Force Majeure means:
We are frequently told that there exists some manner of “Social Contract” to which we are implicitly bound by virtue of being alive. This implied Social Contract confers legitimacy upon the institutions that order our world, the national governments, the central banks, the miltary and police. And by extension certain communication outlets and media are endowed with a status of official curators over the narratives around institutional power.
Under the Force Majeure Scenario, the first of four possible Coronavirus aftermaths posited in “Welcome to the Jackpot”, the overwhelming or superior force is not the pandemic itself, but rather the collapse of the debt supercycle, the monetary system that derives from it, and the structure of nation states that are burgeoned by it.
The last time we were here, when a systemic crisis has shaken the foundation of the social order, the policy response was favourable to one party of the social contract at the expense of the others.
The GFC, which I now call GFC 1.0 or GFC ‘08, saw the financialized class, those closest to the monetary spigots of the Central Banks enjoy accelerating prosperity as their asset values rose, whilst the rest of the population endured stagnation and a steadily increasing cost-of-living (which mainstream commentators refused to acknowledge as inflation).
The policy response from the last crisis has led us directly, in a straight line to this one. The only surprise being the exact nature of the catalyst which would pop the Everything Bubble, and perhaps the ferocity with which the air began to let out once it did.
The signs were certainly there that we were nearing some kind of archetypical “shoeshine boy”moment or phenomenon. Complacency in passive investing, extreme overabundance in the unicorn population, the fact that there exists (existed) an entire industry around arbitraging long term leases with short term rentals via AirBnB, there was a sense of Roaring 20’s around it all and all those vile contrarians were wondering “just how long can this go on?”
Under Force Majeure the public begins to understand that the people who populate institutions are just that, people. Despite specialized training perhaps, they are not endowed with any superhuman intellect or wisdom. Success within the matrix of the institutional elite comes from proxemics and adroitly navigating the system itself, not much more.
An era like this comes to an end when the public realizes that their betters aren’t intellectually superior but rather institutionally privileged. Now facing an existential crisis of their own making, they are completely out of touch with the public mind and out of their depth to deal with it.
Then The System Finally Comes Unglued. Now what?
The central banks and national governments have fired their bazookas in unison yet despite a typical relief rally in the form of a standard issue dead cat bounce, reality continues to insist on asserting itself. On a recent Jelly Donuts podcast, Grant Williams talks about forthcoming GDP numbers coming off 30% “truly apocalyptic”.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford recently advised citizens who couldn’t pay their looming rent bills at the first of the month to simply “not pay”. He later tried walking that back, but when this sentiment gets writ large, with governments printing money and sending out cheques, what happens when people and businesses simply decide not to pay their taxes either?
Can political leaders say, with a straight face, that citizens should stiff their landlords or mortgage lenders but not the State?
And if the State can simply print up money and send out cheques, why do we need taxes anyway? Have we arrived at full MMT?
All of the central bank and fiscal stimulus portends a secular shift from deflation to inflation and I don’t think very many people understand what that means.
It means a whole lot of broken clocks are gonna be right for once, but at a time it counts the most.
Twitter financial commentator and humorist @RudyHavenstein nails it
Now, every company that levered up on debt to buy back their own shares over the last 10 years wants a bailout. Grant Williams points out in Things That Make You Go Hmmm that the airline industry spent 47B on buybacks since 2010, they want a 50B bailout.
Even the private jet industry wants a bailout.
And what will public citizens get? Those whose businesses have been ordered to close, whose jobs have already been lost? They’ll get a check for $1,200, or a tax deferral until August. Bfd.
Under Force Majeure as the institutions become understood to be out of touch with both the causes and remedies to the immediate crisis, they begin to signal their own hypocrisy and irrelevance more intensely.
It will not be long before citizens will face the dilemma of continuing to observe the edicts of their governments, whose policies inexorably stripped them of their ability to weather any kind of economic speed bump. They will come to realize that despite what the government decrees, especially if that means keeping their businesses closed or their jobs on hold for much longer, they may be better off working around that.
That’s when myriad alternative economies and ecosystems will explode, black markets, grey markets, Local Exchange Currencies, private blockchains, invisible agoras.
As governments at all levels teeter on insolvency and their inability to control their own populace everywhere or to be in a position to guarantee security and order, I could envision neighbourhood watch groups morphing into localized militias. I would anticipate an explosion in private security and ex-military contractors.
Don’t be surprised to see Facebook resurrect their Libra, either under that monicker or some rebranded version as the large corporations, the ones that have revenues larger than most national GDPs begin to reassert some of their plans which may have been impeded earlier.
However it plays out, the key points to bear in mind are that:
It will all be very reminiscent of Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash”
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