What is the French gendarme doing outside our London apartment?
Did Britain go to war with France on Saturday night – and lose?
Or has the world finally entered the last stage of the fatal prosperity we call the Crack-Up Boom!
We know the source of this boom. Our own chief central banker, Ben Bernanke, let the cat out of the bag even before he took over from Alan Greenspan:
“Like gold, US dollars have value only to the extent that they are strictly limited in supply. But the US government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many US dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost. By increasing the number of US dollars in circulation…the US government can also reduce the value of a dollar in terms of goods and services, which is equivalent to raising the prices in dollars of those goods and services. We conclude that, under a paper money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending, and, hence, positive inflation.”
Mr. Bernanke’s presses have since created the most positive inflation in history. Our jaw keeps dropping at the sight of so much money in so many places. In the art market, for example. In housing. In stocks and bonds. In private equity and public markets. In hedge funds, collectibles, and stuff of all sizes, calibers, brands, and utility.
The lust for Mr. Bernanke’s little pieces of green paper has set much of the world’s population into a state of delirium. In the outback of Australia, miners work overtime to dig ore out of the ground, for there are not enough miners, engineers and truck drivers to keep up with demand. Ships back up in Aussie harbours waiting to load the stuff on board – there are not enough ships either…and not enough capacity in port facilities. Then, the ore goes off to Asia…where it is transformed into rolls, bars, and sheets of steel. These are then turned into automobiles for one of Asia’s new millions of consumers…or trinkets, widgets, and gadgets for America’s insatiable buyers…or beams for one of thousands of new buildings in one of China’s dozens of new cities.
Everywhere in Asia…and much of the rest of the world…you hear the noise of the great boom – the hammers, trucks, cranes, factories, automobiles, shoppers, partiers. The cacophony of it is greater than at any time in history. The pace, the scale…the whole blooming thing…is unbelievable.
At Long Beach Harbor, California, the flood of goods coming in from Asia is so stupendous that ships have to be diverted to Canada or Mexico. In Dubai, demand for waterfront villas is so great that developers have constructed whole new islands…and an indoor, air- conditioned mountain where rich, sun-struck Arabs can try a little downhill skiing!
And in the English newspapers, we find that a middle-class Englishman can now buy his own little bit of paradise – in Florida, Morocco or St. Lucia. In Florida, the Brits are now offered “luxury, detached villas” for as little as US$368,000. We didn’t even know they had “villas” in Florida…we remember bungalows, and we recall Groucho Marx saying, during the last big property boom in Florida – in the 1920s: “You can get any kind of house you want…you can get brick, you can get wood, you can get stucco…boy, can you get stucco.”
One thing leads to another…the ankle bone is connected to the leg bone…America prints money; soon every nation is printing money. And soon, the whole world has money galore – green money with dead presidents, blue money with pictures of cathedral windows, purple money with a portrait of Adam Smith on it. Our own wallet is a veritable art gallery of currencies!
And soon, each bill is bidding against other bills in order to buy things – just like Mr Bernanke said it would. We have seen what has happened to Monets, and to Mayfair. What we wait to see is what happens to milk and millet. Not to mention gold. Some things are more easily produced than others. Dollars come out, just as the Fed chief notes, easily. Milk, millet, and metals take more time and more investment. Milk is soaring…as more and more farmland is put to use for growing corn or beef.
Gold has gone nowhere for 14 months. It probably has some catching up to do.
Markets and Money