About two years ago I wrote about a possible recession, but my fears about a decline in the Western economy turned out to be unfounded. People in Europe and the USA have never, it seems, had so much income to dispose of. House prices have risen quite dramatically in many areas, and anyone who had held off buying property for fear of recession, would have made a mistake. We have prospered. Not that there wasn’t a recession. In early 1999 even as respected a magazine as The Economist talked about it; it’s just that Europe and the USA escaped its consequences completely. Brazil, Russia, and the whole of Asia underwent a very serious recession indeed, but, whilst they lost out, the West won.The Saturn/Neptune square

The idea of a recession was not just prompted by the entrance of Saturn into Taurus, which might be thought to have indicated a focus on the economy and resources, and shortages in this area. It was the drawn-out square from Saturn in Taurus to Neptune in Aquarius – a signal for poverty and suffering – which was the indicator of recession. It was wafted in through the smoke clouds over Indonesia as Neptune entered Aquarius in February 1998, for those who can remember the ecological disaster of the burned out rain forests at that time. Those smoke clouds presaged the coming chaos and dissolution in Indonesia, just as on a larger scale they showed a cloud over Asia. Almost all the financial institutions in Asian countries crashed at this time, but those of the West bounced happily along.

The Internet

Indeed the expansion of Western economies was fuelled by the new technological playground of the Internet, and particularly those darlings of investors, the dot.coms. A new phenomenon had arisen – the rise of the small investor. It was the Internet itself which had made this possible. Access to information, which had at one time been only for the privileged few, suddenly became accessible to anyone with a phone line and a computer. Amateur enthusiasts were now looking at exactly the same screen images as the bright young men on the floors of the Wall Street stock market. New money started flowing into the market from these small investors, and this fuelled the Internet boom. This too was an expression of the entry of Neptune into Aquarius – it harnessed the dreams of ordinary people to get rich through new technology. And with Uranus having entered Aquarius as early as May 1995, the means to do this was already in place.

The Bubble Inflates

Having got it slightly wrong with talk about a recession two years ago, at least as far as we in the West were concerned, about a year ago I focused on the Jupiter square to Neptune. This is a classic inflationary aspect, associated with bubbles and their bursting, particularly when Jupiter is in Taurus. This aspect took place twice in the last half of 1999 and finally on March 16, 2000. There is no doubt whatsoever that the inflationary enthusiasms of this aspect have been channelled into speculation into Internet companies. Every detail about these companies conforms to the hyperbole of Jupiter/Neptune. The characteristic of these companies is that most of them have never made a profit, and those that have, have made very little. But investors are enamoured of their potential, and see them as the beginnings of a massive future. After all, the first television set was written off as wildly impractical, and nobody made any money out of televisions for years.

The Last Fool

People with Internet ideas are wildly looking for venture capital with a view to making their Internet site so popular that it can be floated on the stock market. And indeed, when such a company is floated, so many people want to invest in it, that the share price hits the roof, making the humble owner of the website a multimillionaire. On paper at least. Everybody wants to be in on it, because when a share price rises so fast, there is really a lot of money to be made. People plan to sell as the price goes up, well knowing that the edifice can crash. The hope of the speculator here is that someone even more foolish than themselves will buy the shares off them at a higher price. And there is no shortage of fools. An example of this kind of stock flotation is the infamous lastminute.com, which is going to be floated at the end of March at a probable valuation of £1 billion. The ridiculous thing is that it will never ever really be worth this sum, and everyone knows it. This site is a clearinghouse for airline tickets, which you can buy at the last minute, and recently they have added other products to their portfolio. In actual fact, the name “last minute” is singularly appropriate. The idea really is to sell your shares at the last minute, before you lose a fortune! So, as this company is floated on the stock market, the final square between Neptune and Jupiter is taking place. What more do you need to know about inflationary bubbles… except when is it going to pop?

Get Rich Quick

What seems to happen with Jupiter/Neptune is that there is a kind of collective madness, or collective dream. In England and the USA one of the most popular programs is Who wants to be a millionaire? which is a quiz program with questions getting progressively more difficult as the prize money goes up. Millions are riveted to the screen, and – here comes the confession – I am amongst them. Of course I’m just watching it as part of an astrological study…

An Old Story

As the collective madness takes hold, everyone colludes with the dream, and nobody wants to spoil the party. Robbing people of a dream is the sin… it takes away the happiness. It’s an old story. In the 1630s Dutch investors forced the price of a single tulip bulb to amazing heights – one investor pays 400 kilos of cheese, four oxen, eight pigs, 12 sheep, a bed, and a suit of clothes for a bulb – because a new-look bulb could be expected to generate a fortune. Europe had only just discovered how tulips could be bred to produce wonderful new coloured varieties, which were extremely sought after throughout Europe – the 17th century equivalent of a dot.com. After years of speculation the price of tulip bulbs crashed in 1637 at a time when there was a Jupiter/Uranus conjunction squaring Saturn, rather like the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction squaring Uranus in May 2000. Hundreds of investors lost their fortunes in this crash.

The South Sea Bubble

In the early 1700’s the new horizons were the colonies, and investors placed their money in distant overseas enterprises. The South Sea Company was one of these and at the time of the South Sea Bubble shares soared to over £1000, before crashing. This happened with a Saturn/Neptune opposition from Scorpio to Taurus, with Jupiter semi- and sesquisquare. In the same year the French Mississippi company which was based on a colonisation in America also collapsed. Both collapses nearly brought down their respective governments.

The Wall Street Crash

The most famous financial collapse was October 29th 1929, when Wall Street’s Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted, and $30 billion disappeared from the market… about the sum the First World War cost America. It should be remembered that economic experts of the time claimed that there would be no serious repercussions, and indeed the market rallied in 1930, only to crash in June 1930, when a long decline began. USA placed import duties on foreign goods against the advice of all economic experts, and this protectionism actually initiated the disastrous decline that affected the world. Real panic started in 1931 when Austria went bankrupt, followed by all German banks closing for several weeks. Over two thousand American banks closed in the same year, and in Britain the pound was devalued. Everyone in the Western world was affected by this collapse, with millions joining the unemployment queues, and production coming to a near standstill. By July 1931 the Dow Jones industrial average was down to 41 points from a high of 381 in September 1929. Looking at the planetary movements in the early thirties, it can be seen that Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus combine in a complex T-square. Jupiter in Cancer opposes Saturn in Capricorn (similar to the Berlin wall collapse of 1989 – this pattern repeats every 60 years in the same signs), and both square Uranus in Aries. It was of course also at this time that Pluto was discovered, and the whole process of crash and depression is certainly related to this planet making its mark at this time, especially as it made its long-running square to Uranus. This was certainly fertile ground for the fascist movements, which really started building up steam in the thirties.

The Planetary Pattern in Year 2000

I am not suggesting that a similar crash will happen in the year 2000, just because the pattern of tension between Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus – which happened with the Depression in the early thirties and with the Tulip investment debacle – repeats itself. But some major economic realignment will happen, if only because of the momentous line up of all seven inner planets in Taurus on May 4, 2000. The aspect to watch out for is when Jupiter, flush from its heady profits when it squared Neptune in March, meets the lightning of Uranus, on May 20, and the heavy earth of Saturn on May 28. This distended balloon of illusory hopes, meets the thundercloud and hurtles to earth. The shares in the basket carried by this balloon are Internet shares, because they are the shares that everybody placed their millionaire hopes on when Jupiter squared Neptune.

Dot Com Logic

As Jupiter meets Saturn, it seems obvious that another kind of economic sense will prevail. It’s not that the Internet does not represent the future – it does. But people have projected their greed onto the profits which can be made, and the dot.com bubble is an expression of this greed. Investors are not betting on long-term profits, but on making a short term killing, in a process that can be likened to a game of musical chairs, where every one runs for safety just before the crash, leaving those left standing in financial ruin. But why should this worry the great majority of ordinary people who are on the outside? The problem is that the rise in popularity of Internet companies which earn little, (with a work force that number, at most, a few hundred), has pushed out solid performers (like food manufactures and retailers) who employ thousands of people and really do earn hundreds of millions of pounds. Investors in Internet companies are making paper profits, and that means that large investment companies are having their hands forced, as their customers demand similar profits. Money is pulled out of traditional companies, rendering them vulnerable to take-over, and poured into Internet companies. This means that the average person’s savings and pensions are actually getting channelled into high-risk ventures.

The Consequences

When the Internet bubble bursts, then a lot of ordinary people will suffer. When the South Sea bubble burst, investors naturally wanted nothing more to do with investing overseas, and this had enormous repercussions for world trade. Similarly, in the thirties when a country’s financial institutions got into trouble, they adopted protectionist habits, which affected everyone. Loss of faith in the Internet at this point could similarly set back development for years, stifling many young and brilliant minds that are in a position to improve the quality of life for ordinary people world-wide. The Internet is the great democratisation factor of our times, making a level playing field for people of all races and cultures. But the gigantic bang when the balloon bursts will affect financial institutions so profoundly that even normal business activity will be affected. Of course, investors did eventually regain the courage to finance overseas developments, just as protectionist barriers were also eventually removed. Nothing will keep the Internet from flourishing, but it is in for a bumpy ride in the short term.

The People’s Chronology , James Trager published by Henry Holt The Guardian, 12th March 2000 . Will Hutton

Adrian Ross Duncan