Saturday, June 6, 2015

Future Ups and Downs into 2065 | Samuel Benner’s Prophecies

Samuel Benner was a farmer from Ohio who first published his prophecies about price fluctuations in 1875. The 19th century was the time of Laplacian probability, Gaussian distributions, Peano curves and Cantor set. While mathematicians were looking for structures in mathematics, Samuel Benner was studying and writing about a model of ‘Time’ to forecast the future. He lived in an era of Axe Houghton Indices, the time when the Chicago Board of Trade was established and agricultural commodity trading was active business. Society was busy with agriculture and expanding railroads. This is why his workings were based on pig iron, corn, cotton and hogs. Along with agriculture came the essential science of weather forecasting. What years would be dry or wet? When to expect years of heat, storm and cold? Agricultural statistics was compiled and used to establish demand and supply patterns. It was then 140 years back Benner wrote that the future cannot be calculated based on agricultural statistics. Statistics compilation would remain always poor, irregular, manipulable, undependable and non predictive. For Benner the axiom “history repeats itself” implies a cyclical movement in human affairs, and as it is a generally received opinion that everything moves in cycles, especially in nature. 

Samuel Benner's charts on pig-iron, hogs and panics.
Prediction of the future can only be done by studying the past. History repeats itself with marvelous accuracy in detail from one panic year to another. Samuel Benner was the first to show how history repeated systematically. He was vocal about the cyclicality of financial catastrophes and his model illustrated the crisis' of 1891, 1902, 1910 and even 1929, 1987 and 2003. However, 2009 was a big miss in his set of nested cycles (exactly 20 Lunar Node Cycles after the 1637 Dutch Tulipomania bust). Time according to Benner was a pattern, a rule that did not change because of war, panic or elections. It was relentless in nature. It was periodical and not haphazard. The rule was unchangeable, determinable. Failures in business were connected with ignorance of ‘Time’. Today one can judge Samuel Benner as a farmer or a genius, but that would not change the fact that he was one of the first to see the mathematical hierarchy in ‘Time’.

The story of the Benner’s work is intertwined with his personal experiences of bankruptcy. He was a prosperous farmer who was wiped out financially by the 1873 panic and then wanted to find out about the law of nature. He took the yearly average prices to smoothen the data. When he compared them he saw up and down yearly cycles repeating in a fixed sequence of a large cycle of 18-20-16 years and a small cycle of 9-10-8 years. The cycles low depicted reactions and depressions.
According to Benner these were cast iron rules and he referred to them as ‘God in prices’. Later the larger 54 year cycle was also discussed in detail by Russian economist Kondratiev in 1925. Edward R. Dewey, Director of the Foundation for the Study of Cycles, assessed Benner's pig iron price forecasts over a 60 year period. Remarkably, he regarded this cycle as showing a gain - loss ratio of 45 to 1, which was “the most notable forecast of prices in existence”.

Extending and updating Samuel Benner's cycles and correlating them with more recent US-stock market prices, pointed to the low in 2003, the high in 2010, and the minor crisis in 2011. This would then be followed by a rising stock market into 2018 and a depression in 2021.