From a global perspective, nothing major has happened in the physical realm that we live in. There were no major wars, earthquakes, tsunamis or any form of massive destruction of our assets, people or resources. I feel that I’m correct to say that if the entire planet’s resources were valued monetarily, there would be no significant changes from 2007 vis-à-vis 2008.
From a financial perspective, there has been a major seismic shift originating from the US. Major financial institutions have either collapsed or required government bailouts. These include branded names such as Citibank, AIG and Lehman Brothers. Additional bailout packages are being debated and approved as we speak, to help jumpstart the US economy. The effects of this seismic shift in the US have begun to reach the shores of other countries causing contraction in the major economies of other countries including Europe, Asia, China and Japan.
The Zero Sum Game
One of the reasons why I have always abstained from gambling is because it is purely a zero sum game. If you win, someone else loses. There’s just a transfer of wealth since nothing of value is being created. Let’s compare this with the current crisis. Is there something not quite right here?
The Cake Analogy?
A simple analogy should suffice here. Assume that the global resources of the earth are represented by a cake. Now instead of cutting this cake and handing a slice of this to everybody equally, everybody is given coupons as a claim over the cake. Assume the global population of the world consists of 100 people.
Ever person has a 1/100 coupon. Let’s denominate these 1/100 cake coupons as 1 cake dollar. So, the entire global resources are worth 100 Cake Dollars. Every person has a Cake Dollar and his happy with this arrangement. All these Cake Dollars are being held with ABC Bank Inc. One fine day, ABC Bank Inc says that 60 Cake Dollars have gone missing. Where has it gone? ABC Bank Inc says that’s not important, what’s more important is that it needs all the existing citizens to subsidize the losses. So, it asks the government to print an additional 60 Cake Dollars to make up for the shortfall. Each Cake Dollar is worth 60% less due to inflation. In other words, each Cake Dollar allows the citizens to claim 0.4/100 of the world resources.
Wait a minute here! Let’s see… So 100 persons now have 100 Cake Dollars. The total of these 100 Cake Dollars has a stake of 40% over the world resources due to inflation. Heck, who’s swindled off the remaining 60% of the global resources of the world?
Well, perhaps if you look hard enough, it’s likely that the original 60 Cake Dollars couldn’t just have disappeared, could it? Money just doesn’t disappear into thin air. Most likely, the missing 60 Cake Dollars were cashed out by the winner and he’s just taken the 60% slice of the entire cake from the table. And his gain is at whose expense? It’s the people still holding the Cake Dollars being asked to subsidize for the losses of ABC Bank Inc that’s left picking up the pieces.
How Could the Bank Lose?
As an analogy, assume ABC Bank Inc betted 60 Cake Dollars against *someone* that Roger Federer would win the Australian Open in 2009. ABC Bank Inc lost.
Normally, we would just let this bank fail. You made a bad call, you pay the price. Unfortunately, all the Cake Dollars are held with this bank. If it fails, there would be a run on the bank and everyone would start realizing their Cake Dollars are worthless. So, the 99 persons in the world have to absorb the 60% losses by ABC Bank Inc to avoid starting a world wide panic and riots.
In Real Life
The 2009 Australian Open bet is akin to the gambles taken by the financial institutions in CDOs, CMOs, CDS and the like. How could the derivatives arm of these major investment banks and financial institutions earn returns in excess of 20 or 30% per annum? Only if you play the zero sum game! And when you win big, you can also expect to lose big sometimes. And the banks have lost BIG against someone. The fact they need so much money is that they’ve used the depositor’s money to pay of their bad bets. Now, they don’t have any money left to pay the depositors money they were supposed to hold on trust for us.
As we are talking about huge losses of trillions of USD, *someone* must have made a hefty gain at the expense of the banks and tax payers. In addition, since everyone is feeling depressed, prices of commodities (i.e. real resources) are under priced. This *someone* is going to have a bonanza time taking over commodities and companies at fire sale prices.
Anyone has any idea, who this *someone* is?