In Africa, Ending a Despot Doesn’t End Despotism

In the tradition of dimming debate, the chattering class has reduced systemic corruption in South Africa and the near collapse in Zimbabwe, respectively, to the shenanigans of two men: Jacob Zuma and Robert Mugabe.
Zuma, the President of South Africa, currently faces possible impeachment for corruption, while Robert Mugabe has now been forcibly ‘retired’ after 30 years as President.
Surely by now, though, it should be common knowledge that in Africa, if you replace a despot, but not despotism, you only oust a tyrant, and not tyranny.
How Kleptocracy Works Emblematic of this is a thematically confused article in The Economist, offering a description of the dynamics set in motion by the Zuma dynasty’s capture of the state.
At first, the magazine explains the concept of ‘state capture’ as “private actors [having] subverted the state to steal public money.”
Later, the concept is more candidly refined: ‘The nub of the state capture argument is that Mr. Zuma and his friends are putting state-owned enterprises and other governmental institutions in the hands of people who are allowing them to loot public funds.”
Indeed. Corruption invariably flows from state to society.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Dec 31, 2017.

The Greatest Bubble Ever: Why You Better Believe It, Part 2

During the 40 months after Alan Greenspan’s infamous “irrational exuberance” speech in December 1996, the NASDAQ 100 index rose from 830 to 4585 or by 450%. But the perma-bulls said not to worry: This time is different—-it’s a new age of technology miracles that will change the laws of finance.
It wasn’t. The market cracked in April 2000 and did not stop plunging until the NASDAQ 100 index hit 815 in early October 2002. During those a heart-stopping 30 months of free-fall, all the gains of the tech boom were wiped out in an 84% collapse of the index. Overall, the market value of household equities sank from $10.0 trillion to $4.8 trillion—-a wipeout from which millions of baby boom households have never recovered.
Likewise, the second Greenspan housing and credit boom generated a similar round trip of bubble inflation and collapse. During the 57 months after the October 2002 bottom, the Russell 2000 (RUT) climbed the proverbial wall-of-worry—-rising from 340 to 850 or by 2.5X.
And this time was also held to be different because, purportedly, the art of central banking had been perfected in what Bernanke was pleased to call the “Great Moderation”. Taking the cue, Wall Street dubbed it the Goldilocks Economy—-meaning a macroeconomic environment so stable, productive and balanced that it would never again be vulnerable to a recessionary contraction and the resulting plunge in corporate profits and stock prices.
Wrong again!

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on December 29th, 2017.

Rare Anti-Government Protests Grow In Iran, Reports Of Jammed Satellite TV Networks

Rare protests in multiple cities across Iran, especially in the country’s second largest city of Mashhad, gained momentum on Thursday and Western media and pundits are beginning to take note. Though it appears the main protest locations have been consistently described as being in the hundreds and not yet reaching mass numbers, observers say they are likely to grow in size and in intensity as economic grievances over high prices, corruption, and mismanagement have reached a boiling point.
Notably, dozens of videos were uploaded to social media channels Thursday showing demonstrators primarily in Mashhad in northwest Iran chanting ‘death to [President] Rouhani’ and ‘death to the dictator’. Mashhad is considered one of the holiest and most conservative places in Shia Islam, causing some pundits to conclude that if such aggressive anti-government demonstrations can take place there, they could take place anywhere throughout Iran. Other places named by the semi-official ILNA news agency and social media reports where demonstrations have occurred are in Razavi Khorasan Province, including Neyshabour and Kashmar.
And there are some indications that authorities in Tehran are preparing for a broader crackdown to prevent protests from spreading.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Fri, 12/29/2017 –.

The Uniqueness of Western Law

‘When accordingly it is inquired, whence is evil, it must first be inquired, what is evil, which is nothing else than corruption, either of the measure, or the form, or the order, that belong to nature.’ ~Augustine of Hippo
The study of Western Civilization has been all but eradicated. This was no accident but, rather, an aggressive policy of leftist academe which has used exclusionary tactics to dominate and pervert the culture and purpose of our universities since the 1960s and 70s.1 But, for us students, driven underground, Western history is the greatest treasure trove of almost every faculty. Not least of these is natural law.
This unique philosophy of law so encapsulated the spirit of the West that the late Surya P. Sinha described law as ‘the most central principle of [the] social organization’ of Western civilization alone. “This fact explains that most…theories about law have issued from the Western culture’.2 Sinha even declared law itself to be a non-universal phenomenon of the West, other civilizations developing little more than ‘principles of moral life which are not law.”3
The story of natural law is a fascinating one; Ricardo Duchesne draws from decades of definitive scholarship on the uniqueness of the West to crystallize the “essential message” from across the social sciences: “the rise of the West is the story of the realization of humans who think of themselves as self-determining and therefore accept as authoritative only those norms and institutions that can be seen to be congenial with their awareness of themselves as free and rational agents.”4 Being at the heart of Western civilization, yet lost to history and shrouded in confusion, I would like to clarify the environment in which natural law developed and the consequences of its loss.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Dec 29, 2017.

The Greatest Bubble Ever: Why You Better Believe It, Part 1

During the 40 months after Alan Greenspan’s infamous “irrational exuberance” speech in December 1996, the NASDAQ 100 index rose from 830 to 4585 or by 450%. But the perma-bulls said not to worry: This time is different—-it’s a new age of technology miracles that will change the laws of finance forever.
It wasn’t. The market cracked in April 2000 and did not stop plunging until the NASDAQ 100 index hit 815 in early October 2002. During those heart-stopping 30 months of free-fall, all the gains of the tech boom were wiped out in an 84% collapse of the index. Overall, the market value of household equities sank from $10.0 trillion to $4.8 trillion—-a wipeout from which millions of baby boom households have never recovered.
Likewise, the second Greenspan housing and credit boom generated a similar round trip of bubble inflation and collapse. During the 57 months after the October 2002 bottom, the Russell 2000 (RUT) climbed the proverbial wall-of-worry—-rising from 340 to 850 or by 2.5X.
And this time was also held to be different because, purportedly, the art of central banking had been perfected in what Bernanke was pleased to call the “Great Moderation”. Taking the cue, Wall Street dubbed it the Goldilocks Economy—-meaning a macroeconomic environment so stable, productive and balanced that it would never again be vulnerable to a recessionary contraction and the resulting plunge in corporate profits and stock prices.
Wrong again!

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on December 28th, 2017.

Up Next——Deflation In The Canyons Of Wall Street

Record high stock and bond prices are flashing danger signs to former Reagan White House Budget Director David Stockman. Stockman contends, ‘I don’t think we are going to have a liquidity crisis. I think it’s going to be a value reset. I think there is going to be a jarring downward price adjustment both in the stock market and in the bond market. This phantom or phony wealth that has been created since the last crisis is going to basically evaporate.’
So, what asset is safe? Stockman says gold and goes onto explain, ‘I think the time to buy (gold and silver) is ideal. Gold is the ultimate and only real money. Gold is the only safe asset when push comes to shove. They tell you to buy the government bond, that’s a safe asset. It’s not a safe asset at its current price. I am not saying the federal government is going to default in the next two or three years. I am saying the yield on a 10-year bond of 2.4% is way below of where it’s going to end up. So, the only safe asset left is gold. This crazy Bitcoin mania has drained off what would otherwise be a demand for gold. . . . When Bitcoin collapses, spectacularly, which it will because it’s sheer mania in the markets right now. When it collapses, I think a lot of that demand will come back into gold, as well as people fleeing the standard stock and bond markets for the first time in 9 or 10 years.’

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on December 27th, 2017.