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Examining the Elemental Structure of Deflation


The primary forces in the developed world are defined by it.


Whatever else this does, it puts the children in a very different situation from their parents. Instead of starting out with nothing, they're starting out with something. While this would seem to be a big advantage to them, it has huge hidden disadvantages. Like America itself, they are in danger of finding themselves slipping downhill. Instead of expecting things to get better, they may find it hard even to hold onto what they've got. Instead of the "Morning in America" that Ronald Reagan promised, they may find that it seems more like evening, both in their personal as well as their national lives.

"From shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations," say the French. The grandfather begins without a coat. His grandson ends that way.

But what to do? Spend it all the children begin with the same clean slate we had? Move to Brazil or India – countries with more obvious upside?

In the deep, cosmic end, it probably doesn't matter. The advantage to starting out on an upper rung of the ladder may be about equal to the disadvantage of having to worry about falling off. Who can know?

Every man has to play the cards he's been dealt. What else can he do? He may have a humpback or a beautiful voice. He may have had a hard upbringing or a soft head. He may have a fortune worth of poetry in his soul but not a dime in his pocket. As far as we can tell, every young man starts out even. Each one begins life in the same place -- where he is. And every generation takes what it is given, and makes the best of it.

The real advantage in life is having the gumption to get on with it; no one knows where that comes from.

It's More Than Half Full

Okay, Bill, let's review those wonderful days from whence we sprang, so fraught with the advantages of having nothing. So potent with opportunity. It was the middle of the '70s when we started our careers. Inflation was high and rising. The Soviets were seen as a major threat. Japan was beating our brains out and buying everything, even if nailed down (like Pebble Beach and New York skyscrapers). I had to borrow money at 15% (or more) to buy paper in order to meet customer demands for printing. And guess what? The banks got into trouble and called loans willy-nilly. (My bank even called my mother and threatened her to pay off my loan -- against written agreements -- and she did. Evil sons of bitches. The more things change… And that bank did fail, I report delightedly! Not that I hold a grudge.)

There were multiple successive and ever-deeper recessions. Gold was rising and the dollar was seen as a joke. Howard Ruff (a good friend to both of us when we were starting out!) and almost every newsletter writer were telling people to buy gold and freeze-dried food to protect themselves against a near-certain economic, if not apocalyptic, catastrophe. Unemployment was high and rising for a decade.

The correct answer to the question, "Where will the jobs come from?" back then was, "I don't know, but they will." And that's the correct answer today.

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