07 July 2010

Currency Wars: Selling The Rope

"The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

There were a number of Wall Street scions who most infamously associated themselves with Hitler's financiers, and were more than willing to ride the National Socialist tide in Europe for their own benefit come what may, to the extent that they did not stop their activities in supporting the Reich until called out by the government through the Trading with the Enemy Act in 1944.

Why bring that up now? Because that same sort of short term, greedy, amoral thinking is taking the US down a similar path with nations who, while the comparison with Hitler is inappropriate, are certainly no kindred spirits or friends of liberty.

When the truth comes out, the perpetrators will claim ignorance, or victimization, when in fact they have been roundly selling out their country through the blind pursuit of crony capitalism, to the detriment of the people and their country.

The real enemy is not Russia or China, although they are certainly inimical to freedom. The foulest enemy is a domestic predator class, famous for a character that 'would sell their mother for an eighth,' more than willing to sell the future of your grandchildren. They abuse the law, the media, and the integrity of justice to obtain their ends. They are without oath or honor.

And when the time comes, they will prescribe draconian measures and proto-fascism, in an attempt to further consolidate their own personal power, and the benefits provided to themselves and their wealthy friends, under the excuse of the approach of danger from abroad.

"The IRA: This is the idiocy of the U.S. position. We have set ourselves up as an easy target for our enemies. It is astounding that the Chinese have not been more aggressive in selling dollars. Maybe they are going to manage our downfall gently.

Rickards: I think the Chinese probably are doing it gently. The Japanese and Chinese are both influenced by Zen which, in Western jargon, is really about optionality. The whole idea of Zen is to avoid black and white decisions and instead create a range of options and possible outcomes. Instead of committing yourself to a binary decision, you create a fan of probabilities and look for your openings. So in that sense, if you think of it in options space, the Chinese are probably content to play the American paper game with the dollar, but all the while preparing for the day when the dollar collapses completely.

The IRA: Americans are convinced that it cannot happen here, the greatest nation on earth. Reminds us of France after WWI. Same degree of self-delusion. And no reaction by U.S. officials to the Chinese and Russia gold purchases?

Rickards: The Russians do not hide their purchases of gold. The incremental growth of Russian gold reserves is visible in their monthly statistics. The Chinese have been more surreptitious in their purchases but even they have announced the reserves doubled in recent years. The way that both of these nations add to gold without impacting the global price is that they are buying from internal, captive producers. And they pay below market prices because even paying $800 per ounce still gives their miners a tremendous profit. Between 2004 and 2008, China almost doubled the gold stocks of Peoples Bank of China, but they bought it through other state agencies to keep it off their books. (There were some analyst reports out this morning that the Chinese will not buy more gold for their reserves. This is the typical 'opinion' that is used to support bear raids by the banks and hedge funds, nothing more. It was utter nonsense. These fellows 'talk their book' with the same concern that you have to change your underwear. In other words, painting a story that is false but sells their product is a basic tool in their repetoire. - Jesse)

The IRA: So there is the pretense of coordination among the G-20, but meanwhile China is preparing to operate in a hard currency world. Is this a good way to describe your view?

Rickards: We have been operating in a dollar world for decades. Notwithstanding the demise of Bretton Woods in 1971, it's still a dollar system. All of the world's expectations, all of its productive capacity, all of its allocations of capital are built around that system. When the caretakers of that system allow weeds in the garden and for the system to disintegrate and fall apart, which is what I see happening in the U.S., the immediate reaction is first confusion, then panic and then self help. This gets to the heart of the national security implications of the financial crisis. Initially other nations were content to wait for the U.S. response, but now I see nations like China, Russia and Germany increasingly willing to act on their own...

The IRA: So here is the question: if the U.S. has its head buried in the sand, who is the leader of the global currency system going forward?

Rickards: Well, the leader of the process is not clear. This gets back to a whole series of very revealing interviews given by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in the late 1990s that we have to dig out. He embraces something that he calls "convening power," I call it "a bunch of guys." Geithner's world view essentially consists of getting the finance ministers or heads of state in a room, developing an agenda, and then pursuing that process wherever it takes you. I think the US has embraced multilateralism within the G-20 as an alternative to U.S. leadership. I think we look at the G-20 differently than does China, Russia, Brazil and some others. The U.S. looks at the G-20 as a kind of benign, kumbaya, kind of global board of directors that working with the IMF can bring the world in for a soft landing. I don't think the Chinese or the Russians see it that way. They see the G-20 as an interesting tool but from a state-centric view.

The IRA: Geithner's strategy, if you can call it that, reminds us of the shallow management pretense visible in many Wall Street firms. The Chinese and Russians see themselves in the ascendancy and, unlike the U.S., these nations have a vision of where they want to be a century from now. Americans just want to borrow more money."

Chris Whalen, The Institutional Risk Analyst, July 7, 2010

The macro trend is a change in the post Bretton Woods international currency system that is reaching a point of instability, and the decline and fall of the dollar from its postwar imperium. The US and UK will promote the adoption of the SDR, because they exercise a measure of control over the IMF. The BRIC's will accept this because they have little practical alternatives. Therefore the real battle will be the negotiation of the content of the SDR when they rebalance it this year. The Anglo-Americans want no change, but might accept the inclusion of the yuan at a higher exchange rate. The BRIC's want gold and perhaps silver to be included, and a broader basket of currencies from the rising economic powers. It will be quite the geo-political dance.

What is disconcerting to me, and you can see it to some extent in Rickards own work, is that the Wall Street financiers clearly have their eyes on the Pentagon budget: opaque, patriotically defensible, and huge. A currency war, with the Wall Street crowd providing tactics and weaponry and mercenaries to both the US and to its adversaries, might make the bonuses taken from the mortgage bubble look like pocket change by comparison. Its an old idea really, the basis of some legendary fortunes, adapted to the modern world. It produces nothing but misery, while transferring wealth from the many to the few.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed." Mohandas K. Ghandi