John Mauldin Is Guardedly Optimistic. Mauldin tries to justify this by quoting Lenin, who said:
"There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades occur."
We are in such a period. But Mauldin thinks it is a transition into something better. "If something cannot be sustained, it will change," he said. Mauldin then quotes economist Laurence Kotlikoff who estimates that the US has 200 trillion in unfunded liabilities. (I have talked about this previously.) Mauldin comments, "We can't pay that amount. What happens when we realize this?" He thinks that when this becomes evident change will occur. "Expenses cannot rise faster than income," he says. He thinks that, "It is the end of the world, yet I am excited" because things will have to change for the better.
2020 will be great, after the world economy goes through this transition period. What will be the characteristics of this transition? Here is what he thinks (note that what I put in quotes is not his exact words, but it is close. When I put something in parentheses, it is me speaking.):
Pension and health care are the reason for the troubles due to demographics. Sweden tied benefits to GDP, it is necessary, not heartless. (This means that a certain percentage of the economy is devoted to helping people. This is something I have long advocated.) Eventually everyone will do the same. (I hope he is right.)
Peak oil is false; energy prices will go up, but no catastrophe. (I agree.)
Japan is a bug in search of a windshield. (What a great line!)
In Europe, France is the new Greece—then the US.
In China the demographics are awful—they have more people leaving the workforce than entering it. Japan and Europe have this problem as well.
"Of course austerity does not work, that is why it is called austerity." (My question would be, "What choice did Greece have?")
"Government has made promises they cannot keep."
Krugman is not an economist. (Ha.)
Adapt to change, not fight it. We don't have enough money to protect people from change.
Social Security is welfare.
Invest in things that central banks can't print—gold, technology, and corn, for example.
Alas, his presentation was not well rehearsed for the time he was allotted, so the speech ended somewhat abruptly, but Mauldin does make you somewhat more hopeful. What he calls optimistic is what I have been calling guardedly pessimistic. No, I do not think the crisis I have been predicting to happen in 3 to 7 years is the Apocalypse, nor Ragnarök, but it will be very bad. I am guardedly pessimistic because I do not think the "powers that be" will act against their own best interests. No, the "powers that be" do not meet in secret conclaves and decided the future. They each act in their own best interests, and since they all have the same interests it can appear there is collusion. (The TV drama, The Man, I will post tomorrow assumes that there is a conspiracy. It is a great "drama," but quite wrong-headed.)
Here is Mauldin's presentation.