The numbers are ugly. Something like 1 in 5 Canadians out of work. Mortgages deferred, rent unpaid, bills falling in arrears without a regular pay cheque. The 2K a month CRED money is lovely but it does not actually cover most middle class people’s mortgages, car leases, minimum credit card payments, hydro, taxes, more taxes, and, well, food.
So, economically, I think it is fair to say that we are already in a depression. GDP growth will crater, unemployment will balloon. Cash will evaporate.
But it may be worse than that. The reality is that most Western countries have said, “The Hell with the deficit and national debt, we need to helicopter money in, stat.” The problem with this idea is that to do it you need to print money. Lots of it. Billions for Canada, trillions for the US. Which, if you have your own central bank is easy to do and, initially, costless. After all, what is money? It is a book entry and if you double the total what could go wrong?
If you flood enough money into an economy that economy will look robust. It will look normal even with a fifth or a third of its citizens not actually working but still being paid.
Here is picture of a meth addict:
A country which decides to simply make all the money it needs right now is jumping on the meth train. There is a temporary high where all looks grand and then a terminal decline.
The COVID-19 crisis – if it is a crisis – has given our federal government the social licence to start shooting economic meth. The fact is that the economic meth won’t work. Real estate is going to crash. Asset prices generally will crash. The end of demand is, well, the end of demand. Without demand prices drop and, hey, pretty soon, you have a recession and, perhaps, a depression.
Depressions can be survived. They are nasty and stimulating the demand which takes you out of one is tough.
But now imagine a depression proceeded by a huge currency inflation. Where a government, in a panic, floods the market with paper currency unbacked by any actual GDP. In a matter of a year, the savings of a nation as well as the assets of a nation, can be rendered worthless in paper money.
Here’s a gent buying eggs in the Weimar Republic:
A grand inflation in front of a depression is pretty much the end of an economy. If the government prints money in serious quantities and issues debt in more or less unlimited quantities the game is over. The gold bugs will have won.
A rather smart investor named Rick Rule once said, “We don’t want to live in a world with $10,000 an ounce gold.”
Right now there is a greater than zero chance that this will be exactly the world we live in.