A Breakdown of the Universe
YOUGHAL, IRELAND – A remarkable thing happened on Sunday. A strange spacecraft appeared, hovering over our yard.
Navy pilots have been reporting encounters with “unidentified objects” for months. It was inevitable, we suppose, that one would come in for a closer look. Here’s The New York Times:
The strange objects, one of them like a spinning top moving against the wind, appeared almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015, high in the skies over the East Coast. Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds.
But why us?
We were about to find out.
A trap door in the bottom of the oval craft opened. From it floated out two very odd creatures. Apparently half animal and half electromechanical, they looked like a cross between Mike Pence and a Dyson vacuum cleaner.
But these were not Mike Pence clones. These were intelligent beings.
“We come to eat you… I mean, to meet you,” said the leader of the two, speaking through an automatic interpreter.
“Yeah… great… whatever…” we replied, not knowing the protocol for addressing a being with a juicer on its head.
“We are from a galaxy far, far away. We have been studying you earthlings for many years. And frankly, we are puzzled. We feed the data into our 50-gazillion-byte computers… and the poor things blow a gasket. Figuratively speaking, of course.
“We are hoping you can lighten us up.”
“You mean, ‘enlighten us.’”
“Okay… well… you know what we mean.”
“Why did you come to see us?” we asked.
“We could have gone to Paul Krugman or Jerome Powell… or some big shoot like that…”
“You mean ‘big shot,’” we interrupted.
“But we like to keep a low profile. You can tell the world about us; nobody will believe you.”
“We’re honored… What can we help you with?”
Breakdown of the Universe
“To begin with, the jobs report came in on Friday, with better-than-expected results. That was good news, right?
“But investors were disappointed. The newspapers say they were looking for bad news. We don’t understand.”
“It’s really very simple. Here on Earth… at least in the money world… bad is good. Up is down. Right is left. Bad news is good news for investors; it tells them that the economy is doing worse.”
“You mean, people are getting poorer? Why is that good news?”
“Because then, the Fed – the central bank – gives them more money. And they buy more stocks – usually their own – so their stock prices go up. And they get richer.
“It’s all programmed into our computers now. ETFs, passive funds, quants… nobody does any real stock research anymore.”
“Oh… But how can you get richer by buying stocks in companies whose customers are getting poorer?”
“Well, that’s the trick of ‘financialization.’ You separate the financial economy – you know, stocks and bonds – from the industries it represents. That way, people who own assets can get richer and richer… even though the real Main Street output is in a slump.”
“That doesn’t sound possible. Ex nihilo nihil fit. That’s why we are so intrigued. As far as we know, there is only matter and energy. Wealth has to come from them – from real output.
“But you’ve found a way to get wealth with neither energy nor matter… You have made the breakdown of the universe!”
“Uh… I think you mean ‘breakthrough’… But I’m not talking about creating new wealth. And when I say the Fed is giving away money, I don’t mean that literally. The Fed doesn’t really have any money. It just creates new money out of thin air…”
“Another breakdown… breakthrough! Now, you can make your people infinitely richer.”
“You were right the first time. It really is just a breakdown. The Fed gives out ‘money,’ but it’s really just claim checks on other people’s wealth. When you give one group a lot more money, it has a larger claim on the other group’s time and possessions. The rich get richer. Most people get poorer… and nobody has any idea what is really going on. It’s beautiful.”
“But does the Fed actually give out this ‘money’?” the guests continued.
“Mostly, it lends it out at very low interest rates. Sometimes negative rates.”
“Negative rates? You mean, it is paying people to take its money?”
“Yes… but only rich people, big corporations, or governments get to borrow at such low rates. Poor people still have to pay 15% interest on their credit cards.”
“We understand interest rates as a form of compensation for risk over time. The longer the loan, the higher the interest rate should be.
“Negative interest rates imply that time backs up. This may be your most important discovery of all. How do you do that? I want to do my youth over again, heh heh… Even time runs backwardass here. Yesterday is tomorrow. And Monday is Friday.”
That was the first time we got a hint of a sense of humor. We could see the hot liquid flowing in the juicer.
“Well, my extraterrestrial friend, I think you mean backasswards.”
Bill Bonner is the founder and president of Agora Publishing, one of the world's most successful consumer newsletter publishing companies, and the author of the free daily e-mail The Daily Reckoning. Bill's passion for international travel and big ideas are reflected in the company he's successfully built. In 1979, he began publishing International Living and Hulbert's Financial Digest. Since then, Agora has grown to include dozens of newsletters focusing on finance, health and travel. Since the early '90s Bill has vigorously expanded from Agora's home base in Baltimore, opening offices in London, Paris, Bonn, Waterford, Ireland and Johannesburg, South Africa.