Wednesday, 17 November 2010 14:16

If the World Knew What BoomBustBlogger's Know, Would Ireland Default Today?

Summary: This is an extensive post designed for those who want to truly comprehend what I perceive to be both the root causes and the practical solution to the Irish sovereign debt problems and the threat of Pan-European, or possibly global, financial and economic contagion. It contains a lot of applied concepts that veer outside of the realm of finance and economics and into human nature and psychology - alas, that is what I consider reality. For those that wish to skip to the pure financial aspects of why I believe Ireland is destined to default (and how they are hiding debt with the complicity of other parties), scroll down to "Real World Examples of the Social Science Concepts Above". To get the full gist of what is going on, continue reading below. I will continue this post within 24 to 48 hours with our calculation of Irish sovereign debt haircuts and some likely contagion effects.

Credibility! It is truly the only "stuff" that underpins the various global economies in this new age of fiat monetary regimes and secretive trading of 3rd order

The difference between the intrinsic and utilitarian value of the material that currency is constructed from (paper, pulp, sea shells, copper, silver, gold) and the value at which it trades is nought but the measure of credibility behind the government backing it! Reggie Middleton

The term fiat money is used to mean:

  • any money declared by a government to be legal tender.[1]
  • state-issued money which is neither legally convertible to any other thing, nor fixed in value in terms of any objective standard.[2]
  • money without intrinsic value.[3]

The term derives from the Latin fiat, meaning "let it be done", as the money is established by government decree. Where fiat money is used as currency, the term fiat currency is used. Today, most national currencies are fiat currencies, including the US dollar, the euro, and all other reserve currencies, and have been since the Nixon Shock of 1972.

...Fiat money is not essential for large countries, nor is it always used. An economy may function on banknotes issued by commercial banks, which are not legal tender, and hence not fiat money. Such was the case in the United States during periods prior to 1862, before the first United States Notes were created and declared by the government to be legal tender.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

derivatives with proprietary and oft arcane pricing mechanisms, suspended by nanosecond deals in markets that are the deepest and most of vast of their kind, yet still suffer from bouts of illiquidity. These bouts find

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="220" caption="Yuan dynasty banknotes were the earliest fiat money."]

their genesis not in a dearth of market participants, nor a lack of technology, depth or breadth - but do to a lack of CREDIBILITY! This is a concept that, unfortunately, still befuddles both sovereign governments and multi-national banks alike. This is a concept that is so basic as to be sacrosanct to my four year old daughter as she both impresses and cements the respect of her father with her abject honesty, yet apparently so complex that the most respected scholars, central bankers and CEO apparently fail to grasp. It is the concept that both drives and supports the economies of the superpower nations. It is what Ireland currently lacks!

Credibility, whose absence can easily cause nations' fiat-based

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="180" caption="Song Dynasty Jiaozi, the world's earliest paper money"]

economies to collapse. It is the absence of credibility that has cast doubt in and on both Ireland and Greece. It is much much less fungible and more ephemeral than many of today's leaders apparently were led to believe. It is a concept that cannot be traded, for it be present and stand on its own if it is to be! To be absolutely honest (and credible!), I believe that if the global financial media and the majority of the world's investors simply had access to what was behind the BoomBustBlog firewall, it (with it being credibility) would be what would flee most of Europe and a considerable amount of the US banks and REITs like a fly from a mutant frog factory. Alas, I digress.

Ireland's current problem is, in our opinion, that of credibility. Since it does not have a sovereign currency in which the markets can reflect their opinion on Ireland's credibility, they have turned to the next best thing, Irish sovereign debt! Ireland alleges that it has its banking problems under control. There is apparently some doubts in the market regarding the accuracy of that assertion thus the spiking in that country's cost of capital. The core issue at hand is whether Ireland is telling the truth, or whether they are attempting to paper over a problem that is currently out of their control. If Ireland truly does have the matter under control, then it is really an issue of communication and marketing. In what is probably the country with the most intense marketing engines known to man, the US, sales and marketing managers are taught that to convey a message to a mass audience, one has to satisfy several major tenants of persuasion. Two of those tenets are almost universally used, and they are the tenets of Social Proof and Authority:

Social proof

Using the opinions of others to reach a conclusion. To determine what is correct by finding out what other people think is correct. I actually use the concept of social proof to market my blog (or at least I intend on using it). I post the comments of casual, yet loyal readers, retail subscribers and institutional investors/subscribers. Here are examples of each...

Non-paying readers

Hey Reggie, Just thought I'd drop you a note and compliment you on your great blog and excellent views. Being a smalltime FX trader, I'm not a subscriber to your service, but the information you provide is very valuable and intensely appreciated.Thanks a million.

Grad student from an Ivy leagues school - Reggie, I have been following your posts for several months now and I want to let you know I think you are doing a great job. From your analysis, I have seen the truth behind all the BS that wall street feeds us (insert Mad $$, CNBC and the MSM here). I think everyone should read your posts and learn the REAL story!

Bank employee: Reggie, Huge fan of yours. Just wanted to drop by and say that I am so thankful that you are out there. You are shining the light on the people in the cave. Learned so much from your site. Funny story, I used to work at smells fargo, and they have your site blocked. I thought you might take a slight degree of satisfaction from knowing that. Keep shining the light. One love.

Retail Subscriber

I am more then happy to pay for your services. Are there any pair trades that you have been actively trading? I use to be a very successful pair trader. I could really use you help. I hear you are the man who has made some of my friends alot of money.

Institutional Subscriber

“His work is so detailed, so accurate, it’s among the best in the world,” says Eric Sprott, CEO of Sprott Asset Management, a Toronto firm that manages about $6 billion, is the largest independent Canadian asset management firm, and the proprietor of the innovative Gold and silver physical investment trusts. Mr. Sprott has subscribed to my research for several years now, and is well known in the investment world.

As you can see, through the use of social proof, one determine that BoomBustBlog a) has a decent following and b) is well respected by at least a small coterie of loyal followers. This tends to make the decision to read, subscribe to and/or pay for the blog easier since it can be justified by the actions of others. The US and China currently have a decent inventory of social proof which they are currently putting to use. This, despite what I believe to be egregious policy errors that are guaranteed to come back and bite the respective countries populace in the arse, is being put to use in an attempt glaze over the effects of the credit bubble, consequent burst, and the inevitable financial and economic contagions that follows. Ireland currently has no such cache. There was the attempt to manufacture such in the first quarter of this year, as "Many Institutions Believed Ireland To Be A Model of Austerity Implementation But the Facts Beg to Differ!".  It was this (thought by some to be draconian) implementation of austerity upon the populace that led to my construction of the proprietary BoomBustBlog Sovereign Debt Contagion model, and also what leads us to the next precept of marketing and persuasion below.

Contagion reading can be found here: Financial Contagion vs. Economic Contagion: Does the Market Underestimate the Effects of the Latter? Monday, March 8th, 2010 and Introducing The BoomBustBlog Sovereign Contagion Model: Thus far, it has been right on the money for 5 months straight! Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

You see, the implementation of austerity measures and drastic cuts to government budgets will do not to bring about better economies if the disease that cause the economic meltdown to begin with is not excised from the system. All financial institutions must have their assets accurately marked to market and those entities that are invariably insolvent must be dismantled and replaced with new, competitive ones.  China and the US have, at least until now, gotten away with playing hide the banking NPA sausage, and as a result have social proof of their actions being workable and as a result have been able to spare their banks' senior bondholders from taking losses and instead have stuck the taxpayers with said losses - a perversion of the hierarchy of risk that is embedded in the capital structure of said institutions. This capital structure perversion is best described by the new age adage, "Privatization of profits and socialization of losses". The global banking system has assumed tremendous economic losses that are being both hidden by accounting shenanigans and regulatory capture and assumed by sovereign states who in turn force the losses upon the taxpayer through austerity measures - all still while attempting not to officially recognize the losses. The reality of the matter is that this will not work long term, and the Japanese 20 year macro experiment in quantitative easing that resulted in a 2 decade slide in real asset prices and the elimination of practically all Japanese banks from global competition is apparently lost on many, if not all. In addition, the mass application of austerity amounts to a severe punishment of the taxpayer for the wrongs of the corporate class - all implemented by government officials. This is the lead in to the next the next tenet of marketing... Why anyone inflict such economic pain upon one's own citizens???


The precept of Authority dictates that humans will follow the instructions and lead of those they believe to be authority figures, even if it is in direct contradiction to their own ethics, precepts and beliefs. This does not justify the infliction of pain and discomfort upon others by what can be seen as a fairly large group of authority figures, but it damn sure goes a long way in explaining it. Thus, when a large body of government officials from several sovereign nations implement severe austerity measure on their constituencies, even to the extent that it drastically reduces the standard of living, but fail to address the favoritism given those entities that have created, marketed, traded and now house much of the depreciating toxic assets that caused the malaise, they are most likely succumbing to the "authority" effect. Let's delve deeper into this intriguing concept.

The experimenter (E) orders the teacher (T), the subject of the experiment, to give what the latter believes are painful electric shocks to a learner (L), who is actually an actor and confederate. The subject believes that for each wrong answer, the learner was receiving actual electric shocks, though in reality there were no such punishments. Being separated from the subject, the confederate set up a tape recorder integrated with the electro-shock generator, which played pre-recorded sounds for each shock level etc.[1]

The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures

Professor Milgram's experiment on obedience to authority figures (sourced from Wikipedia) was a series of social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram, which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience.

The subject was given the title teacher, and the confederate, learner. The participants drew slips of paper to 'determine' their roles. Unknown to them, both slips said "teacher", and the actor claimed to have the slip that read "learner", thus guaranteeing that the participant would always be the "teacher". At this point, the "teacher" and "learner" were separated into different rooms where they could communicate but not see each other. In one version of the experiment, the confederate was sure to mention to the participant that he had a heart condition.[1]

The "teacher" was given an electric shock from the electro-shock generator as a sample of the shock that the "learner" would supposedly receive during the experiment. The "teacher" was then given a list of word pairs which he was to teach the learner. The teacher began by reading the list of word pairs to the learner. The teacher would then read the first word of each pair and read four possible answers. The learner would press a button to indicate his response. If the answer was incorrect, the teacher would administer a shock to the learner, with the voltage increasing in 15-volt increments for each wrong answer. If correct, the teacher would read the next word pair.[1]

The subjects believed that for each wrong answer, the learner was receiving actual shocks. In reality, there were no shocks. After the confederate was separated from the subject, the confederate set up a tape recorder integrated with the electro-shock generator, which played pre-recorded sounds for each shock level. After a number of voltage level increases, the actor started to bang on the wall that separated him from the subject. After several times banging on the wall and complaining about his heart condition, all responses by the learner would cease.[1]

At this point, many people indicated their desire to stop the experiment and check on the learner. Some test subjects paused at 135 volts and began to question the purpose of the experiment. Most continued after being assured that they would not be held responsible. A few subjects began to laugh nervously or exhibit other signs of extreme stress once they heard the screams of pain coming from the learner.[1]

If at any time the subject indicated his desire to halt the experiment, he was given a succession of verbal prods by the experimenter, in this order:[1]

  1. Please continue.
  2. The experiment requires that you continue.
  3. It is absolutely essential that you continue.
  4. You have no other choice, you must go on.

If the subject still wished to stop after all four successive verbal prods, the experiment was halted. Otherwise, it was halted after the subject had given the maximum 450-volt shock three times in succession.[1]


Before conducting the experiment, Milgram polled fourteen Yale University senior-year psychology majors as to what they thought would be the results. All of the poll respondents believed that only a few (average 3 out of 100) would be prepared to inflict the maximum voltage. Milgram also informally polled his colleagues and found that they, too, believed very few subjects would progress beyond a very strong shock.[1]

In Milgram's first set of experiments, 65 percent (26 of 40)[1] of experiment participants administered the experiment's final massive 450-volt shock, though many were very uncomfortable doing so; at some point, every participant paused and questioned the experiment, some said they would refund the money they were paid for participating in the experiment. Only one participant steadfastly refused to administer shocks below the 300-volt level.[1]

Milgram summarized the experiment in his 1974 article, "The Perils of Obedience", writing:

The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous importance, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' [participants'] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' [participants'] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.

Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.[3]

The original Simulated Shock Generator and Event Recorder, or shock box, is located in the Archives of the History of American Psychology.

Real World Examples of the Social Science Concepts Above

The similarities between "Teachers" referenced above and the leaders of the sovereign nations in Europe, as well as the implications of considering the "authority figures" referenced above as being the defacto heads of mulit-national agencies such as the ECB and IMF are literally inescapable to anyone who approaches this with a clear, autonomous and objective mind. In other words, anyone not bound by the straps of "authority"!

This is page 2 of our Subscription only Ireland Public Finances Projections Document, available to all paying subscribers - File Icon Ireland public finances projections. If one were to exercise one's imagination, one could cast the EIU and the IMF as authority figures, and the Irish government as the "teacher". As you can see, Ireland's (the teacher's) view of their prospects are much, much rosier than both the EIU and the IMF's. So rosy as to be probably unbelievable in many a context, including the current one.

What makes this so bad is that the authority figure's, the EIU and the IMF's forecasts throughout this crisis have been so optimistic as to have been downright laughable. I am offering this single page sbove to those who do not subscribe to our services to fully drive the point home that was so graphically illustrated in "Lies, Damn Lies, and Sovereign Truths: Why the Euro is Destined to Collapse!" (which is a definite "must read" in and of itself). Of course, our internal team of analysts have come up with numbers nowhere as rosy as the EIU, the IMF, nor Ireland's. Go figure. Oh year, while you are figuring, you should wonder who has been the most accurate over the last three years - the IMF, EIU, banking analysts or BoomBustBlog. Here's a cheat sheet. As a hint to exactly why we would be more bearish than the EIU and the IMF (despite the fact they have been consistently wrong to the optimistic side since the beginning of the crisis) is a careful forensic glance at how they (the authority figures), and Ireland (the teacher), calculate Ireland's debt. It is the farce as follows...

The Farce!

The government has set up an asset management agency – NAMA, which will buy toxic assets from banks at a discount and will in turn issue government-guaranteed securities. NAMA was expected to buy about $81 billion of toxic assets at a price of $43 billion and issue government-guaranteed securities in return. Since these securities have collateral backing and are likely to be repaid through pay back of underlying loans, these securities are considered off-balance-sheet and are not part of general government debt by Eurostat. According to Davy research, while the projected gross government debt excluding the impact of promissory notes and NAMA bonds is 84.8% in 2012, including the impact of promissory notes and NAMA bonds (in other words, including the truth), the gross government debt can rise to 117.4% of GDP. This either competes with or bests Greece, 2010's poster child of flagrant spending.

This means that the teacher has created a very harsh austerity plan for its "learner"/student/tax paying populace that has materially lowered the standard of living - all based upon numbers that were bogus to begin with. In other words, it ain't gonna work!

The original austerity plan was based upon pie in the sky numbers planted in pure optimism, and those numbers themselves were based upon an incomplete picture of the countries true debt. This has now come to light as the country faces the prospect of having to again turn to outside entities to assist in the bailing out of their banks. This also wraps up all of the concepts described above in one fell swoop: credibility - none, social proof - lacking, authority - acting in lock step to the ECB/IMF.

It is not as if BoomBustBlog subscribers didn’t see this coming a mile and a year away – Many Institutions Believe Ireland To Be A Model of Austerity Implementation But the Facts Beg to Differ! We, at BoomBustBlog, have delved into this concept in exquisite detail in our Pan European Sovereign Debt Crisis series, particularly as it concerned nations such as Ireland.

I will continue this Irish "mini-series" with a forensic look at the likely haircuts to be taken by holders of Irish debt, a snippet of our Irish public finances model, and then follow it up with a post on the likely contagion and knock-on effects as we have calculated them.

In the meantime, I suggest that paying Subscribers review our Irish analysis and related contagion material: 

There is plenty (and I do mean plenty) of material for those who don’t subscribe to see how the current Irish situation was essentially manifest destiny (Euro-toxic asset edition), as excerpted from Many Institutions Believe Ireland To Be A Model of Austerity Implementation But the Facts Beg to Differ! Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

We have performed a cursory overview of the risks inherent in Ireland though previous “preview” posts: Ovebanked, Underfunded, and Overly Optimistic: The New Face of Sovereign Europe and Reggie Middleton on the Irish Macro Outlook. For the most part, Ireland has considerable embedded risk through both foreign claims on troubled countries (ex. PIIGS) and significant bank NPAs as a percent of its GDP.



In addition, Ireland (like practically every other country in the EU, see Lies, Damn Lies, and Sovereign Truths: Why the Euro is Destined to Collapse!) unrealistically optimistic in their GDP growth projections.

Additional and ample publicly disseminated opinion and research that illustrated the true conditions and prospects of Ireland:

  1. Many Are Still Underestimating the Damage That Can Be Done By Ireland’s Bank Troubles Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
  2. I Suggest Those That Dislike Hearing “I Told You So” Divest from Western and Southern European Debt, It’ll Get Worse Before It Get’s Better! Friday, August 27th, 2010
  3. Here’s More Proof of the Sheer Lunacy of the European Bank Stress Tests: Passed Banks are Already Trying to Collect on Defaulted Claims of European Nations Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
  4. Death by a Thousand Irish Cuts: The Poster Child of Austerity Measure Success Gets Downgraded After Several Devastating Expenditure Reductions That Really, Really Hurt the Irish People! Monday, July 19th, 2010
  5. BoomBustBlog Irish Research Becomes Reality Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
  6. Introducing The BoomBustBlog Sovereign Contagion Model: Thus far, it has been right on the money for 5 months straight! Tuesday, May 4th, 2010
  7. Beware of the Potential Irish Ponzi Scheme! Thursday, April 29th, 2010
  8. Many Institutions Believe Ireland To Be A Model of Austerity Implementation But the Facts Beg to Differ! Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
  9. Ovebanked, Underfunded, and Overly Optimistic: The New Face of Sovereign Europe Tuesday, March 30th, 2010
  10. Lies, Damn Lies, and Sovereign Truths: Why the Euro is Destined to Collapse! Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010
  11. Financial Contagion vs. Economic Contagion: Does the Market Underestimate the Effects of the Latter? Monday, March 8th, 2010
  12. The Coming Pan-European Soverign Debt Crisis, Pt 4: The Spread to Western European Countries Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
  13. What Country is Next in the Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis? Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
  14. The Coming Pan-European Soverign Debt Crisis Sunday, February 7th, 2010
  15. Lies, Damn Lies, and Sovereign Truths: Why the Euro is Destined to Collapse!

For those of you who don't know, this is the answer to the question "Who is Reggie Middleton???!!!"

Last modified on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 14:51