What will the world look like if the global economy collapsed? Glenn invited Jim Rickards, author of The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System onto the show to discuss what a catastrophic collapse and reset might look like and how it almost happened before.
GLENN: There is a fascinating article that just came out the last couple of days called In the Year 2024. It's written by James Rickards. He's the author of the book The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System. And I've asked him to come on by for a few minutes and talk to us about this. Because my kids ask me all the time, Dad, what do you mean? What do you mean money is going to collapse? What do you mean the system is going to shut down for a while? What does that even look like? The way I explain it to them, and I'd like Jim to take this in greater detail and correct me if he thinks I'm wrong. What I mean by that is, an event unlike anything at least this generation and I believe anything like the world has ever seen before.
A catastrophic failure and reset in a way that we don't know what we're doing for a while. We all kind of have to -- kind of figure it out on our own. And most likely, at least for a while, ends in marshal law. And ends in some pretty frightening times. The -- the Great Depression would look like a picnic, quite honestly. And James is here to comment on that. Do you agree with that?
JAMES: I agree. I think we can see it coming. One of the things is -- let me talk about what it's not going to be like. I don't think we'll all be living in caves. Canned goods. It's not the end of the world.
GLENN: Right. We make it through this.
JAMES: We make it through, but it's a different world when we come out the other side. You know, Mussolini's mantra was, everything in the state, nothing outside the state. That was their succinct summary of what fascism was. Well, you get to a world where the government controls all the money. Everything, first of all, is all digital. We all think we have money. How much cash do you have in your pocket? A couple bucks maybe? You get a direct deposit of your pay. You pay with credit cards. You pay with debit cards. You pay online. You wire money. It's all digital.
Well, that means it can all be controlled. That can all be taken over by the government, number one. E-ZPass tollbooths, and we all like the convenience. I like them too. But those are interdiction points where they can use facial recognition software, license plate scanning, et cetera. I know you have a lot of contacts in Silicon Valley. You talk to people out there. They like the driverless car. Driverless car sounds kind of cool. You can read a book or whatever. Well, driverless car is not driverless. It's just being driven by a system. And the system involves GPS and computers. Essential programmers. So if they decide they want to lock the cars and take the car to a local police station, then your car is a prison. It's a portable jail cell. And if they don't like you for political reasons or other reasons -- these are all things that are here.
GLENN: I want to say this, in case you don't know who Jim is. Because this sounds crazy. Doesn't it? It sounds like Blade Runner or Conspiracy Theory. And just a little bit about him. Portfolio manager at the West Shore Group. An adviser to the International Economics and Financial Threats, to the Department of Defense. And the US Intelligence Community.
So you also did -- didn't you do the first -- you were the --
JAMES: Financial war game. Yep.
GLENN: Yeah, you did the first financial war game at the Pentagon. So this is not someone who is like, yeah, I live in my mom's basement. And you also were right there in 1998, front row seat, with the Wall Street bailout of the hedge funds.
JAMES: I was the general counsel, long-term capital management. That was the hedge fund that collapsed in 1998. It was bailed out by Wall Street. Four billion dollars. We put it together in 72 hours. We foamed the runways, Glenn, and brought it in for a soft landing. But I can tell you, I was there. We were hours away from every market in the world closing.
We tried to get that down before Tokyo opened that morning. And we did. Now it's kind of like old news or whatever. But that's how close we came. Of course, we came that close in 2008. So I had a front row seat on that one. I like to say, in America, when you screw up badly enough, the lawyers take over. And I was the lawyer. So I got to do that one. So I've seen this.
GLENN: Okay. So you've seen this firsthand. You look to history to be able to forecast what is coming. You have -- you told me last night on television that you have seen -- the world has seen financial markets close. I wasn't aware of World War I, the stock exchange close for that long.
JAMES: Well, in World War I, the secretary of the treasury, Mcadoo closed the New York Stock Exchange. Well, the Board of Governors closed it, basically on the influence of the treasury for five months from the beginning of August to the beginning of December. Now, here's the reason. At the time, we were still on the gold standard. Remember, the US was neutral. The other combatants wanted gold because they knew they needed it to fight the war. So they started dumping US stocks. It's not that they hated US stocks. But gold stocks, you got cash, you can get the gold. They were shipping the gold to London. Down at South Street Seaport, there were pallets of gold going to Europe.
Well, they closed the New York Stock Exchange to alleviate the selling pressure. They reopened it five months later. But what happened was, people were very creative. They went out on the street, they went out on News Street, which is behind the New York Stock Exchange. They had a street market. But you had to trade your stocks by appointment. Bring your certificates down, all that. But the New York Stock Exchange was closed for five months.
They wanted to suspend -- all the combatants suspended gold redemptions. Interestingly, John Maynard Keynes, who was vilified as an anti-gold guy, he was the loudest, most persuasive voice in favor of England staying on the gold standard. What he said is, look, Germany, Italy, Belgium, all these other guys, they've suspended. If we the UK, the city of London, stay on the gold standard, we'll have good credit. We'll be able to borrow the money. Fight the war. And win the war. And he was right. JPMorgan. Well, Jack Morgan, the son of Pierpont Morgan did a for multibillion-dollar syndicated loan for Europe. So, yeah, there was a lot of blood spilled on the field. But they won it with finance.
GLENN: Okay. So who can win with finance this time? Because we're all in the same boat. What happens? The banks are closed. Because I think there could be anything. Anything can happen. You know, it could be -- Iran closing the Straits of Hormuz and that could just send things spiraling.
GLENN: And all of a sudden we're just out. This could happen in a three-day, four-day, five-day period where all of a sudden the world has changed. The banks are closed. You don't have access to money. $300 out of the ATM. That's all you can get.
JAMES: Right. Gas and grocery money. That's about it.
GLENN: That can go on for?
JAMES: Weeks, months. Hey, if you have your gas and groceries, what else would you need? That would be the point. They wouldn't steal your money. You just couldn't get it. It's not just stocks. It's money market funds. You wouldn't be able to redeem those. Close the stock exchange. Say, hey, we're not stealing your equity. But we've converted it to private equity.
GLENN: You said they wouldn't steal things. Well, they did in Cypress.
JAMES: It's state power.
GLENN: The state comes in and says, everybody gets a 50 percent haircut. So whatever you have, you lose 50 percent of it. To me, that's theft. This is all going on. The state starts to crock down. Everybody is kind of pinned into their own place. What does it -- what does it look like afterwards?
JAMES: Well, now there are a couple of states to the world. So maybe everybody will just acquiesce. That's actually a lot of history. When things get bad, people just say, hey, don't bother me. I'll go alone with this. But you could see the outbreak of money riots. You could see people in the streets, protesting not social conditions, but financial conditions. Of course, we have a heavy militarized police ready to respond to that with tear gas and flash bang grenades and they're armored up with all this money from the federal government. So they're ready.
GLENN: How much of this makes you feel -- you're like, I don't want to believe this. But it's just the fact. Because it really sounds nuts.
JAMES: Well, when my first book came out, Currency Wars, the Financial Times reviewed it and they said, let's hope he's wrong. You know what I say? I hope I'm wrong. I don't think I am. At least I wouldn't be writing and doing interviews if I thought I was wrong. I'm trying to warn people. People say I'm giving predictions. I don't think of myself as giving predictions. I think of myself as giving warnings. By the way, this doesn't have to happen. I don't think this is like Clockwork Orange, where it's inevitable. But I think it's likely because the things that you need to do to prevent it from happening are actually -- in our politically dysfunctional age, they're unlikely to happen.
JAMES: You can break up the big banks.
GLENN: Not going to happen.
JAMES: Right. It won't happen. There are a set of things you can do. By the way, we're in a depression. This is not a recovery. This is a depression. As Kings defined it, he said, a prolonged period of below-trend growth, which neither collapses nor gets back to trend. That's the period we're in right now. Could be heading for a collapse for other reasons.
GLENN: That's the actual definition of depression?
JAMES: By John Maynard Keynes. And I agree with that definition. People say I say we're in a depression. People go, you're nuts. GDP is not going down. We've been recovering for six years. Where are the soup lines? Well, the soup lines are Whole Foods. Because now you get food stamps on a digital card. By the way, I'm not disparaging people. You can go into Whole Foods and get your soups. So we have the soup lines. They're just at Whole Foods. We all know the only reason why unemployment is not higher is because labor participations collapsed.
The point is, this 2 percent growth that we're chugging along. In some quarters, a little more. In some quarters, a little bit less. If we're capable of three and a half, which we are, and in the short-run, maybe 5 percent, which we saw between '83 and '86, if we're capable of that and you're actually growing at two, it's the gap between the three and two. Or the five and the two that's depressed growth. That's the definition of a depression. The problem is, we are Japan. We'll be in this for 20 years, unless we make structural changes. A depression is structural. It's not cyclical. You can't solve a cyclical problem with a cyclical solution, which is money. Money printing, if you know, inflation is a little high and you want to dial down the money supply. Or unemployment is high, dial it up. That's a cyclical solution. We need structural solutions. We're not getting them.
GLENN: You told me off TV yesterday. You said to me that behind closed doors, people who know know. And they say it. They know what's coming.
GLENN: And they also admit to you, they don't have any idea what they're doing.
JAMES: That's exactly right. I had dinner with one of the members of the board of governors of the federal reserve system. Very bright individual. Don't need to give out names. I looked at this individual. I said, well, you know, the fed is insolvent. On a mark to market basis. Meaning, if you took your assets to mark them to market, it would wipe out their capital. They have about 60 billion in capital and 4 trillion of assets. So the individual said, no, we're not.
And she said, no one has done the math. And I said, well, I have done it. And I think others have done it too. And I kind of looked at her, and she knew that I knew that she couldn't fool me. So she goes, well, maybe. And then in the next breath she said, well, we are, but it doesn't matter. So she went from no to maybe to yes in a matter of 30 seconds. But her last point was the most interesting one. She said, well, maybe we are insolvent on a mark to market basis, but it doesn't matter. The central banks don't need capital.
Really? Well, that might be news to most of the American people. Your money. The money in your pocket is a liability of the Federal Reserve system. It's their liability.
JAMES: And their insolvency of a perpetual -- I look at a dollar bill. I learned in law school, read the contract. It says, Federal Reserve note. A note is a liability. So what is a dollar bill, really? It's a liability. It's a perpetual non-interest bearing liability of an insolvent bank. That's what your money is. So if we all think it's money, it can actually be money. It's a question of confidence. But confidence is very fragile. It can be lost very quickly. And that's the problem. When that confidence is lost, what do we do? What's plan B? I think the main plan B is the one we've been talking about. Which is, lock everything down. In '98, the solution was to print money. In 2008, the solution was to print money. When you get to the point where you can't print money anymore, just don't let people have their money. Just lock it down.
GLENN: I have two minutes. Can you tell me what the average person should be doing right now?
JAMES: One thing they should have is some physical gold. Don't go overboard. I recommend 10 percent. Don't sell everything. I don't think it's good advice.
GLENN: It can be taken.
JAMES: It can be taken. Well, you make a good point, Glenn. Nothing is risk-free. There's nothing out there that is risk-free.
GLENN: And you don't have any idea what's coming.
JAMES: Correct. So the question is, how much risk? And are the risks correlated? You know, can you prepare for different things? That's the right way to do it. One of the things I like about gold is it's physical. It's not digital. People go, I have money. I say, really, interesting, where is your money? Well, it's in the stock market. It's in the bank. Well, that's all digital. It's in a computer. You may get a statement, but that's all digital. Putin has a 6,000 member cyber brigade. You don't think they could shut down the New York Stock Exchange tomorrow? They can.
GLENN: So when you say have cash on hand, do you believe have actual access to cash in your house or someplace?
JAMES: Well, let's say you did. Try getting it. Try going down to the bank and getting $5,000 of cash without being looked at like a drug dealer. They will. They'll file a suspicious activity report. They'll file a currency transaction report. The SAR, the CTR. And you're a perfectly honest citizen. You just say, you know what, for precautionary reasons, I'd like some notes. I don't want it all in digital form. You'll be treated like a criminal, even though you're a perfectly honest citizen. So that's easier said than done.
But for listeners, they might try it. Physical gold, I like it. It's not digital. You can't hack it. You can't erase it. In 2010, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security found a Russian attack virus in the NASDAQ stock market operating system. This was not a criminal gang trying to get your Social Security number. This was Russia military intelligence inside NASDAQ. That was reported by William Bloomberg. Again, everything I'm saying, you can document or I can document. None of it is conspiracy stuff.
GLENN: James Rickards. The name of the book is the Death of Money. Best-selling author of Currency Wars: The coming Collapse of the International Monetary System. If you want to understand what's coming, you want to be a leader in the next phase of what's coming. You need to understand. This is a great way to understand it. The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System. Jim, thanks a lot, appreciate it.
JAMES: Thank you.