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Sluggish economy leaves many Japanese in the cold ... The global economy may be on the mend, but times are still tough for the masses of homeless, jobless people in Tokyo, where the only meal of the day is often a bowl of rice handed out by charities. Although Japan's export-driven economy is back on track, largely due to rising demand from Asia, the United Nations said its recovery was slower than other countries, and predicted only 0.9 percent growth in 2010 compared to 8.8 percent for China and 2.1 percent for the United States. This sluggish growth, combined with troubles at giant corporations in the world's second-biggest economy, has made earning a living very difficult for scores of Japanese. "I see no jobs around. It's a really tough situation," Eizo Tsuruga, a 50-year-old homeless man, told Reuters as he sat among others people eating a bowl of hot rice in the winter night. A Welfare Ministry survey showed the actual numbers of homeless had fallen to 15,000 in 2009 from 25,000 in 2003. Homeless people in Japan have traditionally been elderly, social dropouts, but with the economic situation, the demographics have changed to include laid-off workers, both young and old, and university graduates unable to find work. On a recent Sunday, more than 400 people flocked to a Tokyo park to receive free meals and blankets distributed by local charity Shinjuku Renraku Kai, more than twice the number of people the charity used to see two years ago. Many had queued for hours to ensure they got some cooked rice, often their only meal for the day. "More and more people of all ages are gathering here," said Kazuaki Kasai, a volunteer who has worked at the charity's distribution point in the park for the past 16 years. - Yahoo
Dominant Social Theme: Sometimes the global economy is down, and sometimes up.
Free-Market Analysis: Is the Western world struggling through a bad patch? Our argument, voiced with various levels of clarity at various times, is that the West is currently living through a failure of fiat money - specifically a failure of the global anchor currency: the greenback. The dollar is on its way out not because people want it to be necessarily (though some do) but simply because it is failing as a fiat currency. Central bank fiat currencies always fail. China had a number of fiat episodes and the populace was so scarred that fiat money was reportedly even banned in the 1800s. Here's a bit of history on China's melancholy brushes with unbacked paper money:
Fiat Money - China -- Flying Money
When the Chinese first started using paper money, they called it "flying money," because it could just fly from your hands. The reason for the issuance of paper money is simple. There was a copper shortage, so banks had switched to the use of iron coinage. These iron coins became over-issued and fell in value.
In the 11th century, a bank in the Szechuan province of China issued paper money in exchange for the iron coins. Initially, this was fine, because the paper money was exchangeable for gold, silver, or silk. Eventually, inflation began to take hold, as China was funding an ongoing war with the Mongols, which it eventually lost.
Genghis Khan won this war, but the Mongols didn't assume immediate control over China as they pushed westward to conquer more lands. Genghis Khan's grandson Kublai Khan united China and assumed the emperorship. After running into some setbacks with paper currency, Kublai eventually had some success with fiat money. In fact, Marco Polo said of Kublai Khan and the use of paper currency:
"You might say that [Kublai] has the secret of alchemy in perfection...the Khan causes every year to be made such a vast quantity of this money, which costs him nothing, that it must equal in amount all the treasure of the world."
Even Helicopter Ben would be impressed. Marco Polo went on to say:
"This was the most brilliant period in the history of China. Kublai Khan, after subduing and uniting the whole country and adding Burma, Cochin China, and Tonkin to the empire, entered upon a series of internal improvements and civil reforms, which raised the country he had conquered to the highest rank of civilization, power, and progress. ...
"Population and trade had greatly increased, but the emissions of paper notes were suffered to largely outrun both...All the beneficial effects of a currency that is allowed to expand with a growth of population and trade were now turned into those evil effects that flow from a currency emitted in excess of such growth. These effects were not slow to develop themselves...The best families in the empire were ruined, a new set of men came into the control of public affairs, and the country became the scene of internecine warfare and confusion." (- Daily Reckoning)
Interestingly, we can see in the above observations that fiat money first created a wonderland of progress and amusement. That's just what fiat money has done in the West and in Japan as well. It is now happening in China. Wherever fiat money travels it brings tremendous euphoria in its wake, though only to begin with. Cities are energized with false booms. Farm children flock to the urban environment to take jobs in factories producing ephemeral goods or work at useless government jobs - that are created from tax revenues during the boom time. Initially, because fiat money inevitably has a relationship to government, much of the perfection of society is attributed to a wise, fair-minded bureaucracy. The bureaucracy, by the way, believes it.
Monetary stimulation can go on for years. In America, it's been going on for nearly a century - which is probably the far end of what can be expected. But people can live and die under a central banking regime - which is usually a fiat regime (or ends up that way, anyway). Yes, it cannot be emphasized enough that fiat money (along with its enabler, central banking) is a foundational curse. Just as in China, it funds wars, makes the government look wonderfully efficient and even omnipotent, fools people into believing that the non-essential jobs they have are actually essential "modern" work - and sets the stage inevitably for regulatory regimes that must eventually descend into madness and ruin.
Fiat money empowers corporatism (in the modern age anyway) and distorts civilization by helping to implode agrarian republicanism. It is no coincidence that Thomas Jefferson despised central banking - and was in fact the most famous and influential agrarian republican. We can see the remnants of this sort of society in Switzerland, which has passed laws to maintain small farms. It is difficult to create a totalitarian society - even an ephemeral one - in a land of sturdy farmers. Such individuals grow their own food, have access to water and are willing to defend their land. America was a bit like Switzerland before the Civil War but is not now.
But today, dear reader, we would propose that the West, and the entire globe, is living through a fiat money collapse. Economies all over the world have been inflated to their fullest and people can buy no more useless gadgets and work at no more superfluous jobs. Too many useful endeavors have been marginalized and phony ones have been elevated. An implosion is taking place. The world is reverting to a kind of mathematical practicality. In America, car companies have shrunk because there are too many cars, and houses are not being built because there are too many houses. Banks are not doing deals because too many deals have been done. All that is working overtime are the printing presses. While the greenback is exceptionally at risk we would argue that the same thing is occurring, to a greater or lesser degree, in Europe, in Japan, and even in China - despite all the happy talk about the Chinese miracle. Here's a famous investor on the subject of China:
Contrarian Investor Sees Economic Crash in China ... James S. Chanos built one of the largest fortunes on Wall Street by foreseeing the collapse of Enron and other highflying companies whose stories were too good to be true. Now Mr. Chanos, a wealthy hedge fund investor, is working to bust the myth of the biggest conglomerate of all: China Inc. As most of the world bets on China to help lift the global economy out of recession, Mr. Chanos is warning that China's hyper-stimulated economy is headed for a crash, rather than the sustained boom that most economists predict. Its surging real estate sector, buoyed by a flood of speculative capital, looks like "Dubai times 1,000 -- or worse," he frets. He even suspects that Beijing is cooking its books, faking, among other things, its eye-popping growth rates of more than 8 percent. "Bubbles are best identified by credit excesses, not valuation excesses," he said in a recent appearance on CNBC. "And there's no bigger credit excess than in China." (- New York Times)
Everywhere, major economies are having difficulty. We do not believe by the way that it is absolute serendipity. The power elite knows very well how fiat money and central banking work. Those at the top of the economic food chain readily anticipated more power falling into their laps - and ultimately facilitating a worldwide economic regime. But we have to re-emphasize that these same powerful people apparently did not take the Internet into account. This is most important.
Conclusion: By putting in place the mechanisms that guarantee endless quasi-collapses, the power elite profits inordinately. By not understanding that this time around the entire circus would be available for endless replays on the Internet, the power elite has put the system into tremendous jeopardy. Too many have run across free-market arguments on the Internet and come to believe (this time around) that the system is unfair and even impractical. Too many have witnessed and comprehended the full gamut of central banking's apparent destructive tendencies. None of this was in the game plan, in our opinion. Yet this seeming unraveling of financial certainty has tremendous ramifications for your portfolios, dear reader. We might suggest a modicum of gold and silver as you watch various fiat money economies of the world, especially the dollar, sputter and sink.