JT Long of The Gold Report
So far, 2012 has been a banner year for the stock market, which recently closed the books on its best first quarter in 14 years. But Casey Research Chairman Doug Casey insists that time is running out on the ticking time bombs. Next week when Casey Research's spring summit gets underway, Casey will open the first general session addressing the question of whether the inevitable is now imminent. In another exclusive interview with The Gold Report, Casey tells us that he foresees extreme volatility "as the titanic forces of inflation and deflation fight with each other" and a forced shift to speculation to either protect or build wealth.
The Gold Report: You told us about two ticking time bombs last September—the trillions of dollars owned outside the U.S. that could be dumped if the holders lose confidence and the trillions of dollars in the U.S. created to paper over the 2008 liquidity crisis. It's been six months since then. Have we averted the disaster or are we closer than ever?
Doug Casey: Things are worse now. The way I see it, what's going to happen is inevitable; it's just a question of when. We're rapidly approaching that moment. I suspect it will start in Europe, because so many European governments are bankrupt; Greece isn't an exception, it's the norm. So we have bankrupt governments trying to bail out the European banks, which are bankrupt because they've loaned money to the bankrupt governments. It's actually rather funny, in a perverse way. . . If it were just the banks and the governments, I wouldn't care; they're just getting what they deserve. The problem is that many prudent middle class people are going to be wiped out. These folks have tried to produce more than they consume for their whole lives and save the difference. But their savings are almost all in government currencies, and those currencies are held in banks. However, the banks are unable to give back all the euros that these people have entrusted to them. It's a very serious thing. So European governments are trying to solve this by creating more euros. Eventually the euro is going to reach its intrinsic value—which is nothing. It's the same in the U.S. The banks are bankrupt, the government's bankrupt and creating more dollars so the banks don't go bust and depositors don't lose their money. I'm of the opinion that if it doesn't blow up this year, the situation is certainly going to blow up next year. We're very close to the edge of the precipice.
TGR: Is the problem the debt, or all of the currency that has been pumped in?
DC: It's both. We have to really consider what debt is. It's the opposite of savings because savings means that you've produced more than you've consumed and put the difference aside. That's how you build capital. That's how you grow in wealth. On the other side of the balance sheet is debt, which means you've consumed more than you've produced. You've mortgaged the future or you're living out of past capital that somebody else produced. The existence of debt is a very bad thing. In a classical banking system, loans are made only against 100% security and only on a short-term basis. And only from savings accounts that earn interest, not from money in checking accounts or demand deposits, where the depositor (at least theoretically) pays the banker for safe storage of his funds. These are very important distinctions, but they've been completely lost. The entire banking system today is totally corrupt. It's worse than that. Central banking has taken what was an occasional local problem, a bank failing from fraud or mismanagement, and elevated it to a national level by allowing fractional banking reserves and by creating currency for bailouts. Debt—at least consumer debt—is a bad thing; it's typically a sign that you're living above your means. But inflation of the currency is even worse in its consequences, because it can overturn the whole basis of society and destroy the middle class.
TGR: What happens when these time bombs go off?
DC: There are two possibilities. One is that the central banks and the governments stop creating enough currency units to bail out their banks. That could lead to a catastrophic deflation and banks going bankrupt wholesale. When consumer and business loans can't be repaid, the bank goes bust. The money created by those banks out of nothing, through fractional reserve banking, literally disappears. The dollars die and go to money heaven; the deposits that people put in there can't be redeemed. The other possibility is an eventual hyperinflation. Here the central bank steps in and gives the banks new currency units to pay off depositors. It's just a question of which one happens. Or we can have both in sequence. If there's a catastrophic deflation, the government will get scared, and feel the need to "do something." And it will need money, because tax revenues will collapse at exactly the time its expenditures are skyrocketing—so it prints up more, which brings on a hyperinflation. We could also see deflation in some areas of the economy and inflation in others. For example, the price of beans and rice may fall, relatively speaking, during a boom because everybody's eating steak and caviar. Then during a subsequent depression, people need more calories for fewer dollars, so prices for caviar and steak drop but beans and rice become more expensive because everybody is eating more of them. Inflation creates all kinds of distortions in the economy and misallocations of capital. When there's a real demand for filet mignon, there's a lot of investment in the filet mignon industry and not enough in the beans and rice industry because nobody is eating them. And vice-versa. And it happens all over the economy, in every area.
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