Author Archives: Charles Hugh Smith

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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The U.S. and China: Why the Sudden Convergence on North Korea?

In the past, China resisted U.S. saber-rattling against North Korea. Now China is threatening North Korea with military action. What’s going on? Why the sudden convergence of U.S.-China threats of military force against North Korea? China Threatens To Bomb North … Continue reading

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Millennials Are Homesteading, Buying Affordable Homes, Building Community

While it’s certainly good sport to mock “snowflakes,” not all Millennials are snowflakes. Many are homesteading, buying affordable homes and building communities that get stuff done. I discuss these trends with Drew Sample, who is living them in Ohio. ( … Continue reading

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Millennials Are Abandoning the Postwar Engines of Growth: Suburbs and Autos

If anything defined the postwar economy between 1946 and 1999, it was the exodus of the middle class from cities to suburbs and the glorification of what Jim Kunstler calls Happy Motoring: freeways, cars and trucks, ten lanes of private … Continue reading

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Who’s Playing The Long Game–and What’s Their Game Plan?

When we speak of The Long Game, we speak of national/alliance policies that continue on regardless of what political party or individual is in office. The Long Game is always about the basics of national survival: control of and access … Continue reading

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About that Bug-Out Hideaway….

A flurry of recent headlines has highlighted the financial elites’ interest in secure retreats (a.k.a. bug-out locations) should the trucks stop rolling. That those with the most money and access to expertise are preparing safe havens has moved the conversation … Continue reading

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Why Is the State in Our Bedrooms and Living Rooms as Well as Our Bank Accounts?

A limited government is concerned with proscribing the exploitation of citizens by elites and criminals. A Totalitarian State seeks control of everything–including what goes on in the bedrooms, living rooms and minds of its citizens. A recent conversation with my … Continue reading

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Is Your “Democracy” Actually a Totalitarian State? Take this Quick Quiz

Is your “democracy” (or republic) actually a Totalitarian State? That is, is it a “democracy” or “republic” in name only? To find out, take this quick quiz. 1. Does your government (federal, state and local) seize citizens’ assets without due … Continue reading

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Uncertainty and the Humility of Forecasting an Unknowable Future

Certainty and uncertainty come in a variety of flavors. “Certainty” seems rather definite, but lurking beneath certainty is the more scientifically verifiable notion of probability: the probability of outcomes can be high enough to qualify as certain and low enough … Continue reading

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Fed Reportedly “Tired of Waiting for Inflation,” Plans to Give Every Household $1 Million in Cash

The Federal Reserve has been trying to boost the official inflation rate for eight long years, and apparently patience with current policies is finally wearing thin.Rumor has it that the Fed is readying a new “nuclear option”: distributing $1 million … Continue reading

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Do the Roots of Rising Inequality Go All the Way Back to the 1980s?

I presented this chart of rising wealth inequality a number of times over the past year. Do you notice something peculiar about the inflection points in the 1980s? Correspondent W.S. noted that the inflection point for the top .1% (late … Continue reading

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“Trickle Down” Has Failed; Wealth and Income Have “Trickled Up” to the Top .5%

Over the past 20 years, central banks have run a gigantic real-world experiment called “trickle-down.” The basic idea is Keynesian (i.e. the mystical and comically wrong-headed cargo-cult that has entranced the economics profession for decades): monetary stimulus (lowering interest rates … Continue reading

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When the “Solutions” Become the Problems

We are living in an interesting but by no means unique dynamic in which the solutions to problems such as slow growth and inequality have become the problems. This is a dynamic I have often discussed in various contexts. In … Continue reading

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The Overlapping Crises Are Coming, Regardless of Who’s in Power

Commentators seem split into three camps: those who see Trump as a manifestation of smouldering social/economic ills, those who see Trump and his supporters as the cause of those ills, and those who see Trump as both manifestation and cause … Continue reading

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Forget ObamaCare, RyanCare, and any Future ReformCare–the Healthcare System Is Completely Broken

As with many other complex, opaque systems in the U.S., only those toiling in the murky depths of the healthcare system know just how broken the entire system is. Only those dealing daily with the perverse incentives, the Kafkaesque procedures, … Continue reading

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The Deep State’s Dominant Narratives and Authority Are Crumbling

As this chart from Google Trends illustrates, interest in the Deep State has increased dramatically in 2017. The term/topic has clearly moved from the specialist realm to the mainstream. I’ve been writing about the Deep State, and specifically, the fractures … Continue reading

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The Divided Deep State is a Symptom, Not the Disease

I’ve been writing about the divided Deep State for a number of years, most recently in The Conflict within the Deep State Just Broke into Open Warfare. The topic appears to be one of widespread interest, as this essay drew … Continue reading

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Our Hopelessly Dysfunctional Democracy

Democracy in America has become a hollow shell. The conventional markers of democracy–elections and elected representatives–exist, but they are mere facades; the mechanisms of setting the course of the nation are corrupt, and the power lies outside the public’s reach. … Continue reading

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Dear America: Better Read the Fine Print on Your Credit Card Statement

You know those disclosures on your credit card statements? That it will take 27 years to pay off your balance if you only make the minimum payment each month, and so on? You might not be aware of it, but … Continue reading

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Don’t You Hate Spammy, Sensationalist Click-Bait Like this?

We’re inundated with spammy sensationalist click-bait. You know what I mean–the little boxes containing eye-candy photos and headlines such as “you won’t believe how badly these stars have aged,” “7 tricks to losing weight during Thanksgiving,” “These children of celebs … Continue reading

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When Money Is “Free,” Discipline Evaporates; When Discipline Evaporates, Decisions Are Disastrous

Whatever is free is squandered. When water is free, it’s freely wasted. When electricity is free, there’s no motivation to use it wisely. The same principle holds true for money. If money is free, or nearly free, there is no … Continue reading

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Now That Everyone’s Been Pushed into Risky Assets…

If we had to summarize what’s happened in eight years of “recovery,” we could start with this: everyone’s been pushed into risky assets while being told risk has been transformed from something to avoid (by buying risk-off assets) to something … Continue reading

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Why Fragmentation Is the Solution, Not the Problem

The fragmentation of political consensus (i.e. the consent of the citizenry) is presented by the Powers That Be and their media servants as being a disaster.The implicit fear is real enough: how can we rule the entire nation-empire if it … Continue reading

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Are Cities the Incubators of Decentralized Solutions?

In yesterday’s entry, I suggested that rather than bemoan the inevitable failure of centralized “fixes,” let’s turn our efforts to the real solutions: decentralized, networked, localized. To commentators such as Richard Florida, decentralized, networked, localized describes cities. He describes the … Continue reading

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Solutions Abound–on the Local Level

Those looking for centralized solutions to healthcare, jobs and other “macro-problems” will suffer inevitable disappointment. The era in which further centralization provided the “solution” has passed: additional centralization (Medicare for All, No Child Left Behind, federal job training, Universal Basic … Continue reading

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The Conflict within the Deep State Just Broke into Open Warfare

When do the unlimited powers of the Intelligence/Security agencies threaten America’s domestic and global national interests? The CIA and its political enablers claim the agency’s essentially unlimited powers, partially revealed by Wikileak’s Vault 7, pose no threat to America’s interests, … Continue reading

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Why I Have to Agree with Tim Geithner on This

Many of us disagree with the bloviated, self-congratulatory notion that the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury saved the U.S. economy, capitalism and everything else in 2008-09 up to and including the Central Bank of Mars and the bat guano … Continue reading

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It’s What’s Happening Beneath the Surface That Matters: Moral Decay and Rising Inequality

With the media’s hyperactive three-ring circus blasting 24/7, it’s easy to forget that everything consequential is happening beneath the surface, out of sight and largely out of mind. What’s going on beneath the surface is structural and systemic–for example, the … Continue reading

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Why Is the Cost of Living so Unaffordable?

The mainstream narrative is “the problem is low wages.” Actually, the problem is the soaring cost of living. If essentials such as healthcare, housing, higher education and government services were as cheap as they once were, a wage of $10 … Continue reading

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The Illusion of Progress

The core narrative of politics everywhere is progress, i.e. “moving forward.” If progress isn’t being made, politicos and the system are failing. In the past, “progressive” movements sought to advance both social and economic opportunities for marginalized groups. For a … Continue reading

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Dear President Trump: If You Want to Lower Healthcare Costs and Stem the Opiate Death Spiral, Legalize Marijuana

If there is anything the left and right, progressives and conservatives, and everyone in between can agree on, it’s ending the counter-productive, destructive “war on drugs” that has generated crime and violence, a “we’re number one in Gulags” prison complex … Continue reading

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Virtue-Signaling the Decline of the Empire

There are many reasons why Imperial Rome declined, but two primary causes that get relatively little attention are moral decay and soaring wealth inequality. The two are of course intimately connected: once the morals of the ruling Elites degrade, the … Continue reading

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