Make Your Choice: Change by Pain or Insight

Most experienced investors know the four most dangerous words are: This time is different.

It never is.

And yet one of my key predictions here at Peak Prosperity is that The next twenty years will be completely unlike the last twenty years.

So am I saying that things really will be different this time?

Yes, I am. But to understand why, you have to look closely at the unprecedented moment in history in which we live, as well as how the Three E's – the Economy, Energy and Environment – all tie together now in a way they never have before.

For those who prefer their conclusions right up front, the simplest summary I can provide is that everything we think we know about "how things work" is just plain wrong.

This explains why, among many other grotesque distortions, the stock and bond markets are spectacularly overpriced and overvalued right now.

This danger is important to be aware of because when things correct, as they inevitably must, the next crash will be incredibly damaging. It could be as profound as that which dethroned Spain as a world power, permanently.

Peak Prosperity user Gyurash put this risk in context within his comment to our recent podcast on Economics for Independent Thinkers:

The mention of Paul Volker was interesting. I remember listening to a lecture given by Mr. Volker played on public radio in the mid 80s. He talked about the Spanish empire in the 16th century and the easy money train they had coming from South American gold and silver. He said that although it seemed to create great wealth it also made for a false economy in Spain. In addition to creating price bubbles, the Spanish did not use it to build much of anything other than big villas, built by itinerant foreign labor by the way, so when the gold and silver flow slowed when the biggest mines were effectively depleted, their economy crashed so hard that it never recovered, even up to today. (Source)

Delusional Thinking

What's worse than wishful thinking? Delusional thinking.

The sort of ideas that harm rather than help those who hold them.

Of the many current policy delusions I could rail about, perhaps the greatest of them all is the quite-impossible belief that we can have infinite growth on a finite planet.

I know, I know, refuting this is so brain-dead easy to debunk that it seems pedestrian, if not childishly so, to raise it here again. It's quite an impossible proposition.

Even the most cursory of reviews of mining data (just one of many possible examples), show that many critical ores and minerals are vastly more difficult and expensive to extract and bring to market than they were just a few decades ago. And the trendlines keep getting worse.

But let's go through this once again, because it's such an important point. For those of you already on my side of the boat, please bear with me. Perhaps something new will emerge for you on this next go around.

The Harsh Math

Exponential expansion requires not just some new minerals coming to market, but exponentially more.

It works out like this. Suppose that 100 units of copper were produced in year 1, and output (as demanded by economic growth) was expanding at a 3% rate. How long would it take for production to double? The answer is that after 24 years we'd find that 203 units were being produced. So a 3% growth rate means that it takes only 24 years to fully double production.

However, the more interesting fact is that over that same 24-year stretch, if we add up each year's production into a cumulative total we discover that 3,546 units of copper had been produced. How much copper would you guess was produced over the prior 24-year stretch (the one that got us to 100 units in the first place)?

The answer is just 1775 units. In other words, half the amount produced during the next doubling. Going back further and adding up all of the doublings of copper production throughout all of history we'd discover that each new doubling produced (and consumed) as much as the sum total of all the prior doubling periods combined.

You can prove this to yourself by looking at a doubling sequence such as 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 etc. Note that 4 is larger than (0.25 + 0.5 + 1 + 2) and that 8 is larger than (0.25 + 0.5 + 1 + 2 + 4) and that 16 is larger than (0.25 + 0.5 + 1 + 2 + 4 + 8) and so on -- into infinity.

Again, each new doubling involves an increase that is larger than the combined values of all the prior doublings in history.

For the visually-minded, here's that same idea expressed in an image:

How Many More Doublings Can We Possibly Have From Here?

Only the most delusional would argue that we can dependably double our extraction of key natural resources forever.

Every two decades (or so), will we always be able to use twice as much farmland, twice as much fish in the sea, twice as much oil in the ground, as has been used before throughout all of human history?

Of course not. Planet Earth is a finite system.

This is why I claim that everything we think we know about "how things work" is wrong. Our entire economic and financial systems, their associated monetary models and their current financial asset prices, are predicated on the principle of continuous growth. And not just any sort of growth: Exponential growth. Predictable doubling -- forever.

Look, it's ridiculously easy to prove that there won't always be twice as much copper (or nearly any other key natural resource) as has been extracted throughout all of prior human history. Things run out. They deplete. They become more dilute as the high grades are exploited first.

At some point, doubling becomes impossible. That's when you're past the point where half has been extracted and half still remains in the ground. After that, there are exactly zero doubling periods remaining! That's just elementary math.

Why care?

Because once the doubling periods are over, every single economic model and financial asset that is predicated on continuous expansion breaks. Our systems stop steadily growing; and instead start increasingly shrinking.

This not a hard concept to grasp, intellectually, for most people with an open mind. But in practice, because it challenges our comfortable understanding of the world, because it collides with an entire Disney World of incompatible social belief systems, it's pretty much impossible for the many people to even begin to wrestle with. Forget about a mainstream economist or central banker, whose salary requires them to adhere to the status quo.

The warning here is that we our deluding ourselves as a society. We are herding ourselves, lemming-like, straight towards the cliff ledge.

Think Critically!

Our mission here at PeakProsperity.com is to Create a World Worth Inheriting. While we help people make informed decisions to imbue their lives with greater abundance and satisfaction today, it's our dedication to the long-term picture that shapes everything we do.

Very few voices are standing about waving their arms in the air like we are, warning of the approaching cliff. We're aware that the point of no return might still be several decades out into the future, but we also realize that it could already be behind us. It's nearly impossible to know right now given the complex system that is our planet -- but given the existential risks involved, our opinion is that everyone should be mobilizing in response to this arriving (arrived?) crisis.

We often get labeled as narrow-minded “Malthusians". Or accused of failing to account for human ingenuity. (Neither is accurate, we think.)

But in reality, we're simply data driven. The facts are what they are. Logic is what it is.

And we get it. It's both a factual and a logical nightmare for the infinite growth crowd that the earth is finite.

But as Einstein famously quipped:

And as you wrap your brain around the limits to growth, remember that you're subject to the same comprehensive programming that envelops us all. The messaging that constantly reinforces the idea that endless growth is what we need, and what we can expect.

This programming is subtle, reassuring and ubiquitous; which makes it hard to resist. Here's a prime example:

(Source)

To an economist like Bernanke, there are only virtuous expansions. Of course, the sort of expansion he refers to is exponential growth. Which is absolutely destined to fail in the long run (and now, maybe, the short).

And when that happens, the fallout will be spectacular and highly destructive to the hopes and dreams of literally billions of people.

Make Your Choice: Change By Pain Or Insight

What's unclear to me is if there can be any meaningful recovery from this next crash, whenever it happens and however long it takes.

To return to the opening piece of this article, while I know that this time is different are dangerous words for investors to believe, the impending collision between delusional infinite growth thinking and resource limits and other realities will appear to the average observer like a gigantic change. But, in fact, it simply will mean that humans are subject to the same limits as any other life form on earth.

In other words, it really won't be different this time.

In boy-meets-girl story form, the plot line of the natural process for all forms of life is:

  1. organism finds tasty energy source
  2. organism expands exponentially into that energy source
  3. energy source dwindles even as organism continues into population overshoot, and then
  4. happy times turn into tough times, and organism population plummets

Given that literally everything we hold dear and take for granted, such as well-stocked supermarkets, 24/7 electricity, and an appreciating retirement portfolio are all themselves dependent on an economic model that requires perpetual exponential expansion, several questions emerge.

How can I protect myself, my family and those I care about? How can I secure a prosperous future? What do I need to do to develop the right mental models and belief system to deal effectively with the coming challenges?

You can either address these questions head-on now, while the world still works the way we're accustomed to. Or later, under crisis conditions.

We've learned that there are two ways that people change their beliefs and then their actions: by pain or by insight.

Most people go the pain route. And in the process, they waste a lot of valuable time that could have been spent constructively. It's only after the heart attack, the divorce, the backing over the family dog while drunk—moments of extreme pain—that most people will begin to actively face the idea that they need to make different decisions in life.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Part of the beauty of being human is that we can learn from observation, reflection and experience, and can adapt. Critical thinkers have this ability to change by insight. They use new information to put new behaviors into practice until those practices become new habits. And with better habits, we achieve better destinies.

So which route will you choose? Pain or insight?

The story told by the Three Es is loaded with the potential for plenty of painful moments over the next few decades. Sadly, a lot of people will not take precautionary steps far enough in advance to matter. They're just not focusing on the risks right now. As a result, much of the world will be forced to change its behavior via the pain route.

Use this awareness as a sense of urgency to prepare now. To secure your future prosperity, as well as to help those regretting that they didn't follow your lead.

In Part 2: Steps For Changing By Insight, we lay out our prescriptive guidance what what to do now, in a world saddled with record debts, and a debt-based system of money that itself is utterly and completely dependent on infinite expansion, where something's got to give

If you believe in eternal infinite growth, then sure, stay invested in stocks and bonds and go ahead and buy the dips.

But if you don't, take steps today to change your life by insight, secure your future prosperity, and serve as a model for others.

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

We've finally heard some news on the migrant caravan. Some of the migrants have given up and gone back home, but some are still there waiting at the border. A leader representing the group has decided to step forward, and he's made out a list of... demands. Remember when I said back in October that this caravan was originally formed as a Leftist act against the Honduran government by people with ties to Venezuela and Cuba? Well what do you know… wait until you hear who this guy is.

RELATED: BOMBSHELL: Filmmaker Ami Horowitz blows the lid off media's deceit about the migrant caravan

Alfonso Guerrero personally walked into the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana, Mexico with a list of demands from the caravan. Get a load of this. The caravan is demanding that if they're not granted immediate asylum they want the following:

  1. Fifty thousand dollars in cash for every caravan member (which would be a total of tens of millions).
  2. The immediate removal of all U.S. economic and military assets in Honduras.

Failure to comply to these demands will result in the caravan continuing to try and penetrate the U.S. border.

I mean, if you're trying to appear like some grassroots movement for migrants that are just escaping the dangers of their own country, you might want to - oh I don't know - tone down the crazy Leftist freedom fighter schtick. I'm just saying. Demanding millions of dollars AND the removal of the U.S. military from Honduras kinda just screams, "Hey check me out. I'm a Marxist terrorist." It would have been basically the same thing if he just charged up to the embassy wearing a beret and shouted "Viva la Revolution!!" while firing off an RPG.

Well, it turns out this isn't the first time Mr Guerrero has tried to claim asylum. Back in 1987 he claimed asylum in Mexico after being suspected by the Honduran and U.S. government for - wait for it - left wing terrorism… Jeez, you know you really can't make this stuff up. This is INSANE. Here's the story…

This is ridiculous. Can we all now agree that this entire charade is a fraudulent scam?

In 1987 Honduras was ground zero for U.S. and Soviet proxy forces fighting the Cold War. The Contra rebels were actually based there, and leftists terrorists would sometimes carry out operations in the country in response. On August 8th a bomb was thrown into the China Palace restaurant, just a few miles from the U.S. military base in Honduras. Six American soldiers were injured in the blast. Alfonso Guerrero was the primary suspect. He escaped to Mexico and claimed asylum. The Reagan Administration charged the Mexican government for quote "harboring a terrorist" for granting Guerrero protection.

But all the caravan wants is a better life in the United States… oh and millions of dollars AND a list of political demands for their home country. This is ridiculous. Can we all now agree that this entire charade is a fraudulent scam? This is a Leftist political stunt. It has been since the very beginning.

TRANS-INSANITY: Not everyone is bowing down to the PC culture

DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

Here's an incident that you won't hear about anywhere else. It doesn't fit the mainstream media's transgender narrative, their fairy tale of infinite genders, where any criticism is viewed as transphobic and taboo and certainly not something that the majority of Americans think or feel.

Last week, in West Point, Virginia, a high school French teacher named Peter Vlaming was fired after a five-and-a-half hour hearing that centered on his refusal to use a transgender student's specific gender pronouns. Vlaming said that doing so violated his religious beliefs.

RELATED: There is no truth anymore

Vlaming's lawyer Shawn Voyles told reporters:

Tolerance is a two-way street. Unfortunately, tolerance on the part of the school division has been noticeably absent. It chose to impose its own orthodoxy on Mr. Vlaming and fired him because he didn't relinquish his rights protected by the First Amendment.

School administrators fired Vlaming "due to this insubordination and repeated refusal to comply with directives made to him by multiple WPPS administrators."

The school justified the firing by pointing to a set of policies aimed at curbing misgendering of transgender students.

Vlaming's lawyer disputed this, saying that the policies include no such mention of transgenderism, adding that:

My client respects the rights of all students, including this student's rights; he simply asked that his rights be respected as well. Unfortunately, the school division refused to consider any solutions that would respect the freedoms of everyone involved.

There is a ray of hope in all of this, though. The students. A group of students from the school immediately staged a walkout in protest of Vlaming's firing.

One student told reporters:

I feel like everyone should have the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion as well.

Students lined up outside the school with signs that said, "Free Vlam." Another included a quote from Ben Shapiro: "Facts don't care about your feelings." Another read "You can't impose delusion onto us."

You can sigh a sigh of relief. There's hope for the future yet.

Whether it's a 'War on Christmas' or just progressivism run amok, the song 'Baby It's Cold Outside' has been firmly in the crosshairs this holiday season. Here are just a few of the headlines making the rounds:

Should radio stations stop playing 'Baby, It's Cold Outside'?

They range from the previous as questioning and then roll right into the following and assume facts not in evidence.

'Baby, It's Cold Outside,' Seen As Sexist, Frozen Out by Radio Stations

It may be seen as sexist but according to one radio stations polling, only about 5% do. Then they go from saying it's sexist to straight up claiming it as a rape song.

Radio Bans 'Baby It's Cold Outside' Over Claims It's A Rape Song, English Teacher Explains Its Real Meaning

And then they just flat out call for its retirement.

Is it time to retire 'Baby, It's Cold Outside'?

The left might think they are woke and on the right side of history in the wake of the #MeToo movement — but how shocked do you think they'd be if they knew Glenn beat them to the punch over a decade ago? Don't believe me? Take a listen to this clip from our audio vault from 2008.

Christmas has arrived early for mainstream media. They have their first sentencing of a major player in President Trump's inner circle. Yesterday, Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced by a federal judge in Manhattan. How did it come to this and how did Cohen explain himself to the judge? We start there next…

President Trump's former attorney, 52-year-old Michael Cohen, is going to jail. Well, it will probably be one of those federal prison camps with a dorm that's more like a college campus. But he's going to be locked up. A federal judge sentenced him to three years in prison for financial crimes, and two months for lying to Congress. He also ordered Cohen to pay $2 million in financial penalties. The judge called Cohen's misdeeds a "veritable smorgasbord of criminal conduct."

RELATED: Michael Cohen's plea deal won't lessen Trump's support. Here's why.

The judge said:

As a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better. While Mr. Cohen is taking steps to mitigate his criminal conduct by pleading guilty and volunteering useful information to prosecutors, that does not wipe the slate clean.

Cohen pled guilty in August to eight criminal charges in two different cases. One brought by special counsel Robert Muller for Cohen's lying to Congress about a potential Trump Tower project in Moscow. The second was for bank-fraud, tax, and campaign finance violations brought by federal prosecutors in New York.

President Trump said recently that Cohen has simply been lying to get a reduced sentence for crimes that have nothing to do with him. Cohen was very emotional as he apologized to the judge, saying:

It was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light. Time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass.

The left thinks that Cohen's sentencing marks the beginning of the end for Trump's presidency. They may be ultimately disappointed in that regard. But this does intensify the long national nightmare of the Muller investigation that seems to have no end in sight.