How can companies remain competitive, cut costs and maximise gains without stifling consumerism, which in turn has an adverse impact on their profits? Perhaps this is the greatest paradox of our time; that profit maximisation often leads to lacklustre consumption and dismal profits.
So in an endeavour to keep the capitalist wheels spinning the corporates went on a global rampage in search of low cost (cheap labour) and new markets for their goods and services. They had no choice, it was either relocate production to low labour cost regions or go bankrupt, in other words, globalise or perish.
For three decades globalisation led to a boom in the labour force participation rates of emerging economies. But the low wages of worker's in emerging economies meant that the workforce was not paid enough to consume what they made. Put another way, these economies had to export the products made by their low-wage workforce.
Meanwhile, demand for labour was falling in developed economies. Moreover, a tepid labour market also meant no real wage increase for workers in nearly a decade. In fact, probably most workers are paid less now (certainly in real wages) than a decade ago.
The conundrum was how to keep consumption (golden goose) alive. Those at the very peak of the food chain (the monetary aristocrats who own the debt monetary system) had what they believed to be the solution. Low-wage workers in developing and developed economies would be furnished with loans to finance consumption. So we had a boom in global debt with households, businesses and governments all borrowing to the maximum. This is how we got to a global debt reaching an all time high of 152 trillion dollars.
National Debt Clocks has Real Time Debt Clocks from around the world calculated from the latest official data available
But it is also true to say that for a period the debt monetary system did have a trickle down wealth effect. Those who took out a mortgage thirty years ago for a property as soon as they started their first job have accumulated wealth (due to real estate inflation). Reverse mortgages (unlocking equity) in a property which has doubled, tripled in price also helped to keep the consumption wheel spinning.
Nevertheless, there is ample evidence to suggest that consumerism today is in big trouble.
Indeed, the “retail apocalypse” currently playing out has less to do with consumers switching to online retailers and more to do with household consumption being in a long-term quagmire. That is a worrying trend for a system that needs consumption.
“This earnings season has been a disaster for retail...”
“The list of failures is getting longer by the day. Macy’s? Cooked – down 42% over the past six months. Nordstrom? Down 20% over the same timeframe. Dick’s Sporting Goods? Awful earnings sent this athletic retailer lower more than 10% yesterday alone. There’s absolutely no way to sugarcoat it—the retail sector is crashing.”
The auto recession is another red flag indicating that households are strapped for cash. Ford's recent "CFO let's chat" meeting with analysts was about lowering investor's expectation bar. Ford recently announced weak 1Q adj. EPS guidance of 30c-35c (which was well below analyst estimates of 47c). Ford is blaming higher costs, adverse exchange rates and lower volume (a common theme). Moreover, Ford forecast is not so upbeat. Volumes will start to fall off this year, next year. Used car prices will drop for several years. European profit will fall this year China sales down sharply too in 1Q and India is more difficult than expected.
Ford is not seeing any major obstacle ahead which suggest that the economy will “tip over”. Nevertheless, overall industry inventory was up 13 days in February vs. last year.
So if consumerism is in a twilight stage, partly due to globalisation what will come next?
The resurgence of popularism against globalisation is unlikely to change the globalist course. The shadow government who truly rule behind the curtains have too much to gain and a lot to lose by disrupting the status quo.
As more water passes under the bridge people will soon realise that the great knight on a white horse, Trump was dead on arrival. Politics is not much more than theatrics. The UK will eventually reverse Brexit. A new puppet will arrive on the stage, win the next UK election. The future UK PM will most probably scrap Brexit.
The firebrand of bottle peroxided blond politicians will soon become passe as more globalist puppets emerge and win.
The chosen few who rig the system don't play to lose. Globalisation is likely to continue until there is a global poor workforce enslaved by debt. Workers in developed economies will continue to feel a decline in their living standards.
I see a type of global neofeudalism emerging with the monetary aristocrats at the peak of the food chain and everyone else as debt serfs.
Perhaps consumerism will evolve into something else.
The sharing economy?
But that has more of a Socialist twang to it.