Friday, November 4, 2011

Of Greeks, Banks, and Economic Imperialism

The Euro was a bad idea from the get go. I know that's no revelation for most people who follow this. You can't take the tool of currency manipulation away from sovereign nations and expect them all to hold hands and play nice. One is always going to try to benefit at the expense of another. A unified Europe was an ambitious plan, one that if successful would have equalized the international trade markets and given Europe the purchasing power of the US, but carried such inherent risk that the only predictable beneficiaries would be the banks, who set themselves up to win regardless of the score at the end of the game.

Since the economic torture room called the great recession has prodded the truth out of its Greek prisoners - that the party is over - there is a choice to be made and it's really the same choice that just about every struggling middle class family facing foreclosure needs to make. Do we continue burning through our productive capacity to support a mountain of debt or do we hit the reset button? The average person faces the specter of poor credit for a period of time where they will be forced to rent their home and live below their means in order to scratch and claw their way back to fiscal responsibility. Greece faces the same decision, on a much larger scale of course, but essentially comparable. What Iceland proved is that you can say "Yes!" to all the offers of credit coming in the mail, then flip your creditors the bird when it comes time to pay. A couple banks will bear the brunt of the blame/pain - in this case MF Global, while others will exercise credit default swaps and move on to the next sucker. Furthermore, creditors will not stay away nearly as long as they threatened. Once a country is no longer burdened by a crippling debt service, they are actually more likely to pay a small debt, so the first creditor in the door would be fairly secure and can earn a healthy return by lending to a formerly irresponsible borrower at high rates.

While I do think Papandreiu's referendum move was political, it was also smart to, like Pontius Pilate, give his people a say in their future so he could wash his hands of whichever decision is made. I don't think anyone wants to be the guy in charge when faced with two bad alternatives. If I was a Greek citizen I'd vote to go back to the Drachma and reinstate the Greek central bank, break from the Euro, default on the debt, and start from scratch. Creditors would come back eventually and the Greeks could pat themselves on the back for pulling one over on the economic imperialists running the show in Brussels.

Of course, I don't believe this will happen as I think the relentless pressure of the EuroZone partners will scare Greeks enough to make them adopt wicked austerity, in which case, they're just delaying the inevitable collapse long enough to pay back some well-connected bankers and give the Germans more economic and political power than they already have, which is considerable. In other words a more orderly, long-term default is still a default but at least it doesn't trigger dominoes and allows the Euros to build their "firewall".

Regardless of the decision made, the Dollar is only going to get stronger because it is the least bad alternative, not because of any fundamental strength in the US economy. This bodes well for precious metals and commodities in general in the long run, but I think it will be a wild ride in the short term, with several dives to come and plenty of opportunities to beef up the portfolio with real strength.

It's also a good time to reconsider what prophets and apostles have told us for years about being prepared personally for the inevitable collapse of Babylon. Get your house in order. Beef up your personal security portfolio with food, fuel, medical supplies, tools, and guns. With these five categories covered you'll survive any Mad Max scenario and give yourself and your family a feeling of comfort and peace.

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