As the global economy wrestles with rising fuel and food prices, several financial executives have warned of further trouble ahead. In early June, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon warned of trouble in the weeks and months to come, comparing the current financial landscape to the time just before a hurricane hits. “It’s a hurricane,” he said. “Right now, it’s kind of sunny, things are doing fine, everyone thinks the Fed can handle this. That hurricane is right out there, down the road, coming our way. We just don’t know if it’s a minor one or Superstorm Sandy or Andrew or something like that. You better brace yourself.”
Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf echoed those concerns. “The scenario of a soft landing,” he said, “is extremely difficult to achieve in the environment that we’re in today.” Not to be left out, Goldman Sachs President John Waldron said. “This is among – if not the most – complex, dynamic environments I’ve ever seen in my career. The confluence of the number of shocks to the system to me is unprecedented.”
This is the situation we find ourselves in following decades of fiscal and monetary policy mismanagement. All the world’s major economies use fiat currencies, meaning nothing backs their currencies except faith in the governments behind them. Central banks, such as the Federal Reserve, oversee monetary policy, and their policies have brought us one crisis after another.
For instance, loose monetary policy in the late 1990s helped blow the Dot Com Bubble. Once that bubble popped, the central banks lowered rates even further. This fueled a bubble in housing and mortgage-backed securities, the bursting of which led to the Great Financial Crisis. The central banker reaction to that led to another stock market bubble that started to pop in March 2020 due to the COVID lockdowns. The central banker reaction to that blew major bubbles in stocks, bonds, housing, cryptocurrencies, and a host of other markets.
All along the way, with each busted bubble, central bankers and politicians rewarded corrupt and incompetent bankers and business executives with huge bailouts. Politicians and central bankers have done everything in their power to avoid the pain of a recession or even a major stock market correction. But no matter how hard they try to avoid the inevitable, a day of reckoning will come. They can distort the free market, but they can’t hold off the consequences forever. Sooner or later, the bill comes due, and that brings us to the present day.
The COVID economy stayed alive because of unprecedented policy actions. Zero percent interest rates with central banks buying corporate bonds, junk bonds, and government bonds. Stimulus checks, enhanced child tax credits, rent/mortgage moratoriums, PPP loans, and student loan deferments. Almost all of these things have come to an end, and now rising prices for food and fuel are wreaking havoc on the global economy.
The Road Before Us
Decades of foolish policies have put central bankers in a no-win situation. Since COVID, it’s only gotten worse. In an effort to avoid a lockdown-induced depression, central bankers and politicians flooded the world with trillions of dollars in new currency. Their answer to a crumbling economy was to throw more and more currency at an ever-expanding list of government aid programs and targeted bailouts. The result? Multi-decade highs in inflation. How will the policymakers react? They only have two options:
Option #1): Tighten Policy – To fight inflation, central bankers can increase key interest rates within the banking system and reverse their policies of buying bonds and mortgage-backed securities (known as quantitative easing). The central banker belief is this will cause “demand destruction” (i.e., a slowing economy) and inflation will cool to lower levels. The risk? They could overshoot. They could slow the economy too much and cause a global recession or even a depression.
Option #2): Do Nothing or Loosen Policy Even Further – To avoid slowing the economy too much, central bankers could choose to keep interest rates low and continue quantitative easing. This lessens the risk of recession/depression, but it also risks fanning the flames of the inflation fire. When people come to expect high inflation year after year, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. At that point, inflation gets out of control and can quickly turn into hyperinflation.
Which Road Will We Choose?
Expect today’s central banks to go with Option #1 – at least initially. In fact, they’re doing it now. Inflation is bad for politicians and their re-election prospects. Have no doubt; they’re applying maximum pressure on the central bankers to bring it under control. But expect everyone to reverse course soon. Why? Because at some point, as conditions tighten, everything will crash. Right now, inflation is the world’s great menace. Stopping it is priority number one. All that will quickly change when the crash comes.
The Asset Bubble Collapse
Higher interest rates and an end to quantitative easing will put immense pressure on the global economy. Decades of accumulated debt and misallocation of capital will cause the global financial system to crash. How overvalued is the stock market? Even after the recent 24% decline in the S&P 500, the Buffett Indicator shows this is still the most overvalued stock market in history – even more overextended than the Dot Com Bubble. After a 40-year bull market in bonds, the bond market peaked in 2020. If interest rates continue to rise (which is likely in an inflationary environment), the bond market will sell off significantly. The same is true of real estate. 2020 and 2021 saw record-low mortgage rates and a boom in housing prices. As we approach the mid-point of 2022, mortgage rates have more than doubled from their all-time lows.
The result should come as no surprise. Home sales have come to a screeching halt. If this continues, expect a huge downturn in the housing market. As if a simultaneous bursting bubble in stocks, bonds, and real estate weren’t enough, they pale in comparison to another bubble about to burst – the derivatives market. Derivatives are financial contracts whose value is determined by the value of other assets. Examples include corn futures, stock options, credit default swaps, and other contracts. How big is the global derivatives market? No one knows. But some estimates peg it at over $1 quadrillion.
When the derivatives markets start to implode, the whole system will come crashing down. We saw a preview of this in 2008 when Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. They owed money to some of the largest financial institutions in the world, and the Lehman implosion put many of those companies on the verge of collapse. Fearful to lend anyone money, credit markets froze. The economy went on life support as the world stared into the abyss of a deflationary spiral.
What is a deflationary spiral? The Great Depression is the most famous example. In a deflationary spiral, credit contracts and the overall money supply shrinks. People cut spending. Workers lose their jobs. Debt levels become a massive burden. Businesses fail and bankruptcies rise. Unemployment spikes. Breadlines form. All this sounds terrible, and it is. A deflationary spiral is a painful event for all of society. It foments riots and calls for revolution. Yet, the pain of deflation is necessary to clear the economy of bad debt and poorly managed enterprises. Despite that, central bankers and politicians try to avoid deflation at all costs. Why? Because that temporary economic pain threatens their power.
I believe the current campaign to hike interest rates and tighten financial conditions will result in a deflationary crash. How will the politicians and central bankers react? The same way they did last time. Only this time, the outcome will be quite different.
Worldwide Weimar Hyperinflation
After enough pain takes hold, politicians and central bankers will ditch Option #1. Faced with a deflationary depression that threatens their power and position, they’ll immediately move to Option #2 on steroids. Here’s what they’ll do:
- Take interest rates to zero
- Buy unlimited amounts of government bonds to keep interest rates low
- Buy unlimited amounts of corporate bonds to keep failing companies alive
- Send cash to every man, woman, and child (i.e., Universal Basic Income)
When you see the arrival of universal basic income, you can be sure the final collapse has arrived. Trillions of new currency units will flood the global economy, and we’ll be on the road to hyperinflation.
The Weimar Republic gave us the most famous example of hyperinflation. Crushed under a mountain of post-war debt and reparations, Germany printed more and more currency to meet its obligations. The result was a massive loss of purchasing power for the German mark. Prices rose at breakneck speed to reflect the new reality. A 160-mark loaf of bread at the end of 1922 cost over 200 billion marks less than a year later. In one story from that time, a woman carried a wheelbarrow of marks to the bakery just to buy a loaf of bread. When she went into the bakery, someone stole her wheelbarrow but left the pile of worthless marks. That’s how quickly the currency lost its value.
All this happened because an unrestrained government vastly increased the supply of currency; and basic economics says when supply increases without an increase in demand, price falls. In other words, the citizens of Germany quickly figured out that what they thought was “money” was nothing more than worthless pieces of paper. The mark wasn’t anchored to gold, silver, or anything of real value. Once this reality came to light, the world lost all faith in the mark, and its purchasing power plummeted. Eventually, it became worthless. Today, all the major market economy currencies are fiat currencies. This means a hyperinflationary event will be global – and the world will demand a global fix.
A Dangerous Economic Crisis
So, what does all this mean? It means a major economic crisis is on the horizon. It may be the worst global economic crisis ever – worse than the Great Depression. In times of chaos and economic instability, dangerous political leaders and demagogues capture the public imagination. Past economic crises led to the rise of Napoleon, the launch of the Bolshevik Revolution, and the consolidation of German state power in the hands of Adolph Hitler. All these events had grave consequences for the entire world, not just the individual nations in question. Why should we believe this time will be any different? We shouldn’t.
In a recent interview, Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger had this to say:
“Think of all the Latin American countries that print too much money. They get strongmen and so forth. That’s what Plato said happened in the early Greek city-state democracies. One person, one vote. A lot of egality and you get demagogues, and the demagogues lather up the population, and pretty soon you don’t have your democracy anymore. I don’t think that was a crazy idea on Plato’s part. I think that accurately described what happened in Greece way back then, and it’s happened again and again and again in Latin America. We don’t want to go there. At least I don’t.
Not only do we have a serious problem, but the solution to it that is the easiest for the politicians, and for the Federal Reserve too for that matter, is just to print more money and solve the temporary problems that way. And that, of course, is going to have some long-term dangers. And we know what happened in Germany when the Weimar Republic just kept printing money, the whole thing blew up. And that was a contributor to the rise of Hitler.
So all this stuff is dangerous and serious, and we don’t want to have a bunch of politicians just doing whatever is easy on the theory that it didn’t hurt us last time so we can double it and do it one more time, and then we double it again, and so forth. We know what happens on that everlasting doubling, doubling, doubling. You will have a very different government if you keep doing that enough. And so you’re flirting with danger somewhere, unless there’s some discipline in the process.“
At 98, Charlie Munger has spent a lifetime studying business and economic history. He’s seen a wide variety of business cycles and economic conditions. He thinks the current environment is “flirting with danger.”
So, what happens now? Once the world experiences a massive inflationary spiral, the current monetary system (in place since 1971) will come to an end. A new monetary system will rise from the ashes. What will it look like? We don’t know for sure. But in all likelihood, it will be built upon some sort of digital currency. Central banks openly discuss their plans to replace national currencies with new cryptocurrencies, giving their governments unprecedented power. With such power, not only will government be able to track everything you buy or sell, it will be able to kick you out of the economic system – just as the Bible says.
If government cryptocurrencies replace paper currencies, individual freedom and liberty will disappear. Governments will be able to “turn off” an individual’s cryptocurrency. That means if you do something the government doesn’t approve of, they’ll be able to shut down your ability to buy and sell. The Canadian government already showed its willingness to do this when it cut off financial access to anyone who supported the Canadian trucker protest. The Bible says this is precisely what will happen in the end times. The Antichrist will establish a global system of commerce. His system will play a part in every economic transaction on earth. It will be so dominant, no one will be able to buy or sell anything without the Antichrist’s approval (Revelation 13:17).
We’re fast approaching a time the prophets warned about. We see the foundations of the Antichrist’s economic system coming into place today. We just experienced a global pandemic (Luke 21:11). A global famine is on the horizon (Matthew 24:7). Israel is back in the land (Jeremiah 23:7-8). The Jewish people are back in Jerusalem (Luke 21:24-28). And the Gospel is being preached throughout the world (Matthew 24:14). Make no mistake. The tribulation, the Antichrist, and global government are part of the world’s immediate future. But don’t despair; this also means the return of Jesus is part of our immediate future (Revelation 22:20). His is an everlasting kingdom (Daniel 2:44) with no more death or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4). So keep your eyes fixed on Him!
Britt Gillette is author of the free ebook Coming to Jesus as well as the books Signs of the Second Coming, Racing Toward Armageddon, and The End Times. Receive his book 7 Signs of the End Times for free when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.