The world burns. Economically, religiously, politically and every other way. 24 hour TV news channels can barely keep up with the bombs, GDP disappointments and political petrol gaffes.
But those will feature tomorrow. There are more important things to worry about…
There’s never been a company line at The Markets and Money or its publisher. So we were surprised to find a brief on our desk this morning.
Ok, so it’s actually our sister’s desk. We’re back in cane toad country again. For good this time. But relying on the generosity of others for accommodation and office space for now.
All the brief on her desk said was ‘Everything is Awesome’. Now it may be about 10°C warmer in Brisbane. But everything awesome? Hmm.
Google explained the cryptic message. It comes from The Lego Movie. Before you snicker, the movie is highly recommended. Apart from one glaring mistake, it’s actually right up a reckoner’s alley. The basic plot of the first two-thirds of the movie is pretty much what happened in Nazi Germany.
A world of chaos is reshaped into a world of order by a seemingly benevolent dictator, who later turns out to be rather evil. His final plans to force absolute order onto the Lego world involve a lot of superglue.
The ‘Masterbuilders’, imprisoned by the benevolent dictator for their chaotic creative ways, are looking to make a comeback. They want to depose the president. But to do so, they have to adopt some of the evil dictator’s own mantras. Like working in a team and to a plan.
The glaring mistake in the movie is to blur the line between business and government. This probably turned millions of potential little libertarians around the world into socialists. Until they fail to get a cushy job with the government anyway. Lord Business, as the president of the various worlds of Lego is called, is all politician and no businessman, despite the name.
The real businesspeople are of course the chaotic Masterbuilders who come together in a team with a plan. You might call them a company of Masterbuilders. But that’s another story.
The song Everything is Awesome, which opens the movie, isn’t just a propaganda effort by Lord Business to keep the population happy. It’s also the mantra of central bankers around the world. It uses the same bizarre techniques to persuade its victims (you) of how wonderful the world is. And has the very same flaws that should alert you to how wonderful it isn’t.
Without further ado, here’s the opening verse:
‘I just heard the news
Everyone’s talking: Life is good!
‘Cause everything’s awesome
Awesome jobs and new opportunity
More free time for my awesome community
I feel more awesome than an awesome possum
Put my body in chocolate frosting
Three years later I shot the frosting
Smelling like a possum, everything is awesome
Accept to look at new brown shoes
It’s awesome to win and it’s awesome to lose
Everything is better when we stick together,
Side by side you and I gonna win forever
Let’s party forever
We’re the same unlike you, you & me we are workin’ in harmony
Everything is Awesome,
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team
Everything is Awesome when you’re living out a dreams’
We don’t have any earphones to verify those lyrics. If you’ve seen the movie, we’ll bet you didn’t pick up on just how absurd they are.
It’s only when you sit down and take the time to actually read the crap that it’s exposed as crap. Listen to the song while you’re watching the movie and you’ll be enthralled. Possums, chocolate, shoes and all.
Only when the chocolate hits the fan is the music exposed as a propaganda cover up. You and I aren’t ‘gonna win forever’, and the party won’t last forever either. Bear markets and stock market crashes happen. For all the power of Lord Business, propaganda is required for a reason.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the propaganda efforts of our own Lord Businesses. Well, they’re Lord Stock Market these days. European Central Bank governator Mario Draghi would’ve made Propaganda Minister Goebbels proud with this one: ‘Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough.’
Cue ‘I just heard the news. Everyone’s talking: Life is good! Cause everything’s awesome. Awesome jobs and new opportunity…’
Meanwhile, European GDP numbers are abysmal:
But while the stock markets keep plodding along, ‘Everything is Awesome…’
That last bit of Draghi’s assurance is particularly enjoyable: ‘And believe me, it will be enough.’ One key tool of a central banker is talk. They can ‘jawbone’ currencies and stock markets up and down. But the more they use this talk without walking the walk, the less their jawbone can chew. So then the threats begin.
After the opening song in The Lego Movie, Lord Business comes up with a political gaffe that makes Joe Hockey look like a beginner. Well, it’s more of a Freudian Slip: ‘Let’s take extra care to follow the instructions or you’ll be put to sleep, and don’t forget Taco Tuesday’s coming next week.’
What do you think the Lego people notice? ‘Put to sleep’ or ‘Taco Tuesday’? Either way, they’re sure to ‘follow the instructions’. Negative gear your investment property, hand over your hard earned to your super fund manager and believe your financial advisor.
Even with the mass compliance of the Australian working population, our Lord Stock Market are making the same Freudian Slips. Every now and then, their efforts to provide Taco Tuesdays briefly mention things like taxing lump sum super payouts, or even confiscating your super after you die. Then the ‘booming stock market’ distraction resumes.
But we are still the lucky country, even if our stock market is nowhere near 2007 highs. Australia’s been spared most dramatic political coups. Apart from raising the pension age, the pollies haven’t done much confiscating compared to overseas. But people in Europe and the US are already a victim of Lord Stock Market’s attempts to impose order. Have you noticed financial institutions asking if you’re an American? Did you read about the British expats who lost their savings in the Cyprus mess? Are you aware of the monetary mayhem in Argentina?
As always, the desire to impose order eventually leads to chaos. The bad kind of chaos. Europe, America and Argentina are just further down the line than Australia.
But why all this talk and threats from Lord Stock Market? Everything is awesome, so why the agitation? It’s because Lord Stock Market actually has no control. He needs the propaganda to work to keep the charade going. As soon as the music stops in The Lego Movie, you begin to get inklings that everything might not be so awesome. And once enough characters figure it out, all hell breaks loose.
This leaves investors with a problem. What do you do? Do you sing and dance to Everything is Awesome? Do you risk being on the wrong side of Lord Stock Market and getting glued? Do you opt out?
Our solution is simple. If Lord Stock Market is busy manipulating shares, look elsewhere for financial solutions. Of course, he’s also manipulating every other financial asset. Yes, property is a financial asset these days. Just ask the tax office.
But there are other ways to make money. Big bucks too. The sharing economy is booming, for example. And many of the solutions you can turn into money spinners could make or break a retirement. That’s one of the things we’re looking into for The Money for Life Letter subscribers in a new report due soon.
Of course, Lord Regulation is sinking his teeth into those opportunities too. Taxi app Uber is under the gun. But there are still lots of opportunities. And going by the rumblings in Canberra we’ve been researching, relying on your super and pensions for retirement could be rather disappointing in the end.
By the way, we never finished The Lego Movie. But the plot involved a human sized (so gigantic for Lego characters) tube of superglue and a cap that had to be reunited to prevent Lord Business from superglueing everyone to impose a final order.
We say to the central bankers, cap the ink on those printing presses! We say to the politicians, cap the ink on that legislation!
For Markets and Money
PS: I covered some of the realities that politicians and central bankers don’t want you to hear about at the World War D conference earlier this year in Melbourne. If you didn’t attend, the good news is we recorded the presentations. This week we’ll let you know how to get your hands on a copy of the footage. Watch this space.