First, the news: Ticket sales and discussions with sponsors are insufficient to continue with with Transition Economics 2014. All registration is hereby closed, and I am contacting the existing ticket holders personally to offer a full refund.
Second, some analysis: In my initial research into the market demand and urgency around such an event, I misinterpreted both, particularly and ironically here in St. Louis. While I continue to believe that structural factors will push talent and capital here in the near- to mid-future, largely because of the economic contradictions found in major neoliberal cities, that does not, unfortunately, assure the viability of an intellectual event such as the one I have proposed.
Finally, a word on urgency: In Washington, DC I was the managing director of a consultancy called Competitive Futures. The firm provided trend analysis, forecasting and scenario planning services for C-level executives at Global 1000 corporations and government agencies around the globe. Our work in the 2000s had us examine the implications of climate change, surveillance technologies, talent management and more, but the one issue that loomed menacingly on the horizon was the extraordinary contradictions in the financial sector due to unprecedented mutations of the housing market. Over time, those contradictions gave way to clear evidence of widespread fraud and an impending collapse. While we worked for consumer products companies, defense contractors, heavy industry and government ministries, we took every opportunity to shift the conversation to a financial crash we saw as inevitable in the latter half of 2008. Once we discovered how many financial products had been sold around underlying assets that were grossly overvalued, it seemed all but decided that the swing in the interest of adjustable rate mortgages in late 2007 would soon give way to a breakdown in the US banking industry. Our prediction was to see one bank fail in early 2008, and a historic collapse in late 2008.
As director of the firm, I took my own advice seriously and despite rapid successful growth of my own business in recent years, I forced my employees to update their CVs and prepare to find new jobs. I could survive hard times; they couldn’t. All three of my analysts went on to find profitable work before the worst set in. It is the single greatest triumph of my career, because those people were and remain extremely important to me.
In early 2008, Bear Stearns experienced a disorderly bankruptcy. By September and October of 2008, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection and nearly every systemically-important bank threw itself at the feet of national regulators to receive extraordinary assistance to avoid collapse.
What would collapse have looked like? In October 2008 I was forwarded a PowerPoint slide deck that was used by bankers in New York to brief Congress about why a bailout was necessary. Legislators were being told that if they did not pass laws to fully guarantee American banking in a matter of days, the world currency system would be permanently destroyed. Soon after, they predicted, America and the industrialized world would descend into anarchy. Military rule would replace democracy for the foreseeable future. One estimate forecast deaths from starvation and rioting in the United States to be possibly one million people within two years.
Congress passed the bailout. Immediately after, those same bankers informed Congress that they would be paying bonuses that same year. After all, there were rules, you know.
Perhaps this will give you an idea why these concepts are not “angels on the head of a pin.” They are urgent, not abstract. Yet I have not succeeded in persuading people of this fact in the past decade of attempts. There is an irresistible attraction to normalcy bias, and my own faculties are limited. I only wish I could have shared this urgency in a more effective way around Transition Economics. I continue to believe that we should move toward opportunity maximization versus risk avoidance.
For now, I shall yield.
I thank you most sincerely for your interest, and wish you all the best for a bright future. But mostly, I hope you will take action to help assure one.