Current 04/2009

Information and health II

No general practitioner can follow any longer even a fraction of all these developments. As in the case of the rest of scientific practise, hundreds of thousands of small groups with very specific knowledge about detailed subjects determine a whole field. Each small group is trying to draw publicity - and funding - by making often overstated claims about the results of their work. Health professionals already use their own abacadabra, but this is now mixed with a lot of statistics, creating an almost indigestible meal of information. (And sure you are familiar with the mockery way statistics are sometimes described: you have lies, clever lies and statistics).

 

Information And Health II

 

Also the amount of information found on the internet to be used by laymen and patients is enormous. The possibility to find information about one's own specific condition has become very large. Doctors are now used to deal with patients that bring with them big stacks of printouts to their meetings (while on the other extreme, other patients may have problems expressing themselves in the local language). The communicational skills of a doctor working today must be large. Well, it used to be exceedingly poor. Any diagnostic or therapeutic explanation given to patients used to be considered as bad for you. Traditional medical education thought very little about the need to develop communication skills and the result of that showed. The medical profession was organised in such a way that it created highly competitive, very hard working, very individualistic individuals with a large trust in their own capacities. Not great communicators or even collaborators outside of their own small team. The situation has changed a little bit. Specially since more women entered the highest levels of their ranks and medical schools have adopted 'bed-side manners' courses in their curriculums.

The way the medical profession dealt with information technology is specifically telling. They had to be on average almost forced at gunpoint to use information technology that changed almost every other workplace dramatically. Numerous costly initiatives to create medical data banks have stayed unused because the medical profession refused to use them. (While 'personalised' medicine seems to be the future).To this day some medical specialists use administration methods deriving directly from Charles Dickens' days. It seems to be very difficult to let medical professionals work together and exchange information in a contemporary way, while the advantages for the patients and for the overal quality of care are quite obvious. On the other hand, people can do a lot themselves. I made a medical dossier for my mom by putting the essential drug information she takes daily on a blog bearing her name, for free, and easy to consult by anyone having an internet connection.

Has all this information provided us with a better grip on our own health. Well, not really. I'm sorry to say this but the opposite is more likely to be true. It seems that contacts between patient groups who have underwent (or are about to undergo) similar therapies are the most sensible form of information exchange. Maybe some information about healthy diets have had a sensible effect but obviously very little. All the rest tend to result in unnecessary medical interventions. And these interventions happen on a massive and growing scale. The seemingly sensible strategy that disseminating diagnostic information to everyone may result in early detection of a disease (specially of the killer number one of today: cancer) resulting in a much higher chance of survival is not true. Effectively, our well funded decades long 'war' on cancer hasn't produced much results (we even still do not understand the evident relations to different life styles) and the quantities of over-treatment of breast and prostate cancer is likely to be shockingly phenomenal and has caused much harm. For this reason a lot of self-diagnose information in the Low Lands is no longer available. By the way, medical dealing with cardiovascular diseases has been much more effective thanks to a few essential drugs and some highly sophisticated plumbing methods to repair or improve our blood tube network.

Consultations with your medical specialist to decide on a possible therapy is starting to be more and more like making investment decisions with your private banker. There are bizarre aspects to this kind of conversations with a lot of statistical information involved. (You would be utterly surprised to be invited to such a conversation by the owner of your car repair shop). Using statistical data in a sensible way is extremely tricky, only a few statisticians are capable of doing this. Doctors, private bankers are certainly not among them, they are only interested in your investment, and making the final decision is your responsibility and not theirs. We are simply very bad at dealing with statistics. We are afraid of flying but are 9 times more likely to die when traveling by car. It's a wonder that there are still motorbikes around, because traveling with these machines enhances our chance to die on the road by a factor of 25. We would never accept these differences when selecting medical therapies or investment strategies. Yet, in effect we may take much higher risks in these fields.

The way we deal with the health information may need some serious reconsideration. The way the health/wellcare industry presents and sells itself is at times preposterous. We are given an impression of the capabilities of this industry that has very little to do with reality. Yet on an individual level, achievements can be almost magical. Life and death - and the quality of life - can occasionally be in the hands of medical specialists. But against these breathtaking miracles there is an ocean of totally senseless and harmfull medical intervention, with only one beneficiary: the therapist or the pharmaceutical company. Never forget that some of the blockbuster drugs do not have any significant advantage over placebos.

We live, we get old, are sometimes sick and we die.

The health industry can at times be a of great comfort during these life events, on rare occasions even reaching to almost divine level but on average we must accept that a medicalisation of society is doing precisely the opposite what it claims to do.

 

Information and health I

This is done because assumptions have a tremendous effect on the human mind and the mind regulates a lot concerning our health (and other things as well). If we take some kind of medicine or receive some kind of treatment that we believe may help us, it generally does because of the therapeutic effect of this believe alone. This is called the 'placebo-effect', and is one of the most effective therapies in the huge medical industry throughout its history.

 

Information And Health I

 

Make believe and trust have a phenomenal healing power. That is why a curious survey in the US found that a majority of the Americans trusted their doctor more than anybody else in their lives, even more than their offspring or spouses. When I was young the general attitude of physicians was also entirely based on trust, they preferably didn't tell you much about their considerations of your condition - not to make you to worry too much - and they tried to radiate a calm authoritarian insight and wisdom on the level of the Lord Almighty to push the placebo effect to its maximum levels. It would be downright stupid not to use this phenomena in a profession packed with uncertainties. All doctors (or medicine men) always did. Medicine (and all information related to it) has changed dramatically in the past 25 years. Its original goal was to prevent or heal sicknesses or physical handicaps, but now the spectrum is much, much wider. Medicine has become part of a gigantic 'Wellness industry'. An industry that not only takes care of us when sick or in disarray of some sort but attempts on top of that to keep us as healthy, fit, and young looking as possible. Humans prefer to stay young, strong and fit forever (and would love to do as little as possible to make this happen). Billions and billions of research money is spent to try to make this dream come true. The wellness-virus has become endemic. Almost any company doing business in whatever field attempts today to link a wellness aspect to their products, for one simple reason: it can be sold at a premium price. Health related issues have become probably the most important engine of economic growth for most economies. Does all this activity and research have a positive effect on our health and longevity ? No, hardly. Why ? First of all, we have created an environment for ourselves that is pretty unhealthy. True, the quality of the air in London is now better than is was in centuries, but the Americans have - finally - conceded that an increasing global CO2 pollution in the atmosphere is a health hazard. So moving out of cities doesn't help anymore. The poison is everywhere. Our lifestyle and the food we eat are on average not good for our health. (Food can have the same effects on us as drugs have). Some countries perform much better than others but our health condition hasn't improved with the boon of having a much higher level of wealth. Second, the health/wellcare industry is a bit peculiar. With all its billions funded scientific research, it is still in general more an art than a science. We are still slow to understand how the massive complexity of life hangs together. A popular new branch or scientific movement in medicine (there are very very many different ones) is called 'evidence based medicine'. It sounds like a joke, but it isn't. Imagine 'evidence based physics' as a separate scientific approach - with little growth potential. It indicates the state of affairs in medicine where most therapies are used without a clear understanding how they actually work and little statistical data if they actually do work. On an individual level current medical know-how can be extremely impressive. (My brother for instance had a kidney transplant many years ago that allowed him to live a completely normal and happy life). But statistics show that the ballooning expenditure on health has little to impress. The 'inventions' of the bar of soap, a sewer system and later the antibiotics have had a far more dramatic impact on the health level of human society that anything since. 70 % of a fast increasing healthcare budget is spent on medical interventions during the first year and the last two years of our lives, with the biggest amount spent in the latter. That seems like a gigantic waste of money and it probably is. Evidence is growing that many medical interventions are unnecessary and probably harmful. But more importantly, the reality of the medical practise is not how it is perceived by the population. Most people truly believe that medicine makes a us in general always much healthier. That serious misconception is primarily the creation and responsibility of the health industry itself. It would be unwise to think that people earning their living in healthcare are on average a special species with higher morals; different from for instance investment bankers, financial advisers or second-hand cars sales people. They are not, not even because some have signed the oath of Hippocrates. That does not make a significant difference. No evidence supports any valid reason for the high trust people put into their doctors. That trust seems more likely to be rooted in a psychological necessity. (You can't sit in a plane without anxiety if you don't trust the pilot). By contrast, most sophisticated societies have made extensive regulation to keep the health industry in check, knowing that without it the results would be devastating. Business temptations in relation to our health are extremely high, because all of us value our health precariously - especially when sick - and make believe can work wonders to change our health condition. It is an extremely fertile soil for hoax (like the proverbial snake-oil). The way we consume healthcare is on average already exuberant but the future might even be more bizarre. Healthcare was used to make us better when we deviated from our 'normal' status, more and more medicine will be used to make us literally better (in the sense of improving) than the way we are by birth. Drugs and therapies will be used more and more as 'enhancers' of a natural condition. Some day, our genes may be seriously modified in a way we wish for ourselves. Human life will become totally a medically controlled condition.

 

Ken Carbone’s Design Blogs

They were a colorful lot, filled with sketches and images, book reviews and nature finds, riffs on news stories and collages of words and pictures. Carbone started the practice after a curator at the Louvre, where his firm was creating the wayfinding system, showed him one of Gauguin's own notebooks.

He's continued keeping a journal for some 15 years, not just as a diarist might--as a way of recording thoughts, feelings, and impressions--but as a wellspring of inspiration for his design practice. The side benefit, he says, is that the habit has now trained him to pay closer attention to his environment--to slow down enough to really see what's around him.

I was so intrigued by this practice, and so convinced that anybody in a creative line of work would find it useful, that I asked Ken to give a master class on journaling to the Fast Company editorial staff. A short version of his talk, which he has also given several times as a keynote address called Curiously Curious: Celebrating Analog in a Digital World, appended below, serves as Ken's introduction as this week's guest design blogger.

In Ken's blog, which he's calling "Yes to Less," Ken will critique some well known designs against his own standard. For Carbone, a design's success should be measured not only by its beauty, but by its ingenuity, and by how well it functions. Be sure to check out his postings to see which designs he finds "Flawless" (five stars), and which are deemed "Clueless" (one star.) Join the fun by nominating your own choices along the spectrum from brilliant to bogus. In our estimation, Carbone is strictly five stars.

Speedy Careers

In the technical field new knowledge develops at such a speed that the first year of a four year technical course has already become useless at graduation. Also new professions develop with an accelerating rapidity, educators can no longer be certain for what profession exactly are they educating their students. A steady profession lasting a lifte time is also no longer a realistic option. For that matter, very little remains with us for as long as we live except ourselves, but medical research is working hard on that issue as well.

 

Polarbears

 

In art and design things are a bit more steady, but our professions cannot escape a forced participation in the accelerating Waltz of our times. A recent study found that careers in art are shorter than before, but the period of success is more intense. Today, fame can easily become world fame. Andy Warhold already predicted in the sixties that everybody would be world famous for only 15 minutes. He understood in which direction we were heading. Obviously, it all fits nicely and logically together. The daily bombardment of new things has reduced the human attention span to the level of a butterfly and leaves us in a constant need for new thrills. Nobody escapes addiction. A manager's career is now reduced to a period in which the seat doesn't really get warm anymore. And with a new manager the whole entourage is replaced. Some cultures are already more accustomed to fast rotation speeds than others.

When I look back at my own career it already had the signs of changing times, but also there were considerable differences with the situation of today. Leaving art school at 21 my teachers told me it would at least take me ten years to 'get a foot on the ground'. No teacher would (dare) to say this anymore. Your study loan has to be repaid in half that period. In my case the beginning of my career was exceptionally tough - although I was a very good student. After two years of not finding anybody willing to employ me I was given the advise to change profession. (Designers jobs were never advertised during these days). The first 12 years of my design career was a hotchpotch of very shorts stints in employment but I mostly worked on a large variety of small commissions of all sorts. It was not really serious work, but it was fun and one could live on ten dollars a day back then. My real career in graphic design lasted 18 years. It began after I started a design partnership with three colleagues than grew in a short period of time to what was nicknamed by our colleagues as 'the Ministry of Design in the Low Lands'. I left the partnership at the stage where we employed 70 designers or so and worked out of a beautiful old school building on one of the canals in Amsterdam. We had made it, sort of big time. The reason for my early departure was that I had an acute attack of a mid-life crisis and I always believed that careers in graphic design should not surpass the age of 50 to avoid embarrassment of everyone involved.

I moved to the countryside in the south of France working mostly as a product designer. I helped my wife making her first book. I discovered that I liked that kind of work and I made two books about aspects of graphic design myself since. Now, I'm pondering what will be next, because (design) careers may last shorter but the average life span does not.

 

This principle seems illogical, but what Smith called 'the invisible hand' would be the most efficient instrument to create 'automatically' the best for all through the individual negotiations needed to deal with conflicting self-interests. Any attempt to construct a complex system of fairness is likely to create the opposite of what is intended. Smith has been largely on the right side of history so far. The 'free-market' principle is still in its purest form pursued by the UK and the US as opposed to more regulated versions in Europe. To be sure, mountains of legislation has been produced since Adam Smith developed his influential view which effectively curbed the free forces because the pursuit of self-interest cannot be allowed to take place without some set bouderies. It needs some 'adult guidance' to avoid forms of slavery or injustice. The invisible hand needs some help to avoid becoming a strangling hand for some. Anti-monopoly laws are an example of legislation also adopted by the champions of the free-market.

 

InvisibleHand

 

The current crisis initiated some fundamental re-thinking about the effect of the free, 'as-little-as-possible' regulated market. The cornerstone of Adam's Smith thinking was the assumption that everyone would know more or less what his/her best interest is and would thereafter also be capable of pursuing it. Both seem to be false assumptions and that undermines the validity of the whole idea. We know now that most of our decisions are hardly based on rational considerations. Moreover, the world has become such a complex place that we no longer fully understand what we get ourselves into. Even for the highly educated who often pretend they still do. Economists, for instance, are again reminded that their 'science' seems to have its brightest insights when it no longer matters to anyone but themselves. Central bankers base their decisions on seriously flawed data or assumed economic relationships. We wouldn't give a license to a bus driver with such a handicap. Accountants and rating agencies have seen the result of their work rightfully ridiculed. And constantly changing accounting rules can have a tremendous impact on valuations of assets (resembling a lottery) which nobody understands any longer unless you're an insider. Most of the financial industry, including bankers, financial advisers, fund managers and brokers of all sorts turned out to be best considered as potential hazards when you're lucky or potential criminals when you're not. Looking back at the causes of the current crisis reveals a bizarre, irrational as well as at times immoral world. The fact that relatively and maybe shockingly little can be considered as criminal acts is that law makers as well as the juridical profession always have had an easier time in describing and dealing with blue collar crime than with a more closely related white collar version of it.

The defining article in the success of the economy has been the emotional state called being trustful, which is not necessarily initiated by rational considerations. True, more rational circumstances like the invention and development of so-called shifting technologies have a major impact on economic development, but market forces have also been determined by oscillating periods of greed and fear. The market value of large public companies can tripple or be reduced to a quarter within one week. This is no longer uncommon. That is an environment exclusively fit for professional surfers, nobody else in a right frame of mind should try to enter it, since it defies all common sense and requires inside information. That is a fundamental weakness. Our times are for a part determined by professional managers who are no longer 'naturally' loyal to the business they manage. Dealing with fundamental life events like buying a home, sickness and provisions for old age have become complicated financial constructions of which the management is put into large anonymous institutions that have no longer any direct relationship whatsoever with the people concerned and contributing. Most people are bound in contracts they no longer comprehend or control. A functional invisible hand must have an egalitarian effect on society. The past twenty years have shown the opposite. The invisible hand no longer functions the way Smith assumed.

In contrast, the recent economic events have shown the truly devastating effects of uncontrolled market forces. They are capable of initiating a complete economic destruction. The free market has created companies that are now generally considered as too big to fail (so much for the so called 'creative destruction' of businesses to give room for stronger organisations) and also a global economy that goes uncontrolled because there are no regulating bodies on the same global level. We use our natural resources as if they are miraculously for free. The planet earth does not have a negotiating voice unless it speaks through us. We can no longer rely on the benign effects of the invisible hand, the 'automatic' arbitration of conflicting interests does not work and the invisible hand left on its own can easily become a lethal one for all.

I have always thought that my own professional field of graphic design was in some aspects inferior to others because it was merely determined by personal intuition and fashion. It hardly needed scholarly education. I only hoped that the addition of some common sense would improve results. More and more I came to realise that the arts are hardly alone in their dependency on non-rational considerations. Major (and fast-growing) branches of human knowledge may have developed more complex theories, extensive vocabularies and certainly more intellectual pretentions, but are effectively just as dependent on the same ingredients as the arts, while having an additional handicap; that of indulging in pretentious complexities which gets in the way of using our common sense. And where theories fail, using this sense is the only way to survive.

 

Graphic Design on Prime Time TV

I added a link to one of the many interviews you can find on YouTube with Paul Rand. America has in general still a bit of an uneasy relationship with design, maybe including the designers themselves, despite the overwhelming success of the Apple consumer products for instance.abc 34 seconds about graphic designPaul Rand interview

 

However, size counts more than anything else these days, so the American AIGA design organisation with over 20.000 members is capable of facilitating a design organisation on a level that beats most others by a long shot. Not because the level of design, or design education is so high on average in the US - that is not the case at all - but the country houses a few of the best design educational institutions and design businesses on the globe and the sheer number of their members provide the necessary financial means to have quite some clout. And they use that clout pretty well. The AIGA website is one of the best design portals around and well worth visiting.

 

ProDes

 

It took some time and wrestling for the AIGA to become member of the international club of design organisations called ICOGRADA (In which they took no founding part) because the Americans have a problem with giving minorities a voice bigger than their numbers would justify. In their mind joining a club could effectively mean taking it over, and they seem to have a hard time realising that this is not an acceptable proposition for the other members. The simple divide between national design organisations operating within their own countries and international organisations like ICOGRADA or BEDA (European Design Organisations) is no longer valid. The AIGA opened an office in Beijing in 2006 under the name AIGA China, which is a bit confusing. This initiative makes only sense in an expanding international business concept, further merchandising a brand name, like the invention of Thomas Krens for the International Guggenheim Museums. AIGA China is aiming to help American designers to get Chinese commissions or more likely to encourage the establishment of American design schools or educational exchange with China. A missionary or trade post concept with a hopeful outcome of more mutual business in the future. However, there is a potentially conflicting overlap with ICOGRADA's work. Our beloved AGI is a bit of an exception among the internationally expanding national design organisations. To start, the aim of AGI is in effect limited to selecting new members and to organising an annual members meeting. Our 'elite' club can claim an admirable level of international coverage and to have gathered more (graphic) design talent on average within one organisation than any of our peers, but the professional level by which we steer our organisation is handicapped by our relatively small size in relation to the large global spread of our members. We also tend to cling to an at times poorly defined, slightly amateurish and informal organisation style bordering to bohemian nonchalance. This style has advantages. Our yearly gatherings including the students seminars are practically always impressive events, because we still manage to interest individual members to do most of the work. They are given lots of freedom to spend a crazy amount of entirely unrewarded time and energy organising one event almost completely at their own risk. These essential annual meetings hardly touch the AGI budget. I wonder whether we will be capable of continuing this practice. The AGI club is growing and needs more and more professional support to organise gatherings. But when professional event organisers take over too much, the quality of the events will lose something crucial. I have seen this happening with the SEGD club in the US.

On the level of the communication between AGI members and our elected representatives in the IEC (International Executive Committee) of AGI there is much room for improvement, to put it friendly. Effectively this communication has been limited to about three hours per year at the General Assembly and done only in an oral format, leaving hardly any formal scribal data for our history or for informing members not present at the event. This is a bit of a bizarre and a rather obscure practise that should be changed. Maybe the IEC should evaluate its position within a current context and make simple and realistic outlines of its tasks. And start to communicate directly with the AGI members. That is one of the reasons we have started this AGI site. I'm afraid there is simply no excuse for the IEC not using this medium. On the level of the communication between AGI members and our elected representatives in the IEC (International Executive Committee) of AGI there is much room for improvement, to put it friendly. Effectively this communication has been limited to about three hours per year at the General Assembly and done only in an oral format, leaving hardly any formal scribal data for our history or for informing members not present at the event. This is a bit of a bizarre and a rather obscure practise that should be changed. Maybe the IEC should evaluate its position within a current context and make simple and realistic outlines of its tasks. And start to communicate directly with the AGI members. That is one of the reasons we have started this AGI site. I'm afraid there is simply no excuse for the IEC not using this medium.

 

A Universal Sense Of Beauty

It is a bad strategy if you wish to sell your favorite design. People get totally confused when confronted with too many options (that's why there are so many therapists needed today).

 

pigeon.jpg

 

A better strategy is to intentionally introduce mistakes in the design proposals the designer does not fancy. The judgement of design proposals is often discussed using 'rational' arguments. This habit is not helpful in whatever way, since nobody is capable of expressing sensibly esthetic preferences, while these preferences determine everyone's final decision. Using rational arguments, often about utilitarian aspects of the designs, only adds to the general confusion. Nonetheless, it helps to put intentionally a spelling mistake in the proposal the designer prefers to see rejected.

During my days of presenting design proposals in boardrooms I learned a few things. First, that I was always utterly surprised that my design proposals were very rarely rejected, while I could hardly come up with really convincing arguments to have my designs accepted. Arguments didn't seem to matter much. Second, when a group of people was confronted with only two choices, the outcome of the selection was remarkably consistent. By contrast, the best design hardly ever got the most votes when a plethora of different designs were on offer. The best design was practically always selected by a large majority when the choice was limited to only two. I discovered that there must be a universal sense of beauty we all share.

Apparently, this universal sense of beauty is not limited to our species. Shigeru Watanabe of the Keio University in Tokyo discovered that pigeons judge visual matter like human art approximately the way we do. When rewarded, pigeons are capable of selecting one visual style over the other and they share with us a general sense of beauty. Further research is needed to find out about what determines our attraction to specific esthetics. Maybe we can learn from the pigeons what we can't figure out ourselves.

 

Leveraged Wealth

In principle, there is no limit to the amount you can leverage your capital, so your buying power can be gigantic (or monstrous). As long as you find a financier (a bank) that believes that your capital plus the value of your possessions covers the risk of a default on the payment of your loan. Obviously, a loan costs money, but if the value of your possessions rises annually with a higher percentage than the interest percentage on your loan, there is no limit to your purchase power. You can buy the Empire State building. However, your wealth balance has become extremely unstable because your savings (capital) are the only valve you have to level a drop in value of your possessions. And you must be financially in balance at any time, otherwise you are bankrupt. And you loose everything. High leverage can be extremely powerful but is very risky. It is the tool of speculators.

 

leveraged wealth

 

The explosion in wealth of the past 20 years is for a big part financed by increasing leverage. (With the help of an historic abundance of very cheap -mostly Asian- money around). The median income of the American household has remained almost unchanged during this period but the level of debt has tripled, savings have become negative. Effectively, the Americans became a society of speculators, collectively going long on the value of real estate. The bank assets over this period understandably exploded. In some small countries banks' assets became many times more than the volume of their national economies. (Because of this, Iceland collapsed in the recent crisis.) Banks create money out of thin air. They are allowed to issue about 20 times in loans of the amount they receive in the deposits we put in the bank, because the 5% core capital is considered to be enough to cover the risk of default in payment of their lenders. (In the Low Lands the figure is 8 - 12 %) However, this ratio of 20 times was stretched in some cases to over 30 times. Innovative financing stretched leveraging even further by constructing many tools to reduce risk in addition to the old fashioned capital cushion. For instance, by 'hedging' potential changes in asset value or by insuring possible losses by defaulting creditors. The other party in a 'hedge' deal is always a speculator. And insurances, never mind how complicated, have to be covered by old fashioned capital in the end. The amount of money involved in hedging/speculation and financial insurances ballooned to stratospheric levels of hundreds of trillions, reaching levels of the value of the world economy. Almost everybody involved believed that this gigantic leverage of wealth was stable, for a part because nobody really understood any longer how things were hanging together. Only the computer screen said that it was ok, financial software had taken over human risk evaluation. In the end it turned out that value was collectively totally misjudged by all the lavishly well paid professionals. The financial sector had recruited armies of the best paid professionals by a very long shot, presumably attracting the best and the brightest, the Masters of the Universe. The financial industry in the US was at one point responsible for 40% of all corporate profit.

And then the financial universe imploded almost overnight because the geniuses had their math wrong. Oeps.The best available intelligence on the planet fed by perplexing greed had constructed a financial doomsday machine. In the course of about one year all investment banks in the US disappeared. Wall Street went up in smoke. All major commercial, mortgage banks and the world's biggest financial insurer were more or less de facto nationalised. The once mighty giants of free enterprise shrunk to oversized, crying babies, breast-fed by Mother State in order to survive. That was not enough. The central Bank in the US (Fed) has in fact taken over some of the functions banks normally have in the financial system.

In an attempt to avoid a total collapse of the financial system the central banks had to take over the enormous leverage, first created by individuals and later by the banks. And it did so in a shockingly short period of time, the balance sheet of the Fed will reach soon 4.5 trillion dollars, up from less that 1 trillion one year ago. Central Banks are not bound by ratios of capital versus outstanding loans, they also don't have to look for investors to get money. (That would be senseless in this case anyway). They just print the stuff when in need, and that's what they're doing now. It is the last hope to stop the fall. Of course, this leveraged balance sheet also makes the Fed a speculator. In this case a speculator who goes 'long' on the value of the US dollar, trusting that the rest of the world - also in dire straits and having no advantage in the dollar's demise- is in no other position than to follow more or less this gamble, and not to bet against it.

 

Updates

Thomas Couderc work updates

Thomas Couderc has updated their work, see it here.

Clément Vauchez work updates

Clément Vauchez has updated their work, see it here.

Alexandre Dimos work updates

Alexandre Dimos has updated their work, see it here.

Yu Guang work updates

Yu Guang has updated their work, see it here.

Alan Chan work updates

Alan Chan has updated their work, see it here.

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