Wilfred Hahn ((Eternal
We quote this long-urgent observation: “We live in a
dangerous world where prices abound without values and costs are only
measured in prices. In such a world the price becomes the value and values
are separated from real costs. What that means is that the common
denominator of what is right becomes the price. A world ruled by price?
That’s what happens in a world that is quickly globalizing and
financializing. Price then becomes the world’s judiciary. It alone
determines what is right and good.”
To gain insight into how this
tyrannical state of affairs has come about, it is first necessary to examine
the role of numbers and numeracy. These provide an on-ramp to this
tyrannical new world.
[Author’s Note]: This article is a
slightly modified version of Chapter 8 of my 2002 book, Endtime Money
Snare: How to Live Free. It is even more relevant a decade later.
Let’s begin our investigation. What
follows might seem like a jumbled assortment of trivia, yet everything is
connected in an important way. Can you identify the commonality?
The Canadian government estimates the
average cost of every suicide in the Province of New Brunswick, at
$849,877.80. An official stated that the study was done to show the
importance of measures to prevent suicide, and that economic studies are the
way to raise awareness of health problems.
Having a successful marriage is enormously important to
worth the equivalent of $100,000 a year in income calculates
Professor Andrew Oswald of Warwick University.
Tuesday, February 29, is expected to have added about
$25.3 billion to the US gross domestic product in the year 2000.
A study by the Australian government
estimates that if 50 percent of all
trade barriers for agriculture, services and manufacturing would be removed,
it would boost the world economy by more
than $400 billion by 2015.
· Thomas Hopkins of the Rochester Institute of Technology
puts the cost of complying with federal rules at $668 billion
in 1995. Employing his
conservative estimates, he suggests that federal
regulation costs the
average American household $7,000 more than the average tax bill of
You will probably have guessed the
commonality of the above-mentioned facts. This collection of anecdotes isn’t
any different from what might ordinarily be found in a daily newspaper;
however, that is not their connection. What is common to all of them is that
they are all related to money. Every one of these trends or conditions, no
matter how abstract or unquantifiable has been expressed as a value in terms
of a currency.
Your first reaction, like mine, may be
this: Just how were these estimates made? What techniques could possibly
have been used to convert all these unrelated phenomena to a common language
of money? Some of these facts do not seem particularly suited to being
expressed as a monetary value. This practice of relating facts to monetary
value can be crude and inappropriate. After all, can human life be valued in
terms of money? What is the value of a liver transplant? What is the real,
monetary value of truth? These are difficult questions and the answers are
unquantifiable. Yet, estimates like these are printed daily about almost
anything and everything.
It wasn’t always this way. What
The new common language of the “end time money snare”
is revealed─the numbers of money.
A World Colored with Hazardous
We live in a world of numbers. They
shape our world in numerous ways, most of which are obvious. For example,
all of today’s computer data systems are based on a numerical language.
Networks, digital communications systems, and anything controlled by a
microprocessor or integrated circuit are driven by numerical formulas and
codes. The organization of our society, the entire world─centers around
numbers. Phone numbers, street and house numbers, passwords, bank accounts,
investment accounts and so on are all expressed in numerical digits. But,
let’s not get hung-up in a detailed account of the new mathematical theories
and digital technologies that are sweeping the world. We are more interested
in the application of numbers, how they are interpreted, and their influence
upon our beliefs. More important, we want to better investigate their role
in end time events.
Numbers shape and form statistics:
That fact allows statistics to be considered as the representatives of
truth. But what if numbers lie?
Numeracy─the practice of documenting
news, opinions and trends with numbers─is highly valued today. News
reporters and researchers practice it carefully. If I did not exhibit some
numeracy in writing this article, peppering its pages with statistics and
footnotes─you, the reader, would surely find my views less credible. If I
did not document trends by expressing various changes over a given-period in
terms of percentages or by counting the growth or decline in the units of
something, or referencing this information to reputable sources, you would
be less able to assess the validity of my conclusions. Numeracy, therefore,
is very useful when used in good measure.
Yet, an excessive fixation with
numeracy can lead to dangers─ones that are extremely hazardous to anybody
seeking to understand the times. How can numeracy, something that is
innately useful, lead to peril? It serves as the springboard for three
negative developments in our day: As a mechanism for widespread deception
and misinformation; as a bridge to a world totally defined in terms of
money; and lastly, to a world which chooses to accept numerical systems and
mathematical theories in place of God … in other words, the truth.
How a World Language of
Money Has Emerged
In my view, monetary
numeracy─a common world language of money─has happened in several stages. It
began with a fixation on quantification. Every trend and development is
expressed in numerical terms, documented and captured in a statistical
quantification. That, itself, is not overly worrisome. Where the danger
really lies is in the fact that our focus has moved from the real─the actual
thing that is happening or being documented─to the statistic itself. The
statistic now serves as a numerical image of the thing that is being
Just how accurate is this
picture? Can numbers really capture all of the nuances of something that is
real? Three apples on a table may be exactly that. But what does it mean
that the annualized rate of inflation has fallen to 2.0% over the past
month? Or, what is implied by the statistic that the teenage birth rate is
declining by some percentage from the year before?
These types of statistics require a more
sophisticated interpretation. The image that these numbers portray can
rarely be accepted at face value. More often than not, the real truth lies
underneath this neat veneer of statistical precision. Though the numbers
themselves are accurate, the truth can be very different from what seems
obvious from the statistical headline.
To illustrate, let’s
briefly examine the statistic about inflation. What does it really mean that
inflation has fallen to 2.0%? To know this first requires an understanding
about what inflation really is, which very few people actually possess.
Alarmingly, very few financial professionals possess this knowledge either.
Most accept the convenient and sanitized statistic of the Consumer Price
Index (CPI) that is issued by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) at
its face value. The same applies to similar measures reported by other
national statistics agencies around the world. As it happens, real inflation
is actually something very different. The CPI has grossly misrepresented
real inflation trends this past decade. Yet, the CPI statistic is followed
slavishly; it is accepted as truth. As a result, people may be being misled.
What about the statistic
indicating that the teenage birth rate is declining? Yes, indeed, the
teenage birth rate is declining. That appears to be a good development. But,
again, what does this statistic really signify? Why is it declining? To be
able to validly accept this statistic as either good or bad, we need to get
in behind the number to discover its causality─its cause and effect. Are
teenage births declining because of a decline in sexual activity, more
effective birth control or both? Or, are births declining because abortions
have increased? These are the relevant questions that require resolution in
order to interpret the real meaning of the top-line statistic. As the case
may be, the main contributing cause for the decline in teenage births in
recent years is a rise in abortions. What seemed like such positive news
actually disguises a disquieting trend. As such, we see that the real causes
and effects can be overlooked, in fact, hidden─by statistics.
What George Orwell
predicted would happen to words has also happened to numbers. In 1946, in an
article called “Politics and the English Language,” he decried the
deliberate misuse of words, writing that people craft their words “to make
lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of
solidity to pure wind.”
Numeracy itself is not the
danger. The danger is in shallowly accepting numbers as the image of truth
with no further critical analysis. That is the vulnerability of our
age─allowing statistical numbers to reign as reality and truth. It is very
easy to allow this to happen. We live in a society bombarded by data and we
virtually drown in a flood of numbers and information overload. People lead
harried lives; there is too little time for critical analysis and too many
statistics to process. It is easier to accept the “sound bites” of the
statistics just as they appear. What they seem to mean becomes perception.
Statistics Shape False
Perceptions Even in Professional Circles
Surely only Mr. and Mrs.
Couch Potato are vulnerable to these mistaken perceptions. If that was
simply the case, statistical abuse would not be so much of a problem. The
reality is that it also applies to professional people─the very same people
who are more inclined to work with and depend upon numbers and statistics. I
can certainly speak for the world’s financial and money industries. In my
time as a senior financial executive, I discovered that very few people
critically examined the true meanings of numbers and statistics. Little
critical analysis takes place on Wall Street, not even by its financial
analysts and economists. Very few economists actually understand the theory
behind how statistics are calculated and derived in the first place. Even
fewer understand the causes and effects that drive these statistics and the
economic theories behind them. This is not an unfounded judgment. Sadly, the
allegation is true. These people simply do not have the time to do real
research or to diligently examine the real facts behind the numbers. A few
of them do … but far too few to make any difference. It is much easier to
accept the number at face value. Knowledge of the statistic passes for
What has happened then is
that perception has become reality. The statistical number portrays the
image that is perceived; therefore, this number has power because it can
form and change popular perceptions. Reality and truth become
inconsequential. Even worse, the truth becomes a liability if it is
different from perception. Were we to take the time to examine a statistic
and discover that its true meaning is very different than perception, it
would not be very helpful. Why? Because almost everyone else will have
accepted its face-value appearance: for fact.
Let’s assume that the
just-released economic statistic shows that the inflation level has
declined. The majority of portfolio managers and investors will be sure to
greet it as a positive development, perhaps quickly jumping into the market
with new buy orders. The stock and bond markets lurch upward. The facts did
not matter; perception did. Those that acted on the real facts lost out.
Deliberate Manipulation of
Perception often passes
for reality. Benjamin Disraeli made this famous quip: “There are lies, damn
lies, and statistics.” The comment strikes to the heart of a potentially
serious issue. If perceptions are allowed to rule with careless reference to
truth and reality, then statistics become very powerful. Now, they can hide
more than they reveal. And, if that is the case, then why wouldn’t they be
deliberately manipulated in order to create a certain desired perception? It
is an important step towards the end time role of numbers.
deliberately manipulated? At times, they very definitely are. This may sound
like the stuff of conspiracies but it is not really. In my view, it is just
human nature at work. Consider these anecdotes of statistical tampering:
As of November 1991, the US Department of Commerce
decided to switch its’ reporting on economic growth to the measure of Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) from Gross National Product (GNP). There is a
significant difference between the two that might not be apparent to most
people. Roughly explained, the former does not include earnings from foreign
sources, while the latter does. Since America is running large deficits with
the rest of the world, GDP will appear bigger than GNP. This statistical
sleight of hand can boost reported growth by over 1% in some quarters. There
have been subsequent numerous other changes to the statistical methods of
tracking GDP. One recommended in late 1996 held an equally large impact. It
was proposed that the method of estimating inflation should be changed. The
effect? Not surprisingly, a twenty- year record of inflation was lowered by
1.1% per annum, and the growth of the economy was boosted significantly …
all at the stroke of a pen.
In Britain, few economic statistics have been more
mistrusted than the government’s measure of unemployment. Between 1979 and
1995, some 30 adjustments have been made to the way that this statistic is
calculated. Apparently, in violation of the law of averages, 29 of these
caused “unemployment” to fall.
I could recount many more
examples. Is it strange that the definition of these statistics tends to
only change in one direction─any which way that leads towards a more
favorable perception? And invariably, what is favorable is any revision that
seems to be positive for prosperity, gain and wealth. Is there a diabolical
conspiracy behind the above-mentioned statistical shifts? Yes, in a way
there is, but not necessarily in the sense that there is a great, organized
scheme underway on the part of the government to delude the public. It
illustrates just one of the subtle orchestrations that are part of the great
diabolical “end time money snare.”
and numbers can lead to even worse abuses. Not only can they make us
vulnerable to deceit and manipulation, they set up an all-important
interface that allows the love of money to wreak its corruption upon the end
time world. We already discovered how common this new language of money has
become. Statistics expressed in terms of money somehow seem to be more
illuminating to our imaginations. Once we know the cost or price associated
with a piece of information, we are better able to frame its reference. It
strikes a common chord. A million bushels of wheat is more difficult to
conceptualize than its price on the open market─probably around $8.8
million. The more that things, trends and values can be expressed in terms
of money, the easier will be the transformation into a world which is given
over to the worship of wealth and material. That, too, is another subtle
step in the “end time money snare.”
But worst of all is that
numbers and their application can even replace the need for God. Believe it
or not, many have made numbers their god. How has this happened? It is a
development that has been fostered by the new false god of Science and
Numbers Rail against God
(The late) Peter L.
Bernstein wrote an excellent and informative book titled Against the
Gods. Its title is meant to be a word play on the phrase “against the
odds.” Essentially, the book’s unstated thesis is this: With modern
mankind’s mastery of mathematics and the understanding of probabilities,
gods are no longer necessary. He writes the following in his introduction to
The revolutionary idea
that defines the boundary between modern times and the past is the mastery
of risk: the notion that the future is more than whim of the gods and that
men and women are not passive before nature. Until human beings discovered a
way across the boundary, the future was a mirror of the past or the murky
domain of oracles and soothsayers who held a monopoly over knowledge of
What Mr. Bernstein is
actually saying is that mathematics─the use of numbers, in other
words─enables us to look into the future and to cross the boundaries of the
unknown. What is this unknown? For mathematicians and financiers, the
unknown is called risk. Not knowing what will happen in the future is “risk”
… especially to those who have much money to lose.
In a nutshell, the concept
underlying this definition of risk is very simple. You can better know the
future by looking into the past. While that thought carries some truth, it
assumes that tomorrow will always be like today. And, if tomorrow can be
counted upon to be like today, then a god is no longer necessary. Though it
is a simple notion, it has taken humanity many thousands of years to develop
the mathematics and computation skills needed to capture the past with
numbers and then to launch them into the future across the boundary of
“risk.” It makes for a fascinating story. Today, there are many
sophisticated applications of this idea─chaos and game theory, optimization,
probability theory, portfolio theory, mortality tables … and on and on. But,
taken too far, these applications can lead to the unfortunate delusion that
a sovereign God no longer rules the affairs of creation.
The Bible ridicules and
condemns this “rearview mirror” concept of risk: “Do not boast about
tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth,” says King
Solomon in Proverbs 27:1. Isaiah scorns the idea too, caricaturing the
culture of his day saying, “Let me get wine! Let us drink our fill of beer!
And tomorrow will be like today, or even far better” (Isaiah 56:12).
James hinks it is outright evil.
Now listen, you who say, `Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that
city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not
even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that
appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, `If
it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you
boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13:16)
Would Solomon, Isaiah and James think differently if they had been
schooled in the business schools─the statistics mills─of our day? Would the
great tool of mathematics cause them to dispose of their belief in God?
Not likely. God and mathematics can co-exist. God is the author of order,
after all. Mathematics is useful but can be, only a partial and pale
imitation of God’s order and will. He indeed remains sovereign.
The Root of Statistical
It is not my intent to
explain in detail the modern-day application of math to the field of
economics and finance. That task would require countless volumes … boring
ones at that. My objective is simply to show how numbers─perhaps even
prefigured by the 666 of Revelation and the love of money interplay in their
role in the great “end time money snare”.
Wherein lies the falsehood
in the popular belief that the veil of the future has been lifted through
the sophisticated use of numbers? The delusion is that “risk”─or the
unknown─has been lessened or done away with. The fact is that the unknown
exists as it always has. All that has happened is that the consequences of
this risk have been expressed in the form of money and transferred to
Let’s examine just one
example that illustrates the fallacy in this thinking that God can be
replaced by numbers─the insurance industry. Does life insurance lessen the
risk of anyone dying? Of course not, all that life insurance accomplishes is
to transfer the risk of the unknown, in this case something that is fairly
improbable over the near term to the insurance company. They agree to accept
this risk in return for your payment of monthly insurance premiums. Are they
foolish to take this risk? No. They have used mathematics to figure out the
probability of your untimely death. To do so, they look into the past and
study huge amounts of data about previous death patterns─by age, occupation,
sex, smoking habits, etc. They produce what are called mortality tables and
then price your premiums accordingly, including a profit margin for their
service. You still do not know when you will die. The insurance company,
however, has agreed to spread the cost of your early death across all of its
customers. Economists call this the “socialization” of risk. It is a very
useful service; however, it has not changed the unknown. God is still in
of calculating future risks by modeling the past through numbers and
sophisticated math and transferring it to other people through financial
products is what is behind virtually all financial innovation today. On the
surface it seems very confusing. The number of these types of services has
exploded. As such, the role and use of financial markets have changed
By now it
should be very clear. Numbers, expressed in monetary values, are a necessary
device in the success of the “end time money snare”.
Some Thoughts for Contemplation
We have seen that we live in an age
with more statistics and knowledge than ever before, but with less truth.
People seem to know the price of everything, but the value of little.
Instead, wisdom─past, present and future─today tend to be found in the belly
of some financial model or spreadsheet.
Just what is the real value of truth
and wisdom? This is what Job had to say:
“But where can wisdom be
found? Where does understanding dwell? Man does not comprehend its worth; it
cannot be found in the land of the living. The deep says, `It is not in me';
the sea says, `It is not with me. It cannot be bought with the finest gold,
nor can its price be weighed in silver’”
Job is effectively saying
that wisdom is priceless … that it is unquantifiable. It cannot be captured
in a number. Therefore, we should not look for it in numbers and prices.
We live in a dangerous world where
prices abound without values, and costs are only measured in prices. In such
a world the price becomes the value and values are separated from real
costs. What that means is that the common denominator of what is right
becomes the price.
A world ruled by price? That is what
happens in a world that is quickly globalizing and financializing. Price
becomes the world’s judiciary and it alone determines what is right and
good. That is a concept that ideally suits the juggernaut of globalization.
Globalization reduced to its very essence is nothing more than this: A
process leading to a world system in which all human actions are governed
through the incentives of wealth and prosperity. And if wealth and
prosperity are the worthy objectives, then whatever increases wealth will
tend to be approved and considered good and right.
Of course, it is a satanic concept
that prices and wealth can be used as a measure of truth. This thinking is
most obvious in the world’s money industries─investment management and
brokerage or any business dependent upon trends in market prices. To
financial professionals, price is effectively truth. As one financial
service ad says, “The moment of truth is when the best price is yours.”
Allow me to use the illustration of a
portfolio manager to explain how price has become truth. If a portfolio
manager buys an investment for whatever reason and the stock price then goes
down in price, he has been judged to be wrong. The inverse applies as well.
If a portfolio strategist reduces his investment in the stock market on the
belief that stock prices are too high, it will be left to the future
direction of the stock market to determine whether he was correct.
In the competitive wrangle to squeeze
wealth out of financial markets, the market is never wrong. Only investors
can be wrong. Though a stock market may be in the midst of a huge mania that
will someday end up in a sorry bust does not matter. The price is the truth,
and truth is in an upward trend.
No One is Immune from the Deceptions
This subtle shift of thinking about
truth has not just affected financial professionals. It extends to our whole
society, including Christians.
I can think of a number of prominent
Christian investment managers who assume this posture. Their opinions about
what drives markets and trends, no matter how ill-founded and baseless, are
arrogantly assumed to be right simply because “the market” in retrospect has
judged them as correct. That is perverse thinking. Markets represent the
judgment and vanities of the world. Markets, prices, money, gold … whatever,
do not contain truth. They are all denominated in a currency of man’s
We must not let prices─the new
spectator sport of our world─determine our values. Our values─biblical
standards and eternal objectives must determine our conduct. That
imperative, of course, demands that we continue to be good stewards, work
diligently and manage our resources faithfully. However, that is not the
same as staking our hope and faith in the values of earthly wealth. Nor does
it mean that the correctness of our living can be judged by how much wealth
we accumulate, how much we earn or how successfully our portfolios
outperform the world’s financial markets. Yet, this monetary measuring
rod─like the idolatrous Asherah poles worshipped during the times of the Old
Testament prophets─is standing on many of the high places in the church
For us, as Christians caught during
the times of the great “end time money snare,” living apart from the rule of
numbers and markets will carry a cost. The measuring stick of price should
not be allowed to be arbiter of truth and what is right in our lives. And
undoubtedly for most of us, that will mean we may not accumulate as much
wealth here on earth as the secular world thinks that we should.
Actually, we have great reason for
joy. In one sense, living to God’s standard during the present upswing of
the great “end time money snare” is hardly costly at all. We have the
greatest money manager of all at our service. He promised that He would
reward us hundredfold for every one of our sacrifices, with payment in an
eternal currency that will never rust or corrode.
With an eternal guarantee like that,
we have absolutely no need to invest by the numbers, nor succumb to the
tyrant of “price.”
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About the Author:
Wilfred J. Hahn is a global economist/strategist.
Formerly a top-ranked global analyst, research director for a major Wall
Street investment bank, and head of Canada’s largest global investment
operation. His writings focus on the end time roles of money, economics and
globalization. He has been quoted around the world and his writings
reproduced in numerous other publications and languages. His 2002 book,
The Endtime Money Snare: How to Live Free, accurately anticipated
and prepared its readers for the global financial crisis. His newest book,
Global Financial Apocalypse Prophesied: Preserving the True Riches in an
Age of Deception and Trouble, looks further into the future.