Author Archives: Charles Hugh Smith

Are Profit and Healthcare Incompatible?

As I have been noting for a decade, the broken U.S. healthcare system will bankrupt the nation all by itself. We all know the basic facts: the system delivers uneven results in terms of improving health and life expectancy while costing … Continue reading

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Are We Already in Recession?

How shocked would you be if it was announced that the U.S. had just entered a recession, that is, a period in which gross domestic product (GDP) declines (when adjusted for inflation) for two or more quarters? Would you really … Continue reading

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What the Mainstream Doesn’t Get about Bitcoin

I’ve been writing about cryptocurrencies and bitcoin for many years. For example: Could Bitcoin Become a Global Reserve Currency? (November 7, 2013) I am an interested observer, not an expert. As an observer, it seems to me that the mainstream–media, financial punditry, etc.–as … Continue reading

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Powerlessness and Consumerism

There is perhaps no better metric of class in America than personal power–what is known as agency: the power to influence or transform one’s circumstances in a a self-directed manner. Those with agency have power, those without agency (or very limited agency) … Continue reading

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Is Another Oil Head-Fake Brewing?

The dramatic declines in the costs of oil production will be boosting supply at the very moment that demand is falling. Over the past decade I’ve addressed what I call Head-Fakes in the cost of oil/fossil fuel: even though we know the cost … Continue reading

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Why We’re So Risk-Averse: “We Can’t Take That Chance”

You’ve probably noticed how risk-averse Hollywood has become: the big summer movies are all extensions of existing franchises–mixing up the superheroes in new combinations, or remaking hit films from the past–all safe bets. The trend to “playing it safe” is not … Continue reading

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6 Key Questions about RussiaGate

The claims that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election are now known as RussiaGate, in a loose reference to the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. In the U.S., the issue has been poisoned by profound partisanship: those who … Continue reading

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Meanwhile, Somewhere in the Pentagon…

As North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un declares that “The Entire US Territory Is Now Within Our ICBM Range”, somewhere in the Pentagon, operational plans to neutralize North Korean nuclear and long-range missile capabilities are being refined. There are undoubtedly … Continue reading

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We Need a Social Economy, Not a Hyper-Financialized Economy

We all know what a hyper-financialized economy looks like–we live in one:central banks create credit/money out of thin air and distribute it to the already-wealthy, who use the nearly free money to buy back corporate shares, enriching themselves while creating zero jobs. … Continue reading

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There Is Only One Empire: Finance

There’s an entire sub-industry in journalism devoted to the idea that China is poised to replace the U.S. as the “global empire” / hegemon. This notion of global empire being something like a baton that gets passed from nation-state to nation-state … Continue reading

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In the Footsteps of Rome: Is Renewal Possible?

Is renewal / recovery from systemic decline possible? The history of the Roman Empire is a potentially insightful place to start looking for answers. As long-time readers know, I’ve been studying both the Western and Eastern (Byzantine) Roman Empires over the … Continue reading

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When We Can No Longer Tell the Truth…

When we can no longer tell the truth because the truth will bring the whole rotten, fragile status quo down in a heap of broken promises and lies, we’ve reached the perfection of dysfunction. You know the one essential guideline to … Continue reading

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The Death Spiral of Financialization

The primary driver of our economy–financialization–is in a death spiral. Financialization substitutes expansion of interest, leverage and speculation for real-world expansion of goods, services and wages. Financial “wealth” created by leveraging more debt on a base of real-world collateral that doesn’t actually … Continue reading

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Why 2017 Is Like 1969

A deeply polarizing new president, a disastrously misguided official narrativethat the political Establishment doggedly supports despite a damning lack of evidence, and an economy teetering on the edge of recession–and worse. Sound familiar? Welcome to 1969 redux. The similarities between the … Continue reading

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Earth’s Economy Glorifies Waste, Exploitation, Debt, Expediency and Magical Thinking

How would extraterrestrial anthropologists characterize Earth’s dominant socio-economic system? It’s not difficult to imagine their dismaying report: “Earth’s economy glorifies waste. Its economists rejoice when a product is disposed as waste and replaced with a new product. This waste is perversely … Continue reading

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Our Financial Buffers Are Thinning

While buffer has a specific meaning in chemistry, I am using the word in the broad sense of a reserve resource that absorbs the initial destructive impacts of crises or system overloads. Marshland along a sea coast is a buffer against destructive storm … Continue reading

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What’s the Safest Investment in Troubled Times?

What’s the safest investment as the global economy enters increasingly risky, troubled times? I’ve reviewed hundreds of academic papers, investment reports and newsletters and researched long-term strategies and backtests and reached one conclusion. I won’t keep you in suspense: it’s bat … Continue reading

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Our Political Parties Are Obsolete

History informs us that once something is obsolete, it can disappear far faster than anyone expected. While we generally think of obsoleted technologies vanishing, social and political systems can become obsolete as well. Should a poor soul who entered a deep … Continue reading

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We’re Fragmenting Because our Experience of the Economy Is Fragmenting

You’ve probably seen some version of this chart of average household income in America before. (You may have seen charts of median household income as well; here’s an article on the difference between the two methods of measurement: American families are learning the difference … Continue reading

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A 4th of July Remembrance: Independence Arises from Self-Reliance

What is visible on July 4th is the overwhelming consumerism of an American holiday: the over-hyped sales campaigns, the overdulgences of the table, and the obligatory displays of fireworks. But beneath this celebratory surface run questions about American identity and the … Continue reading

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The Real Cause of the Opioid Epidemic: Scarcity of Jobs and Positive Social Roles

We all know there is a scourge of addiction and premature death plaguing the nation, a scourge that is killing thousands and ruining millions of lives: the deaths resulting from the opioid epidemic (largely the result of “legal” synthetic narcotics) are … Continue reading

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If We Don’t Change the Way Money Is Created, Rising Inequality and Social Disorder Are Inevitable

Everyone who wants to reduce wealth and income inequality with more regulations and taxes is missing the key dynamic: central banks’ monopoly on creating and issuing money widens wealth inequality, as those with access to newly issued money can always outbid the … Continue reading

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The Over-Criminalization of American Life

While the corporate media devotes itself to sports, entertainment, dining out and the latest political kerfuffle, America has become the Over-Criminalization Capital of the World. The proliferation of laws and administrative regulations, federal, state and local, that carry criminal penalties has … Continue reading

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Automation’s Destruction of Jobs: You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

Automation–networked robotics, software and processes–has already had a major impact on jobs. As this chart from my colleague Gordon T. Long illustrates, the rise of Internet technologies is reflected in the steady, long-term decline of the labor force participation rate– … Continue reading

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We’re in a Boiling-Point Crisis of Exploitive Elites

Many of us have written about cycles in the past decade: Kondratieff economic cycles, business/credit cycles, the Strauss–Howe generational theory (an existential national crisis arises every four generations, as described in their book The Fourth Turning), and long-wave cycles of … Continue reading

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The Dead Giveaways of Imperial Decline

Identifying the tell-tale signs of Imperial decay and decline is a bit of a parlor game. 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 … Continue reading

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Projecting the Price of Bitcoin

I’ve taken the liberty of preparing a projection of bitcoin’s price action going forward: You see the primary dynamic is continued skepticism from the mainstream, which owns essentially no cryptocurrency and conventionally views bitcoin and its peers as fads, scams … Continue reading

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How Debt-Asset Bubbles Implode: The Supernova Model of Financial Collapse

When debt-asset bubbles expand at rates far above the expansion of earnings and real-world productive wealth, their collapse is inevitable. The Supernova model of financial collapse is one way to understand this. As I noted yesterday in Will the Crazy … Continue reading

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Is Your Cost of Living Rising? Why the Elites Aren’t Worried About Inflation

In our household, we measure real-world inflation with the Burrito Index: How much has the cost of a regular burrito at our favorite taco truck gone up? The cost of a regular burrito from our local taco truck has gone … Continue reading

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Inflation Isn’t Evenly Distributed: The Protected Are Fine, the Unprotected Are Impoverished Debt-Serfs

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation is bogus on a number of fronts, a reality I’ve covered a number of times: though the heavily gamed official CPI is under 2% for the past four years, the real rate … Continue reading

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Does the World End in Fire or Ice? Thoughts on Japan and the Inflation/Deflation Debate

Do we implode in a deflationary death spiral (ice) or in an inflationary death spiral (fire)? Debating the question has been a popular parlor game for years, with Eric Janszen’s 1999 Ka-Poom Deflation/Inflation Theory often anchoring the discussion. I invite … Continue reading

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TINA’s Legacy: Free Money, Bread and Circuses and Collapse

Every conventional “solution” to the systemic ills of our economy and society boils down to some version of free money: Universal Basic Income (UBI) schemes– free money for everyone, funded by borrowing from future taxpayers (robots, people, Martians, any fantasy … Continue reading

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The Soft Underbelly of Scandinavian “High-Tax Happy-Capitalism”

A media mini-industry touts Scandinavia’s “happiness” as the result of its high-tax, generous welfare state-capitalism. This mini-industry conveniently fails to report the soft underbelly of Scandinavia’s “High-Tax Happy-Capitalism”: The high-tax, generous welfare model is just as dependent on unsustainable credit … Continue reading

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Why We’re Fragmenting: The Status Quo Is Disintegrating

I confess to being amused by the mainstream media’s implicit view that everything would be peachy if only Trump wasn’t president. Memo to MSM: the nation is fragmenting for reasons that have nothing to do with who’s president, or indeed, … Continue reading

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State of Denial: The Economy No Longer Works As It Did in the Past

If there is one reality that is denied or obscured by the Status Quo, it is that the economy no longer works as it did in the past. This is the fundamental economic context of our current slide into political-social … Continue reading

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Globalization and the Rural-Urban Divide

Many pundits have commented on the remarkable asymmetry of counties won by the Democratic Party (blue counties) and in 2016 and those won by Republican Party (red counties): the Democrats won big in heavily urban counties and the Republicans won … Continue reading

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Mao and the Middle Class: What’s the Source of Political Power?

The decline of middle class wealth and income is not just an economic trend–it translates directly to a decline in political power. Chairman Mao famously noted that “Political power grows out of the barrel of gun,”, but this is only … Continue reading

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How Higher Education Became an Obscenely Profitable Racket That Enriches the Few at the Expense of the Many (Student Debt-Serfs)

“Legal” rackets have two essential components: a public-relations “cover” that obscures the racket and the mechanism that extracts the wealth from the “marks.” The Higher Education Racket qualifies on both counts: 1. The PR cover is “you all need a … Continue reading

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What’s Killing the Middle Class? (Part 1)

We all know the middle class that actually owns capital and wields political influence is shrinking. As I noted last week in Redefining the Middle Class: It Isn’t What You Earn and Owe, It’s What You Own That Generates Income, … Continue reading

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There Is One Way Out of Debt-Serfdom: Fanatic Frugality

If we accept that our financial system is nothing but a wealth-transfer mechanism from the productive elements of our economy to parasitic, neofeudal rentier-cartels and self-serving state fiefdoms, that raises a question: what do we do about it? The typical … Continue reading

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The Elites Have Destroyed the Status Quo’s Ability to Self-Correct

For any system to endure, it must maintain a built-in capacity to self-correct: that is, it must generate accurate informational feedback about dangerous asymmetries and auto-correct with behavioral feedback. This is true of ecosystems and enterprises as well as political/social … Continue reading

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International Workers’ Day: Profitable Work Will Be Automated, The Rest Will Be Left to Us

What’s abundant and what’s scarce? The question matters because as economist Michael Spence (among others) has noted, value and profits flow to what’s scarce.What’s in over-supply has little to no scarcity value and hence little to no profitability. What’s abundant … Continue reading

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Are We (Collectively) Depressed?

Psychoanalysis teaches that one cause of depression is repressed anger. The rising tide of collective anger is visible in many places: road rage, violent street clashes between groups seething for a fight, the destruction of friendships for holding the “incorrect” … Continue reading

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Are We Really that Divided?

If there is any statement about politics in America that qualifies as as a truism accepted by virtually everyone, left, right or independent, it’s that America is a deeply divided nation. But is this really true? Like everyone else, I … Continue reading

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Housing’s Echo Bubble Now Exceeds the 2006-07 Bubble Peak

A funny thing often occurs after a mania-fueled asset bubble pops: an echo-bubble inflates a few years later, as monetary authorities and all the institutions that depend on rising asset valuations go all-in to reflate the crushed asset class. Take … Continue reading

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Who Will Live in the Suburbs if Millennials Favor Cities?

Longtime readers know I follow the work of urbanist Richard Florida, whose recent book was the topic of Are Cities the Incubators of Decentralized Solutions?(March 14, 2017). Florida’s thesis–that urban zones are the primary incubators of technological and economic growth–is … Continue reading

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Marx, Orwell and State-Cartel Socialism

OK, so our collective eyes start glazing over when we see Marx and Orwell in the subject line, but refill your beverage and stay with me on this. We’re going to explore the premise that what’s called “socialism”–yes, Scandinavian-style socialism … Continue reading

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Our Intellectual Bankruptcy: The “Religion” of Economics, UBI and Medicare For All

Here we stand on the precipice, and all we have in our kit is a collection of delusional magical thinking that we label “solutions.” We are not just morally and financially bankrupt, we’re intellectually bankrupt as well. Here are three … Continue reading

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The Left’s Descent to Fascism

History often surprises us with unexpected ironies. For the past century, the slide to fascism could be found on the Right (conservative, populist, nationalist political parties). But now it’s the Left that’s descending into fascism, and few seem to even … Continue reading

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What’s Your Plan B?

We all have a Plan A–continue living just like we’re living now. Some of us have a Plan B in case Plan A doesn’t work out, and the reasons for a Plan B break out into three general categories: 1. … Continue reading

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