High Inflation May Already Be Behind Us

High Inflation May Already Be Behind Us

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,

High inflation has captured the headlines as of late particularly as CPI recently hit the highest levels since 1981. Some are even suggesting we will face hyperinflation. However, while inflation is certainly present, the question to be answered is whether it will remain that way, or if the worst may already be behind us?

To answer that question, let’s define the difference between an inflationary increase and hyperinflation.

Not surprisingly, as Milton Friedman stated,

Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenonIt is always and everywhere a result of too much money, of a more rapid increase of money, than of output. Moreover, in the modern era, the important next step is to recognize that today the governments control the quantity of money so that, as a result, inflation in the United States is made in Washington and nowhere else.

Milton Friedman’s statement is backed up by the chart below of the M2 money supply compared to inflation (with a 9-month lag).

So, where did that surge in the money supply come from? Massive government bailout programs sent money directly to households that far exceeded economic activity. With production shutdown, demand dwarfed supply.

However, what we are experiencing is high inflation. “Hyperinflation” is not a threat. At least not yet.

“Hyper-inflation comes from a complete loss of faith in a currency from the threat of losing a war (Weimer Republic), an economic collapse, or some other catastrophic event. The U.S., even with all of our economic ills and woes, is still the safest place, in terms of liquidity, depth, and strength, to store excess reserves. The near historic low yield on government treasuries tells the story here.” – Real Investment Show

With that understanding, we can now examine what comes next in terms of high inflation.

The Peak Of Inflation May Be In

When discussing the inflation rate it is critical to remember that we measure the “rate of inflation” on an annualized basis. In other words, compare the current level of inflation index to the index level 12-months prior. That calculation provides the annual “rate,” or rate of change, in the consumer price index.

With the latest read of the inflation index, the annual rate of change was 8.2%. Here is where it gets interesting. If we assume that homeowners’ equivalent rent, food, gasoline, energy, and healthcare costs all remain at the current elevated rate into 2023, inflation will fall back to 2%. Such is because as we move forward, the inflation index will be calculated against rising index levels. The result will be lower levels of the “inflation rate” even though the cost of goods and services had no change in price.

While that seems confusing, it is just a function of the underlying math.

Evidence Of Disinflation

However, the decline in the inflation rate may be substantially more prominent as the Federal Reserve begins its rate hike campaign and reduction of its balance sheet. Already, higher interest rates are slowing the housing market, and high prices are creating demand destruction. Already, consumer confidence is dropping sharply as expectations for consumers are collapsing.

Of course, that lack of confidence leads to decisions to consume less as the cost of living increases outstrip wage growth. The decline in demand is showing up in the Cass Freight Index.

As Bloomberg’s Simon White writes, real economic activity in the U.S. is slowing sharply, and:

“This is showing up in lower demand for new trucks and autos, and a tailing off in freight volumes, leaving transport stocks facing more downside.”

Not surprisingly, heavy truck sales in the U.S. are, as Simon notes, a

“Very good leading indicator of economic activity, with 65% of the dollar value of North American freight moved by trucks. But new truck sales have been falling sharply, now at -23% on an annual basis. New auto sales are falling at a similar rate. Truck and auto sales combined are falling at a rate previously only associated with recessions.

As shown in the latest CPI report, auto sales are indeed dropping sharply.

Deflation Likely A Bigger Issue For The Fed

The surge in “artificial inflation,” from the flood of liquidity against a supply shortage, will revert to a disinflationary trend. Debt and demographics will continue to drive deflationary pressures leading to a reversal of the inflation trade.

As the fear of inflation rose, investors piled into the commodity trade. While commodity prices rose due to the supply shortage, the reversal of that liquidity will undermine those assets. (Commodity prices track interest rates)

As we showed recently, the reversal in commodity prices will worsen if the Fed proceeds with its monetary tightening.

“Historically, when the Fed hikes rates or tapers its balance sheet, oil prices decline from slower growth and deflationary pressures.” – Real Investment Report 01-21-22

Many continue to compare the current economic environment to the 1970’s inflationary spike. However, the impact of demographics and debt are vastly different.

Throughout 2022, disinflation will likely be the most significant threat to the markets and economy. Such was the point in early 2021 in “Sugar Rush.” 

Unless the Government remains committed to a continuous stimulus, once the “sugar rush” fades, the economy will “crash” back to its organic state.

The bottom line is that America can’t grow its way back to prosperity on the back of social assistance. The average American is fighting to make ends meet as their living cost rises while wage growth remains stagnant.

The 3-Ds suggest inflation will give way to deflation, economic strength will weaken, and over-zealous investors will once again get left holding the bag.

Tyler Durden
Sat, 05/28/2022 – 09:20

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Law-Abiding West Virginian Woman With Concealed Firearm Stops A Mass Shooting 

Law-Abiding West Virginian Woman With Concealed Firearm Stops A Mass Shooting 

Instead of waiting for the police to arrive, a woman with a concealed carry license in West Virginia acted fast to stop a crazed man with an AR-15-style rifle who was about to kill dozens of people at a graduation party. 

“Instead of running from the threat, she engaged with the threat and saved several lives last night,” Charleston Police Department Chief of Detectives Tony Hazelett told local news WCHSTV

The incident occurred Wednesday when Dennis Butler,37, was angered by a group of people hosting a graduation party who told him to slow down through an apartment complex in Charleston. He returned 30 minutes later, parked his vehicle, jumped in the backseat, and discharged his weapon toward the group of 30-40 people. 

Unbeknownst to the shooter, a law-abiding citizen with a CCW was within the group and quickly drew her weapon and engaged Bulter with direct fire, fatally wounding him. 

“There was a graduation party, a party with kids,” Hazelett said at a press conference. “So obviously somebody just graduated high school and another birthday party. We could have had a casualty shooting there.” He estimated between 30 to 40 people attended the parties.

There were no injuries reported besides the gunman. Police have yet to release the woman’s name, though they said she’s not part of law enforcement and is just an average law-abiding citizen. 

So a good woman with a gun prevents a bad person with evil intentions and an extensive criminal record from committing a mass shooting. Should society consider her a hero for saving the lives of dozen of people?

Tyler Durden
Sat, 05/28/2022 – 08:45

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A Maine Couple Is Suing the State for the Right To Hunt on Sundays


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Maine’s new “right-to-food” constitutional amendment is the subject of its first lawsuit. The suit was filed in April by two hunters in the state who argue the amendment provides ample basis to overturn a draconian statewide ban on Sunday hunting.

“The Sunday hunting ban is superseded by the Right to Food Amendment,” wife-and-husband plaintiffs Virginia and Joel Parker argue in the lawsuit, which asks the court to overturn the ban. 

Some homeowners in the state who allow hunters onto their property oppose the suit’s goals. They’re chafing at the prospect of allowing Sunday hunts on their land.

Maine’s right-to-food amendment, adopted by voters last November (by a 61 percent to 39 percent vote), reads as follows:

All individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to save and exchange seeds and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being, as long as an individual does not commit trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the harvesting, production or acquisition of food.

In their lawsuit, the Parkers point to language in the amendment that protects a person’s “right to… harvest… food of their own choosing for their own nourishment.”

Maine’s ban on hunting on Sundays “is a religious and social construct that does not fit into any of the Amendment’s exceptions, as it cannot be justified by the need to protect private property rights, public safety, or natural resources,” the Parkers’ lawsuit argues. The suit also calls the ban “a historical and religious anachronism.”

The Parkers are right. Maine’s Sunday hunting ban, on the books since 1883, has nothing to do with property rights, public lands, natural resources, or any other constitutional justification. Instead, as the suit alleges, the ban is evidence of Puritan-inspired “blue laws,” which prohibit having too much fun on the day that early Christian colonists in New England held sacred. Though blue laws have largely been rescinded in Maine and other New England states over the years, Maine is remains one of just two states—Massachusetts being the other—with laws in place that prohibit hunting on Sundays. 

The lawsuit challenging the ban is a surprise in some ways and largely predictable in others. As I explained last year, virtually everyone familiar with the proposed Maine amendment agreed its passage would likely “spur a host of court challenges,” as people rely on its vague language to advocate for concrete rights. The amendment “will be defined over time by judges pressed to choose which hunting and food regulations are too onerous and which ones are not,” the Bangor Daily News reported last month. 

The fact the first suit was filed by hunters (rather than some agricultural interests) is a surprise. I’d have put money on either the state’s unique food sovereignty act or foraging laws—or something tied to the state’s vast seafood industry—being the subject of the first lawsuit filed seeking protection under the new amendment.

Another area that’s likely to see its share of right-to-food-amendment lawsuits pertains to genetically modified seeds. As I detailed in 2016, when the Maine amendment was first proposed, language in it creating a right to save and exchange seeds is highly problematic.

“The issue with saving seeds arises when a farmer voluntarily signs a contract that says he won’t [save or exchange seeds], as many seed contracts offered by GMO producers do,” I explained. “The seed language therefore would make it difficult for Mainers to do business with GMO seed producers. And that may have been the point of the controversial language.”

While lawsuits over GMO seeds will come—and I hope they ultimately cause the seed-related language of the constitutional amendment to be struck down, while the rest of the amendment is upheld—other suits seem more likely to seek to protect and expand food freedom in the state, just as the Parkers’ suit does.

Over the past 100 years, Maine lawmakers have made dozens of unsuccessful attempts to rescind the state’s ban on Sunday hunting. The Parkers’ lawsuit could accomplish what generations of legislative efforts have failed to do. In that way, this lawsuit demonstrates how Maine’s right-to-food amendment is already showing its potential to serve as a powerful new tool to protect and expand food freedom.

The post A Maine Couple Is Suing the State for the Right To Hunt on Sundays appeared first on Reason.com.

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A Maine Couple Is Suing the State for the Right To Hunt on Sundays


ddpphotos271394

Maine’s new “right-to-food” constitutional amendment is the subject of its first lawsuit. The suit was filed in April by two hunters in the state who argue the amendment provides ample basis to overturn a draconian statewide ban on Sunday hunting.

“The Sunday hunting ban is superseded by the Right to Food Amendment,” wife-and-husband plaintiffs Virginia and Joel Parker argue in the lawsuit, which asks the court to overturn the ban. 

Some homeowners in the state who allow hunters onto their property oppose the suit’s goals. They’re chafing at the prospect of allowing Sunday hunts on their land.

Maine’s right-to-food amendment, adopted by voters last November (by a 61 percent to 39 percent vote), reads as follows:

All individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to save and exchange seeds and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being, as long as an individual does not commit trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the harvesting, production or acquisition of food.

In their lawsuit, the Parkers point to language in the amendment that protects a person’s “right to… harvest… food of their own choosing for their own nourishment.”

Maine’s ban on hunting on Sundays “is a religious and social construct that does not fit into any of the Amendment’s exceptions, as it cannot be justified by the need to protect private property rights, public safety, or natural resources,” the Parkers’ lawsuit argues. The suit also calls the ban “a historical and religious anachronism.”

The Parkers are right. Maine’s Sunday hunting ban, on the books since 1883, has nothing to do with property rights, public lands, natural resources, or any other constitutional justification. Instead, as the suit alleges, the ban is evidence of Puritan-inspired “blue laws,” which prohibit having too much fun on the day that early Christian colonists in New England held sacred. Though blue laws have largely been rescinded in Maine and other New England states over the years, Maine is remains one of just two states—Massachusetts being the other—with laws in place that prohibit hunting on Sundays. 

The lawsuit challenging the ban is a surprise in some ways and largely predictable in others. As I explained last year, virtually everyone familiar with the proposed Maine amendment agreed its passage would likely “spur a host of court challenges,” as people rely on its vague language to advocate for concrete rights. The amendment “will be defined over time by judges pressed to choose which hunting and food regulations are too onerous and which ones are not,” the Bangor Daily News reported last month. 

The fact the first suit was filed by hunters (rather than some agricultural interests) is a surprise. I’d have put money on either the state’s unique food sovereignty act or foraging laws—or something tied to the state’s vast seafood industry—being the subject of the first lawsuit filed seeking protection under the new amendment.

Another area that’s likely to see its share of right-to-food-amendment lawsuits pertains to genetically modified seeds. As I detailed in 2016, when the Maine amendment was first proposed, language in it creating a right to save and exchange seeds is highly problematic.

“The issue with saving seeds arises when a farmer voluntarily signs a contract that says he won’t [save or exchange seeds], as many seed contracts offered by GMO producers do,” I explained. “The seed language therefore would make it difficult for Mainers to do business with GMO seed producers. And that may have been the point of the controversial language.”

While lawsuits over GMO seeds will come—and I hope they ultimately cause the seed-related language of the constitutional amendment to be struck down, while the rest of the amendment is upheld—other suits seem more likely to seek to protect and expand food freedom in the state, just as the Parkers’ suit does.

Over the past 100 years, Maine lawmakers have made dozens of unsuccessful attempts to rescind the state’s ban on Sunday hunting. The Parkers’ lawsuit could accomplish what generations of legislative efforts have failed to do. In that way, this lawsuit demonstrates how Maine’s right-to-food amendment is already showing its potential to serve as a powerful new tool to protect and expand food freedom.

The post A Maine Couple Is Suing the State for the Right To Hunt on Sundays appeared first on Reason.com.

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Spain Passes Decree Limiting Use Of Air Conditioning In Public Buildings To Conserve Energy

Spain Passes Decree Limiting Use Of Air Conditioning In Public Buildings To Conserve Energy

By Charles Kennedy of OilPrice.com

Spain passed a decree this week limiting the use of air conditioning in public buildings as part of a strategy to conserve energy and reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.

Spain itself does not depend on gas from Russia, but its government is working to increase energy efficiency as the European Union looks to reduce reliance on Russian gas by two-thirds by the end of this year alone.

“Energy savings are the quickest and cheapest way to address the current energy crisis, and reduce bills,” the European Commission said last week when it unveiled details of its REPowerEU plan “to rapidly reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels and fast forward the green transition.”

As part of the goal to reduce consumption and bills, Spain is now limiting the use of air conditioning in public buildings.

During the summer – when temperatures often rise to over 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) – air conditioning in public buildings should be set at no lower than 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 F), according to the government’s newly-passed decree on energy efficiency.

In the winter, offices and buildings where public workers work will not be heated above 19 degrees Celsius (66 F).

The limits to the use of air conditioning measures are expected to apply “whenever it is technically possible,” according to the Spanish government’s decree.

Turning down the thermostat and using less air-conditioning is one of the nine measures that the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the European Commission outlined in April, which, they say, would save EU households money, reduce EU reliance on Russian fossil fuels, support Ukraine, and help the fight against climate change. The other measures include driving at lower speeds on highways, working from home, using public transport, and giving preference to trains over short-haul flights.

Turning down the thermostat at home by just 1 degree Celsius would save around 7 percent of the energy used for heating. Setting the air conditioner 1 degree Celsius warmer could reduce the amount of electricity used by almost 10 percent, the IEA and the EC noted.

Tyler Durden
Sat, 05/28/2022 – 08:10

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Russia “Actively Discussing” Allowing Crypto For International Payments

Russia “Actively Discussing” Allowing Crypto For International Payments

In late March, the chairman of Russia’s Congressional energy committee, Pavel Zavalny, said in a press conference that Russia was open to accepting bitcoin for its natural resources exports.

“When it comes to our ‘friendly’ countries, like China or Turkey, which don’t pressure us, then we have been offering them for a while to switch payments to national currencies, like rubles and yuan,” Zavalny said during the press conference.

“With Turkey, it can be lira and rubles. So there can be a variety of currencies, and that’s a standard practice. If they want bitcoin, we will trade in bitcoin.”

And while chatter has been focused on Putin’s “Rubles-for-Gas” demands and the fact that the Ruble has soared to multi-year highs relative to its fiat peers.

But today, the Interfax news agency quoted a government official saying on Friday that Russia is considering allowing cryptocurrency to be used for international payments

“The idea of using digital currencies in transactions for international settlements is being actively discussed,” Ivan Chebeskov, head of the finance ministry’s financial policy department, was quoted as saying.

Discussions have reportedly been ongoing for months and though the government expects cryptocurrencies to be legalized as a means of payment sooner or later, no consensus has yet been reached.

The finance ministry is discussing adding the latest proposal on international payments to an updated version of a draft law, the Vedomosti newspaper reported on Friday, citing government officials.

Allowing crypto as a means of settlement for international trade would help counter the impact of Western sanctions, which has seen Russia’s access to traditional cross-border payment mechanisms “limited,” Chebeskov said.

Russia being open to accepting bitcoin shift the tide as Putin last year had dismissed the possibility in an interview at the Russian Energy Week event in Moscow.

“I believe that it has value,” Putin said at the time, referring to Bitcoin.

 “But I don’t believe it can be used in the oil trade.”

The current size of the Bitcoin market and its liquidity do pose questions as to whether the peer-to-peer currency could be used widely by countries in international trade at this moment.

However, as we noted previously, by being open to the possibility and eventually conducting pilot trades with interested parties, Russia could set the stage for an upcoming trend where nations choose to transact in the stateless, global monetary system.

Tyler Durden
Sat, 05/28/2022 – 07:35

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International Opposition Grows To Biden Granting WHO Pandemic Powers

International Opposition Grows To Biden Granting WHO Pandemic Powers

Authored by Mark Tapscott via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Opposition from African delegates to the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland, has forced hours of informal dickering on possible revisions to President Joe Biden’s proposals to grant new powers to the World Health Organization (WHO) to deal with viral pandemics.

The flag of the World Health Organization (WHO) at their headquarters in Geneva on March 5, 2021. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)

As previously reported by The Epoch Times, Biden’s 13 proposed amendments to the UN’s International Health Regulations (IHR) that govern WHO operations grant broad new powers to Director-General Tedros Adhanhom Ghebreysus, a former Ethiopian government minister who has been in the role since 2017.

Earlier this week, Tedros was confirmed for a second term by the assembly, which is WHO’s decision-making body.

The United States provides more than $150 million in assessed contributions to fund the organization and has given, on average, an additional $262 million in annual voluntary funding since 2012.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, on July 3, 2020. (Fabrice Coffrini/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Under the proposed amendments, the director-general could declare a public health emergency in any country regardless of whether local officials agree with the declaration.

Tedros also would be authorized to rely on evidence from sources other than those approved by the affected country as the basis of such a declaration.

Neither the organization’s media office nor its counterpart at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responded to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.

The WHA’s business is being conducted by two committees consisting of delegates from 194 member nations. The Biden proposals were first considered earlier this week by Committee A, presided over by Japanese delegate Hiroki Nakatani.

The assembly’s process is to allow delegates to comment on and debate proposals, then if no objections are heard, the proposals are considered approved. But when the Biden proposals were first discussed earlier this week in Committee A’s third session, objections were voiced by African delegates.

The African region shares the view that the process should not be fast-tracked,” Moses Keetile, deputy permanent secretary in Botswana’s health ministry, reportedly told the assembly on behalf of the African region.

During May 25’s sixth meeting of Committee A, Nakatani told the delegates that “progress was made during the informal discussions … but further discussion seems to be needed” and he said talks would continue.

James Rogulski, an independent journalist and researcher, who is closely following the assembly livestream, said “for some reason, they [assembly officials] could not reach a consensus, so it seems like they are not even going to bring it to the floor,” pending the outcome of the informal negotiations.

Rogulski added that “what they have done is they are setting up another bureaucracy. They are going to have a working group for the [IHR]. They are going to be taking submissions from around the world for their ideas on how these things should be amended.

“That will go into September and then it looks like they are apparently going to be having another meeting in November.”

A logo is pictured outside a building of the World Health Organization (WHO) during an executive board meeting on update on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Geneva, Switzerland, April 6, 2021. (REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo)

More details about the working group were contained in Tedros’ report to the world assembly on “Strengthening WHO Preparedness for and Response to Health Emergencies,” including a recommendation for the international health agency to proceed as described by Rogulski.

The report said the new working group will “invite proposed amendments to be submitted by 30 Sept. 2022. All such proposed amendments to be communicated by the director-general to all state parties without delay; (d) request the [Working Group on International Health Regulations] WGIHR to convene its organizational meeting no later than 15 November 2022.”

Earlier this week, HHS assistant secretary for global affairs Loyce Pace alluded to the Biden amendments without acknowledging the necessity for the informal negotiations.

Pace told the assembly that the Biden “administration believes in the need for strong global relationships to combat COVID-19 and to prevent and prepare for future health emergencies.”

Pace said U.S. officials are “pleased” that the WHA is moving “to strengthen existing tools available to the WHO and to all member states.

“This includes strengthening the international health regulations from 2005 to clarify roles and responsibilities, increase transparency and accountability, share best practices, and communicate in real-time with our global partners.

We are also committed to an intergovernmental negotiating body process that engages external stakeholders and develops an international instrument on pandemics that enables meaningful, inclusive action.”

But the Biden proposals have sparked a growing furor in the United States among critics who contend the amendments would amount to ceding of some portion of American sovereignty to WHO in the event of another pandemic like the one that has killed more one million Americans and in excess of six million people worldwide.

President Joe Biden pauses while speaking during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington on Nov. 12, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), the first member of Congress to comment critically on the amendments, told The Epoch Times on May 26 that, “Of course the amendments should be withdrawn, but the bigger issue is how we got to this point in the first place. Why is this administration apparently willing to cede any authority to an international body, particularly the WHO?”

Norman added that “given the public outrage over this issue, you’d think we’d be hearing directly from the White House concerning the status of these amendments, or at least our delegation to the World Health Assembly. It makes you wonder what’s coming next.”

The Biden amendments are being defended by FactCheck.org, a media organization at the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania that claims to “monitor the factual accuracy of what is said” by political and other figures on the issues of the day.

FactCheck.org said, “conservatives in the United States falsely claim … the amendments will threaten U.S. sovereignty.

The media organization then cited as an example the Biden proposal to delete an existing requirement that WHO consult with officials in a nation with a suspected pandemic before acting.

But FactCheck.org then noted that “the proposal eliminates the requirement of consulting and obtaining verification of those third-party reports before taking action, and adds a deadline for the WHO to seek verification of the third-party report.”

Critics of the amendment claim removing the organization’s requirement to consult with an affected nation before taking action—such as declaring a public health emergency in that country—amounts to a unilateral grant of power to the international health body.

Tyler Durden
Sat, 05/28/2022 – 07:00

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Unstuck in Deep Time


book2

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, by David Graeber and David Wengrow, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 704 pages, $35

There’s a simple story about life before civilization, retold by evolutionary scholars and New York Times bestsellers like Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel. Anthropologist David Graeber and archaeologist David Wengrow summarize it skeptically in their big new book, The Dawn of Everything.

Long ago, the story goes, we were hunter-gatherers, “living…in tiny bands. These bands were egalitarian; they could be for the very reason that they were so small.” We did this for hundreds of thousands of years, until an Agricultural Revolution fed an Urban Revolution, which heralded civilization and states. That meant “the appearance of written literature, science and philosophy,” but also “patriarchy, standing armies, mass executions, and annoying bureaucrats demanding that we spend much of our lives filling in forms.”

Or perhaps, interjects Steven Pinker, those bands weren’t childlike innocents, but brutal and chaotically violent: We shouldn’t regret armies or bureaucrats, but greet them as liberators. Either telling maintains the long arc: We were all one way for so long, until changes came and we were irreversibly another.

Dawn complicates this story, chapter by chapter. It begins not in prehistory but with how the Simple Story captured thinking about prehistory. In Graeber and Wengrow’s account, theories of social evolution through stages of material progress first developed “in direct response to the power of the indigenous critique,” a trans-Atlantic exchange anticipating the French Enlightenment.

Philosophe ideals of reason and individual liberty, they contend, drew directly from arguments French colonists encountered first in dialogue with Native Americans like Kandiaronk, a charismatic Wendat statesman-philosopher with a taste for skeptical debates and individual liberty. Kandiaronk’s dinner table arguments reached Parisian salons through travelogues and Louis-Armand de Lahontan’s 1703 Curious Dialogues With a Savage of Good Sense Who Has Traveled. Older histories dismissed the dialogues as exotic literary ventriloquism for Lahontan’s own views, but Graeber and Wengrow marshal sources suggesting Lahontan actually conveyed his friend Kandiaronk’s characteristic points.

Later European critics exploited technological gaps between French and native societies to sidetrack dangerous debates over liberty onto the social conditions for material equality. Small, simple societies could live like that, these theorists demurred, because they had so little to plan or fight over; Europe’s complex, commercial societies depended on governments’ civilizing constraints. Civilization, they argued, posed a tragic dilemma: wild, childish freedom or mature, comfortable confinement.

What if that dilemma is an illusion? Dawn‘s archaeological chapters slice up the Simple Story’s film-strip progression of evolutionary stages and (pre)historical inevitability. There was no Age of Innocence: Prehistoric people were already smart; their world was already old, with long histories now lost to us. Ice Age excavations increasingly reveal sophisticated, polymorphous diversity that simplistic questions about “egalitarianism” or “hierarchy” obscure. Nomadic hunter-gatherers left remains that “defy our image of a world made up of tiny egalitarian forager bands” with evidence of “princely burials, mammoth monuments and bustling centres of trade.”

Graeber and Wengrow invoke “seasonal duality,” anthropologists’ term for modern indigenous societies inhabiting “two social structures, one in summer and one in winter.” They suggest similar revolving cycles in Pleistocene hunters’ social worlds to explain “strange, staccato” patterns in Ice Age inequalities: following herds, gathering nuts, crowding into trade centers; seasons of equality and “hierarchies raised to the sky, only to be swiftly torn down again.”

Foragers after the Holocene thaw remained fluid and diverse. Some developed small-scale, equalizing societies, like the Tanzanian Hadza people; others erected monumental stone sanctuaries, gathered seasonally, rejected farming but traded with early agriculturalists, founded sedentary villages and maritime kingdoms on coastal fishing and acorn gathering, and diverged radically even in virtually identical environments—from the Pacific Northwest’s grandiose slave-raiding “fisher kings” to puritanical, energetically acquisitive Californians who repudiated slavery and glorified private property.

Agriculture and urbanization didn’t impose sudden, one-way “revolutions” or trap farmers on demographic roads to serfdom. Early Fertile Crescent farming settlements like Çatalhöyük appear “relatively free of ranks and hierarchies”; experimentation, long-distance trade, reversals, and flexible strategies sprouted not for moments but over thousands of years before bureaucratic grain states appeared.

Early cities’ concentrated populations and burgeoning scale didn’t spontaneously summon pharaonic god-kings or mandarin bureaucrats. Wengrow and Graeber favor recent reinterpretations of the Indus Valley metropolis Mohenjo-daro as organized with no evident palaces, rulers, or institutional government. Bustling cities from Uruk to Teotihuacan seemingly alternated epochs when rulers took hold with centuries when the populace repudiated them.

Again and again, stereotyped stages and “origins of social inequality” obscure more than they reveal about prehistoric complexity. Dawn shifts focus from equality to fluidity: “If human beings, through most of our history, have moved back and forth fluidly between different social arrangements…maybe the real question should be ‘how did we get stuck?’…How did we come to treat eminence and subservience not as temporary expedients…but as inescapable elements of the human condition?”

Dawn‘s longest chapter revisits stuckedness in “state formation.” If farming and cities lasted centuries without governments, how did states arise? Wengrow and Graeber reject one-track theories, distinguishing three paths to domination: sovereignty (spectacular violence, dynastic divine kingship), information control (administrative technique, bureaucracy), and charisma (competitive conflict, conquering warlords).

Regimes that master just one path may appear state-like but exhibit decidedly weird patterns of rule. Consider the Great Sun of the Natchez, a Mississippian god-king whose word carried the power of life or death over his subjects—but only in his physical presence. The Sun’s sovereignty couldn’t be delegated to emissaries; his writ couldn’t run past the sacred city limits. Unsurprisingly, this prompted a flight to the Natchez exurbs, where people lived prosperously, disobeyed orders, and avoided the sacred city whenever possible.

Stable state politics congealed when “second-order regimes” interlocked multiple forms of domination, keeping societies “stuck” in each—but with no predictable sequence that everyone followed. Pharaohs arose one way in Egypt; lugals commandeered Uruk in another. Modern nation-states aren’t the end of “a long evolutionary process that began in the Bronze Age,” just the peculiar confluence of three dominations we got stuck with, and “there was nothing inevitable about it.”

This is an enormously ambitious book, evoking the grand style of Enlightenment treatises. But Dawn is never ponderous in style. Graeber and Wengrow are lively and lucid in analytical passages, and compelling narrators of archaeological interpretations. Their descriptions of lost landscapes and spectacular sites like Göbekli Tepe and Chavín de Huántar sometimes approach the lyrical.

No book so ambitious could completely avoid moments of hubris or overconfidently idiosyncratic readings of sources. How much trust you place in evocative reconstructions of silent ruins depends on your confidence in the conjectural process of archaeological interpretation. Graeber and Wengrow are forthcoming about that, frequently noting the limitations of the evidence (“Much of this remains speculative…”). But cautionary hedges sometimes vanish when earlier conjectures return to bolster later conclusions. Many interpretations are best read with a cautious eye to possibilities, probabilities, and certainties.

Dawn is at its weakest when the authors are most polemical. Their rebuttals to Pinker on prehistoric violence uncharitably discount his engagement with paleoanthropological evidence, replying with facile competing anecdotes. Elsewhere they glibly dismiss neo-Hobbesian historical outlooks as “extremely popular among billionaires but [holding] little appeal to anyone else.” (Anyone?) Their handling of economic thought is sometimes tendentious and caricatured.

Dawn‘s archaeologically grounded discussions of trade and private property nevertheless can be thoughtful, curious, and nondogmatic. Graeber and Wengrow’s view of private property’s sacral origins suggests polychromatic pictures, not a single simplistic story. They’re eager to dissociate agriculture from the advent of private property in land; but note their sympathetic discussion of private property’s role in Yurok foragers’ repudiation of slave raiding. Libertarians could profitably engage a Big History framework that takes human agency seriously as a historical force, questions the necessity of Leviathan states for complexity and technological development, and renovates Enlightenment liberties as a hopeful program for urbanized global society.

The Dawn of Everything was finished weeks before Graeber’s untimely death in 2020. In the foreword, Wengrow recalls how their collaboration grew luxuriantly from a decadelong sprawling correspondence. Seeing how much was left to say, the authors “planned to write sequels; no less than three.” The book we have is a worthy capstone to Graeber’s work, bursting with exhilarating possibilities and provocative questions. I can only hope Wengrow will continue the conversation, despite the loss of his co-conspirator.

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