Another Day, Another Nation Dumps the Dollar

From South Africa’s City Press:

South Africa will this week take some initial steps to unseat the US dollar as the preferred worldwide currency for trade and investment in emerging economies.

Thus, the nation is expected to become party to endorsing the Chinese currency, the renminbi, as the currency of trade in emerging markets.

This means getting a renminbi-denominated bank account, in addition to a dollar account, could be an advantage for African businesses that seek to do business in the emerging markets.

The move is set to challenge the supremacy of the US dollar. This, experts say, is the latest salvo in the greatest worldwide currency war since the 1930s.

Well — like the rest of Africa alongside all of its natural resources which (in spite of Kony 2012’s best efforts) becomes more Chinese by the day — it is clear where South Africa’s allegiance lies. Most interestingly, though, this is the first nation with an Anglo-American economic elite to come out against the present global order and more or less endorse China.

Readers are reminded of this chart:


It is rather intriguing to note, by the way, that when the term “emerging economies” is used, the underlying reality is that these are the productive economies. America’s GDP is mostly spent on the consumption of foreign goods, (or goods made from foreign components), on the back of foreign oil. And the emergent reality of the 21st Century (forward-looking readers will already understand) is that consumptive nations need productive nations, but not vice verse. Right now, without “emerging nations” subsidising American consumption (and agriculture, etc), what would become of the dollar? I think the only thing standing in the way of it becoming toilet paper is U.S. military might. But what would happen to that military might as a result of a global trade slowdown resulting from — for example — the closure of the Strait of Hormuz? As I detailed last week, as a result of her addiction to fragile global trade networks, America has rendered herself extremely fragile.

From the Huffington Post:

Blocking the Strait of Hormuz would create an international and economic calamity of unprecedented severity. Here are the crude realities. America uses approximately 19 to 20 million barrels of oil per day, almost half of which is imported. If we lose just 1 million barrels per day, or suffer the type of damage sustained from Hurricane Katrina, our government will open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), which offers a mere six- to eight-week supply of unrefined crude oil. If we lose 1.5 million barrels per day, or approximately 7.5 percent, we will ask our allies in the 28-member International Energy Agency to open their SPRs and otherwise assist. If we lose 2 million barrels per day, or 10 percent, for a protracted period, government crisis monitors say the chaos will be so catastrophic, they cannot even model it. One government oil crisis source recently told me: “We cannot put a price tag on it. If it happens, just cash in your 401(k).”

Readers may be surprised to learn that I still have a lot of faith in America and the West. Only in the West is there an intellectual climate that allows for the kind of speech published on this blog. A free intellectual climate leads to innovation, and the free and honest exchange of ideas, all of which indirectly spur economic development. And certainly, while America is not perfect, it generally has a freer intellectual climate than most other nations. Further, America has huge reserves of energy and natural resources, and a low population density and thus room to expand.

But ultimately — as we shall over the next ten or twenty years — the present day American consumerism is a glittering economic dead end. The present world order is unravelling, and Americans — like many great empires before them — are in danger of suffering a lot of fallout.

The Beauty of America

Eric X. Li writes the most controversial piece of the year thus far, in which he concludes that democracy is a problem for the West:

Many have characterized the competition between [America and China] as a clash between democracy and authoritarianism. But this is false. America and China view their political systems in fundamentally different ways: whereas America sees democratic government as an end in itself, China sees its current form of government, or any political system for that matter, merely as a means to achieving larger national ends.

In the history of human governance, spanning thousands of years, there have been two major experiments in democracy. The first was Athens, which lasted a century and a half; the second is the modern West. If one defines democracy as one citizen one vote, American democracy is only 92 years old. In practice it is only 47 years old, if one begins counting after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — far more ephemeral than all but a handful of China’s dynasties.

Why, then, do so many boldly claim they have discovered the ideal political system for all mankind and that its success is forever assured?

The answer lies in the source of the current democratic experiment. It began with the European Enlightenment. Two fundamental ideas were at its core: the individual is rational, and the individual is endowed with inalienable rights. These two beliefs formed the basis of a secular faith in modernity, of which the ultimate political manifestation is democracy.

In its early days, democratic ideas in political governance facilitated the industrial revolution and ushered in a period of unprecedented economic prosperity and military power in the Western world. Yet at the very beginning, some of those who led this drive were aware of the fatal flaw embedded in this experiment and sought to contain it.

The American Federalists made it clear they were establishing a republic, not a democracy, and designed myriad means to constrain the popular will. But as in any religion, faith would prove stronger than rules.

The West’s current competition with China is therefore not a face-off between democracy and authoritarianism, but rather the clash of two fundamentally different political outlooks. The modern West sees democracy and human rights as the pinnacle of human development. It is a belief premised on an absolute faith.

China is on a different path. Its leaders are prepared to allow greater popular participation in political decisions if and when it is conducive to economic development and favorable to the country’s national interests, as they have done in the past 10 years.

However, China’s leaders would not hesitate to curtail those freedoms if the conditions and the needs of the nation changed.

The fundamental difference between Washington’s view and Beijing’s is whether political rights are considered God-given and therefore absolute or whether they should be seen as privileges to be negotiated based on the needs and conditions of the nation.

Li has made a staggering error: he has conflated individual rights with democracy. These are actually two separate ideas. In fact, the two notions can sometimes be opposed: in a pure democracy, 51% of the population could successfully vote to cook and eat the other 49%. That is where the notion of individual liberty and creator-endowed rights come in: while some democracy is tenable, the actions of a democracy that would be damaging to an individual’s liberty are deemed to be unconstitutional. This was the shape of America’s constitution after the revolution.

So Li is correct — America was not at its birth a democracy. America was set up as a constitutional republic. Its constitution was designed to protect individual liberty (even if it has not always been entirely successful at doing so). The Constitution is written very simply and beautifully. Here’s the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Simple, specific, categorical. No ifs, no buts. Other nations have paid lip-service to fundamental human freedoms, but they always wrapped themselves up in fineries. Here’s Europe’s attempt:

Everyone has the right of freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without inference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

In Europe, you have a right to free expression at the discretion of the democratically-elected authorities. And that’s not really a right at all. It’s a semi-right; a right with a whole lot of strings. You have the right to life — so long as the other 51% don’t vote to cook and eat you. 

But America’s constitutional republic is a long-gone ideal. America’s Congress pumps out a wealth of legislation not specifically authorised by the Constitution. The first breaches were done with the best of intentions: the Fourteenth Amendment applied the Bill of Rights to the states, albeit shredding the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. The Civil Rights Act gave racial minorities equal accessto public and private facilities, thereby ending the right of property owners to discriminate against whomever they chose. I am broadly supportive of those measures. But later breaches have been much more dangerous.

Corporations are now routinely bailed out, destroying the market mechanism and creating an aristocracy of “systemically important” corporations with access to Uncle Sam’s chequebook. The power to coin money has been delegated from the Treasury to a private cartel known as the Federal Reserve, allowing the private bankers to create massive and dangerous credit bubbles. The PATRIOT Act, and the NDAA of 2011 shredded the Fourth Amendment and ended the ancient right to Habeas Corpus. Presidents since the Second World War have routinely gone to war without an express declaration authorised by Congress. Obamacare has created a healthcare mandate, compelling American citizens to buy a commercial product — health insurance. Even the First Amendment has been turned upside down — corporations (who are not people) can spend limitless money on political campaigns, while political protestors (who are definitely people) are now confined to caged “free speech zones”. And that’s just from the top of my head.

So it is important to remember that criticisms of America today are criticisms of the present politics of America, and not of the ideals of constitutionalism, or of individual liberty.

It is certain that America today is in dire straits: deeply indebted to the rest of the world, heightened unemployment, the world’s largest prison population, a broken and zombified financial system stripped of the market mechanism, a huge swathe of citizens without access to medical treatment, tent cities.

And it is also certain that America’s welfarism has contributed to its debt. But that is more the fault of large corporations, farmers, and the military industrial complex who suck up subsidies and then call it “profit”, than it is the poor who without subsidies probably could not eat. But certainly all the subsidies have come out of America’s newfound democratic status. Give people the ability to vote for more free stuff (and lobbyists the ability to lobby for more free stuff) and more often than not they’ll take that chance. After all, who doesn’t love a free lunch?

But it is totally foolish to blame these problems on “too much liberty”.

In fact, right now it is China that seems more libertarian — at least in purely economic terms. As I wrote last month, China’s economy consists of just 20% of federal government spending, whereas America’s consists of 37%. China is more of a market economy, while America is more statist. So while China’s leaders might have taken a more “flexible” approach to individual liberties, at least when it comes to economic liberty, they are practically way ahead of America. And maybe that’s why China is doing so well economically — the freedom to do business, to create, to produce.

When it comes to social and cultural freedom, America is way ahead of China — and unsurprisingly, America is still the world’s cultural powerhouse.

What if this little thing known as liberty — and these little things known as unalienable rights are far more important than Li recognises? What if they are the driving energy that underpins innovation, that underpins economic prosperity, that underpins a robust economic system?

America was once the richest and most productive nation on the planet (and by certain measures she still is). This was a direct product of a system of cultural and economic freedom. People were free to think differently, to act differently, to create new businesses, new products, new techniques and this ultimately led to the greatest sustained period of wealth creation in history. They didn’t have to ask the permission of a feudal lord or monarch or commissar. They didn’t have to kowtow to an aristocracy. Only now — since America has adopted statism and bureaucracy — has America begun to fall behind.

So Li’s conclusion is right, but only in a twisted and roundabout way:

The West seems incapable of becoming less democratic even when its survival may depend on such a shift. In this sense, America today is similar to the old Soviet Union, which also viewed its political system as the ultimate end.

History does not bode well for the American way. Indeed, faith-based ideological hubris may soon drive democracy over the cliff.

Yes — ideological and faith-based hubris may soon drive America off a cliff. But that ideological and faith-based hubris that we find today in American government and in the American intellectual elite is not for America’s constitution, nor for individual liberty. Instead it is for statism, for big government, for surveillance, for authoritarianism, for central planning, for endless war and imperialism. The zeal that will drive America off a cliff is exactly what Li advocates more of.

A Time for War?

Arch-neocon Charles Krauthammer — and Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta — say that Israel is ready to strike Iran:

Our own secretary of Defense has said it’s highly likely and he gave a timeframe — April, May, June — which means the Israelis think that the moment, the zone of immunity where they can no longer attack successfully, is approaching.

On the other hand, I am becoming more sceptical of such actions by the day.

Both China and Pakistan have given assurances of some kind of support for Iran, if attacked. Why would Israel choose direct and open warfare against Iran and risk provoking a wider conflict when they can instead engage in a much less risky covert war of subterfuge, sabotage and assassination?

Furthermore, why would the US Secretary of Defence go on the record to divulge Israeli military plans? Frankly, it sounds like Panetta’s vocalisation is a decoy to keep Iran edgy, and try to incite Iranians on the ground to rise up in revolt and overthrow the regime, as a path to avoiding war.

While I have already given a pretty comprehensive breakdown of the Western motivations for such a war, the simple truth emerging is that the risks of wider trouble and blowback are too big, and outweigh all the prospective benefits. American and Israeli policymakers may have finally realised that the West just has too much to lose from antagonising China and Russia even more. And, as I have clearly drawn out, the risks to Israel and to the West from an Iranian nuclear weapon are relatively small. Furthermore, the Israeli intelligence community is not overwhelmingly committed to such an action.

The only people who seem committed to such action are the rabid neocon wing of the Republican party: people like Rick Santorum.

From Haaretz:

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Thursday accused President Barack Obama of actively seeking ways to allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapon and suggested that the administration had betrayed Israel by publicly disclosing what may be a plan to attack the Muslim nation.

The bottom line is that there is very little reason to believe that America or Israel will openly engage Iran before the Presidential election. There will be a continued war of stealth, continued drone surveillance, continued cyber attacks, continued assassinations, and a continued blockade — all aimed at provoking an Iranian revolution. I could be wrong, and the situation could change, but as more anti-American rhetoric streams out of Eurasia, as Iran enriches more uranium, as the American national debt creeps higher, the prospects of a war grow more distant.

A zealous theocratic warmonger like Santorum in the White House would change all of that..

The Uniting States of Eurasia

I have, these last few months, been documenting the current state of geopolitics — specifically the growing isolation of the West, the ditching of the dollar as the global reserve currency, the growing unity between the authoritarian Eurasian nations, and the brewing storm in the middle east between Israel and Iran.

Now another piece of the puzzle falls into place.

From The Sun:

Pakistan yesterday warned Britain to help stop the American “Drone Wars” that are slaughtering hundreds of its innocent civilians.

The nuclear power chillingly declared it “has the means” to retaliate unless the carnage ceases.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain Wajid Shamsul Hasan told The Sun in an exclusive interview that his country’s relations with America are at their lowest ebb.

He said: “Patience is definitely reaching exhaustion levels.” Mr Hasan said Pakistan backs the War on Terror waged by Britain and the US.

But he urged PM David Cameron to condemn US drone attacks on al-Qaeda and Taliban training camps in the north west of his country — dubbing them as “war crimes” and “little more than state executions”.

Tough-talking Mr Hasan also declared Pakistan would have no choice but to support Iran if “aggressive” Israel attacks it

This isn’t a joke. This isn’t “just rhetoric”. This is Eurasia uniting to keep America out, to trample American and Israeli interests, and to dominate geopolitics. Let me be clear: this is the systemic and complete failure of 40 years of American foreign and domestic policy

From Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard (pp. 31):

[H]ow America manages Eurasia is critical. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions. A mere glance at the map also suggests that control over Eurasia would almost automatically entail Africa’s subordination, rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania (Australia) geopolitically peripheral to the world’s central continent. About 75 per cent of the world’s people live in Eurasia, and most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources.

With Eurasia uniting around Russia and China (exemplified by their joint veto on Syria) it seems like America — stripped by globalisation of her productive base, and thus dependent on Eurasian resources and manufacturing — is about to lose the colossal free lunch she has enjoyed since the 1970s. And American aggression to impose its will on the Eurasian powers is becoming less and less viable. America is not only deeply in debt to her enemies, but would find herself gravely injured by any future trade war.

Of course, there is a path forward for America. But it is not the path desired by the current administration:

A sensible American plan going forward would recognise [these issues], and would be developing the means and the infrastructure to end America’s free lunch — specifically, through redeveloping American manufacturing capacity and supply chains, and scaling back America’s role as global policeman. Unfortunately, I see no such thing from government, and very little from private industry. America is clinging onto the old foreign policy doctrines — that if America is powerful enough, and if it can retain its role as global hegemon and world policeman, then it will always be free to consume a chunk of the rest of the world’s production and resources, because its currency will forever be the global reserve. But that simply isn’t true — Russia and China have already ditched the dollar for bilateral trade.

But this is bigger than just the implications for America. We are moving into a new era; a new world order, a multi-polar (bipolar? tripolar? apolar?) world.

What will this mean for the rest of the world and all her citizens? I have very little clue — but hopefully not world war, or trade war, or proxy war. Hopefully America will gracefully accept the end of American hegemony. Hopefully the new powers will be gracious and fair toward the old ones. Hopefully the new world will be friendlier to liberty, friendlier to freedom.

But given that the new bloc’s powers all exude authoritarian rhetoric, I doubt it.

Most concerningly, regular readers will be aware that Pakistan are the second Eurasian power to pledge military support to Iran in the case of an Israeli attack. These nations know the score:  the last hope for American imperial hegemony is to bring the Arab Spring to Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, and Islamabad.

The Complex Syrian Situation

I have talked at length about the growing monetary, ideological and political schism developing between the Eurasian powers, and the Western ones.

I have talked at length about the growing Eurasian coalition of resistance against American interests, against American interventionism, against the dollar.

I have talked at length about that coalition’s fear of further American encroachment into Eurasia.

So I was especially prepared for further spats between the two coalitions during 2012, and especially over Iran and Syria.

But the nastiness and disdainfulness of today’s events surprised even me.

From the BBC:

An Arab and Western-backed resolution condemning the violent crackdown in Syria has been vetoed at the UN Security Council by Russia and China.

The two permanent council members rejected the draft resolution, which came hours after activists accused Syrian security forces of killing at least 55 people at Homs.

The US ambassador said the vetoes were “shameful”, Britain was “appalled”.

China and Russia defended their move, saying the draft was “unbalanced”.

Russia says the draft resolution had singled out the government of President Bashar al-Assad, and did not containing measures against armed opposition groups.

But proposed Russian amendments to the text were described as “unacceptable” by the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to have talks with Mr Assad in Damascus on Tuesday.

To be clear: this resolution was a step toward military intervention against Bashar al-Assad. I am extremely sceptical that this is a good idea. I believe that the best thing that the global community can do is facilitate dialogue between the government and the protestors, and work toward a peaceful compromise.

This is not because I believe al-Assad deserves to remain in power. He is certainly a tyrant and despot of the highest order. But can we honestly say that committing guns, blood and money to deposing him will guarantee peace and stability? Can we honestly say that the next regime might not be worse? I do not believe we can — especially considering that almost every nation involved in the “Arab Spring” has since elected Islamists to power.

Even with the support of the Arab league, is getting entangled into another messy and open-ended conflict in Russia and China’s backyard really a good idea?  Some voices in China are already rumbling that they would be willing to go to war to prevent an American takeover of Iran.

If avoiding nuclear proliferation is our goal, intervention is certainly a bad idea. Qaddafi’s deposition — in stark contrast to nuclear-armed North Korea — was a signpost to rogue regimes that the only way to ensure their survival is to pursue nuclear armaments.

So the biggest story here — and the real reason for the Sino-Russian veto — is the rumbling tension between the Western and Eurasian blocs.

It is a hornets’ nest the West should not stir. Instead, I believe, we should be more concerned about our own economies, particularly the factors of energy independence, resource independence and domestic manufacturing. For the Eurasian powers are not merely nations far across the world: they are our productive base, our resource base, our labour base. Without their support and co-operation the West’s physical economy will be severely damaged.

In insisting upon picking sides in the Syrian Civil War, we might well be shooting ourselves in the foot. Or the head.

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

Does the hypochondriac who is ultimately diagnosed with a real, physiological illness have the right to say “I told you so”?

Well, maybe. Sometimes a “hypochondriac” might be ill all along, but those diagnosing him just did not conduct the right test, or look at the right data. Medical science and diagnostics are nothing like as advanced as we like to hope. There are still thousands of diseases and ailments which are totally unexplained. Sometimes this means a “hypochondriac” might be dead or comatose before he ever gets the chance to say “I told you so.”

Similarly, there are are many who suggest that their own nations or civilisations are in ailing decline. Some of them might be crankish hypochondriacs. But some of them might be shockingly prescient:

Is Marc Faber being a hypochondriac in saying that the entire derivatives market is headed to zero? Maybe. It depends whether his analysis is proven correct by events. I personally believe that he is more right than he is wrong: the derivatives market is deeply interconnected, and counter-party risk really does threaten to destroy a huge percentage of it.

More dangerous to health than hypochondria is what I might call hyperchondria.


This is the condition under which people are unshakeably sure that they are fine. They might sustain a severe physical injury and refuse medical treatment. They brush off any and all sensations of physical illness. They suffer from an interminable and unshakeable optimism. Government — or, at least, the public face of government — is littered with them. John McCain blustered that the economy was strong and robust — until he had to suspend his Presidential campaign to return to Washington to vote for TARP. Tim Geithner stressed there was “no chance of a downgrade” — until S&P downgraded U.S. debt. Such is politics — politicians like to exude the illusion of control. So too do economists, if they become too politically active. Ben Bernanke boasted he could stanch inflation in “15 minutes“.

So, between outsiders like Ron Paul who have consistently warned of the possibility of economic disaster, and insiders like Ben Bernanke who refuse to conceive of such a thing, where can we get an accurate portrait of the shape of Western civilisation and the state of the American empire?

Professor Alfred McCoy — writing for CBS News — paints a fascinating picture:

A soft landing for America 40 years from now?  Don’t bet on it.  The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines.  If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting.

Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003.

Future historians are likely to identify the Bush administration’s rash invasion of Iraq in that year as the start of America’s downfall. However, instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of so many past empires, with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this twenty-first century imperial collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic collapse or cyberwarfare.

But have no doubt: when Washington’s global dominion finally ends, there will be painful daily reminders of what such a loss of power means for Americans in every walk of life. As a half-dozen European nations have discovered, imperial decline tends to have a remarkably demoralizing impact on a society, regularly bringing at least a generation of economic privation. As the economy cools, political temperatures rise, often sparking serious domestic unrest.

Available economic, educational, and military data indicate that, when it comes to U.S. global power, negative trends will aggregate rapidly by 2020 and are likely to reach a critical mass no later than 2030. The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, will be tattered and fading by 2025, its eighth decade, and could be history by 2030.

Significantly, in 2008, the U.S. National Intelligence Council admitted for the first time that America’s global power was indeed on a declining trajectory. In one of its periodic futuristic reportsGlobal Trends 2025, the Council cited “the transfer of global wealth and economic powernow under way, roughly from West to East” and “without precedent in modern history,” as the primary factor in the decline of the “United States’ relative strength — even in the military realm.” Like many in Washington, however, the Council’s analysts anticipated a very long, very soft landing for American global preeminence, and harbored the hope that somehow the U.S. would long “retain unique military capabilities… to project military power globally” for decades to come.

No such luck.  Under current projections, the United States will find itself in second place behind China (already the world’s second largest economy) in economic output around 2026, and behind India by 2050. Similarly, Chinese innovation is on a trajectory toward world leadership in applied science and military technology sometime between 2020 and 2030, just as America’s current supply of brilliant scientists and engineers retires, without adequate replacement by an ill-educated younger generation.

Wrapped in imperial hubris, like Whitehall or Quai d’Orsay before it, the White House still seems to imagine that American decline will be gradual, gentle, and partial. In his State of the Union address last January, President Obama offered the reassurance that “I do not accept second place for the United States of America.” A few days later, Vice President Biden ridiculed the very idea that “we are destined to fulfill [historian Paul] Kennedy’s prophecy that we are going to be a great nation that has failed because we lost control of our economy and overextended.” Similarly, writing in the November issue of the establishment journal Foreign Affairs, neo-liberal foreign policy guru Joseph Nye waved away talk of China’s economic and military rise, dismissing “misleading metaphors of organic decline” and denying that any deterioration in U.S. global power was underway.

Frankly — given how deeply America is indebted, given that crucial American military and consumer supply chains are controlled by China, given how dependent America is on foreign oil for transport and agribusiness — I believe that the end of American primacy by 2025 is an extraordinarily optimistic estimate. The real end of American primacy may have been as early as 9/11/2001.

The Great Treasury Dumping Game Continues

A few months ago I wrote:

A couple months ago, I hypothesises about the possibility foreign treasury dumping:

It is becoming clearer and clearer that America cannot and will not produce a coherent economic strategy. China seems to be beginning to offload not only its Treasury balance, but also its dollar pile.

Then I noted some of the prospective dangers:

Now we get the news that creditors are currently engaged in a huge Treasury liquidation.

A new post from Zero Hedge establishes that Russia is joining the Treasury-dumping party:

  • IMF’S LAGARDE SAYS EUROPE DEBT CRISIS `ESCALATING’
  • IMF’S LAGARDE: CRISIS REQUIRES ACTION BY COUNTRIES OUTSIDE EU

Well, we know the UK is now out, courtesy of idiotic statements such as this one by Christina Noyer. So who will step up? Why Russia it seems.

  • RUSSIA CONSIDERS PROVIDING UP TO $20B TO IMF, DVORKOVICH SAYS

Why’s that? Because like China (more on that in an upcoming post), Russia just dumped US bonds for the 12th straight month and instead both Russia and China are now focusing on making Europe their vassal state. So now we know where the money is coming from – sales of US debt of course!

Source: TIC

Is the US quietly becoming increasingly isolated in global affairs?

The question as to whether the US is becoming increasingly isolated is completely spurious; the United States isolated herself politically way back when in 1971 she took itself off the gold standard, and decided that she could get a free lunch at others’ expense from printing money.

The key thesis I have advanced seems to be hotting up:

What would a treasury crash look like? Most likely, it would be dictated by supply — the greater the supply of treasuries coming onto the market, the more there are for buyers to buy, the lower prices will be forced before new buyers come onto the market. Specifically, a treasury crash would most likely begin with a big seller dumping significant quantities of treasuries bonds onto the open market. I would expect such an event to be triggered bylower yields— most significant would be the 30-year, because it still has a high enough yield to retain purchasing power (i.e. a positive real rate). Operation Twist, of course, was designed to flatten the yield curve, which will probably push the 30-year closer to a negative real return.

A large sovereign treasury dumper (i.e. China with its $1+ trillion of treasury holdings) throwing a significant portion of these onto the open market would very quickly outpace the dogmatic institutional buyers, and force a small spike in rates (i.e. a drop in price). The small recent spike actually corresponds to this kind of activity. The difference between a small spike in yields and one large enough to make the (hugely dogmatic) market panic enough to cause a treasury crash is the pace and scope of liquidation.

Now, no sovereign seller in their right mind would fail to pace their liquidation just slowly enough to keep the market warm. After all, they want to get the most for their assets as they can, and panicking the market would mean a lower price.

But there are two (or three) foreseeable scenarios that would raise the pace to a level sufficient to panic the markets:

  1. China desperately needs to raise dollars to bail out its real estate market and paper over the cracks of its credit bubbles, and so goes into full-on liquidation mode.
  2. China retaliates to an increasingly-hostile American trade policy and — alongside other hostile foreign creditors (Russia in particular) — organise a mass bond liquidation to “teach America a lesson”
  3. Both of the above.