Friday, February 14, 2014

The Problem with World Improvers...

By Bill Bonner

Yesterday, we sat in front of the fire. Electricity was out in the hotel. All we could do was to keep the fire going and stay close to it. Alas, the firewood was a little green. It absorbed most of the heat rather than projecting it into the room.

In the hotel, we got to know the other refugees. It turned out that many were from Baltimore... and some were friends of our friends. So, the atmosphere was convivial, if not actually warm.

This morning, the power is still off. It's hard to write because our hands are so cold!

But we continue to report on the markets... however briefly!

The Dow rose yesterday – 64 points. Gold rose to over $1,300 an ounce.

Another Country

What is amazing about the world improvers is that they never bother to figure out how the world works. It is as though they weren't interested. Instead, they just want to control it... to force it in one direction or another... and to mold it, as if it were wet mud. 

Take David Brooks in the New York Times. He reckons the US isn't the country it used to be:

[A]mericans have become steadily less mobile. In 1950, 20% of Americans moved in a given year. Now, it's around 12%. In the 1950s and 1960s, people lived in the same house for an average of five years; now people live in the same house for an average of 8.6 years. When it comes to geographic mobility, we are now at historic lows, no more mobile than people in Denmark or Finland.

Is that a bad thing? Is stability something that needs to be corrected? Brooks thinks so. 

[T]oday's young people are much less mobile than young people from earlier generations. Between the 1980s and the 2000s alone, mobility among young adults dropped by 41%.

[A] big factor here is a loss in self-confidence. It takes faith to move. You are putting yourself through temporary expense and hardship because you have faith that over the long run you will slingshot forward. Many highly educated people, who are still moving in high numbers, have that long-term faith. Less-educated people often do not.

This loss of faith is evident in other areas of life. Fertility rates, a good marker of confidence, are down. Even accounting for cyclical changes, people are less likely to voluntarily vacate a job in search of a better one. Only 46% of white Americans believe they have a good chance of improving their standard of living, the lowest levels in the history of the General Social Survey.

Peter Beinart wrote a fascinating piece for National Journal, arguing that Americans used to have much more faith in capitalism, a classless society, America's role in the world and organized religion than people from Europe. But now American attitudes resemble European attitudes, and when you just look at young people, American exceptionalism is basically gone.

Now, fewer young Americans believe in capitalism than young Europeans. 

Who would have thought? 

What is really going on? Are mobility and appreciation for free enterprise parts of the same thing? Or are they different things? Is the loss of mobility really a bad thing? 

Brooks doesn't even ask. Instead, he just comes up with a crackpot solution: Give people vouchers to help them move! 

We won't grace that suggestion with a discussion. It is self-evidently absurd and ridiculous. 

Bill Bonner founded Agora, Inc in 1978. It has since grown into one of the largest independent newsletter publishing companies in the world. He has also written three New York Times bestselling books, Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Messiahs and Markets.

The above article originally appeared at


  1. When I was young I thought if I obtained an education, worked hard, played by the rules, and saved my money I would be able to build wealth and enjoy life. I even thought by living below my means I'd have a good chance of retiring early and enjoy more time with the wife and family. I was young and naive. I didn't know the fix was in.

    Now in middle age I sit here earning 0% interest on my savings and worrying about my investments in highly manipulated markets. I do this while I watch my cost of living slowly and inevitably rise. My grocery bills increase every month. I see the prices of new cars and sigh hoping to hold on to my old car for yet another year. I put off improvements around the home. I listen to “educated” fools decry deflation and promise to increase the cost of living even more. I shake my head in disbelief. I realize I’m slowly getting poorer. Retirement is slipping away. Why did I work so hard? Why was I such a chump?

    The young may not know why these things are happening, but they see it. They see it in the eyes of their parents. They know their parents worked hard and they know everything their parents worked for is slipping away. They see the result. And unlike when their parents were young, the young of today are aware that the fix is in.

    This isn’t capitalism. This is nonsense. The accumulation of “capital” has become meaningless. Work is for chumps.

    1. Good one. Hits the nail on the head.