So many people sent me versions of this story that it is definitely one of those things that's been "in the aether" this past week. And it really does take me back to elementary school, and learning my arithmetical "illions", you know: million, billion, trillion, quadrillion, quintillion, sextillion, and so on. The idea of thinking in terms of amounts of money when connected to all those "illions" however, is something that they avoided (except in Congress when they're spending everyone else's money). But speaking of money, and all those "illions," there may be a story behind this story, but that's our high octane speculation of the day.
Here's the story itself, in the UK's Daily Mail tabloid financial apocalypse version:
What concerns us here are these paragraphs(and by the way, lamestream media, didn't your teachers teach you that normally paragraphs should be about three sentences in length?):
Psyche is one of the most mysterious objects in our solar system, and scientists could soon be getting a close-up view thanks to a newly confirmed Nasa mission.
If the asteroid could be transported back to Earth, the iron alone would be worth $10,000 quadrillion (£8,072 quadrillion).
Dr Elkins-Tanton has calculated that the iron in 16 Psyche alone, would be worth $10,000 quadrillion (£8,072 quadrillion).
Assuming the market for asteroid materials is on Earth, this could cause the value of precious metals to plummet, completely devaluing all holdings including those of Governments, and all companies involved in mining, distributing and trading such commodities.
Ultimately, it could lead to the collapse of the entire economy.
$10,000 quadrillion dollars. That's $10,000,000,000,000,000,000.00 for those of you writing the check.
Needless to say this has my high octane speculative gears turning in overtime, not the least because what sort of economic and fiscal models exist as precedents for such an influx of commodities from asteroid mining. We've certainly seen a spate of articles in previous years about mining celestial bodies, and a number of private space companies have begun on this premise, and the US Congress and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg have passed laws stating that nations and corporations can own what they recover on celestial bodies. Thus, like it or not, sooner or later, celestial mining is coming. The question is, what effect will it have? We have no precedent in human history for such a sudden massive injection of commodities into the global economy. The closest example, perhaps, is the Spanish conquest of central and South America, and the sudden and massive injection of gold and silver bullion into the Spanish, and ultimately the European, economy. And it was a harsh lesson: the sudden influx of financial wealth devastated Spanish production wealth, as inflation and high prices drove manufacturing out of Spain and into the Spanish Netherlands: the wealth remained concentrated at the top, and with the flight of production, the middle class collapsed. But even then, Spain was a more or less closed economic system. Would the same thing happen to the corporation or nation that accessed such wealth on celestial bodies? Or would it suddenly strike the entire global economy? And what would happen?
We really don't know. And I am moreover intrigued to notice that with all the space mining talk, there haven't been that many acknowledgements in the popular press of any studies that have addressed this issue.
But that's not really even what's at the center of my high octane speculative cogitations today. What's really at the center of them is yet another of those "unusual coincidences" that one notices when one connects discrete and apparently completely unrelated dots. In this case, the dots in our pointillistic picture are the quadrillions of dollars worth of derivatives sloshing around on bank ledgers in our "system" of finance, the enormous amount of cash that is also sloshing around in the system as a result of central bank quantitative easing, and, of course, all that "stuff" out there in space just waiting for us to go and get. It has always struck me as extremely odd that while we were watching the financial meltdown of 2007-2008, the bailout hearings, and the massive derivatives fraud (again, in the quadrillions of dollars), that this same time period saw the beginning of all those articles on space mining, asteroid mining, and so on. It was as if all those people who were asking "if there's seventeen quadrillion dollars of derivatives out there, which is several times the entire GDP of planet Earth, how are we possibly going to pay for it?" In other words, people were noticing the books simply didn't balance at all.
Well, I've been maintaining for a long time the possibility that space was long ago secretly "collaterallized", and that all that paper liquidity might not, in fact, be mere paper liquidity at all, but actually "backed" by something, like, the asteroid belt. In that admittedly high octane speculative financial universe (pun intended: think the South Sea Bubble here, only replace the Caribbean with outer space), the books might balance after all. One loan asteroid can balance out all those derivatives, and then some.
So I noticed, with some interest, not only the Goldman Sachs influx into the new Trump administration, but also noted he made space a priority in his inauguration address.
I don't know about you, but all these things make me go "Hmmmm..."
See you on the flip side...