The story of espionage and duplicity that financial adviser Martin Armstrong relates in Marcus Vetter’s documentary The Forecaster is as serpentine and fascinating as a John le Carré novel. Its narrative thread convincingly weaves multiple financial collapses, the ouster of Boris Yeltsin, and the rise of the Putin oligarchy around Armstrong’s life’s work — a mathematical model that predicts market peaks and collapses and, allegedly, the wars that accompany both.
Martin’s Economic Confidence Model tracks 26 market panics over 224 years, applies some arithmetic, and extrudes a market cycle based on pi. Apparently! His published work from the 1980s to the present is uncanny in its accurate predictions of the market crash of 1987, the Soviet collapse, the first Gulf War, and the housing collapse of 2007.
Director Vetter’s film, which includes Armstrong’s preposterous eleven-year incarceration on contempt charges for refusing to turn over his source code, includes a lot of Ken Burns–style pans across scary-looking graphs of money apocalypses past and future, as well as interviews with Armstrong’s many supporters, all set to a pensive soundtrack of ominous tones.
With his interpretation of global events, Armstrong tells one hell of a good story. Is any of it true? All of it, including his computer model, is built on the tectonically immovable bedrock of human corruption, so it’s certainly plausible. Spoiler: The world economy is going to experience a “sovereign-debt big bang” sometime in October 2015, according to Armstrong’s model, so this will provide another validating data point if it happens.