"Apocalypse" is but one of many words whose meaning in the minds of many, due to oft repeated misuse, has drifted from its origins.
A literal translation of the Greek is "lifting of the veil" or simply, the revealing. It does not refer to the end of life or the end of the world, but rather to the end of deception and the unveiling of the truth- noticing and discussing the once ignored elephant in the room...perhaps those barbarians will over-run Rome, perhaps that volcano will erupt...you get the picture.
Of course, if you have bet on a deception being true, or at least being able to be maintained and milked, then apocalyptic times when deceptions are revealed as such might well seem like the end of the world.
How fittingly ironic (for those with a hint of schandefreude) to think that the many fundamentalist sects who have been praying for the "end of the world" as prophesied in the Book of Revelations, i.e. The Apocalypse, in hopes of being swept out of the mess of the earth, leaving the rest of us behind, may well have their apocalypse, the truth- that we are all going to have to make due with this little planet.
Who knew ancient Greek would come in handy?
But it is not with the broader sense of the apocalypse in mind that I write, rather it is with a narrower sense of an economic apocalypse in mind that I write today - an unveiling of the inherent risks of the current dollar based international exchange rate system.
In today's UK Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes, China threatens 'nuclear option' of dollar sales.
And what is the 'nuclear option'?
Two officials at leading Communist Party bodies have given interviews in recent days warning - for the first time - that Beijing may use its $1.33 trillion (£658bn) of foreign reserves as a political weapon to counter pressure from the US Congress.
Shifts in Chinese policy are often announced through key think tanks and academies.
Described as China's "nuclear option" in the state media, such action could trigger a dollar crash at a time when the US currency is already breaking down through historic support levels.
Remember the Frank Capra movie, Mr. Smith goes to Washington? I think we're seeing the first act of Mr. De Gaulle goes to Beijing.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recently tried to assuage fears of Chinese sales (and we know how prescient Mr. "variable rate mortgages are a great deal" is) of US bonds because, China would not have anyone to sell the securities to.
When the London Gold Pool collapsed in 1968 and the US began quiet negotiations with European $ holders to stop them from trying to convert their $s to gold, De Gaulle, in a sense, didn't have any one to sell his US$s to either...but that didn't keep their value up.
The reason being that prices aren't set in the market, but in market participants' minds. The market is merely a medium in which such changes become manifest. To wit, as many a suburban home owner is becoming painfully aware, your house doesn't need to be "on the market" for its value to fall. Nor does China have to sell bonds for people to realize that they aren't worth as much as previously thought.
When I think of the opening quote from William James, the truth happens to an idea, I think of an apocalypse. The quality of "truth" or "reality", if you prefer, is applied, in the minds of many, to an idea to which it previously was not. Even though the idea may have always been, from some perspective, "true" it is only when "truth" is applied to the idea in each individual mind that change occurs.
And so, I believe, it will.
When De Gaulle asked for his Gold in the late 60s he pointed to the elephant in the room of the Bretton Woods system- that US$s are worth only what you can get in trade for them. Even though Nixon denied his request Pandora's Box had been opened and inflation accelerated out of control.
China, in my view, just pointed to the elephant in the room again- the value of the US$ is by statute "elastic" and only retains value to extinguish US$ based debts, public and private. It has no guaranteed exchange value with anything real. This is printed on every $ bill, of every denomination, which is why these $ apocalypses are so nasty. Once you get it, you do a Homer Simpson.... Doh!
Let the mad rush for value in the great game of financial musical chairs commence.
ps These things take time...first the apocalypse then the period of upset (or tribulation in the vernacular) then action...but once the apocalypse happens the action becomes inevitable