Transcript for Chris Answers Your Questions (Part 2)
Chris Martenson: Welcome to another PeakProsperity.com podcast. I am your host, of course, Chris Martenson. Today we have a very special interview guest: me. This is Part 2 of a series where you ask the questions and I respond to them. I have again, Adam Taggart, my partner here with me today, to ask the questions.
Adam Taggart: Hi, Chris. Good to be with you again.
Chris Martenson: How is everything out there in California?
Adam Taggart: It’s finally getting sunny and dry. Believe it or not, while it’s been pretty warm and sunny your way, it’s been a little bit wetter out here.
Chris Martenson: It was wet when I was there last. You know, we have Summer here right now. We just skipped the whole Spring thing.
Adam Taggart: I heard. It’s 80 degrees in Chicago this week. Crazy.
Chris Martenson: Yea, it is crazy, but here we are.
Adam Taggart: All right. Are we ready to dive back in?
Chris Martenson: I am.
Adam Taggart: All right. Well, we’ve got a number of questions that we didn’t get to last time, plus we had a bunch of new questions come in after people heard the first interview. Again, we will get through as many as we can. Something tells me that we are going to make this a bit of a regular occurrence going forward.
Chris Martenson: Excellent.
Adam Taggart: All right. Question number one comes from user shepvideo: What is the likely course for the Great Contraction? Do you see a financial crash and chaos, or gradual de-leveraging through inflation as energy costs rise?
Chris Martenson: The most likely course, the most probably course, is exactly the course that we are in right now. I’ve always held that if we hold the mental image of a bowling ball rolling down some stairs that will probably be pretty close to what will transpire. The reason for this is that we have a pretty large, inter-connected, gigantic world economy and it has got a lot of inertia, like a flywheel does. Things tend not to change too dramatically all at once. So my 80% probability has always been that we are going to see long periods of relatively steady decline, then where the sharp drop and then there will be these recovery periods. We have had a rather remarkable recovery period for the last oh, year and a half or so. It’s the best recovery that approximately $6 or 7 trillion of freshly printed money can buy. I expect to see more of that as we go forward. In this story, the resources don’t run out all at once and the oil doesn’t suddenly go to $200 or $300 a barrel and shock the system. Those are fairly rare events. The much more probably outcome is exactly what we are in the middle of right now. We are going to have these apparent recoveries, they are going to get truncated for whatever sets of reasons. We are going to have financial media that is going to try and pin the blame on something other than what is really the case, which is we just have too much debt and our energy costs are really high. Again, that is the most probably outcome.
We also spend time around here preparing for maybe the improbably, or the less likely outcome, which has a fairly high chance. It’s not zero. Where there could be a rather sudden break that really does throw things into a bit of turmoil for a while that could be some attack on Iran that comes forward that does vault oil by a factor of two perhaps. It could be some sort of a disaster in the derivatives market that ends up taking out a couple of big key players. That has almost happened a couple of times as we go along here. It could just be some ill-timed words from the Chinese finance minister. Who knows. There is always a possibility that in this global, hyper-interconnected system that we have of something much more dramatic happening, but it’s not the most likely outcome.
Adam Taggart: Got it. But presumably that is why investing now for resiliency is so important, because you can’t forecast those unexpected events. You want to be as prepared as possible when they do happen.
Chris Martenson: Why not? It’s very cheap insurance. It does not cost a whole lot compared to the benefit you would receive from that insurance if it ever had to pay out that is the absolute definition of good insurance.
Adam Taggart: Question number two comes from user PDeB: One of the things that attracts this user to you, Chris, is your positive outlook on the future. They write asking to learn more about your plans for future Crash Course chapters and hoping that they include a discussion about community-focused actions that might help people envision a future worth working towards. Can you share those plans? And who are the people you turn to for inspiration around that type of topic?
Chris Martenson: Great question. You know, we have a set of seminars coming up; one at the end of this very week, over this weekend of March 23rd through 25th at Rowe. Then one later out at the end of June, stretching over that final weekend of June to the 1st of July at Kripalu. Both of those seminars are designed exactly to talk about how it is we want to incorporate the information, the implications of the crash course into our lives. What we really care about here is not so much that everybody figures out how to maybe protect a little more of their wealth than the next guy or finds a way to squeak through. We want people to be happy, healthy, living into this period with as much purpose and joy as possible. There are really so many examples out there in history, Russia being a prime one, when the USSR broke down economically and became Russia and the satellite states again. What happened there, what we saw, was that most people of the deaths that were recorded, over half of them were because of alcohol consumption. People had housing and they had food. What they didn’t have what a sense of purpose. What they didn’t have were jobs. What they didn’t have was that other thing to live for. What they had was the narrative that said I need a job in order to feel purposeful. I need to be plugged into the system in order to have something that I can attach myself too. If that goes away there is no reason if that being your job or the larger infrastructure somehow changes, that shouldn’t lead you to, personally, collapse inward on yourself. We spend time really thinking about how we want to be. This is one of those great moments in history where we get to ask some of those awesome fundamental questions, which is what gives me a sense of purpose. How do I want to be remembered? What kind of jobs do I want to work in? Which ones do I not want to work in? Where do we find hope and inspiration?
My personal inspiration lately, the people I have been turning to are those who can really help guide us on our inner journeys to find out how it is that we can become the masters of our own domain. Meaning that whatever happens in the outer world, I want to have the calmest, most centered mind-frame so that I will be in the best position to react and respond to whatever is going on around me. I don’t want to be full of anxiety, I don’t want to be freaked out. I will come into this whatever is going to happen next. Whether it is a really positive future or one that is going to require a lot of attention. Whichever future comes, I want to be standing there with as much calm certainty and purpose as I can. There are a variety of books and teachers out there, we will go over some of those at these weekend seminars. I will be happy to tell people about some more of those. These are not, I don’t think, for everybody, but they certainly fit for me at this particular stage of my life right now. Some of them are Eastern and some are Western, others sort of hodge podge at this point.
Adam Taggart: Great. For those people that are looking to learn more about these upcoming events — you mentioned the one at Rowe and the one at Kripalu — they can go to the front page of PeakProsperity.com and look at the Upcoming Events module on the page there. You will find links to both of these seminars and be able to get more information about them.
I will make a quick plug that the Rowe seminar is actually this coming weekend. If you are listening to this and potentially have an interest, it’s something I would recommend looking into quickly.
Chris Martenson: For a more recent example as somebody who has also given me inspiration right here on our very own website; search out a podcast with Charles Eisenstein.
Adam Taggart: That was a good one.
Chris Martenson: He was very much in the vein of what I am talking about in response to this question.
Adam Taggart: Next question comes from user aggrivated, who writes: What’s your advice for those who live or work in cities? This is when we get a lot, the urban prepper.
Chris Martenson: Absolutely. Well, if I lived in a city the first thing I would want to do is make sure that I’m as prepared as I can possibly be. We think of three types of preparations; there are physical preparations so there you are going to do what you can across the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of need; you want your shelter, your food, your warmth, things like that as attended to as much as you possibly can. With the idea of building a little resiliency a little buffer in there. There are financial steps that apply to everybody. It doesn’t matter if you are rural or urban, those steps should be taken as well. That’s primarily about moving your money into safe locations and places where they have a much better chance of your wealth and your funds, they have a chance of withstanding whatever might come. Knowing that that is hard in the post MF Global world of really knowing what is safe and what isn’t.
Then the emotional preparations, which I just talked about prior; those are very important. They apply again, equally, whether you are rural or urban. The idea here is that what you want to do is get yourself into a position where you are ready for whatever is going to come mentally. The first step of that for us has always been around making sure you have a good, clear understanding of what is really going on. What the predicament really is. That means we have all sorts of tools around that. The crash course is a tool it is a way for us to get a lens that we look through. That is just a high-level lens. We have other lenses built in there that we talk about at these seminars which is how you interpret the news and what you filter out and how to separate facts from opinions and these are all things that are just designed to get us and our minds wrapped around the idea of what is really going to come, how we know who we can trust and who we shouldn’t trust. Ultimately, what I would like to promote here is that for anybody, city or rural dweller is to trust yourself. Your gut will tell you when it is time to shift gears. You will know what to do if you really listen carefully. In the meantime, I want everybody, rural or urban, we have this incredible, wonderful resources still exist. The economy is still chugging along. The sun still rises every day. It’s still – there are a lot of opportunities out there. I guess I am saying be sure to stop and smell the roses. Make sure you are still living, that you’re happy and that you’re not anxious. If you find yourself in a city just being anxious all the time because you are in a city, well, then you are probably a candidate to consider relocating.
Adam Taggart: Good advice. I think it is probably worth saying, as well, that we have many readers on the site that are from cities. One of the complaints we hear about living in urban centers is that building community is difficult. While I think that very well might be the case, it is certainly not impossible. Don’t dismiss it out of hand as something that can’t be done. We have lots of examples from people on this site that have worked hard at building community even though they are in an urban center.
Chris Martenson: Great.
Adam Taggart: Next question comes from user cnbbaldwin: What existing technologies do you think will be most dependable in a peak oil future? (for a homestead, apparently). Are there systems you particularly recommend investing in or implementing now?
Chris Martenson: Oh, absolutely. Both solar technologies, photo-voltaic panels, very dependable tried and true. Also the solar thermal panels. People have heard me talk about those a lot. Those are great. With just a couple of hundred watts of electrical power to use a circulating pump you can have 1970’s technology giving you hot water. I consider hot water one of four things that makes being human a really, really good thing. Refrigeration is another. Music is another, there are just a few things, but hot water is one of them.
There are technologies out there that I’m actually quite excited by which really do break the mold of the centralization that we have seen of everything, but power generation in particular. I love these combined heat and power systems, the CHP systems, Co-Gen systems which will allow a small scale electrical generation to be conducted onsite where the heat that comes out of these systems is no longer a waste product that is actually a very useful product, in winter, obviously, but in summer you can use a heat differential to drive cooling as well.
There are a number of technologies that are out there. What I would like to say here is that we don’t need any new ones to be developed. It is entirely possible to build a zero footprint house now. Meaning just footprint in terms of needing energy to be imported on site. There are a number of things we can do that are really simple. Think of how much differently our company would be positioned now if we just said this; every new house that is going to be built from, pick a number 1980 onward, if possible needs to be oriented to the south. That’s it. Not oriented to the road, just twist it to the sun, like people always used to do.
There are some things we got away from with our energy abundance, with our subsidy we got from nature. We can re-implement many of those right now. It is not complicated, it is not really sexy because it doesn’t involve nano-particals, it is just simple stuff, common sense and there are, of course, a number of ideas out there that we can implement right now that make economic sense no matter where oil goes, up or down, they make economic sense today. No matter where energy costs go if you can control your cash flows out off of your property to every extent possible and that involves A. conservation, B., some of these technologies I talked about and often C. with very little actual changes to our current lifestyle. Even just tiny modifications can make, in many cases, a huge difference. So those are all things that I would highly recommend people be looking into right now. It’s around changing our some of our habits a little bit of how we do things, investing a little bit in our own homesteads and they deliver some very large returns.
Adam Taggart: Great. I am just going to tack onto that, Chris: Is there anything in particular you have done in your own homestead besides the solar that you mentioned you are particularly grateful that you’ve done? I know one example, relatively recently I think at the end of the last year you got a Simple Pump for your well, correct?
Chris Martenson: I did. We drilled a second well, our primary well is 400 feet deep and we had good information from an old guy who lives up the street who had his well drilled many years back that there was a lot of ample water right down beneath our feet. So yes, we punched a second well in. We have a static water line at about 50 feet down. It is only flowing at around three gallons per minute, but we thought that was sufficient and we put a simple pump on that, which we are going to use a simple pump; for those that don’t know is a very simple stainless steel contraption. You can either hand pump it or in about five minutes you can bolt on, take the handle off and bolt on a solar pump, a DC pump and we are going to use that option for the summer months. It is going to pump into a holding tank and we are going to use that to water our garden with. Should we ever need to hand pump water, of course, five minutes, reverse the process, put the handle back on and we have water. This, to us, is really important. This year we had Irene, a hurricane come it wasn’t a hurricane it was a Category zero when it hit the coast about 100 miles from here. It was barely a tropical depression when it came over. It was sufficient to pretty much ruin our area here and left us without power for about five days. Then we had a freak snow storm in October which left us without power for about another four days here, but up to well over a week in surrounding areas and up to two weeks south of us in Connecticut. We also had another just simple wind storm at some point in June which also left us without power for almost five days.
We have had three incidences this year so far where we have been without power. For people, like myself, who are on a well no power means no water. That was something that we felt was really important to get an independent, water-based system for us so we can at least have fresh water anytime we wanted. We have done that. We put in new windows. We resided our house with a product that won’t need any touching for 25 years. Of all the things I want to worry about over the next 25 years siding isn’t one of them. These are examples of some of the improvements we made and we will be talking some of these at the seminar too.
Adam Taggart: Great. Great. Just doing a quick time check here. I am already going to make the call that we are not going to get through our entire list again this time, just like last time. For those folks who submitted questions that we don’t quite to: don’t worry, we will get to them at a future podcast.
All right, next question comes from mammamia: Do you have plans to present a more European perspective in the future?
Chris Martenson: Good question. Yes. Absolutely. Certainly want to include the European perspective. We are one world now. There are a lot of interesting things happening over there and I think we are all connected in the story. So when I was over in Spain recently at the invitation of James Turk and attended the Gold Money Conference there. I met a very interesting gentleman there, Alasdair Macleod, who writes just beautifully, really many conversations while I was there with him. He impressed as somebody who really understands the situation, the technical details, but also how to explain it really well. We are going to be working with Alasdair to bring on a European perspective. I really need someone who is living in the system and feet on the ground over there. I think you get such a better view from somebody who is there and he really struck me as somebody who could deliver.
Adam Taggart: Great. Having talked to Alasdair, I am really excited for him to start contributing. I also want to let anybody listening from Asia know that we are not ignoring the needs of Asia, either. One bit of news in that camp is we are going to have our first version of the Crash Course translated into Mandarin Chinese up on the site in just a couple of weeks with the launch of our brand new site.
Next question comes from user GiraffeOK: What is your advice about leaving some money in the system? (e.g., banks, credit unions, brokerages that type of thing) Especially with regard to retirement funds?
Chris Martenson: Well, I still have a retirement fund that is in the system. It’s an IRA, it’s a legacy from my corporate days. I know that for many people they have sufficient funds that and need for cash flows that having money in the system is not just a reasonable thing to do, it is an essential thing to do. I hope everybody was paying attention during the MF Global debacle. There are other warning signs out there that would suggest to us that we really want to be very careful about which institutions we want to be working with. I don’t know if I can say this legally, so I am going to hedge this carefully; but there are certain very large banks out there that I would absolutely not be working with right now simply because of their derivative exposures. In fact, my personal know list is very simply found at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the OCC. OCC plus derivatives, they put out a wonderful quarterly report and if you scroll on down through that big PDF you will find a table, which will show you the top 25 banks in terms of derivative exposures. Anybody who is in the top 10 or 15 of that list would be an institution I would be very leery about working with at this particular juncture. That is just my own personal sort of measure of safety.
As well though, for people who do have money in the system, I understand like this has got to be one of the most challenging, I am putting air quotes up here right now, investment environments that we have every seen.
Adam Taggart: You are putting air quotes around “investment” right?
Chris Martenson: Investment, right. I talk to people who have been in the business for decades who very actively managed and traded funds and some of them are just getting chewed up and the rules seem to be getting changed. What used to work doesn’t work anymore and there is incredible competition and we are all fighting with robots now that are actually, I think about to break into the nano-second trade execution environment. It is just incredible what is going on out there. Against this back drop we have to understand that really all of this is happening because trillions and trillions are being printed out of thin air which means, well, speculating to some degree; this all points to the idea that unless you are really confident, unless you can manage your money on a minute by minute basis, literally, in some cases. Unless you are willing to dedicate that kind of time I highly recommend that you work with financial advisors who A. see the risks that are going on out there; B. understand that return of your principal might be more important than return on your principal. Who are more concerned that your money is safe than beating their peer groups against the S&P. That there are a variety of measures that I would use in selecting and working with somebody who could put that dedication and focus into making sure that my money was as safe as possible. My own family still has money in the markets. Certainly, my relatives all do. Practically everybody I know does. Even I, I got my IRA there and I still got money in the system too. It is an essential part of life and it probably will be for quite a while. So we have to make the best of it.
Adam Taggart: Good answer. I am just going to remind folks as well about the recommendations that we provide to a few financial advisors that we have begun endorsing. Without getting further into it here, since we mentioned it on the previous interview that we did, I will just tell folks who are interested in hearing the financial advisor that we recommend to email us at [email protected].
Next question comes from user Stan Robertson who asks: Are you concerned about confiscatory taxes or other liquidation challenges imposed in the future when those who have bought physical precious metals today go to exchange them for other forms of wealth?
Chris Martenson: Of course. Of course, Stan. We all have to be worried about that. I am worried a little bit more about other forms of wealth first and foremost. I don’t believe that we will see gold singled out ahead of other asset classes at this point. Where will the government go first for needed revenues? Well, we have already seen I think the future has been played out in a couple of places. We saw Ireland impose a “one time”, let me put air quotes up, one time, because I don’t think it is going to be a one time thing. Air quotes are going around one time, tax on pension holdings. We have seen already there have been little trial balloons that have been floated out that maybe money market funds ought to have special treasury bonds put into them instead of other holdings. These would be the kinds of moves that I would expect to see first. So if the government was really going to start, gets in a pinch and decides to start taxing things, we could do worse than to look at what is going on over in Greece; the sales tax gets hiked first and foremost. Secondarily, we are going to see potentially one-time special taxes on pensions and things like that. We might see the income tax rates, we probably definitely will see the income tax rates get hit and hiked. We will see capital gains get hit and hiked. Maybe we will even see, I saw another trial balloon a couple of congressman I believe, were going to hold a hearing into whether there were undo windfall profits being bestowed upon Apple and other tech companies at this moment in time.
These are the kinds of things that tell you, listen, when a government or any set of governments gets into fiscal trouble they are going to be looking for revenue anywhere and everywhere they can. I’m not that worried about it with respect to gold at this stage because, frankly, it’s such a tiny piece of the pie and it would be a really difficult thing to enforce and would have a lot of unhappy people. It just the trouble to return ratio on that, I think, is rather poor.
Adam Taggart: Okay. Well, good point. I think one thing to keep in perspective, too, is just the size of the precious metal markets versus the size of some of the other markets you have mentioned: retail sales, housing or whatnot. It really is quite small, so if you are in the government and you are looking to extract maximum rents you are probably going to go after some much larger pools of money first.
Chris Martenson: I was trying to make that point; yea, gold is very miniscule at this stage. Thanks for bringing this up; if gold goes to $5,000 or $10,000 an ounce or much worse, if suddenly Saudi Arabia says we no longer accept dollars we would prefer gold, those would be moments where I would have big, red flags waving before my eyes because that would mean that A. gold was no longer a small market or B. that we needed it for national security reasons; getting oil imports is a matter of national security. Finally, if gold gets remuneration I would expect, however, in every one of those circumstances that if there was some form of confiscation that there would be remuneration with that confiscation. Remember, back in 33, a lot of people use the term inappropriately they said gold was confiscated sort of implied it was just taken. It wasn’t. It was exchanged. Maybe not for something you wanted, but it was exchanged for something of value. It was immediately de-valued against that fair value. There was at least some sort of compensation that came along with that. I would be highly surprised if that didn’t happen this time too if gold were to suddenly be needed on a national basis for some purpose.
Adam Taggart: To the spirit of Stan’s question too: if any of those developments happen that you just mentioned, that set off warning bells in your mind, you would be publishing an alert about that to our users.
Chris Martenson: We will be weeks, hopefully months ahead of that development. Absolutely.
Adam Taggart: Great. All right, next question comes from Nichoman who is very kind. He said he really enjoys this interview format of the PeakProsperity.com audience interviewing you. He asks: would we consider doing it regularly, something like maybe quarterly?
Chris Martenson: Absolutely. I love to do this. I love responding to these questions and it lets me know where your minds are at and it gives me a chance to cover some territory that is both new and old. This particular juncture of history I don’t think we can possibly overstate or repeat ourselves too much in terms of what is really important. I would absolutely commit to doing this on a quarterly basis.
Adam Taggart: Well, from what we have seen so far I think the demand, in terms of questions for you, is definitely going to be there. All right, next question comes from Woodman: He says that you’ve talked a lot about the changes you have made in terms of your vocation, where you live, the type of community you wanted to be a part of and your health. How much more change do you feel need to make or want to make, in your lifestyle going forward?
Chris Martenson: I just want to be in a position where if I come out and work with your trainer, Abdul, again, that I can actually set forth and do the challenges he gives me. It was incredible. Anybody who is out in Adam’s way I am telling you have to go see Abdul. He will make you feel like there is more work to do in life. So it is incredible.
Adam Taggart: I’m laughing, but it hurts because I happened to see Abdul this morning. And I am still sore.
Chris Martenson: I am sure you are still sore. I’ve made all of my really big changes, kind of all at once. Parader rule. I feel, 80/20 rule, I feel like I made most of the big changes I wanted to make in relatively short order and now I am at the position of really poking around the edges. So the things that I care about most right now are really extending well beyond my own personal homestead. We’ve got everything sort of prepped as much as we think we can. I am very happy with where our garden is and the orchard is just going to do spectacular this year. A lot of our systems are operating reasonably well. So I feel good about all of that. My next big area of inquiry is really around and I can feel it coming. There is something like the Crash Course in me, I mentioned this in the first of the series as well, but there is really something here around how it is that we are going to really step into this new future, whatever it happens to be. That is what has really captured my attention for the moment is this sense that something very momentous is happening, that we get to be participants in that. We want to find ways that we can; let me speak for myself, I want to find ways that I personally can step into a higher role of engagement with what is happening out there. This engagement is going to be both at my community level and everything I can possibly do through the website. Maybe through additional books, other videos. Whatever is necessary to reach as many people as I can reach. To add our voice to what I think is becoming a really interesting swelling of voices who are saying wow, the status quo no longer works. We are going to have to figure something else out. Part one of that story is what is broken and why. Part two of that story is well, what are we going to do about it and that is the part that really has captured my attention right now.
In terms of personal advancement, to me, that is kind of like a lifestyle decision because I am the kind of person before I can really talk about something I have to do it first. I am figuring out how to really modify my lifestyle in some very profound and important ways. The good news is I am happier, I am healthier and I feel quite positive about both my personal situation and about the future that we could have.
Adam Taggart: Just to repeat that back to you: it sounds like you are feeling pretty good about where you are on the lower levels of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in terms of the main things you have taken care of in your life over the last couple of years. And now you are looking to move up that pyramid, more to sort of a ‘purpose’ and an ‘identity’ level. Is that accurate?
Chris Martenson: That’s exactly right.
Adam Taggart: Something tells me that the community here is going to be very interested to hear what you learn as you go through that, and be very eager to begin to get some instruction and guidance for how people can do the same thing in their own lives.
All right, next question comes from citizenman: What would your recommendation be to organizations that direct investments at institutional levels such as pensions?
Chris Martenson: First thing; if I am in a fiduciary role at apension, first thing I am going to do is I am going to knock back my assumed rate of return to something that is actually reasonable and realistic given A. the past 10 years of history that we have gotten. B. what is really likely going forward. Many of these pensions are still holding seven and three quarter – eight sometimes even 9% implied rates of return or stated rates of return going forward. That is just not possible.
Adam Taggart: They are just not going to see that. When you said you are going to knock back I thought you were going to suggest a couple of stiff drinks.
Chris Martenson: I might want to do that first and then I am going to have to knock back my stated rate of return to something more realistic. Is 0% unrealistic? Maybe not in some cases, but it certainly would be at least half of what the current rates are. So that raises a much larger question; the pensions need to get their minds around some very big, large structural forces that are in play. Forget about energy for a minute; let’s pretend the energy tax which is just climbing and been there and absolutely has got many years of trend under its belt. Let’s just look at what we see demographically with the idea that many of our pension systems are for want of a better word, they are pyramid style arrangements where you need more people coming in to pay off the people who came before. We just don’t have that demographic base; not in the US, they don’t have it in Japan, they don’t have it in Europe. So just demographically speaking when you understand that people go through the cycle of life, they go through peak earning years, which translates into peak savings years and then they step into retirement and then they become net dis-savers as they spend what they save that is the save that we are in right now. So, again, set aside whatever concerns we have about what the implications are on peak oil on growth. Just on that one basis alone, I think we could make a very compelling case that we are going to have very lackluster returns. That is if we didn’t have a moving target out there and that moving target is the value of the currencies themselves.
The second big risk that I would be worried about if I was in the pension role would be what is this money going to be worth. Take it very seriously. People have invested and trusted their money with myself as one of the trustees who is going to in the future be delivering that money back to them at some stated rate. Well, if I am going to give you $1,000 a month in the future or $2,000 a month I want to make sure it is worth that or at least just keeping pace. Today, extraordinary risks with how much money the central banks are printing with how much the governments are deficit spending. If I was in a big pension and I had those institutions they got weight. They got really serious clout they could bring to bare. If I was some of them I would be all over the news saying we do not agree with this amount of money printing or this amount of deficit spending because both of those represent extraordinary risks to the future value of their holdings for all of their beneficiaries.
I have really been surprised that the pension funds have been as quiet as they have been. Just sort of taking their lumps and just kind of hoping that they won’t do any worse than their peer group. I think this requires something a little more extra ordinary than that. There is really some extraordinary risks and they should be, and this is a judgment, stepping up to the plate a little bit more with their concerns and being much more public about them.
The final thing is I would really look at how all of this money that has been collected by pensions; let’s imagine I am a county pension in a state and I take all of this money that I collect from people who work in my county and then I ship it out in my county, off it goes. Where? To Wall Street and they do stuff with it. Sometimes fraudulent things. It ships whether they do fraudulent things or not, its irrelevant here, what happens is my money leaves the county. Hopefully, it goes out into the world and does great things. If I was in the position of running one of those pensions I would certainly be considering right now, how I can take that same money and bring it back and have it operate within my own community so that when it’s doing its good work, when people are taking that capital and becoming more productive with it, creating products with it, delivering services with it, building businesses with it, whatever they are doing that then I would get sort of a double or maybe a triple bottom line a benefit to my county. What would happen is not just would people have jobs, not only would services and goods be produced, but there would be these other benefits as well that accrue when you spend your money locally. That would probably be the final thing I would really think about for some of these pensions, absolutely would be where am I putting that money to work in these particularly, given everything we know about how the world is working right now.
Adam Taggart: I’m really glad you brought that up because I was going to ask about that. As you know, we have had several pension funds ask us about our opinions in exactly that matter and I think you described it all very well. I think the only other thing I would mention is that when you are keeping the money within your region rather than just shipping it off to Wall Street, there is also the opportunity to define a return on that investment in a manner other than just exact ‘dollars and cents’ — or how much more money it made last year than this year. There can be a measurement of ‘resiliency’. If you are investing that money into energy production at the local level, into creating a better food shed, or into creating a better water shed for your territory that you are a steward for; those are all very good things that people who have a trustee responsibility should be thinking of. And obviously, that is just another factor that these local pensions can be factoring into their models.
Chris Martenson: Absolutely and those are very discreet, very definable, measurable sorts of returns. If you invested in a series of farms in your county and you can go out and say look, the soil is now doubly improved or this many inches thicker if you can point to the actual tangible result which says because of the way we have invested this money and what has been done with it, here is how our county has improved meaning that whatever future happens to come, our ability to grow more, high-quality food within our region that is a positive. It could be, again, with the insurance concept in mind it could be a huge positive under certain circumstances that will come. No matter what it will be a positive and it will be more than sending money out into the faceless world of where it heads off to Wall Street and who knows what will happen to it once it is there.
That is the old model. I think it is time to start at least some percentage of those pension assets should come back to this new model which says hey, we would like to A. know where our money exactly is at all moments in time. We would like to know the people who are going to be using it and we would like to understand, intimately understand what that money is doing. It goes in here, this happens, here is where our returns come from. It is often not clear on any of those accounts when it ships out to a big money manager out in Wall Street.
Adam Taggart: I am really hoping that we see much more of this line of thinking as we go forward.
All right, next question comes from robert essian (I hope I am pronouncing that correctly, especially since he is one of our most prolific posters on the site). Robert says: Do you still forecast a hyper-inflationary ending of the story? And, if so, where are we on that timeline?
Chris Martenson: Hyper-inflationary, yes. We are definitely on that path. This is something I have always been, my core belief has been that humans will behave just as they always have. So far, I will not be disappointed in that belief and all the data sort of stacked up. If we look at a chart over the past five years of the eight largest central banks in the world to the Bank of Japan, Federal Reserve, Bank of England, the ECB broken into its member states so that would be Germany and France primarily. When we look at these banks we see that they have grown in the past five, maybe six years about $10 trillion of balance sheet expansion. There is no way they are going to ever be able to reverse that then. I had this discussion with Mark Faber, recently, on a podcast. When I look at that line what is really noticed here, I think the most important part that really came out of that Faber podcast was him noting the observation, which I have heard elsewhere as well and made the same observation myself which is that these crisis, they started kind of smallish you know, long-term capital management that was a gigantic, gigantic problem back in 1998. It was about a $3 billion hiccup, right? Which was huge at the time. It was an unthinkable amount of money. Federal Reserve and Greenspan had to intervene. Now, we look at that and just laugh; $3 billion? Really? Oh, that’s nothing. That’s Tuesday morning for the Federal Reserve now.
It is just extraordinary when we look at the frequency and the amplitude of these interventions and the amounts of money that are being required and the really sort of tepid, lackluster response that happens on the other side of those actions in the economy itself. What we notice here is just that the overall trend is that things are speeding up. We are getting less and less out of more and more. Less and less economic reaction out of more and more monetary stimulus. This is very much what we were expecting to see. This is very much, unfortunately, not a surprise. Where we are on this timeline is that we, the thing that is different about the story is it involves the whole world right now. It is not just one country with nice, defined borders around it where people can scurry across those borders and get away. Much of the world today is dominated by very, very large concentrated players. It’s not you and I that they are really worried about. It is what do they do with the funds that are actually in control of hundreds of billions of dollars. If you are in control of one of those funds like I don’t know Norway Sovereign Wealth Fund, where do you put that money? How do you sidestep what we are seeing out here with the balance sheet expansion of the central banks? AKA money printing. This story right now is one where I don’t see any way for them to reverse those steps? I don’t see anything further for them to do but continue those efforts. I don’t see anything beyond increasing those efforts as we go forward.
In this game this is I’m going to contradict at least a little bit of my very first response which is how does this unfold? For the most part I think the banks print and print and print and everybody kind of says, well, it is uncomfortable, but seems to be working and nobody else seems to have cared so far and where would they go. That will progress along as far as it can and then someday that will change. When that does change it could be relatively radical, by which I mean my expectation would be a fairly profound turn, for example, in the United States, fiscal capabilities at the US Government level or in the value of the dollar changing over a matter of just months. Just a few months. To me that would be break-neck speed in this particular story.
This is – the hyper-inflation one is a tricky one because how do you measure that? Really, ultimately, we live in a faith based system. We have a debt based- monetary system. We have to have faith. We have to have faith that the money has value, it’s a social contract. We have to have faith that not too much of it is going to be created compared to goods and services. We have to have faith given the amount of debt that is out there in the system that the future is going to be a lot larger economically than the present. That is, when those claims come due in the future we would like to trade those claims, debt money, for things. If there aren’t more things in the future, but there is more of these claims on those things, well that is the story of inflation. Maybe even the story of hyper inflation, which to me, goes beyond just monetary excess and transcends into that next stage of loss of faith in paper money. I’ve personally lost my faith, that is why I am such a big holder of gold and silver. Other people, once they see it this way tend to lose their faith as well. This is becoming more and more mainstream as time goes on we are seeing more and more people who are very well respected, very established players in the monetary field. People who have made entire careers on trading for paper. Starting to look at the story and say yea, I would rather be holding something other than paper at this point in time. It is not just gold, it is really in all of the other tangible things that we can get our hands on. I would expect that if and when we start to see a shift away from paper back to things that that shift is going to be fairly dramatic and it is going to unfold in probably less than a year. Maybe in just a matter of months where we would see prices for a variety of things really, really skyrocket.
Adam Taggart: All right, well that is a lot to digest but it provides a good segue into what I am going to make our last question here.
We have done it again, Chris, we made it through another one of these interviews and not gotten to half the questions that we had hoped to, but we will have to take that up on our next podcast.
So with that said, let me take it home here with the last question that probably is a natural segue in many folks’ minds after hearing your answer to the last question. This comes from user Jbarney: How bad are things going to get? Power outages, mass protests, food riots, etc. Do you see things being this bad, this dark?
Chris Martenson: Very important set of experiences for me was living through hurricanes when I lived down in North Carolina, the most potent of those for me in terms of learning was Hugo, came through in 89. I lived oh, what three hours from the coast. It hit as a CAT 4 and by the time it got over us it was maybe still a CAT 2, he was a beast, Hugo was. He had the benefit of arriving after we had already received for other good reason, four or five inches of rain in the prior week so the soil was loose. So here he comes with his 80 + MPH winds and just made all the trees in the area, it was just like Pick-Up Sticks across our driveway. It was a real mess. We were without power for two weeks. I had to use a chainsaw laboriously to cut my way out of my own driveway. What I learned from that experience was that people really pulled together. It was an extraordinary time in my memory to think back on how close people were and how we did pull together. That, to me, was a metaphor that carried forward to the point that when I was looking into the future as I see it right now and when my wife and I were making decisions, where did we want to live? Picking the community that we lived in was incredibly important to us because where we lived in Hugo I will guarantee behaved very differently from parts of New Orleans. That was a function not of the brutality of the hurricane that was a function of how the people responded. So this is really important point to me is that what I care about most is not actually what transpires.
The economy falling apart itself or food coming in tight supply or anything like that, people will respond to that and we will make do. What I care about a lot is how do we respond. How are we mentally prepared and emotionally prepared and how are we personally going to respond. Are we going to be in a position of truly being selfless and helpful in those moments or are we going to be needing help in those moments? That dividing line really is going to be a function of how well prepared you are across these three areas we continue to talk about which are your financial preparations, those are going to count. Your physical preparations are going to count and your emotional preparations all of those are going to count. It is that last one that is really important that we are going to have the opportunity to dive into it at this weekend seminar coming up at Rowe, which again, this weekend and also at Krepolo. That’s a topic that really lends itself and I think requires the kind of intimate face-to-face meetings that we engineer for ourselves when we have these seminars. Because it is very difficult to sort of write about it and it needs to be personally translated and transmitted. Both my wife and I have a lot of facility with really talking through what is it – what is going to happen and how will we react and what will come up for us and how can we best manage those responses? That is something that absolutely everybody can get facility with and I think should. Absolutely should because when whatever transpires whether, again, whether it is a brilliant future that somehow free energy comes out of the zero point boundary or something. Or we have a fairly disrupt – disruption filled future, whichever of those outcomes happens understanding our own responses and stepping into both of those as fully as we can, that is how you win. That is really when I think life comes together.
I’m holding on as somebody who saw how a community can respond if it has in its DNA the idea that it is going to take care of itself, take care of its own and it will do that because that is just how they operate. I think that is the kind of framework that I want to share and talk about and then hopefully people will be able to bring that back into their own communities wherever those happen to be after the seminars.
Adam Taggart: Good. Well, thank you for taking what I had feared was a fairly alarming question and answering it with such positivity and optimism. I feel much better.
Chris Martenson: I have to finish that out, too, around the seminars because we also we will be talking physical preparations there and will be talking financial and will be bringing in some financial experts to go through some detailed questions of whatever people might have on their minds. This is a full weekend that is really around all three of those areas, but we spend a little bit more time on the one that is harder to talk about in writing.
Adam Taggart: Great. Well, with that, let me just make one last reminder that the Rowe one is actually this coming weekend. If anybody is still on the fence, act quickly. Beyond that, Chris, we have now made it through the interview, thank you, once again. I look forward to doing this again with you in probably about a month or two.
Chris Martenson: Adam, the pleasure has been mine and you are a great host.
Adam Taggart: You are too kind. Ouch, don’t make me laugh; it hurts still.
Chris Martenson: All right. See you next time.
Adam Taggart: Take care.