Posts categorized "Current Affairs"

Fictional times (podcast episode)

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Abscondo Podcast - 37 - Fictional Times

We have been living in fictional times of denial.  Nothing about this way of life holds up to any serious thought or questioning because our present course is unsustainable.  To cope with our day-to-day lives, we naturally cling to plastic, meaningless forms of entertainment and shallow thinking.  Anything that deviates from the current "normal" is shut out because it fails to prop-up our belief in the fictional world around us.

But our social structures, our economic systems, and our entire way of life has already begun to change in a disruptive way.  In the coming years, what we now think of as normal will come to be recognized as fictional.  Will we watch our lives slip away by clinging to the past, or will we embrace the future?

 

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Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

The word that few are talking about

The word is future and maybe its time we get real about it.

During more stable times, it is enough that our thinking about the future extends maybe a few months, maybe into the next quarter, or perhaps into the next election cycle.  During these times, we can feel confident simply going to work, attending school, taking on a little debt, maybe saving a little, buying a house, and going shopping when we need something.  During these times, worries pretty much concern questions like, "Can I pay my bills for a few months if I lose my job?" or "What kind of career would make me happy?"  This way of life depends very much on economic and social stability; where well-established rules exist, we learn them, we follow them, and we are rewarded fairly.  This is the world that most of us grew up in and the world that most of us want to believe still exists.  But something very different has already begun and most of us don't see it.

In times of disruptive change, so much of the conventional wisdom we've built our lives upon begins to shift beneath our feet.  The old paradigms die and the new paradigms are either undeveloped or are not yet properly understood.  A clear example of this, in our lifetime, is what happend in Eastern Europe and Russia after the fall of Communism between 1989 - 1991.  Citizens of these regimes grew up understanding quite clearly how their society functioned, which kinds of behaviors were rewarded or punished, which kinds of thoughts were accepted and which were suspect.  Watching this transformation from the outside (in the Western World), most of us failed to perceive how unexpected and difficult this transition must have been for the average person at the time.  In just a few short years, most professions (and the social status associated with them) disappeared or had become irrelevant, the education that a person had earned was widely acknowledged to be worthless, a lifetime of money saved became nearly worth much less, and entire societies became nothing more than a memory or a butt of jokes.

We, in the West, watched this process with so much happiness and optimism.  How wonderful it was that the borders were opened (though few could afford to go anywhere or do much of anything at first), that Western products were flooding into these markets (though very few could afford them for some time to come), and that real freedom was possible (though with free-market capitalism comes ruthless consequences for those who cannot compete).  We easily ignored the fact that many lives -- perfectly happy lives -- were destroyed or thrown into turmoil for years to come (some never recovered).  Of course I'm not arguing that Communism should have continued just as it was; I'm only describing the reality of this drastic change to Democracy and free-market capitalism.  But I use this example because I believe it is directly relevant to what is happening in our world at present.

So come with me back to here-and-now.  The disruptive transition we are starting to witness is being caused by the following trends:

  1. The Debt Bubble (enormous debt that mostly cannot be repaid)
  2. Demographic trends in nearly all prosperous countries (disproportionately aging populations that cannot keep earning and spending as they have been)
  3. Asset bubbles everywhere (except, arguably, gold)
  4. Technological innovation (disrupting the traditional employer / employee model, radically changing social relationships, and making new kinds of revolutionary movements possible)
  5. Extreme economic injustice (2% of the world's population owns 50% of the resources at a time when an economic crisis is coming into focus...a crisis that can very easily be solved by taking some of that money from the rich)

These 5 trends have been happening for some time, but the first clear signs of the new reality ahead started to become apparent with the real estate / stock market / bank crashes of 2007 and 2008.  These crashes came about because the bubbles cannot be maintained forever.  Every bubble eventually has to burst, however hard politicians and businesses decision-makers deny this and try to fight it.  How were US real estate prices supposed to keep going up when wages were not (due to technology and extreme economic injustice)?  How were all the bad loans made by banks ever supposed to be repaid (they couldn't, which is why the banks passed them off to unsuspecting entities to blow-up at some point in the future)?  How can governments continue solving these problems when they are already stretched to near-bankruptcy (too much borrowing and low taxes through good times and no spending capacity left now that we need it)?   

The problems are global and the crash will be (is?) also global.  Here are some more important questions that I think should prove that we are approaching some fundamental, disruptive changes to our world-order:

  • How can consumer spending continue when most of it was done on credit and on rising property values?  Wages have been flat for some time in the US.  Spending was a result of second-mortgages made possible by rising real estate values.  Middle-class wealth (and consumer spending) in Eastern Europe and so many other places was also based on their real estate price bubbles.  So what is the new economic paradigm if it cannot be primarily based on consumer spending?
  • How can there be a middle class with money to spend if unemployment is high, wages are flat, and the wealthy 1-2% control most of the world's wealth?  Who are businesses supposed to sell to?  How can they hire more if they can't increase sales?
  • How can the GDP grow when the population is aging and shrinking?
  • How can low taxes on the rich be maintained when the requirements for elderly pensions are increasing and the cost of healthcare is increasing?
  • Why should employers take on the expenses and burdens of hiring employees when work can so easily and productively be outsourced over the Internet?
  • How can a world-order based on cheap, available oil continue after oil starts to decline?
  • How can debtor nations avoid defaulting on their loans when they are running at an annual budget deficit with a flat or shrinking economy?
  • Why should a population continue to tolerate impossible circumstances if the rules governing society are not just and no realistic ideas are being brought forth to solve the obvious problems we all understand?

Of course there are other similar questions, but I'll stop there for now.  Let's remind ourselves that the USSR collapsed because it wasn't feasible to continue under the prevailing economic model and social structure. Let's also remember that it took a long time.  For how many years and decades, during Communism, did the leaders know that the system could not continue indefinately?  For how long did they project "normalcy" to the population even when eventual failure was all but inevitable?  In the end, the collapse was mostly peaceful because leaders knew they had no real choice.   So they did not fight it.

This is what will happen to our current form of economic world order.  In future posts and on the Abscondo Podcast, I'll begin to describe what I think the next world-order will look like.  More importantly, I'll try to tie this back to what it means in our real lives.  I'm not interested in proving whether the crash will happen.  That's going to happen with or without my analysis. :-)  Instead, I'll be talking about practical solutions now and into that next phase.

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

The morality of the London riots

Despite the breathless shock and the pleading rationalizations of TV news anchors, I don't believe that the rioters, looters, and vandals in London over the past week have any  responsibility to explain or to morally justify their actions at all.  These are angry, frustrated people living under a national and global system that, itself, cannot be morally justified...one that is designed to exploit its citizens economically, indiscriminately murder them in wars based on lies, rob them through slick financial instruments, and systematically loot the world of all of its natural resources.  This is a system that is designed and run to destroy lives and destroy the world for the benefit and pleasure of the elite billionaires.  How dare they ask the rest of us to morally justify anything.

When the world is, indeed, run by entirely selfish elite bankers, big oil, big defense, big pharma, etc., and no real democracy exists which would give its citizens the opportunity to instrument any real, fundamental change in the system (at least in the US or UK), when the government itself is clearly corrupt and illegitimate, then any action that involves the looting or destruction of property is probably not unjustifiable at all.

If individuals exist who are willing to risk enormous consequences (prison) to go out there and express this anger and frustration, then so be it.  When you oppress, sometimes people get fed up and fight back.  It is what it is and it should be totally expected.

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

Hey Sport (podcast episode)

This week's show on the topic of sports was inspired by the IIHF World Championship of Hockey that is going on right now in our town, Kosice, Slovakia.  Click the gray box below to listen to this week's podcast:

Abscondo Podcast - 35 - Hey Sport


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Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

The still-coming Great Depresssion

A reader recently posted a comment in response to an old piece I did called The coming Great Depression.  She asked me, since the original post was more than a year old and obviously my predictions have yet to come true, whether I still believe what I originally wrote in the post.

The short answer is "yes", I still think America is headed for an economic crash much greater than anything in our history.  As I should have known upon reading Harry Dent's book, the problem is that the exact timing is always difficult to predict.

I know a little bit about bubbles, firstly by having worked in the software industry in Seattle in the late 1990's.  During the Internet / tech bubble, stock prices went so ridiculously high that it seemed hard to believe.  Investors wanted in because to remain on the sidelines was to miss out on a sure thing...endless exponential growth in stock prices.  Deep down, everyone knew it was a bubble...but, as in any bubble, rational doubts are eventually burried somewhere in that sense of normalcy surrounding you day after day.  After all, how can you be right when everyone around, even the entire press, says you're wrong?  This sort of thing is a battle between, 1) on one hand, your rational mind and inner-voice, and 2) voices and messages from the society around you.

The same thing happened with the real estate bubble.  I remember, back in 2003 and 2004, watching my coworkers buy houses they couldn't really afford with zero money down, even with variable rate interest loans!  I told them that it was foolish...the real estate prices could not keep rising forever.  But the conventional wisdom at the time was that real estate always goes up.  Sure.  Since 2007, prices have been going down.  Real estate prices will decline even further in the coming years.

So now I look at things in 2011.  Now EVERYTHING is in a bubble.  Stocks, real estate, debt, commodities...everything.  The Federal Reserve and the IMF keep printing money and pumping it into the system just as fast as one might pump air into a leaky baloon (See Quantitative Easing).  How long can they keep pumping?  What if the fragile baloon bursts anyway?  And when?  Now my guess is that the crash will start in late Summer, 2011.  But it could happen today.  It could happen next Summer.  I don't know.  But it will happen.  The USSR was bound to collapse, and it eventually did.  The USA (as we know it) is bound to collapse, and it eventually will.

Strangely, I found this highly recommended piece on the front page of Yahoo! Finance this morning.  This author goes even further than I have, than Harry Dent has...even further than Max Keiser has.  It is worth a read.

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

Recent interviews

Government shutdown during tax season?  The US government is asking us to obediently pay our taxes while that same government is threatening a shutdown?  They take our money and feel no need to provide services in return?  This is unacceptable.

I am in the process of booking several radio interviews for next week on this topic.  In the meantime, I thought I'd share a few recent radio interviews.

Interview with WCIT in Ohio

Due to my crazy schedule this next week, I'll probably just present the following interview into the podcast:

Interview with KKNT in Phoenix

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

On Wisconsin

Like most of America, I've been intrigued by the events in Wisconsin over the past few weeks.  I actually grew up in small-town Wisconsin, about two hours from Madison.  My parents are working-class, Republican, and Christian.  I am a product of the excellent Public School system of that State.  Most of my teachers were truly decent people who instilled in me a strong sense of justice, fair-mindedness, and a keen understanding of right and wrong.

Wisconsinites are mostly simple, hard-working, honest, and solid people.  One of the highest compliments that one Wisconsinite can pay to another is to say that you are "down-to-Earth".  Well…18 years, two University degrees, two states, and one country later…now I can probably be described as anything but down-to-Earth.  Nonetheless, I'm always welcomed with open arms by my family and friends each time I visit.  

When I watch those hundreds of thousands of protesters out there in Madison, I would be honored to call myself one of them.  I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea of solidarity.  I've been asking myself who I should support here: the Union-busting, budget-controlling, tax-cutting, renegade Republicans in the state (led by their own Governor Scott Walker)?  Or should I support the protesting teachers, public workers, idealistic students, and policemen?  I guess I don't have a direct stake in either side.  That might sound selfish, but what I realized is that this does come down to something very simple: self-interest.

The Republicans and their extremely wealthy, elite funders are interested in destroying the Unions to protect their own self-interests.  They want to be able to pay for more tax cuts for corporations and for the rich.  They want to undermine the current educational system so that they can have better control over the curriculum.  Quite simply, the goal behind this bill is to cut programs that benefit the middle-class so that they can get their hands on even more money (even if it comes from the paychecks of hard-working state employees).  They’ll never have enough because there is no limit to self-interest.  I guess they have every right to look after themselves and to do whatever they wish in order to advance their cause.

At the same time, every single tax-payer, teacher, public employee, police officer, librarian, and anyone else who feels compelled to go out there during the freezing-cold Wisconsin Winter also has every right to look after their own self-interests.  In my view, this isn't necessarily even about what is right or wrong.  After all, it is apparent that arguments concerning right and wrong don't go very far in today's global economy anyway.  We are living in an increasingly brutal world of diminishing resources, environmental destruction, financial scandal, insurmountable debt, and declining economies.  In these next years and decades, we will increasingly be thrown into a battle for resources and survival.  

The wealthy elite, those few thousand people who control an enormous amount of the world's resources...they understand this.  They are using any means necessary, popular or not, honest or not, decent or not, to get everything they want.  They care nothing about everyone else.  There is no goodness or morality in their decisions, in their actions, or in their character.  They do things only because they can.  They are calculative and heartless in their greed and they never will be any different.  They are invisible ghosts in their ivory towers and in their gated communities on some remote island.  Yet their work remains visible to us in everything we do.  After all, they are in control of a system that they have designed and they control. 

Who are these people?  They are the elite bankers, corporate board-members, and the Fortune 500 Executives.  They are supported by an enormous network of politicians who they have purchased (practically the entire national Democratic and Republican Parties).  They also own the media.  They do all of this for one reason: to get more for themselves.  And more for them naturally means less for the rest of us.

So what can the rest of us do to fight for our share?  After all, we are all part of a Capitalist system and are all motivated by our own, selfish interests too, right?  Are we not all trying to give our children a better life, earn a better education for ourselves, buy healthier food, have a little fun, do some traveling, save some money, and live in some degree of health and comfort?  There is a market demand for quality of life and, regardless of whether we are Liberal or Conservative, we should feel no shame in pursuing our own self-interests, right?  The question is, how can we win in the game we are playing in this casino designed by and controlled by the increasingly powerful elite?

We can work hard on the job.  When we please our employers, they tend to give us enough to keep us around.  We can work hard in school.  When we educate ourselves, we become more valuable to a business or government employer.  We can negotiate effectively as individuals when we apply for jobs.  We can start a business that serves others.  We can save more of the money we earn so that we become a bit richer ourselves and less dependent upon the already-rich.  But sometimes this still isn’t enough...not when we are under attack by a relentless elite (like Wisconsin currently is).

The wealthy elite use their power to control the government, the companies we work for, and the media.  But the primary advantage “We the People” have is in our numbers.  There are only a few thousand of them.  But there are millions of us in America and billions others around the world.  If some of us happen to decide that we will not continue to act, as we have been, as peasants…if we decided that it is in our self-interest to go out and fight as a collective…if some of us want to negotiate through the collective power of a Union…if some of us want to take to the streets and fight, then my only response is that this is your natural right.  Your unquestionable right to do this goes beyond morality, ideology, or argument.  The question is not whether or not you should, the question is how far are you willing to go?

Oh, and anyone in our lives, in our media, or in our government that takes the side of the wealthy elite in this struggle is either 1) working for them, or 2) fooled by them.  Pay no attention.  You have a right to live your life just like the billionaires do.  Stand tall and fight like you mean it.

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

Audiobook and Kindle edition now available!

I'm excited to announce that Love It or Leave It: The End of Government as the Problem, is now available at iTunes and other digital music outlets.  Given the format and subject-matter of the book, my opinion is that the audiobook version is the preferred experience. 

The book is also now available on Kindle.

Visit the book site to learn more.  Print and additional ebook editions are coming very soon.

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Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

Book Interview with Liberty Talk Radio (podcast episode)

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Abscondo Podcast - 31 - Book Interview with Liberty Talk Radio

This week, rather than the usual podcast format, we're sharing a segment from a recent interview to support my upcoming book, Love It or Leave It: The End of Government as the Problem.

I had a lot of fun with the interview.  Liberty Talk Radio, with host Joe Cristiano, is a small Internet radio show.  Nonetheless, the phone lines really lit up throughout the show.  I'll be doing many more interviews in the coming weeks and months, but wanted to share the first.

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).