I just moseyed over to Jim Kunstler’s site, to see what my favorite post-oil guru has to say about today’s market meltdown.
Alas, he posted this morning before the markets opened so I couldn’t get his read on the 500-point “haircut” that the Dow Jones Industrial Average took today.
Still, Kunstler ponders the question that’s been vexing me for some time:
“I wish I knew whether this extravaganza of ruin might settle the question as to whether America goes into hyperinflation or implacable deflation, but the net effect is that money is leaving the system in big gobs.” (italics mine)
As Kunstler and other pundits rightly note, we’re in a debt-deflation cycle similar to one that occurred during the Great Depression and that was memorialized by economist Irving Fisher.
An aside here: Iowe money manager Michael Belkin a thank-you for teaching me about Fisher. You may recall that Belkin called the December 1989 high of the Nikkei index back when he was working with Laszlo Birinyi Jr. at Salomon Brothers. Lots of name-dropping here, I know, but what can I say? I’m a groupie for economists.
Fisher had some wacky theories about nutrition and breeding, but his downfall was supporting Herbert Hoover, a popular President whose place in history was scuttled by the Great Crash of 1929 and his indifference to the suffering of ordinary Americans who assembled in tent cities dubbed “Hoovervilles.”
Like Hoover, Fisher failed to comprehend what was happening in 1929. According to the Wiki, “Fisher was so discredited by his 1929 pronouncements and by the failure of a firm he had started that few people took notice of his debt-deflation analysis of the Depression.”
Basically, in a debt-deflation period, prices of assets decline because people are forced to sell them at fire-sale prices in order to “service” their crippling debt, which is actually becoming more onerous due to deflation.
The explosion of U.S. debt has led to the deflation of assets. We can all see that. But look at the astrological picture for the U.S. in 2009, the conjunction of Jupiter/Neptune in Aquarius on the U.S. Moon, which I’ve posited is a “depression of the populace,” if not the economy. The potential for a flip-flop exists: We could move from deflation to hyperinflation, mostly as the result of a devaluation of the dollar. (Could is the operative word here.)
Talk to the Germans who lived through the 1920s and those who were there when the Deutsche Mark was introduced after World War II. Have a chat with the Argentinians, who saw their currency devalued 300% in 2002 when the government ended the 1-for-1 exchange rate between the peso and the dollar, and the Argentinian peso moved to 4 to 1 dollar in the free market.
What do the survivors say? The people who landed on their feet were those who owned land and property.
As someone who bought real estate in August, 2005, at the high of the market, I’m constantly wondering whether I should get out before prices really fall, assuming a sale is an option. But then another voice says: “What happens when the dollar is worthless?” So my husband and I are doing the best we can to hang on to our little shack.