Economic thriller, what an oxymoron, but in the Phoenix Year, the first of two more volumes, we deal with the past few years and how these difficult times have shaped our political and economic confidence in the future of capitalism itself.
First written more than forty years ago, during a period of instablity brought on by the first OPEC oil crisis and the impact on global finance, the latest version of the tale takes place in today's world, post 2008, with the main events all happening between June, 2016 and January, 2017. Published finally in 2014, the book details how a group of extremely wealthy mean decide to destroy capitalism as we know it and replace it with something new, different, and strangely compelling -- capitalism that works for all stakeholders -- shareholders, workers, and communities.
With characters as real as today's headlines including a brash, New York real estate developer with a history of plastering his name on all his iconic properties to a ex-college Professor turned Economic adviser to the President and a beautiful, conflicted, Russian ex-investment banker, the story careens from Thailand to the top of the Bluemisalpenhorn Rothorn in Switzerland at the heart of the conspiracy to wipe out trillions of dollars of financial equity in a single week long selling frenzy on global capital markets the last week in October, 2016.
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Charlie Chan ate dinner every night at the same table, in the same Bangkok nightclub. He had missed only a few nights in the last fifteen years. Each evening, from between 8 and 10, he held court. The cost of this arrangement, including the meal, was far less than an office in a new, downtown, high-rise office tower.
“You’re looking worried, my dear.” He studied Kim across the table. A waiter, in white livery, delivered a steaming plate of oc hap thuoc bac; snails, in a rich chili sauce,; a specialty of Vietnam. It was made especially for Chan each night. He picked up a snail with chopsticks and offered it to her. She refused.
“There are many evil people in the world, Chan.” Kim noted his two bodyguards, who flanked him at side tables. “Of course, some of us are better prepared than others.”
“Too bad about young Johnson.”
She realized that Chan knew far more about this affair than he was telling.
“I want revenge, Chan.”
He’d known her for more than twenty years, from when Kim was a just child. “Why would a beautiful woman like you,” he smiled, and wiped his mouth, which seemed to be set in a bowl of fleshy jelly that was his round face, “wish to get into things from which there is only one way out?” He stopped, leaving the obvious unsaid.
“Go on,” she was surprised he was talking freely without money being passed.
“I have heard…” he paused, while staring at her, “that you are now getting too close to matters best left alone.” Chan continued to carefully pick out the choice parts of his food with his chop stickchopsticks without looking up. “There are very important people, —Ggovernment officials, private individuals with influence—," he paused and smiled, "whowho are becoming very rich from these girls.” He smiled.
For Michael, returning to Washington after a week with Natalya meant facing up to the fact that he still had no silver bullet,; no single solution to offer the President that could restart the global engine. Each new idea or policy that seemed to offer hope fizzled after a few years. First, there was the 2000–2001 Internet start-up boom,. tThen, the ability to bridge distance with rapid communications, and cheaper and more frequent liner and air-freight services, mainly between Asia and North America and Europe, made longer supply chains and complex multi-national business arrangements feasible,. tThen, there was China’s surge, with its positive impact on the other emerging markets but damaging effects on rich, industrialized countries in North America and Europe. The fracking boom, which had unlocked new, abundant American gas and oil supplies, had led to a weakening of crude oil prices. Of course, Ross thought, there was the continuing move to shift production from high-wage to low-wage countries, with little in terms of countertrend of previously outsourced production returning to America, to take advantage of the new, lower energy costs.
But none of these trends had been strong enough to keep the global economy humming. What was needed was a new model;, something that united the world’s economic engines in a common purpose: growth. The competitive model and the emphasis on short-term profits over long-term growth encouraged super-lean enterprises, and the outsourcing of jobs to less costly parts of the world. Further, the outsourcing of jobs had failed to materially add materially to the prosperity of these countries, as the governments were forced to suppress the wages of local workers, under the threat of the new jobs being moved on to even lower cost markets.
By Saturday, after the Masters bankruptcy papers had been filed late on Friday, there were fears that property values on commercial real estate would collapse. The banks would be screwed as collapsing real-estate prices would put their commercial loans underwater. Aand with the cancellation of the developing much of the public and some private world debt in a collection of Southern and Eastern European countries as well as a collection of African and Asian countries, there was no hope for the economy, without a miracle. Another 2007–8 type bailout was impossible given the fiscally conservative Congress. Then, in Germany, Brantheim’s speech had set off alarm bells, particularly throughout Europe. No one was quite sure what he had meant by the phrase term “Greater Germany,” but it was eerily similar to the one that Hitler had used in 1933, before seizing the government and disbanding the parliament. The President doubted that Brantheim was a Nazi or another Hitler, but he had not voiced much confidence in the euro, or in remaining in the European Union. With German support for the euro in doubt, there would be panic on European markets when they opened later that evening. Oil prices had jumped, as one of the less secure Arab states teetered on the brink of a second Islamic revolution. And then there was the sudden rise of Sultan Abbas, the Egyptian lay Iman with a wide radio, tv, and cable following, calling for a Pan-Islamic state without defining exactly what that . The final straw was the walkout in Asian and US West coast ports, thatwhich had now physically stopped global trade physically in its tracks.
“This is the one-way elevator to the basement, Mr. President,” the CEA Chairman answered, with the dramatic flair of the one-time thespian he had been at Yale. “I’ve gotten five calls today from the CEOs of the largest banks, asking if we were prepared to bail them out. I don’t think we can avoid another credit crunch.”
“Brad and I are in agreement, Mr. President,” Schurz said, his voice honey smooth as he tried to dissuade the President from action. A graduate of the Chicago School of Eeconomics who, along with the new Chinese Central Bank Chairman and the new Minister of Finance in Japan, Schurz he saw inflation and the devaluation of currency as worse than the lack of economic growth and joblessness. He had not supported Bernanke’s quantitative easing, and had voiced concerns about the Fed’s nearly three-trillion-dollar balance sheet. “It’d be a waste to pump too much money into the economy, until we see what falls out from these disturbances. It i’s too early to tell if this won’t correct itself once the dust clears, and markets have a chance to reflect.”
“And why the hell not pumps in some liquidity, if only to show our support for the US economy? If what Brad says is right, then we’ll need it to keep the economy running,” Tthe President asked, looking squarely at the Fed Vice Chairman.
“Because it would send a signal to the financial markets that we are giving in to short-term pessimism. It’d be counterproductive,” Schurz answered, looking directly at the President. “And it’d be too much money chasing too few goods.”
The President shook his head in wonder at this economic gibberish. The last time he’d checked, US manufacturing capacity utilization was just 70%. And then there were the shuttered factories in China, India, and elsewhere in Asia, that were happy to ramp up again if this were true. There was a hell of a lot of room for growth without inflation. And tThere were millions of unemployed, poorly educated workers that could be employed if the private sector got off its ass and trained them, rather than complained and blamed Ggovernment.