Economic Outlook: Economic Disaster

Rampant inflation, energy shortages, and war led a lot of commentators to predict an impending economic disaster in the 1980s.

063 economic outlook - impending disaster

In 1980 the decade ahead seemed to promise nothing but economic disaster. 


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POGO: "The future ain't what it used to be."  

JULIAN M. SNYDER, International Money Line: "If there is anything certain about the 80's, it is that the outlook is extremely uncertain. The German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt put this into the most succinct (and safest) forecast when he said, 'Nothing will be the same in the 80's as it was in the 70's . . . nothing."'

ALEX HERBAGE, IMAC Economic Newsletter, on the Russian invasion of Afghanistan: "Now we shall pay the price for our continued weakness and lack of vigilance that has resulted from the shameful sale of advanced Western technology to the Soviet nation and its satellites. Truly we have been handing over the rope from which the noose will be fashioned with which Moscow hopes to hang the West. To boot, and to add a dreadful irony to this tragic scenario, we have willingly lent the Communist East the money and the credits with which to purchase our technology, thus helping to undermine our own financial and economic stability."

IDA COX, 30's blues singer: "When you lose your money, don't you lose your mind."

ALEX HERBAGE, IMAC Economic Newsletter: "Confrontation will be the key word of the 80's. Nation against nation, developed world against the emerging nations. Worker against boss,. politician against politician. The world is stirring whether we like it or not. The established order is being challenged by a spirit of revolution and unrest that is rife in the world today. On a global scale, we are now experiencing the fears that must have been felt by the aristocrats and landed gentry when they heard the swish of Madame Guillotine for the first time during the French Revolution. We could all learn more by studying history, and the events of those momentous years at the end of the 18th Century are in many ways parallel to those we are experiencing today. Then — as is happening now — the established order was challenged and a new epoch entered."

RICHARD RUSSELL, Dow Theory Letters: "My feeling is that the 1980's are going to be the years in which Americans finally have to face realities. What are these realities? [1] Russia, with the sacrifice of her economy, is now military leader of the world. [2] The U.S., over its head in debt, is going to have to sacrifice a good chunk of its domestic economy if it wants to remain a free power. [3] The current U.S. concepts of government spending, transfer payments, consumerism, [and] deficit spending are going to be revised drastically. They're going to HAVE to be revised. [4] For 25 years U.S. Presidents have been blathering about "sacrifices" the American people will be called upon to make. So far, the so-called sacrifices (whatever they are) have been minimal to non-existent. In the 80's real sacrifices will have to be made."TIMES OF LONDON, December 12, 1979 editorial: "The forces which have knocked the dollar down against gold are far stronger at the beginning of the 1980's than they were at the beginning of the 1970's. The world shortage of oil, the competition faced by American industry, the rate of inflation in the United States, all undermine the dollar now in a way they did not ten years ago. It would be difficult to find any plausible argument for supposing that gold will weaken in dollar terms in the 1980's."

RICHARD RUSSELL, Dow Theory Letters , Inc.: "In 1960 the U.S. Federal budget was just under $100 billion. By 1970 the Federal budget was just over $200 billion. Here in 1980 the budget will be over $600 billion! But this is the true horror: I estimate that the interest, THE INTEREST, on the Federal budget this year will be around $80 billion ... [and that) the U.S. will be paying about $100 billion next year [just] to carry its debt! That amounts to $2 billion a week. Ever hear of a nation being eaten up alive by debt and deficits? You're looking at it.

"This whole process is the road to economic disaster. An accelerating debt and accelerating interest on the debt allow of only two choices: [1] rocketing inflation in which the debt is 'reduced' by destroying the currency in which the debt is denominated, or [2] deflation, depression, and potential bankruptcy."

R.E. McMASTER, JR., The Reaper: "Interest on the Federal debt is now $85,000 per minute. Such debts have never been paid off in the history of world governments . . . [also] the interest [alone] on the Federal debt is expected to reach $100 billion between 1982 and 1983. One hundred billion dollars is the net capital generating ability of the U.S. economy. In other words, between 1982 and '83, all capital generated will go to pay just the interest on the Federal debt."

RICHARD RUSSELL, Dow Theory Letters, Inc.: "The U.S. Government is the biggest . . . borrower . . . in world history . . . [and sells] ... $14 billion . .. in 15-year bonds annually. These bonds are sold at auction against all bidders. Whatever interest .. . it takes to sell these bonds . . . that's what they go for!

"Yields on U.S. Government long-term bonds are moving to the 13% rate now (February 27, 1980). At 13%, money QUADRUPLES in a little over 11 years! Do you understand what this means? Suppose institutions put their assets into bonds yielding 13%. That means they will be guaranteed to quadruple their assets by 1991. Where would the money come from to provide this kind of return? You say from inflation? Great, but inflation demands even higher interest rates, and higher interest rates produce an even greater rate of return, and even more money is needed to service the debts. And so on . . . until destruction."

JULIAN M. SNYDER, International Moneyline: "'Americans are just beginning to realize that the fight against inflation is a hopeless cause,' Hans Bar, Chairman of Bank Julius Bar, told us. 'You can't have thirty-year bonds anymore. Long-term money is on the way out.'

"As Henry Kaufman of Salomon Brothers points out, the end of long-term financing will reduce the final liquidity of the banking system, since a great deal of it depends on corporations' being able to borrow long in the bond markets to pay off bank debt. This could hamper the next period of expansion in the economy, since one prerequisite for expansion is an improved liquidity base (improved balance sheets). Public utilities will be particularly hard hit, since their long-term borrowing requirements are astronomical. Insurance companies and pension funds would also be seriously hit and their long-term capacity to pay benefits severely impaired.

"Inflation is the kind of reduction gear that systemically destroys long-term credit and contracts of all kinds."

RICHARD L. LESHER, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: "Even as government's deficit spending fuels the inflation that destroys the fixed values of private pensions, government officials are protecting themselves at your expense. They are committing your tax dollars to index their own pensions to the rate of inflation. And since Federal workers can retire earlier, inflation and time could compound those benefits beyond belief. Twenty years from now, retired Federal clerks could be receiving annual incomes of $100,000."

JIM McKEEVER, McKeever's Individual Survival Strategy Letter: "People have no concept of the incredible implications of a 20-25% inflation rate . . . [but] if the inflation rate averaged 25% per year between now and the year 2000, for every $1,000 per month in expenses that you have today, the same amount of expenditures would cost you $86,735 each month in the year 2000. If a loaf of bread costs 70¢ today, It would cost $63.00 then. A suit of clothes that costs $200 today would cost $18,000 .... Similarly, if today you are making $50,000 per year you would have to be earning $4,500,000 annually in the year 2000 just to break even!"

GARY NORTH, Remnant Review: "Consider the 30 pieces of silver Judas received. Assume that they were the size of dimes. If he had invested his $3.00 (pre-1965 price of silver, of course) at 3% interest in the first week of A.D. 30, and his heirs went down to the bank to pull out the money at the end of 1979 (a total of 1,950 years invested), the account would now total . . . 31 septillion, 400 sextillion dollars.

If everyone on earth (4 billion people) got an equal share, each person would inherit seven quadrillion, eight hundred fifty trillion dollars. "Here's another one. If the present world population of 4 billion people were to continue to grow at 1% per annum — far lower than world population is presently growing — in 1,000 years the total would be 83.8 trillion people.

"What we have to face is simple enough: The present growth rates that the West's economies sustain today, or have sustained over the past two centuries, simply will not continue over an indefinite period of time .... It is categorically, mathematically, impossible to maintain economic growth at 6% or 5% or even 3% for centuries on end.

"Politically, no government economist can admit this. The politics of the 20th Century are committed to compound economic growth, or as Robert Nisbet [says], `liberalism plus 6%'. Of course, no serious economist would maintain that such growth can go on indefinitely. But the overwhelming majority insist that it can go on for another few decades, or a decade, or at least until they retire.

"The leaders of the world are committed to the pursuit of a demon. The corporate executives, if they are to stay in power inside their firms, are also committed to pursuing this same . . . demon. They will beg, borrow, and steal money — taxpayers' money — to stay in business and keep the compound growth demon going. In the final analysis, it is the public at large — the voting public, the stock-buying public, the pressure group public — that has adopted the ideology of endless compound growth .... This ideology has doomed the dollar. It has doomed the international monetary system. The numbers don't lie. Economists do."

SOMERSET MAUGHAM: "If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom. And the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too."

RICHARD RUSSELL, Dow Theory Letters, Inc.: "The U.S. wasn't satisfied with just a free lunch. We've lived on a free seven-course dinner which lasted from 1945 to the present. But the markets know that there are no free lunches and damn sure no free seven-course perpetual dinners. So we wrecked the great "good as gold" dollar to pull off the magic, and now we're being exposed for the dollar creditors of the world to see.

"From this point on, it's going to get harder. We're losing out on the economic front, the geo-political front, and the military front. We're spent up and pooped out, and suddenly the crises are beginning to hit. And that's what the gold and silver move is all about."

GARY NORTH, Remnant Review: "My conclusion [about gold and silver] in 1965 .. . [was] simple: Buy and hold ... I never tried to beat the market. I simply bet against Western Civilization, year in and year out. I shorted the 20th Century. So far, I'm ahead."

GARY NORTH, Remnant Review : "The issue is personal freedom, not the price of gold . The price of gold is a very good indicator of the market for freedom — the higher the price, the less the domain of freedom — but the really important issues are political, not economic. If you allow yourself to become hypnotized by rapidly rising or falling dollar-denominated prices for pieces of metal, then you will probably make some disastrous decisions, such as selling off your gold in order to buy back in later at a really good price. Gold should not be regarded as a means of increasing your holdings of paper money. Gold should be regarded as an admission ticket to the free market during a future period of bureaucratic tyranny." 

R.E. McMASTER, JR., The Reaper: "A free man must reconcile himself to the fact that he will eventually involuntarily break establishment law. He must resign himself to the validity of a higher law (God's law), and that of the U.S. Constitution. Even now, nearly all of us are in violation of some law. We could hardly be otherwise. Fifty thousand pages a year are added to the Federal Register, the law of the land. Then there are all the `alphabet agency' Rules and Regulations. The number of laws created in the last two and a half years (approximately) is greater than the number of laws created from the beginning of the country up until the past few years."

JULIAN M. SNYDER, International Moneyline: "Big Brother knocked on the door the other day. Five weeks after our `Smoking Gun' issue about David Rockefeller's role in influencing the Carter Administration relative to the Iranian crisis and 23 days after David Rockefeller's resignation as Chief Executive Officer of the Chase Manhattan Bank, two nice gentlemen from the Securities and Exchange Commission dropped in on a `routine' investigation.

"Agents Jack Lustig and Don Jennings were quite friendly to the staff, but when they sat down with the editor behind closed doors, some of the friendliness evaporated. In the outer office, an agent from the IRS was auditing our books.

'Where did you get the money to start this business?' Jennings wanted to know among other things. Such a question, in the opinion of our attorney, indicated that the investigation was not just `routine'. Lustig handed us a piece of paper that stated: 'It is mandatory that accounts, correspondence, memoranda, papers, books, and other documents and records of the above required to be made and/or preserved must be made available for inspection . . .'and that: "'The Commission's principal purpose in soliciting the information is fact-gathering in order to determine whether any person has violated, is violating, or is about to violate any provision of the Federal securities laws . . .'and that: "

`A willful failure to permit inspection by authorized Commission personnel of the documents specified above may result in a conviction and a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or both, except that when the person failing to permit inspection is a national securities exchange, a fine not exceeding $500,000 may be imposed . . . .'

"Maybe someone was sending us a valentine .... However, the outrageous assault of the SEC on Colonel Edward C. Harwood of American Counselers Institute (ACI) of Great Barrington, Mass., the recent action of the New York Attorney General's office against James Dines, and the jailing of Canadian gold bug Vern Myers provide cause for a certain amount of real concern. Certainly, such attacks are not the hallmarks of a free and open society."

GARY NORTH, Remnant Review: "By 1982, at the latest, the U.S. will enter the most dangerous period in its history."

IRVING KRISTOL, in his November 26, 1979 Wall Street Journal Editorial Page article entitled "The Worst Is Yet To Come": "The 1980's have already begun. They began with the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran earlier this month and with the subsequent confrontation between the United States and a virulently anti-Western Iranian regime. This episode is . . . the shocking prologue to an equally tense drama that stands poised to unfold in the decade ahead. It promises to be an absolutely ghastly period.

"The 1980's will see a disintegrating international order in which economic growth is going to be extraordinarily difficult to achieve, and in which even economic stability will be hard to maintain. It will therefore have to be an overriding goal of American foreign policy to help shape this world so that the growth of the world economy can continue. This will require many sacrifices, but so long as the goal is visibly there, the sacrifices are tolerable. If the goal is not there, our situation will gradually deteriorate until we end up divided among ourselves and destroying our institutions in a frenzy of recriminations.

"Where will such a foreign policy come from? Who will articulate it? Who will be able to sustain it? Those are the questions that ought to be dominating the 1980 elections. But no one, so far as I can see, is asking them."

RICHARD RUSSELL, Dow Theory Letters , Inc.: "Many people wonder why Europe is not jumping to aid the U.S. in its belated `born-again' struggle against Russian aggression .... If you wonder, then mull over these items: West Europe received 7% of its natural gas in 1979 from Russia (Austria received 50%). Russia supplies 35% of all enriched uranium to Europe. About 40% of European coal imports come from Russia and Poland. About 5% of European oil comes from Russia (Italy gets 10% of its oil from Russia). At least 60% of the hard currency debt owed by Russia to Western banks is owed to European banks. Are you beginning to get the idea?"

DAVID WITTS, Dallas lawyer and former member of the Texas Railroad Commission, in a confidential memo to Yiji Sawano, president of the Naigai Trading Company in Tokyo and quoted in the February 1, 1980 issue of To The Point: "The energy era is what I call the decade ahead. Decisions will pivot on energy . . . its availability and its cost. The post-World War Two Period will fall apart, as its policies become irrelevant. What is relevant will be energy . . . and the power to seize it, develop it, and use it.

"When the guard is changed in the Kremlin, they will not have been brought up in an era of Western military superiority. They will be confident, having authored the power shift. They will be bold.

"For 1,400 miles Russia borders Iran, openly coveted by them since the reign of Peter the Great. The Tudeh Communist Party dominates Iran's oil workers. Pipelines now carry Iranian gas and oil to Russia. The Soviets will require substantial oil imports by 1982. They outflank Iran on all sides. They can send in the Afghans or Iraqis as surrogate forces to take over, just as they used the Cubans in Ethiopia, Angola, and South Yemen. Or they could use their own troops now in Afghanistan.

"This would give Russia control of the entire Persian Gulf. They already dominate the Straits of Hormuz. When this happens, the Russians will reverse the oil flow to the Soviet bloc. This will occur whenever the Soviets feel the current charade has gone on long enough. They don't want to risk serious damage to the oil installations."

R.E. McMASTER, JR., The Reaper: "Dr. Raymond H. Wheeler . . . who created the Drought and Civil Warfare Clock, stated, 'The present 500-year cycle is due to end around 1980.' Wheeler felt that where we are presently in the cycle is where governments break down and nations collapse! Along with this breakdown there occurs a wave of international wars, nation-felling wars, and these wars give way to civil strife and revolution.

"Fundamentals are confirming Wheeler's cyclic research. Expect the next major economic downturn in the 1980's to result in civil unrest and a resulting decline in government power. The inevitable result will be war."

R.E. McMASTER, JR., The Reaper: "Between now and 1985, we not only need to be concerned about the destruction of our monetary system through runaway inflation and a subsequent depression, but we need to focus on the more serious threat of devastating earthquakes and accompanying worldwide wars and revolutions."

WILLIAM IRWIN THOMPSON, on page 125 of his book, Darkness and Scattered Light: "The Maya with their sacred calendar calculated the positions of the stars back in time for millions of years .... They had learned to live with such an extended sense of meaning that time for them wasn't simply the next meal, but the next concert of the stars and the planets .... For the Long Count of the Maya, human time expresses itself in a 5,124-year cycle; there are 5,124 years of savagery, then 5,124 years of civilization. The period of civilization began for them in 3113 B.C. and will end at midnight on December 24. A.D. 2011. From 1987 to 2011 is the hell period of the calendar, in which earthquakes are prophesied to tear the civilization to pieces."

R.E. McMASTER, JR., The Reaper: "What does one do? Geographic separation from the cities is considerable help. Absence makes the government's heart grow fonder for someone else's pocketbook, assets, and freedom. Diversity of assets internationally with holdings in Caribbean tax havens, Switzerland, and London is recommended. Diversity of assets domestically into gold, cash, income-producing real estate, farms, commodities, homes, and important retail businesses such as hardware stores is helpful. These should be in different geographic locations, preferably out of the major cities.

"Gold and silver are survival money. They should be held for such use. Home self-sufficiency, by way of solar or wood heating, a garden, greenhouse, and food storage, also makes sense. One must hedge one's bets. We live in the age of uncertainty. There is no other way to survive intact."

GARY NORTH, Remnant Review : "Gold and silver got away from you, right? Even if you had some, it wasn't enough. You didn't have 75% of your investments in gold or silver a year ago. You suspected something like this would happen, but not this fast. You intended to get ready. You really wanted to buy more coins. Next time, you say, next time. You will be ready next time. NOW IS NEXT TIME.

"You should now rethink your strategy of 'chasing metal'. Yes, I think you should buy some [silver] dimes, some small gold coins, and even some diamonds if your net worth is high enough. (But) the ground floor (in those investments) is long gone. Now you have to find other ground floors . . . Used guns [for instance] are still cheap (in this country). And when the evening news tells us that in Iran and Afghanistan a bullet costs a dollar, we had better understand why. If you are looking for a surefire investment, buy .22 long rifle ... .45, .357, .38, .30.06 (rifle), and .308 (rifle) cartridges and weapons. I am talking about investing. A .38 caliber pistol and 100 bullets for it will serve as major barter items by the late 1980's if there isn't a war, and by 1982 if there is nuclear war."

THE STRAIGHT SKINNY ON INVESTMENT DIAMONDS. At one time or another we've all heard of how this or that family escaped Nazi Germany or Communist Cuba or wherever by converting its wealth into diamonds, sewing the stones into the children's coats, and catching "the last boat out." It's also common knowledge that, recently, diamonds have skyrocketed in value right along with gold, silver, and platinum. What most of us don't know, however — even if we have the money to invest — is how to guarantee that any diamonds we buy are indeed investment' grade gems and that we've purchased them at the "right" price (no more than wholesale plus a broker's commission of, say, 5% to 7%).

How are diamonds graded anyway? And what is today's actual wholesale price for a quality stone? The man with the answers to these questions is Mr. Martin Rapaport, Rapaport Diamond Corporation. Martin (Mike, to his friends) publishes a concise one-page set of instructions that almost instantly can teach you how to read a Gemological Institute of America (GIA) diamond certificate with authority. He also distributes other useful information, including an interesting chart which graphs the "average" price of investment-grade stones against the New York Comex per-ounce value of gold.

But most important of all , Mr. Rapaport prints and mails a weekly summary of the current spot wholesale prices for the top 120 grades of investment diamonds plus conversion factors for marquise, heart, and other fancy cuts.

Now this is the Genuine Article: a weekly update of actual wholesale investment-grade diamond prices from around the country and, most especially, from the New York City diamond market (quite possibly the most important in the world).

The weekly Rapaport Diamond Report will cost you $100 a year. But if you're a diamond dealer or a serious investor in diamonds (the only folks eligible for subscriptions to the service), you're certain to find that modest cost returned many, many times over during the coming 12 months . . . and probably during your very next gem transaction. This is real "insider's" information that, at least to this writer's knowledge, simply is not available anywhere else at any price at all.

GARY NORTH, Remnant Review: "Anyone who has read The Gulag Archipelago knows how seemingly incoherent and random the operations of tyrannical bureaucracies really are. Those who escaped getting shoved into the labor camp system were able to do so by acting fast, by staying out of the way of the authorities, by offering bribes, and by disappearing at critical moments .... Ultimately the bureaucratic hierarchies . . . are not fully coordinated. Understand this, and you can take effective steps to avoid the consequences of unbridled bureaucratic expansion.

"Invest in yourself, your family, and your tools. The best investment will be mobile, liquid, immediately usable in producing real (not monetary) income, and not worth confiscating.

"A rototiller (for example) is an immensely useful item for home gardening. But what good is one for a multinational agribusiness company? What value would it have on a large-scale farm? A modern tractor is something else again.

"If you have 200 light bulbs in storage, what will it cost the State to search them out and confiscate them? It is quite easy to imagine a day when the State will simply confiscate (by purchasing at controlled, below-market rates) half the output of GE's light division. That gets the State more bulbs for the buck. But how much will the bureaucrats have to spend on locating and collecting your hoard of bulbs? Too much, I suspect."

L.T. PATTERSON, The L.T. Patterson Strategy Letter: "Some will prefer to stock up on . . . goods in advance, including such items as cigarettes, light bulbs, coffee, sugar, liquor, and so on. My recommendation is that [silver] coins will be more important since they are freely exchangeable . . . and each [one of my readers] should invest in a total of $1,000 face value pre-1965 coins (one bag) at this time (as a minimum) ... 50% in nickels, 25% in dimes, 15% in quarters, and 10% in halves .... I recommend you deal with U.S. Paper Exchange [since I] have found this firm to be better organized and more professional in silver coin sales.

"Of course each [reader] should have in his home a year's supply of dehydrated food for each member of his family... Those who have not yet purchased their dehydrated foods should do so now."

GARY NORTH, Remnant Review: "The government is actively inflating. We must be actively evading .... If the [rise in] price of [the goods we need] exceeds the return on conventional investments, then why don't people just sell their conventional investments and buy the goods?

"A person may have $50,000 investment capital. Why not take $25,000 of it and buy those durable goods that he or she expects to consume over the next five or ten years and store them? Why not buy all the light bulbs, kitchen utensils, consumable durables, paper products, frozen beef, frozen food, dehydrated food, new clothes or fabrics, sewing machine, thread, and so forth? Buy and store .... Pay a year in advance (ask for a 10% discount, of course) .... There is the theft problem [of course], but inflation is a more certain form of theft.

"If a person is going to speculate — that is, deal with the uncertain future — it's a safer bet to speculate against money and for goods."

ALEX HERBAGE, IMAC Economic Newsletter: "The general level of public interest in high flying forms of speculation should be taken as a serious sign of warning on the wall. Such abandonment by the general public of prudent saving practices replaced with uninformed speculation has always been an indicative sign of the last blowoff before a major economic crash occurs."

RICHARD RUSSELL, Dow Theory Letters, Inc.: "One thing I have been wondering about is the general consensus that 'there will be no recession, or perhaps a very mild recession in 1980'. Frankly I wonder if (after being held off for years) there won't be a stiff recession starting this year. If so, we could see `the big fooler' . . . [a] contrary opinion shocker [which] might be [1] a tumbling stock market, [2] a collapse in gold, [3] a big rally in bonds. And ultimately, a rush to CASH (for liquidity purposes), since the banks, business, and the public are all extremely illiquid at this time.

"Remember, `everyone' is now borrowed up, loaded with collectibles, very low on savings, and ready for more 'fun and inflation'. What a perfect setting for the markets to put on `the big squeeze'. And the big squeeze could be a pressing need for CASH, the one thing that nobody has at this time.

"Up to now, cash and credit (borrowing power) have practically become synonymous. But they are not synonymous. Cash and credit may be 'about the same' when confidence is riding high. When things get rough, however, the cash you have is still cash. But the credit spigot can be turned off. At that time, many will find that cash and credit are most definitely NOT the same thing."

TOM BURKE, Friends of the Earth, quoted by Jeremy Sea-brook in his book, What Went Wrong? and requoted by Gary North's Remnant Review: "The new wealth might count as affluent the person who possesses the necessary equipment to make the best use of natural energy flows to heat a home or warm water . . . the uses which account for the bulk of an individual's energy demand.

"The symbols of this kind of wealth would not be new cars, TV's or whatever, although they would be just as tangible and just as visible. They would be solar panels, insulated walls, or a heat pump. The poor would be those who remained dependent on centralized energy-distribution services, vulnerable to interruption by malfunction, sabotage, or strike ... and even more vulnerable to interruption by inaccessible technocrats, themselves the victims of market forces beyond their control.

"The new rich would boast, not of how new their television was, but of how long it was expected to last and how easy it would be to repair. Wealth might take the form of ownership, or at least access to, enough land to grow a proportion of one's food .... The role of the State would change as it became less important as a provider of services. The relationship between a person and his job would change as the importance of non-financial transactions grew."