remember way back, when I worked in the trenches as an engineer and a planner, you always projected growth. You always projected, even if you were in some pathetic city that no one would ever want to move to, and there’s no reason for anyone to ever want to move there. You have that same growth for a long time. You would sit down and you would project some level of growth. It’s built-in.
This is built in to the way we build highways and roadways. Even when we see declining traffic levels, the engineers will come in and project robust growth every year, indefinitely. Then widen and add more lanes. This is built-in, the cult of growth, the notion that things must always grow.
What Sedlacek’s argument, at the end of the day, is that, with this cult of growth, with this fetish we have, with growth now being the way we project our power, our worth, we have, in our pursuit of growth, exchanged stability for growth. We have given up stability in order to attain growth. We’ve given up long-term stability, a stableness of our economy, in terms of growth.
Now, think back to what I started with, the hunter-gatherers with the seven
gardens. The modern economist would go to these hunter-gatherers.
They did, in fact, and said, “Look, you can have more growth. You can have more efficiency. You can produce more, if you consolidate your holdings into one space, and then you won’t have to spend so much time walking between them. You can sell your plot to the farmer at next door. He can sell you his. That’s close to you, and you can consolidate, and viola, everyone’s better off.”
What was not factored in here was that it would lead to a decline in stability. Your own personal stability would be impacted by this. As governments, as countries this is what we have done in our pursuit of growth. We have traded our long-term stability.
This reminds me heavily of Nassim Taleb. We talk about Nassim all the time. Nassim is the patron saint of Strong Towns thinking. If you want to understand what I’ve been groping in the dark to try to figure it out, and I’m still not there yet, but I continue to follow this light, the light is Nassim Taleb. The light is Nassim.
I find everything that he does to be utterly fascinating, and challenge my deepest insights in ways that really, really have helped me a lot. His primary insight, this concept that he calls anti-fragility, the notion of things that gained from disorder lines up a lot with what Sedlacek has said now about trading stability for growth with an anti-fragile system.
I think the easiest way to understand this is to think of your own human body. When you exercise you are stressing your body. When you exercise, that stress actually makes your body stronger. It makes your body healthier. It makes your body better and fitter. People fast and, actually, fasting is a way to strengthen your body. It’s a way to toughen your body up.
When your body gets used to . . . I joke with my wife. She’s a very regular eater. She eats breakfast at the same time. She eats lunch at the same time. She’s here at the same time. My kids have adopted these habits as well.
I grew up on a farm and we just ate randomly. You would eat breakfast, and you might eat lunch two hours late, and you might eat dinner at 10:30 at night – [that] was very routine. You worked till the sun went down, so a lot of times we had very irregular eating schedules. When my wife and I got married, and as we brought up kids, I watched this window every day, the hunger window. These little girls of mine start to get a little volatile, a little crazy, because their blood sugar’s dropping. You got to get them, sit down, and have some food. Essentially, they’re not very anti-fragile. They’re very susceptible to not eating, outside of that window.
People who fast, people who grew up on farms, and have crazy eating schedules tend to be able to go long periods of time without eating. Your body becomes more resilient. It becomes stronger. It becomes more adaptable.
The idea of anti-fragile is this notion that we can create systems, and natural systems, in particular, complex, adaptive, natural systems — think rain forest, think traditional city. These were places that had characteristics of anti-fragility to them.
As they are stressed, they are designed to, during stress, bounce back and become stronger, to actually gain from that levels of disorder. Let me line this up, because it shows the real fragility of where we’re at today in our system.
You take something that is resilient, and in a resilient system, growth is good. I’m talking about economic systems today. Growth is good, but when we don’t have growth, then the idea is that we’ve survived the bad times.
This is actually the central insight of Keynes, in a sense. Sedlacek goes back and talks about Joseph in the Bible. There’s a story in the Old Testament where the King has a dream, and Joseph comes and interprets it for him, and says, “You’re going to have seven years of excess, followed by seven years of famine,” essentially the first business cycle.
“What you should do is you should not consume everything you produce in those seven years of plenty. You should actually save some, so when you get to the seven years of famine, you’ve got something there.”
This was, essentially, Keynes’ argument, in a big sense. He added to it by saying, “When things are bad, you should actually step in and make them better. You should be the catalyst that keeps things going, because you’ll keep it from getting horrible.”
The idea of a resilient system is one that when growth is good, things do really well, but when growth stops, we’re going to survive. We’re going to be OK. We’re not going to collapse and go backward.
An anti-fragile system is one where growth is good. When growth is good, things go really well, but no growth is also good. When things don’t go well, we also have some upside with that.
I think the difference here is more than subtle. When I say growth is good, if you think of this as a graph going up, in a resilient system, things will go up then you get growth, but in an anti-fragile system, you’re capturing some of that upside, but not all of the upside. You’re willing to give up a little bit of upside during the good so that when things go bad, you also have upside.
In a resilient system, you’re trying to capture the upside, and then when things go bad, you’re trying to hang on and not have them go down all that much. In an anti-fragile system, during the good times, you’ve got upside. Not as high as resilient, but you’ve got upside, and then when you get to the bad times, you still have upside. Things still go up. That’s an anti-fragile system.
Let’s contrast that with our current economic model. Our current economic model is what? “Growth is awesome. Everything is awesome.” Growth makes everything go up, everything is great. Growth, growth, growth.
Then when we get to, not even just growth, but [just] slowdowns in growth — because really that’s what the housing crisis was, was a slowdown in growth. What happens? Everything cascades downward, fast, accelerates downward. We’ve given up that stability in order to get the growth.
If you [imagine] these three graphs together, you would have the anti-fragile showing growth that would go up a little bit. You’d have the resilient, that would grow up even further, and then you would have our current system that would go way, way, way up, but when you get to the period where you don’t have growth, what happens in the anti-fragile system is it still goes up. Not as much. You’re not as robust, but it still goes up.
In the resilient system, it flattens out. It flattens out, and you try not to go
down, but you flatten out. In our current growth model, what happens when you get to those difficult times, everything collapses. It craters. It craters.
That’s where we’re at today. That’s the way we’ve built our cities, the way we’ve built our economy, the way we’ve structured our morality, in a sense. This is the way we’ve structured our entire society.
When I look at someone like Paul Krugman, and this is why Krugman drives me insane. This is why he drives me crazy, and why I can’t stand him. It’s not because he’s a leftie. I listen to a lot of lefties, and I don’t mind them. There’s a lot of them I find very deeply intellectual and quite consistent in their belief systems. I find comfort in that. I enjoy listening to people of all political persuasions. I really do.
The thing about Krugman that drives me nuts is that he is completely inconsistent, and intellectually, I think in many ways, dishonest. This notion of Keynesianism as translated today into “debt doesn’t matter . . . .” This is Dick Cheney. “Deficits don’t matter. Debt doesn’t matter. What matters now is growth.” What matters now is this cult off growth, this obsession that we have with obtaining growth, because growth is what is needed to counteract the downturn.
In a sense, if you buy into this religion, that is very true, but what happens is that you get these wild swings, these wild swings up, and then these wild swings down, and then these wild swings up, and then these wild swings down.
If you go back to the ’60s and the ’70s and the ’80s, what you were seeing was that the swings weren’t as big. The Keynesian theory of counteracting recession by having centralized intervention actually worked. It made a lot of sense, but it made sense only because we weren’t over-correcting.
I’ve had this described before, and I think a good way to think of this — this is a Minnesota analogy. For those of you that don’t experience snow on a regular basis, this won’t mean as much to you. It’s like driving a car on snow.
When you turn a little bit, and the car starts to lose control, the first few iterations of swerving back and forth are small. When you over-correct, what happens is that you start to swing more wildly, and you start careening back and forth. Pretty soon, your car is spinning all the way around, and you slide off the road.
This is essentially what has been happening with our economy. We had this theory about how to even out the business cycle too get rid of the downs and just have ups, to just experience growth. We started to tinker with it, and when we hit bad times, we would stimulate. We would do the things that the book said to do.
The theories all suggested we should do to get things going again, and we did. We got them going again, but then we found that the next downturn was a little harsher, and so we had to do a little bit more. The next downturn was a little bit harsher, and we had to do a little bit more.
You get to a crazy point where you have a downturn, and now you’re pumping trillions of dollars into the economy. You’ve got eight years of zero percent interest rates, and actually now, talk of having negative interest rates. At what point do we say, “We’ve got the wrong religion? We got this wrong. We haven’t got this figured out.”
Sedlacek made a statement that I had heard other people say before. Dave Collum is my favorite one who said it. He said, “Austerity is not a policy. Austerity is a consequence.” We think of austerity as like a choice that we have. No, austerity is not a policy, austerity is a consequence.
How you experience austerity is a policy choice. “Do we cut here? Do we cut there?” But at some point, austerity is no longer a policy decision. It is a consequence of our actions. It’s a consequence of the system that we have created.
Sedlacek argues, I think very persuasively, to me, that we have to actually move beyond this cult of growth. We actually have to get, socially, where we’re not monitoring GDP. We’re not worried about that. We’re not in a place where we measure prosperity based on this abstract economic statistic that is really quite bogus anyway.
We actually measure it in different ways, and it’s funny, because he says, “I’m not a hippy. I’m not someone who thinks everything should be about love. What would you measure? You would measure things like art, happiness, and friendships.”
It’s funny, because when you hear an economist say those things, it runs so counter to the way economists present these hard, cold statistics of their very hard, cold analytical science. Yet, when we think about our own lives, this is exactly the way we measure things. This is exactly the way we tend to value life, particularly when we can step outside of the system that we’ve been put in.
Sedlacek talks about Keynes. I’ve read some of Keynes’s work. I’ve read books about Keynes. I’ve read books about Keynes’s work. I won’t say that I have taken courses in economics that have delved deeply into Keynes’s macroeconomic theories, but I feel like I’m maybe ascending Mount Stupid. [laughs] I should explain that.
Mount Stupid, and this goes to Dave Collum. This is the first guy I saw put this together, is a guy named Dave Collum. He’s a professor at Cornell. Dave Collum put this thing together, Mount Stupid.
It was a graph, and it said, “The vertical axis,” so up and down, “was your willingness to opine on a subject, and the horizontal axis was your knowledge of that subject.” What happens is, when you have no knowledge, you’re not willing to talk about something, but then when you get a little bit of knowledge, you’re willingness to talk about it spikes way, way up.
Then as your knowledge goes up, your willingness to talk about it goes
down, because you realize, “I don’t really know as much as I think I know, because now I’m being exposed to all these advanced ideas.” As you go out in time, and you get even more knowledge, you become an expert, and then you’re willing to opine on things.
I’m probably somewhere in the Mount Stupid range when it comes to Keynes. I’m going to admit that. I’m going to admit that here, but Sedlacek is not, clearly is not. This is an economist. He studied this stuff.
His argument is that if you go back and read Keynes, originally Keynes said we should be doing two things. We should be saving during good times, and then spending during bad times. We should be putting money away during good times, and running excess, in a sense, having excess capacity.
During bad times, we would have that ability to spend that excess capacity in order to weather the storm. This is Joseph, and the prophecy of the seven years of plenty followed by the seven years of famine.
Sedlacek points out, “As we become obsessed with growth, we just never have enough.” We’ve never had enough growth, and so during times. . . . You look back, and you say, abstractly, “Three percent growth, four percent growth, these are times of plenty.”
When we were experiencing 3 percent growth, we wanted to experience 3.4 percent growth, and when we were experiencing 4 percent growth, we needed to experience 4.4 percent growth. We always had this system where the growth was never enough. We just needed more and more growth, because growth makes everything better.
Avoiding downturn, which was tragedy, became the name of the game, and so what we did is we spent and spent and spent and spent, leveraged ourselves out, and gave up as much stability as we had to in order to achieve that next bit of growth.
This gets me to actually what has been bothering me, and what I’ve been fretting about with my friends, and my Facebook feed, and the world going crazy. We have to ask ourselves, “What does the end of this Ponzi scheme look like?” We talk about this post-war development Ponzi scheme, the way we build our cities. What does the end of that look like?
There’s a lot of you listening out there today that enjoy our stuff at Strong Towns, and you enjoy it because it’s an affirmation on life decisions you make, or you’ve made in the past, or things you believe, or things you want to come true.
You say, “I really appreciate the fact that you are pointing out how the cities are subsidizing the suburbs, and how the cities are very financially productive places, and how traditional walkable/bikeable development patterns are more productive than auto-oriented patterns. I like all that stuff.”
That’s great. I appreciate it, but I think some of you have this vision that what the end of this Ponzi scheme looks like is a bunch of suburban dwellers gleefully moving to cities, riding trains, and sipping lattes. That’s not what’s going to happen. That’s not how these things go down.
What is going to happen? How is this going to go down? I think that’s what we’re seeing. When you look at . . . and I’ll just maybe reiterate here as a disclaimer because it’s important.
Strong Towns is a non-partisan organization. We are a non-profit. We do no political anything. We are not involved in politics. We’re not urging you to vote a certain way. We are not endorsing any candidates. We’re not aligned with any political party.
Philosophically, if we actually dig into our organization, we have a robust collection of political opinions, and that’s really good. I’ve said many, many times, you can be far left of center, you can be far right of center, and you can find a home here at Strong Towns. The insights that we have are not political.
How you choose to react to them, how you choose to implement rational responses, those are political, and those are arguments as they should be done at the local level, but if you want to live in a Communist Utopia, or you want to live in a far right, very ultra-conservative city, I can find places for both of those. I’m OK with that. This is not what this is about.
When you step back and you look at the choices that we’re being given politically, and the results of Super Tuesday, you really have, to me, what this unwinding of this Ponzi scheme looks like.
It looks like, on one hand, the most corrupt of the current system put forth as the alternative that people who want some sort of stability, the stability that we’ve given away, you want that back. We’ll cling to whatever dregs are brought up and put forth as being the . Here’s the way we cling to this, even though it’s not what you want.
It’s corrupt, and it rubs you the wrong way, and everything about it is just not sitting with you right. This is what we have to do if we want stability. We’ve traded away all our stability to get only that growth, so this is all we’re left with.
On the other side of the spectrum, you have the incarnate of the hand grenade. Like, “OK, this whole things is screwed up. Let’s just throw it away. Let’s just toss in a hand grenade and blow things up, and we’ll see where the chips fall.” These are deeply unsettling choices. These are deeply unsettling choices. I know very few people who are jumping up and down, saying, “I am thrilled about this.”
Mostly what we’re thrilled about . . . and you actually have seen this in the last few election cycles. We can go back to the mid-1990s when we were being offered the lesser of two evils. No one wants this candidate, no one wants that candidate, but this one is not going to be as bad as that one.
In Minnesota here, as — again, not endorsing any candidates at all here — but in Minnesota, I have, in a couple elections now, voted Independent at the gubernatorial level. I offer that, again, not as an endorsement of any type, but that’s where my lack of allegiance has brought me.
I voted Independent in the last couple of elections, and it’s very interesting, because when you get involved with Independent parties, or third parties, what happens is, people start to get really upset about this lesser of two evils choices. The reason you don’t have viable third parties in this country is because we have this winner-take-all system.
If your party controls congress, you control the legislation. If your party controls the White House, you control the executive branch, and it’s very much a winner take all kind of system. What happens is any viable third party starts to peel off support. One of the two major parties tends to start to peel off that support.
One of the ways that they’ve done it in recent election cycles is to say, “Well look, you can follow your heart and vote for this person who you think maybe represents you better or represents your views better, but if you do, you’re going to take support from me and then that bad dude over there is going to get elected.”
That’s been deeply frustrating to people trying to start third parties. It’s a byproduct of our system.
What does the end of the Ponzi scheme look like? I think the beginning of the end looks like this. I think the beginning of the end looks like this.
Those of you that have been with us for a while know, I have been a student of the beginnings of World War I. I have been a student of the beginning of the Civil War, and the dialogue at that point in time. I have been a student of the time period between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II.
There’s a lot of people who are throwing around Nazi and Hitler and all this in the current election cycle. I don’t want to go there except to say that, when you look at 1930s Germany, what you see…
Yes, you see Adolf Hitler and you see this maniacal person gaining power through electoral means, through popular support of enough people to get him into offices where he could change the system and make it work for him and his ideology. What you also see is a general desperation, a system in collapse, a system that did not work for people, broadly didn’t work for people.
You want to talk about two bad choices? Choice number one: Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Choice number two, which was the counter choice at the time: Bolshevism and the Lenin-Trotsky-Stalin approach.
There were moderate factions in there, people who didn’t want either of those, who wanted something like a representative republic, like a western-styled democracy. That was the Weimar Republic. They pretty much failed. Things did not work out because they were not empowered to make decisions, and the decisions that they made were not up to the challenges of the day. The system collapsed and, when it collapsed, it literally went crazy.
When we start thinking about what the end of this Ponzi scheme looks like, it doesn’t look like a bunch of suburban people abandoning their 3,000 square foot house with three-car garage, and boat, and moving to the city, and riding the trains, and sipping lattes.
It looks like a bunch of people trying to hang on to what they’ve come to define as prosperity, what they’ve come to define as success, and it looks like a bunch of the high priests of the current system telling them that they can have success if they just do A, B, and C.
If we just deficit spend. If we just have negative interest rates. If we just elect this person or that person, or adopt this policy, we can keep what we’ve got and bring it back. I was just going to use one of the campaigns: “Make America great again. We can do this.” Yeah.
We have traded away our stability in order to have growth, and at the end of the day we’re probably going to wind up with neither.