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For about a decade now, some fairly solid predictions have been floating around. They’ve included skyrocketing prices for oil and natural resources, hedge fund bubbles bursting and a general increase in chaos and turmoil. They’ve been everywhere on the fringes – anarchists, environmentalists, peak-oil nuts, conspiracy theorists, internet addicts and urban critics have been catching on for years, but many in the mainstream still deny it. As so many of these predictions began to come true, though, many have taken notice. Behind the scenes, there’s a growing awareness that things are not right, and that big trouble is coming if they do not change.
Jeremy Grantham is a co-owner and founder of one of the world’s largest asset management companies. Since the mortgage meltdown he’s become increasingly critical of why some saw it coming while those in charge did not. Recently, he’s taken this a little further and published a lengthy treatise on what’s going on. The message? We now have too many people, using too many resources, and the markets can no longer grow. Business Insider has compiled a slideshow of his argument, and the amount of high-quality data he’s providing is truly frightening. It’s not that Grantham’s argument is original – every word of it reads like a (slightly financial) Mathew Simmons or James Howard Kunstler rant from 2004. He bemoans exponential growth, refers to Malthus and talks about the role of petrochemicals in fueling all this. What is unique, though, is the quality of his data – all what you would expect from a cutting-edge investment firm. He illustrates how much prices have skyrocketed over the last decade for everything from fuel to food to metals. In one example – in order to see if these prices were the result of random market changes and speculation – for beef the chance is about 1 in 2. For Iron, it’s one in over two million.
Other examples of this kind of thing are beginning to abound. Those working in the financial sector have the data, and the truth is becoming increasingly clear. Here’s another recent article on Business Insider which basically comes clean about the nature of corporate “efficiency“, and another from Dailyreckoning about “peak profits” and the total unsustainability of current all-time-record-high corporate profits.
Capitalism is failing – even the capitalists are waking up to that fact. The question is, what comes next?