The uncomfortable reality is all Bull Markets, no matter how lengthy or robust, all expire. As you have undoubtedly heard, the current Bull Market in U.S. stocks (S&P 500) is the longest in recent history–though some historians claim that Rome’s SPQR Index rose steadily though most of Emperor Augustus’ 40-year reign from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D., easily topping the current rally’s 10-year run. It’s also possible that the longest Bull Market occurred circa 2580 B.C. in Egypt, as a result of quarry stocks soaring for decades during the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza. The unprecedented outpouring of wealth for labor and materials boosted the stocks of a variety of sectors, from quarries to shipping to breweries slaking the thirst of the thousands of laborers toiling on the project for the better part of a generation.
Nothing is as permanent as we imagine–especially super-complex, super-costly, super-asymmetric and super-debt-dependent systems. Check which signs of Imperial decline you see around you: The hubris of an increasingly incestuous and out-of-touch leadership; dismaying extremes of wealth inequality; self-serving, avaricious Elites; rising dependency of the lower classes on free Bread and Circuses provided by a government careening toward insolvency due to stagnating tax revenues and vast over-reach–let’s stop there to catch our breath. Check, check, check and check. Sir John Glubb listed a few others in his seminal essay on the end of empires The Fate of Empires, what might be called the dynamics of decadence: (a) A growing love of money as an end in itself: Check. (b) A lengthy period of wealth and ease, which makes people complacent. They lose their edge; they forget the traits (confidence, energy, hard work) that built their civilization: Check. (c) Selfishness and self-absorption: Check. (d) Loss of any sense of duty to the common good: Check.
The mainstream news has been awash lately in talk over the danger of economic “contagion,” primarily due to lack of dollar liquidity in emerging markets. This lack of liquidity is being pegged as a trigger for instability in stocks, bonds and forex markets around the world, and this time around it is the nation of Turkey that is being called a potential trigger for a fiscal domino effect spreading through multiple countries. We have heard talk of “contagion” before. Not long ago, Italy’s political shift toward a supposedly populist government led to fears of debt contagion within the European Union; this is still a valid concern, just not for the reasons the mainstream financial media usually presents. The issue of contagion must be examined through a different set of parameters besides those shoved in our faces by the financial media. In their world, everything is a matter of unpredictable cause and effect; everything is random and coincidental. Everything is chaos waiting to happen, and when crisis does strike, all can be blamed on a set of unrelated but interconnected scapegoats.
We are in a very peculiar ideological and political place in which Democracy (oh sainted Democracy) is a very good thing, unless the voters reject the technocrat class’s leadership. Then the velvet gloves come off. From the perspective of the elites and their technocrat apparatchiks, elections have only one purpose: to rubberstamp their leadership. As a general rule, this is easily managed by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising and bribes to the cartels and insider fiefdoms who pony up most of the cash. This is why incumbents win the vast majority of elections. Once in power, they issue the bribes and payoffs needed to guarantee funding next election cycle.
America, you officially have a debt problem, and I am not just talking about the national debt. Consumer bankruptcies are surging, corporate debt has doubled since the last financial crisis, state and local government debt loads have never been higher, and the federal government has been adding more than a trillion dollars a year to the federal debt ever since Barack Obama entered the White House. We have been on the greatest debt binge in human history, and it has enabled us to enjoy our ridiculously high standard of living for far longer than we deserved. Many of us have been sounding the alarm about our debt problem for a very long time, but now even the mainstream news is freaking out about it. I have a feeling that they just want something else to hammer President Trump over the head with, but they are actually speaking the truth when they say that we are facing an unprecedented debt crisis.