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The Bottom’s Falling Out

The Bottom’s Falling Out

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The Bottom's Falling Out Tyler Durden Fri, 07/10/2020 - 13:45

Authored by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog,

Imagine you’re standing across the street from a house that’s on the verge of falling apart, a condemned building, an edifice devoured by rot from bottom to top. Now imagine you see a construction crew arriving to repair it, and they start to fix the roof. You would think that’s not much use if the walls, floor and foundation are just one wolf’s huff and puff away from collapse.

Still, that is what the world’s central banks are doing today: they “fix” the top by bailing out banks and allege that somehow that will fix the rest of the edifice too. In that same analogy, while central banks prop up banks, governments try to support the walls, by bailing out businesses. Again, while the floors and foundations keep on rotting away. And when the floors cave in, so of course will the walls, just like the roof.

There may appear to be some logic to all this, but it’s only the “inner logic” of an economic and political ideology that deals exclusively with how things should be, not how they are. Of course it’s nice to have a shiny new roof, and strong walls. But neither have any value if there are no more floors to support them.

This is what is happening today to our economies and societies. The 2008 crisis wasn’t bad enough to expose the failures of the “inner logic” of the system, but the fallout of COVID19 will be. And it’s not the virus that does it all, or the lockdowns, they merely expose a system that’s been rotting for many years without its floors and foundations ever being repaired.

(And yes, you’re right, the central banks are not merely fixing the roof, they’re gold-plating it for good measure).

So you got the Fed team working on the roof and the government team working on the walls, and absolutely nobody working on the floors and foundations. And at some point you’re going to have to ask what these people actually know about building and construction, even about gravity: are they aware that roofs and walls are infinitely more dependent on solid floors than floors are on them?

Actually, I think they are. They just don’t think it’s possible that the floor may fall out from underneath them (i.e. they deny gravity). But that is what is threatening to happen. Not only in the US, but all over the western world. And if there’s one thing you don’t want to happen to your house, or your economy/society, it’s for the bottom to fall out. Because where will you live?

Still, with headlines such as

“More Than Half Of The US Population Is Not Working”,

“50 Million Americans Have Lost Their Job In Past 6 Weeks”,

“42 Million Unemployed, 25.5% Unemployment Rate”,

“52% Of Small Businesses Expect To Be Out Of Business Within Six Months”,

“53% Of Restaurants Closed Amid Coronavirus Have Shuttered Permanently”,

“US Retail Apocalypse: Over 25,000 Stores Could Close By Year End”,

...and more of the same on the way, we should at least consider the possibility of the bottom falling out, and prepare accordingly.

It’s one thing to want to save the businesses, but if you have huge amounts of people who can’t afford to buy anything from them, businesses will inevitably fail in huge numbers. If the bottom threatens to fall out, you need to focus on saving the floor and foundations, the people, not the businesses. Nothing to do with socialism or anything like that, but with preserving your society as a going concern.

The first thing I didn’t quite get, but then again did, was that all the PPP’s and their equivalents, the various global payment protection programs, were aimed at protecting businesses by guaranteeing wages and salaries of their employees. What an odd idea, I thought. After all, if you want to protect wages, there is no reason to do that through a business, you might as well pay the employee directly.

If you pay the business which must then pay the employee, how would that help or protect that business? By giving off the false impression it can still pay the wages? Of course, if you do pay it through businesses, at least no-one can bring up a theme such as Universal Basic Income, anymore than they can MMT. While you in effect practice both, you can also deny practicing either. Pretty smart, right? Neat!

But turn this around for a moment. Say the governments pay the wages and salaries. These are the biggest cost for many if not most businesses, certainly the small ones, which are, obviously, the most vulnerable to sudden events like a pandemic and lockdown. So as a government, you take that liability, and that risk, away.

It would appear that then you can assess much better how viable such a business really is. Because a business that doesn’t have to pay its biggest cost should be able to survive for a few months, even if there’s no revenue coming in, unless it has deeper problems, like -too much- debt. The advantages for everyone are clear: less paperwork for government and business owner, guaranteed wages for employees, and a better view of a business’s financial situation for everyone.

Not that you should pay employees 100% of their wages, as many countries have. You would only do that if you think the problems will be over soon, but in reality you have no idea if they will be. You need to support the lowest-paid people -because they are the bottom that’s about to fall out- but as you work your way up to higher wages, you start taking off a percentage, rinse and repeat, and end up paying maybe $50,000 to people who made $100,000 (and yes, that goes for government employees too).

Why would you hand someone, anyone, over $100,000 for not working? Of course there are people with mortgages and car loans that are so elevated that they need more than $100,000 to keep their families alive, but that is a different story. That does not deal with the bottom falling out. For those cases, you need a separate program. Just like you do for businesses that still can’t survive once all their wages have been taken care of by the government.

Obviously, as Midwest small businessman Bruce Wilds said recently in his guest post here, Small Business Firings to Start, for some businesses showrooms, or inventory, taxes, utilities, can be major liabilities. Again, separate program. Support the bottom, the people, first. Because it’s urgent. Because you risk too many people having too little to survive on. In fact, so many that your businesses come under threat from having no customers left.

As one of its first measures, Greece, when it went into lockdown, lowered rents for businesses by 40%, without as much as a plan for how to compensate landlords. That’s the spirit. But it’s a spirit few will understand, let alone politicians. In the end, the reality is that most landlords and mortgage lenders will get less money. For a long time. You can try to help everyone out with cheap loans to individuals and businesses to pay off their mortgages, but that’s a just another short term plan, and has nothing to do with long time views.

And cheap loans won’t save the bottom from falling out. If you put it like that, people will actually understand: you don’t save a failing economy by pouring in cheap money. any more than a lick of paint will save a condemned building.

But at the same time, that’s all our political systems manage to come up with. While fervently hoping for, counting on, a miraculous recovery, and planning to make the poor pay by raising taxes when we’re “back to normal”. It’s just that there comes a time when the poor have nothing left to pay with, not even for their food. That’s when the bottom falls out.

To be continued. I have much more to say on this. Like: what to do now?

Look, it’s quite simple really: if you ask yourself, or your friends, or someone on the street, if they think the economy will recover within a “reasonable” timeframe, most will say yes.

Conditioned by politicians, by the media, and by their own fear of what will be their fate if it doesn’t. But that is a giant blind spot.

If half of businesses and half or restaurants are shut for good where ever it is you live, where would that recovery have to come from? Do ask yourself that question, and try not to be afraid of the answer for a moment.

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American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery names new executive director after yearlong search

After a yearlong and extensive nationwide search, the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), the nation’s largest professional…

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After a yearlong and extensive nationwide search, the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), the nation’s largest professional organization of bariatric and metabolic surgeons and integrated health professionals, has named healthcare association veteran Diane M. Enos MPH, RDN, CAE, FAND, to serve as its new executive director.

Credit: ASMBS

After a yearlong and extensive nationwide search, the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), the nation’s largest professional organization of bariatric and metabolic surgeons and integrated health professionals, has named healthcare association veteran Diane M. Enos MPH, RDN, CAE, FAND, to serve as its new executive director.

Before joining ASMBS, Enos, a registered dietitian and certified association executive with a master’s degree in public health from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, was Chief Learning Officer of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the country’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. Enos was with the group for more than 20 years in various leadership positions and remains a Fellow of the Academy (FAND). Previously, Enos was Manager of National Consumer Communications for the USA Rice Federation.

“Diane brings a wealth of experience, a track record of success and new insights that will help strengthen our organization at a time of rising obesity rates and new thinking on how best to treat the disease and when,” said Marina Kurian, MD, President, ASMBS. “We expect increased utilization of metabolic and bariatric surgery and growing demand for the new class of obesity drugs to usher in a new era of obesity treatment that could transform public health.”

According to the ASMBS, more than 260,000 people had metabolic or bariatric surgery in 2021, the latest estimates available. This represents only about 1% of those who meet the recommended body mass index (BMI) criteria for weight-loss surgery. CDC reports over 42% of Americans have obesity, the highest rate ever in the United States.

“I’m looking forward to working with our team and our members to grow the specialty and increase the role of metabolic and bariatric surgery in the treatment of obesity,” said Enos. “Obesity remains the public health issue of our time and we owe it to our patients to remove barriers to treatment and help them navigate the new treatment landscape so they can turn their concerns about the dangers of the disease into action.”

Earlier this year, the ASMBS released a survey published in SOARD that found more than 6.4 million people thought about having bariatric surgery or taking obesity drugs for the first time amid the pandemic due to concerns over the link between obesity and severe outcomes from COVID-19.

Enos becomes only the second executive director in the organization’s history succeeding Georgeann Mallory who retired from the role in 2021. Kristie Kaufman, who has been with ASMBS for more than 20 years, served as interim executive director between 2021 and 2023, and has been promoted to Vice President of Operations.

About Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery

Metabolic/bariatric surgery has been shown to be the most effective and long-lasting treatment for severe obesity and many related conditions and results in significant weight loss. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reported significant improvements in the safety of metabolic/bariatric surgery due in large part to improved laparoscopic techniques. The risk of death is about 0.1%, and the overall likelihood of major complications is about 4%. According to a study from Cleveland Clinic, laparoscopic bariatric surgery has complication and mortality rates comparable to some of the safest and most commonly performed surgeries in the U.S., including gallbladder surgery, appendectomy and knee replacement. 

About ASMBS
The ASMBS is the largest non-profit organization for bariatric surgeons and integrated health professionals in the United States. It works to advance the art and science of metabolic and bariatric surgery and is committed to educating medical professionals and the lay public about the treatment options for obesity. The ASMBS encourages its members to investigate and discover new advances in bariatric surgery, while maintaining a steady exchange of experiences and ideas that may lead to improved surgical outcomes for patients with severe obesity. For more information, visit www.asmbs.org.


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From LTCM To 1966. The Perils Of Rising Interest Rates

Based on some comments, it appears we scared a few people with A Crisis Is Coming. Our article warns, "A financial crisis will likely follow the Fed’s…

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Based on some comments, it appears we scared a few people with A Crisis Is Coming. Our article warns, “A financial crisis will likely follow the Fed’s “higher for longer” interest rate campaign.” We follow the article with more on financial crises to help calm any worries you may have. This article summarizes two interest rate-related crises, Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) and the lesser-known Financial Crisis of 1966.

We aim to convey two important lessons. First, both events exemplify how excessive leverage and financial system interdependences are dangerous when interest rates are rising. Second, they stress the importance of the Fed’s reaction function. A Fed that reacts quickly to a budding crisis can quickly mitigate it. The regional bank crisis in March serves as recent evidence. However, a crisis can blossom if the Fed is slow to react, as we saw in 2008.  

Before moving on, it’s worth providing context for the recent series of rate hikes. Unless this time is different, another crisis is coming.

fed rate hiking cycles

LTCM’s Failure

John Meriweather founded LTCM in 1994 after a successful bond trading career at Salomon Brothers. In addition to being led by one of the world’s most infamous bond traders, LTCM also had Myron Scholes and Robert Merton on their staff. Both won a Nobel Prize for options pricing. David Mullins Jr., previously the Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve to Alan Greenspan, was also an employee. To say the firm was loaded with the finance world’s best and brightest may be an understatement.

LTCM specialized in bond arbitrage. Such trading entails taking advantage of anomalies in the price spread between two securities, which should have predictable price differences. They would bet divergences from the norm would eventually converge, as was all but guaranteed in time.

LTCM was using 25x or more leverage when it failed in 1998. With that kind of leverage, a 4% loss on the trade would deplete the firm’s equity and force it to either raise equity or fail.

The world-renowned hedge fund fell victim to the surprising 1998 Russian default. As a result of the unexpected default, there was a tremendous flight to quality into U.S. Treasury bonds, of which LTCM was effectively short. Bond divergences expanded as markets were illiquid, growing the losses on their convergence bets.

They also wrongly bet that the dually listed shares of Royal Dutch and Shell would converge in price. Given they were the same company, that made sense. However, the need to stem their losses forced them to bail on the position at a sizeable loss instead of waiting for the pair to converge.

The Predictable Bailout

Per Wikipedia:

Long-Term Capital Management did business with nearly every important person on Wall Street. Indeed, much of LTCM’s capital was composed of funds from the same financial professionals with whom it traded. As LTCM teetered, Wall Street feared that Long-Term’s failure could cause a chain reaction in numerous markets, causing catastrophic losses throughout the financial system.

Given the potential chain reaction to its counterparties, banks, and brokers, the Fed came to the rescue and organized a bailout of $3.63 billion. A much more significant financial crisis was avoided.

The takeaway is that the financial system has highly leveraged players, including some like LTCM, which supposedly have “foolproof” investments on their books. Making matters fragile, the banks, brokers, and other institutions lending them money are also leveraged. A counterparty failure thus affects the firm in trouble and potentially its lenders. The lenders to the original lenders are then also at risk. The entire financial system is a series of lined-up dominos, at risk if only one decent-sized firm fails.

Roger Lowenstein wrote an informative book on LTCM aptly titled When Genius Failed. The graph below from the book shows the rise and fall of an initial $1 investment in LTCM.

LTCM valuations

The Financial Crisis of 1966

Most people, especially Wall Street gray beards, know of LTCM and the details of its demise. We venture to guess very few are up to speed on the crisis of 1966. We included. As such, we relied heavily upon The 1966 Financial Crisis by L. Randall Wray to educate us. The quotes we share are attributable to his white paper.

As the post-WW2 economic expansion progressed, companies and municipalities increasingly relied on debt and leverage to fuel growth. For fear of rising inflation due to the robust economic growth rate, the Fed presided over a series of rate hikes. In mid-1961, Fed Funds were as low as 0.50%. Five years later, they hit 5.75%. The Fed also restricted banks’ reserve growth to reduce loan creation and further hamper inflation. Higher rates, lending restrictions, and a yield curve inversion resulted in a credit crunch. Further impeding the prominent New York money center banks from lending, they were losing deposits to higher-yielding instruments.

Sound familiar? 

The lack of credit availability exposed several financial weaknesses. Per the article:

As Minsky argued, “By the end of August, the disorganization in the municipals market, rumors about the solvency and liquidity of savings institutions, and the frantic position-making efforts by money-market banks generated what can be characterized as a controlled panic. The situation clearly called for Federal Reserve action.” The Fed was forced to enter as a lender of last resort to save the Muni bond market, which, in effect, validated practices that were stretching liquidity.

The Fed came to the rescue before the crisis could expand meaningfully or the economy would collapse. The problem was fixed, and the economy barely skipped a beat.

However, and this is a big however, “markets came to expect that big government and the Fed would come to the rescue as needed.”

Expectations of Fed rescues have significantly swelled since then and encourage ever more reckless financial behaviors.

The Fed’s Reaction Function- Minksky Fragility

Wray’s article on the 1966 crisis ends as follows:

That 1966 crisis was only a minor speedbump on the road to Minskian fragility.

Minskian fragility refers to economist Hyman Minsky’s work on financial cycles and the Fed’s reaction function. Broadly speaking, he attributes financial crises to fragile banking systems.

Said differently, systematic risks increase as system-wide leverage and financial firm interconnectedness rise. As shown below, debt has grown much faster than GDP (the ability to pay for the debt). Inevitably, higher interest rates, slowing economic activity, and liquidity issues are bound to result in a crisis, aka a Minsky Moment. Making the system ever more susceptible to a financial crisis are the predictable Fed-led bailouts. In a perverse way, the Fed incentivizes such irresponsible behaviors.

minsky cycle

Nearing The Minsky Moment

As we shared in A Crisis Is Coming: Who Is Swimming Naked?:

The tide is starting to ebb. With it, economic activity will slow, and asset prices may likely follow. Leverage and high-interest rates will bring about a crisis.

Debt and leverage are excessive and even more extreme due to the pandemic.

debt to gdp

The question is not whether higher interest rates will cause a crisis but when. The potential for one-off problems, like LTCM, could easily set off a systematic situation like in 1966 due to the pronounced system-wide leverage and interdependencies.

As we have seen throughout the Fed’s history, they will backstop the financial system. The only question is when and how. If they remain steadfast in fighting inflation while a crisis grows, they risk a 2008-like event. If they properly address problems as they did in March, the threat of a severe crisis will considerably lessen.

Summary

The Fed halted the crises of 1966 and LTCM. They ultimately did the same for every other crisis highlighted in the opening graph. Given the amount of leverage in the financial system and the sharp increase in interest rates, we have little doubt a crisis will result. The Fed will again be called upon to bail out the financial system and economy.

For investors, your performance will be a function of the Fed’s reaction. Are they quick enough to spot problems, like the banking crisis in March or our two examples, and minimize the economic and financial effect of said crisis? Or, like in 2008, will it be too late to arrest a blooming crisis, resulting in significant investor losses and widespread bankruptcies?

The post From LTCM To 1966. The Perils Of Rising Interest Rates appeared first on RIA.

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No Privacy, No Property: The World In 2030 According To The WEF

No Privacy, No Property: The World In 2030 According To The WEF

Authored by Madge Waggy via SevenWop.home.blog,

The World Economic Forum…

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No Privacy, No Property: The World In 2030 According To The WEF

Authored by Madge Waggy via SevenWop.home.blog,

The World Economic Forum (WEF) was founded fifty years ago. It has gained more and more prominence over the decades and has become one of the leading platforms of futuristic thinking and planning. As a meeting place of the global elite, the WEF brings together the leaders in business and politics along with a few selected intellectuals. The main thrust of the forum is global control.

Free markets and individual choice do not stand as the top values, but state interventionism and collectivism. Individual liberty and private property are to disappear from this planet by 2030 according to the projections and scenarios coming from the World Economic Forum.

Eight Predictions

Individual liberty is at risk again. What may lie ahead was projected in November 2016 when the WEF published “8 Predictions for the World in 2030.” According to the WEF’s scenario, the world will become quite a different place from now because how people work and live will undergo a profound change. The scenario for the world in 2030 is more than just a forecast. It is a plan whose implementation has accelerated drastically since with the announcement of a pandemic and the consequent lockdowns. 

According to the projections of the WEF’s “Global Future Councils,” private property and privacy will be abolished during the next decade. The coming expropriation would go further than even the communist demand to abolish the property of production goods but leave space for private possessions. The WEF projection says that consumer goods, too, would be no longer private property.

If the WEF projection should come true, people would have to rent and borrow their necessities from the state, which would be the sole proprietor of all goods. The supply of goods would be rationed in line with a social credit points system. Shopping in the traditional sense would disappear along with the private purchases of goods. Every personal move would be tracked electronically, and all production would be subject to the requirements of clean energy and a sustainable environment. 

In order to attain “sustainable agriculture,” the food supply will be mainly vegetarian. In the new totalitarian service economy, the government will provide basic accommodation, food, and transport, while the rest must be lent from the state. The use of natural resources will be brought down to its minimum. In cooperation with the few key countries, a global agency would set the price of CO2 emissions at an extremely high level to disincentivize its use.

In a promotional video, the World Economic Forum summarizes the eight predictions in the following statements:

  1. People will own nothing. Goods are either free of charge or must be lent from the state.

  2. The United States will no longer be the leading superpower, but a handful of countries will dominate.

  3. Organs will not be transplanted but printed.

  4. Meat consumption will be minimized.

  5. Massive displacement of people will take place with billions of refugees.

  6. To limit the emission of carbon dioxide, a global price will be set at an exorbitant level.

  7. People can prepare to go to Mars and start a journey to find alien life.

  8. Western values will be tested to the breaking point..

Beyond Privacy and Property

In a publication for the World Economic Forum, the Danish ecoactivist Ida Auken, who had served as her country’s minister of the environment from 2011 to 2014 and still is a member of the Danish Parliament (the Folketing), has elaborated a scenario of a world without privacy or property. In “Welcome to 2030,” she envisions a world where “I own nothing, have no privacy, and life has never been better.” By 2030, so says her scenario, shopping and owning have become obsolete, because everything that once was a product is now a service.

In this idyllic new world of hers, people have free access to transportation, accommodation, food, “and all the things we need in our daily lives.” As these things will become free of charge, “it ended up not making sense for us to own much.” There would be no private ownership in houses nor would anyone pay rent, “because someone else is using our free space whenever we do not need it.” A person’s living room, for example, will be used for business meetings when one is absent. Concerns like “lifestyle diseases, climate change, the refugee crisis, environmental degradation, completely congested cities, water pollution, air pollution, social unrest and unemployment” are things of the past. The author predicts that people will be happy to enjoy such a good life that is so much better “than the path we were on, where it became so clear that we could not continue with the same model of growth.”

Ecological Paradise

In her 2019 contribution to the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils of the World Economic Forum, Ida Auken foretells how the world may look in the future “if we win the war on climate change.” By 2030, when CO2 emissions will be greatly reduced, people will live in a world where meat on the dinner plate “will be a rare sight” while water and the air will be much cleaner than today. Because of the shift from buying goods to using services, the need to have money will vanish, because people will spend less and less on goods. Work time will shrink and leisure time will grow.

For the future, Auken envisions a city where electric cars have substituted conventional combustion vehicles. Most of the roads and parking spaces will have become green parks and walking zones for pedestrians. By 2030, agriculture will offer mainly plant-based alternatives to the food supply instead of meat and dairy products. The use of land to produce animal feed will greatly diminish and nature will be spreading across the globe again.

Fabricating Social Consent

How can people be brought to accept such a system? The bait to entice the masses is the assurances of comprehensive healthcare and a guaranteed basic income. The promoters of the Great Reset promise a world without diseases. Due to biotechnologically produced organs and individualized genetics-based medical treatments, a drastically increased life expectancy and even immortality are said to be possible. Artificial intelligence will eradicate death and eliminate disease and mortality. The race is on among biotechnological companies to find the key to eternal life.

Along with the promise of turning any ordinary person into a godlike superman, the promise of a “universal basic income” is highly attractive, particularly to those who will no longer find a job in the new digital economy. Obtaining a basic income without having to go through the treadmill and disgrace of applying for social assistance is used as a bait to get the support of the poor.

To make it economically viable, the guarantee of a basic income would require the leveling of wage differences. The technical procedures of the money transfer from the state will be used to promote the cashless society. With the digitization of all monetary transactions, each individual purchase will be registered. As a consequence, the governmental authorities would have unrestricted access to supervise in detail how individual persons spend their money. A universal basic income in a cashless society would provide the conditions to impose a social credit system and deliver the mechanism to sanction undesirable behavior and identify the superfluous and unwanted.

Who Will Be the Rulers?

The World Economic Forum is silent about the question of who will rule in this new world.

There is no reason to expect that the new power holders would be benevolent. Yet even if the top decision-makers of the new world government were not mean but just technocrats, what reason would an administrative technocracy have to go on with the undesirables? What sense does it make for a technocratic elite to turn the common man into a superman? Why share the benefits of artificial intelligence with the masses and not keep the wealth for the chosen few?

Not being swayed away by the utopian promises, a sober assessment of the plans must come to the conclusion that in this new world, there would be no place for the average person and that they would be put away along with the “unemployable,” “feeble minded,” and “ill bred.” Behind the preaching of the progressive gospel of social justice by the promoters of the Great Reset and the establishment of a new world order lurks the sinister project of eugenics, which as a technique is now called “genetic engineering” and as a movement is named “transhumanism,” a term  coined by Julian Huxley, the first director of the UNESCO.

The promoters of the project keep silent about who will be the rulers in this new world. The dystopian and collectivist nature of these projections and plans is the result of the rejection of free capitalism. Establishing a better world through a dictatorship is a contradiction in terms. Not less but more economic prosperity is the answer to the current problems. Therefore, we need more free markets and less state planning. The world is getting greener and a fall in the growth rate of the world population is already underway. These trends are the natural consequence of wealth creation through free markets.

Conclusion

The World Economic Forum and its related institutions in combination with a handful of governments and a few high-tech companies want to lead the world into a new era without property or privacy. Values like individualism, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are at stake, to be repudiated in favor of collectivism and the imposition of a “common good” that is defined by the self-proclaimed elite of technocrats. What is sold to the public as the promise of equality and ecological sustainability is in fact a brutal assault on human dignity and liberty. Instead of using the new technologies as an instrument of betterment, the Great Reset seeks to use the technological possibilities as a tool of enslavement. In this new world order, the state is the single owner of everything. It is left to our imagination to figure out who will program the algorithms that manage the distribution of the goods and services.

Tyler Durden Tue, 10/03/2023 - 23:45

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