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The Case For Bitcoin To Separate Money From The State

By separating money from the government, Bitcoin takes the control of money out of the hands of politicians and gives it back to the citizens.

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By separating money from the government, Bitcoin takes the control of money out of the hands of politicians and gives it back to the citizens.

This is an opinion editorial by Ryan Bansal, a professional software engineer and author of a Bitcoin newsletter.

“The computer can be used as a tool to liberate and protect people, rather than to control them.” — Hal Finney

Technologies are just amplifiers, not arbiters of morality. By extrapolating from the above quote, it is within reason to claim that any technology can be both a tool for either tyranny or for freedom depending on whose hands are on the power lever.

The principle of checks and balances shows that in any kind of system that relies on concentrated power, that central institution becomes the honeypot for malicious actors. Also, keep in mind the democratic principle that more distributed decision-making is more robust and fair for any society. So it sounds like a no-brainer that the best way moving forward is to develop and adopt technologies with no single ultimate power lever?

Having said that, let’s now talk about one of the most important technologies of all: money. In the evolution of monetary technology from barter systems to seashells to metal coins to gold-backed banknotes and now a central-bank-controlled fiat digital currency, the power distribution has gone from being more decentralized to being more centralized to the point where governments have managed to establish a coercive monopoly on money.

Now, I think it is a fairly non-controversial statement to say: Government corrupts anything it touches. Sure, the convenience of digital money is unmatched, but it is also important to understand the other side of it, i.e., the counterparty risk, which means needing to trust a custody provider to secure your assets — along with the fact that the historical track record of keeping this trust is not great.

However fortunately or unfortunately, recently this breach in the contract has started to happen more widely and openly. Take for example a developed democratic country like Canada, freezing the bank accounts of its citizens for protesting against COVID-19 restrictions or a country like Russia putting restrictions on its people trying to withdraw their funds after the country invaded its neighbor. In a world run purely on physical cash, this kind of power to unconstitutionally violate private property rights would be impossible to execute.

(Source)

Apart from the worsening financial censorship and geopolitical sanctions — which are a relatively recent phenomenon now that money has become almost fully digital — the corruption arising from the advent of fiat money and its problems goes further back to 1971. What do I mean? The plethora of metrics one can use to measure the health of an economy like index funds price-earnings ratios, Gini index for wealth inequality, consumer price index for inflation and cost of living, the ratio of income growth versus productivity growth, individual homeownership rates and many others have all gone haywire since the then President Richard Nixon decided to move away from the gold standard.

If you haven’t guessed the next move of governments by now, allow me to introduce you to central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). Think today’s digital money is bad enough as is? Now imagine what if it was also programmable?

You can say goodbye to any last sliver of financial autonomy. Before we know it, we’ll be living in a surveillance state with social credit scores, just like the Chinese citizens. If you’ve seen politicians trying to put a positive spin on them by randomly throwing around buzzwords, like “blockchain,” go back to the top of this article and read the first line again.

The problems that the government creates can be spoken of at great lengths, but let us move on to the solution: How to take the control of money out of the hands of politicians and give it back to the citizens?

“I don’t believe we shall ever have good money again before we take it out of the hands of governments.” — Friedrich Hayek

Imagine if our monetary system had the privacy and autonomy of cash; the convenience of being instantly and digitally transferrable all over the globe; all the while also retaining the properties of gold, i.e., nobody can steal your purchasing power over time by arbitrarily manipulating its supply only to serve their perverse political incentives?

Moreover, what if it was also running on an open-source codebase and used a public database making it globally accessible, completely transparent and fully auditable by anyone? Plus, what if it also allowed anyone with an internet connection and a computer the ability to weigh in on its monetary policy?

Finally, what if the proposed system was also decentralized in a way that it becomes impossible to stop, controlled or corrupted by anyone due to the lack of a single point of failure or by any central authority?

Sounds like a monetary technology on steroids, doesn’t it? Well, in 2008, a solution to these problems was proposed by someone using the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto. I’d also like to highlight that it didn’t just come out of the blue, it has been in the making ever since the central bankers established control over the money. More precisely, it took almost 40 years of research and multiple failed attempts to engineer this masterpiece. The following visual is more tangible:

(Source)

I’d like to close by reiterating that the notion of separation of the money from the State may seem radical to you at first, but it is actually not. As I mentioned before, the monetary technologies we’ve used throughout most of our history were way more outside of the state control than current fiat money. In one way or another, the State managed to capture them. Gold is the best example of such a non-sovereign asset that people used as money for the longest time, but it had obvious attack vectors in the form of various physical limitations, i.e., hard to store, hard to secure and hard to move.

Historically speaking, there has been a tug-of-war between fiat and non-government monies. Therefore, the real issue at hand is not one of “if” money will separate from government control, but of “when.” With Bitcoin, I think the moment is finally here.

Now obviously if this article has not managed to fully convince you how Bitcoin was designed to be a truly democratic and inclusive monetary system and if you still insist on calling it a scam, I hope you’ll at least consider it is something worth taking a harder look at.

This is a guest post by Ryan Bansal. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.

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Economics

Roubini: The Stagflationary Debt Crisis Is Here

Roubini: The Stagflationary Debt Crisis Is Here

Authored by Nouriel Roubini via Project Syndicate,

The Great Moderation has given way to…

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Roubini: The Stagflationary Debt Crisis Is Here

Authored by Nouriel Roubini via Project Syndicate,

The Great Moderation has given way to the Great Stagflation, which will be characterized by instability and a confluence of slow-motion negative supply shocks. US and global equities are already back in a bear market, and the scale of the crisis that awaits has not even been fully priced in yet.

For a year now, I have argued that the increase in inflation would be persistent, that its causes include not only bad policies but also negative supply shocks, and that central banks’ attempt to fight it would cause a hard economic landing. When the recession comes, I warned, it will be severe and protracted, with widespread financial distress and debt crises. Notwithstanding their hawkish talk, central bankers, caught in a debt trap, may still wimp out and settle for above-target inflation. Any portfolio of risky equities and less risky fixed-income bonds will lose money on the bonds, owing to higher inflation and inflation expectations.

How do these predictions stack up? First, Team Transitory clearly lost to Team Persistent in the inflation debate. On top of excessively loose monetary, fiscal, and credit policies, negative supply shocks caused price growth to surge. COVID-19 lockdowns led to supply bottlenecks, including for labor. China’s “zero-COVID” policy created even more problems for global supply chains. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent shockwaves through energy and other commodity markets. And the broader sanctions regime – not least the weaponization of the US dollar and other currencies – has further balkanized the global economy, with “friend-shoring” and trade and immigration restrictions accelerating the trend toward deglobalization.

Everyone now recognizes that these persistent negative supply shocks have contributed to inflation, and the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, and the US Federal Reserve have begun to acknowledge that a soft landing will be exceedingly difficult to pull off. Fed Chair Jerome Powell now speaks of a “softish landing” with at least “some pain.” Meanwhile, a hard-landing scenario is becoming the consensus among market analysts, economists, and investors.

It is much harder to achieve a soft landing under conditions of stagflationary negative supply shocks than it is when the economy is overheating because of excessive demand. Since World War II, there has never been a case where the Fed achieved a soft landing with inflation above 5% (it is currently above 8%) and unemployment below 5% (it is currently 3.7%). And if a hard landing is the baseline for the United States, it is even more likely in Europe, owing to the Russian energy shock, China’s slowdown, and the ECB falling even further behind the curve relative to the Fed.

Are we already in a recession? Not yet, but the US did report negative growth in the first half of the year, and most forward-looking indicators of economic activity in advanced economies point to a sharp slowdown that will grow even worse with monetary-policy tightening. A hard landing by year’s end should be regarded as the baseline scenario.

While many other analysts now agree, they seem to think that the coming recession will be short and shallow, whereas I have cautioned against such relative optimism, stressing the risk of a severe and protracted stagflationary debt crisis. And now, the latest distress in financial markets – including bond and credit markets – has reinforced my view that central banks’ efforts to bring inflation back down to target will cause both an economic and a financial crash.

I have also long argued that central banks, regardless of their tough talk, will feel immense pressure to reverse their tightening once the scenario of a hard economic landing and a financial crash materializes. Early signs of wimping out are already discernible in the United Kingdom. Faced with the market reaction to the new government’s reckless fiscal stimulus, the BOE has launched an emergency quantitative-easing (QE) program to buy up government bonds (the yields on which have spiked).

Monetary policy is increasingly subject to fiscal capture. Recall that a similar turnaround occurred in the first quarter of 2019, when the Fed stopped its quantitative-tightening (QT) program and started pursuing a mix of backdoor QE and policy-rate cuts – after previously signaling continued rate hikes and QT – at the first sign of mild financial pressures and a growth slowdown. Central banks will talk tough; but there is good reason to doubt their willingness to do “whatever it takes” to return inflation to its target rate in a world of excessive debt with risks of an economic and financial crash.

Moreover, there are early signs that the Great Moderation has given way to the Great Stagflation, which will be characterized by instability and a confluence of slow-motion negative supply shocks. In addition to the disruptions mentioned above, these shocks could include societal aging in many key economies (a problem made worse by immigration restrictions); Sino-American decoupling; a “geopolitical depression” and breakdown of multilateralism; new variants of COVID-19 and new outbreaks, such as monkeypox; the increasingly damaging consequences of climate change; cyberwarfare; and fiscal policies to boost wages and workers’ power.

Where does that leave the traditional 60/40 portfolio? I previously argued that the negative correlation between bond and equity prices would break down as inflation rises, and indeed it has. Between January and June of this year, US (and global) equity indices fell by over 20% while long-term bond yields rose from 1.5% to 3.5%, leading to massive losses on both equities and bonds (positive price correlation).

Moreover, bond yields fell during the market rally between July and mid-August (which I correctly predicted would be a dead-cat bounce), thus maintaining the positive price correlation; and since mid-August, equities have continued their sharp fall while bond yields have gone much higher. As higher inflation has led to tighter monetary policy, a balanced bear market for both equities and bonds has emerged.

But US and global equities have not yet fully priced in even a mild and short hard landing. Equities will fall by about 30% in a mild recession, and by 40% or more in the severe stagflationary debt crisis that I have predicted for the global economy. Signs of strain in debt markets are mounting: sovereign spreads and long-term bond rates are rising, and high-yield spreads are increasing sharply; leveraged-loan and collateralized-loan-obligation markets are shutting down; highly indebted firms, shadow banks, households, governments, and countries are entering debt distress.

The crisis is here.

Tyler Durden Tue, 10/04/2022 - 17:25

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Economics

Oil Spikes After OPEC+ Hints At 2 Million B/D Production Cut

Oil Spikes After OPEC+ Hints At 2 Million B/D Production Cut

Oil prices are extending their recent gains following headlines from Vienna that…

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Oil Spikes After OPEC+ Hints At 2 Million B/D Production Cut

Oil prices are extending their recent gains following headlines from Vienna that OPEC+ is considering a reduction in its production limit of as much as 2 million barrels a day.

However, the impact on actual production could be smaller since several members are already pumping far below their officials quotas, meaning they could automatically be in compliance with their new limit without having to curb production.

Nevertheless, it could still result in the cartel's largest reduction since the deep cuts agreed at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and WTI surged up to $87 on the news...

Notably, Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser told the Energy Intelligence Forum in London this morning that the world is misinterpreting the oil market by worrying too much about a potential recession in the near future.

Current oil prices indicate a focus on "short-term economics rather than supply fundamentals."

"If China opens up, [the] economy starts improving or the aviation industry starts asking for more jet fuel, you will erode this spare capacity," he said.

"And when you erode that spare capacity the world should be worried. There will be no space for any hiccup — any interruption, any unforeseen events anywhere around the world."

The timing could not be more interesting as it comes just weeks after Biden begged the Saudis to hike production and just weeks before the Midterms... with gas prices at the pump beginning to rise again (to record highs in California)...

Finally, Biden's political emptying of the SPR has left it with a record low of just 22 days supply...

Source: Bloomberg

Let's hope we don't have a real emergency - other than collapsing poll numbers we mean of course...

And given the resurgence in crude and wholesale gasoline prices, regular pump prices are set to soar again...

By the way, whatever happened to that Ridiculous Buyers' Cartel idea? 

Tyler Durden Tue, 10/04/2022 - 11:00

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Economics

Consumer Savings Shrink to 2008 Lows

Americans are saving less money than ever as inflation and higher interest rates have impacted their budgets.

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Americans are saving less money than ever as inflation and higher interest rates have impacted their budgets.

The American consumer is accumulating less money each month and tapping into their savings to pay for basic necessities and bills such as utilties, adding to fears of a recession

The personal savings rate in the U.S. for August was down to 3.5%, which is flat compared to July's rate, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis that was released on Sept. 30. 

"It’s a natural consequence of high inflation that has been forcing individuals and households to raid their own savings accounts where they have them," Mark Hamrick, Bankrate’s senior economic analyst, told TheStreet. "Not everyone has been so fortunate. Others have had to cut back severely or rely more on credit."

Wage growth in many industries has fallen short as inflation has risen exponentially this year.

"The fact is that wage growth has not been keeping pace with inflation and has had a negative impact on savings," he said.

The savings rate is calculated by the income that is remaining aftter consumers pay for food, rent and energy as well as taxes.

The decline in the savings rate matches the low rate in August 2008. 

"As the economy reopened, consumers rushed to spend more of their past savings and current income," Anthony Chan, former chief economist for JPMorgan Chase, told TheStreet. "The yearly rise in the CPI has been outpacing the growth in average hourly earnings for all workers since April 2021. That has created another incentive for consumers to lower their savings rate to maintain their standard of living as inflation continues to outpace the growth in wages for all workers."

The percentage of disposable personal income was 3.6% in May, but fell to 3% in June as many Americans went on summer vacations. 

Inflation has eroded the amount of income workers have as the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) Price Index increased by 4.9% in August from last year and by 0.6% on the month, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported.

This reduced hopes that the Federal Reserve would halt its plans for at least another rate hike since the PCE is the Federal Reserve's preferred measure of inflation.

The headline PCE index rose 0.3% on the month, but fell to 6.3% on the year following the first month-on-month decline which was recorded last month -- since April 2020.

Personal income rose by 0.3%, while personal spending rose by 0.4%, the BEA noted.

Consumers received a slight reprieve when gasoline prices fell for 14 consecutive weeks.

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Gasoline Prices Rising Again

The streak of cheaper gasoline prices ended last week as a string of refinery issues pushed prices up higher slightly

For the second straight week, gas prices moved higher with the average gas price posting a rise of 11 cents from a week ago to $3.78 per gallon today, according to GasBuddy data compiled from over 150,000 stations nationwide. 

The national average is up 4 cents from a month ago and 59 cents higher than a year ago. The national average price of diesel has declined by 29 cents in the last week and stands at $4.86 per gallon.

“With gas prices continuing to surge on the West Coast and Great Lakes, the national average saw its second straight weekly rise," said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis, GasBuddy, a Boston-based provider of retail fuel pricing information and data. "But at the same time, areas of the Northeast and Gulf Coast have continued to see declines as the nation experiences sharp differences in trends between regions.

Along the West Coast, some states reported prices rose 35 cents to 55 cents a gallon as gasoline supply declined to its lowest level in a decade in the region, resulting in skyrocketing prices. 

Another price spike is possible, he said.

"While I’m hopeful there will eventually be relief, prices could go a bit higher before cooling off," De Haan said. "In addition, OPEC could decide to cut oil production by a million barrels as the global economy slows down, potentially creating a catalyst that could push gas prices up further.”

Consumer Confidence Increases 

The Consumer Confidence Index rebounded and rose to its highest level since April - it has increased by 12 points compared to just two months ago. 

"Falling gasoline prices and a still-tight labor market are the main reasons we have seen a recent rebound in confidence," wrote Tim Quinlan, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities, and Shannon Seery, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities. "But as inflation persists and the Fed lifts rates to combat it, we are unlikely to see confidence approach pre-pandemic levels."

Optimism from consumers rose with both the Conference Boards Consumer Confidence Index or Consumer Sentiment from the University of Michigan despite higher inflation rates and uncertainty about the outlook on the economy.  

Consumers started cutting back on spending on both discretionary items and and staples earlier this year as retailers have reported a lower demand.

Target  (TGT) - Get Target Corporation Report and Walmart  (WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report were among retailers that reported weaker profits while the travel and leisure industries benefitted from pent up demand.

The Fed has raised rates five times this year, starting with a 0.25% hike in March. Its most recent hike was the third consecutive 0.75%.

Consumer confidence levels are not likely to remain at these levels, Quinlan and Seery wrote.

"Still-elevated inflation and the aggressive tightening path from the Federal Reserve to combat it will likely weigh on consumers financial prospects," he said. "The recent gain in confidence may be supportive of spending in the near-term, but as long as inflation persists and risks of recession remain confidence is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels."

A United Nations agency is now asking for central banks such as the Federal Reserve to stop its interest rate increases.

Additional tightening would only increase the odds of a global recession, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said in its annual report on the global economy. 

The agency estimates that a percentage point increase in the Fed’s key interest rate will decrease the amount of economic output by 0.5% in richer countries while the impact is greater in poor countries by a decline of 0.8% over the next three years.

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