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Historical lessons in prosperity vs. poverty

Historical lessons in prosperity vs. poverty

As the grandson of Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan had a lot to prove.

So he set his eyes on the biggest prize in the known world at the time: southern China.

Kublai Khan completed his conquest of China in 1279, forging a new empire and creating the Yuan dynasty.

The Mongols were known for their expensive habits— they liked war and women especially. So when the money started to run out, administrators in the Yuan dynasty started printing paper money.

Yuan officials weren’t the first to come up with this idea; the government from the prior Song dynasty had also printed paper money. But there was a huge difference—

Paper currency from the Song dynasty, known as guanzi, was backed by copper, silver, and gold coins.

The Yuan currency, however, was backed by nothing. So whenever the government started to run out of money, they simply printed more.

By 1350, Kublai Khan had been dead for decades. But the Yuan dynasty’s economic overseers were still printing paper money like crazy. And it was causing severe hyperinflation across China.

People’s lives were turned upside down by the government’s fiscal irresponsibility, and rebellions broke out across the country.

By 1368, the Yuan dynasty had completely collapsed, and a destitute peasant farmer-turned-monk named Zhu Yuanzhang rose up to become Emperor and found the new Ming Dynasty.

To stimulate the economy ravaged by inflation, the Ming dynasty created an unprecedented level of economic freedom.

Markets and industries were deregulated; the government abandoned its monopoly on salt production, for example, and merchants were encouraged to allow market competition to set prices.

In time, the government stabilized the currency and reintroduced metallic coins. And by the 1500s Ming officials even allowed foreign currencies like the Spanish Silver Dollar to circulate in China.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

This is a Financial Revolution

This is a Financial Revolution

At precisely 2:32pm Eastern time on May 6, 2010, the US stock market started to drop.

The decline was sudden, and vicious. Within minutes, more than $1 trillion of market capitalization had vanished, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing nearly 10% of its value.

This event became known as the ‘Flash Crash’. And early explanations pointed to the big investment banks and their high-tech trading algorithms, i.e. software that could buy and sell stocks without human involvement.

When the market started its decline that day, banks’ trading algorithms went haywire and started selling everything. This caused the market to decline even further, which triggered the algorithms to sell even more.

The humans were powerless to stop it. There were stories of panicked tech teams at investment banks frantically ripping cables out of the floor trying to shut down the machines.

But the selling went on for 36 minutes… during which time the banks and big funds racked up enormous losses.

For me, however, the Flash Crash was great. I was ‘short’ the stock market at the time, meaning I had bet that the market would decline.

And when the market dropped by more than 1,000 points, I happily cashed in.

But two days later I received an email from my broker explaining that they were CANCELING my trade.

The poor little investment banks had lost money because their fancy algorithms didn’t work. So the exchange was giving them a ‘do over’ at my expense.

Incredible. It hadn’t even been two years at that point since the banks had to be bailed out at taxpayer expense during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.

Then, 20 months later, the Flash Crash happened. And the banks were simply able to wipe all their losses away.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Five ways to loosen Big Tech’s grip on your life

I imagine there are countless people right now who feel a wide range of emotions when it comes to Big Tech companies. Anger. Disgust. Confusion. Fear.

We’ve watched with exasperation as Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. have systematically squashed intellectual dissent; their actions have been so commonplace that there’s even a name for it: “De-platforming”.

We all know there’s a ton of garbage on the Internet, including from mainstream sources.

But de-platforming has proven to be wholeheartedly biased, totally arbitrary, and often comically ridiculous.

This isn’t just about the election or the Capitol. For example, if you dare utter a word on social media that goes against the infinite and infallible wisdom of the Chinese-controlled World Health Organization, then you might find yourself banned.

YouTube even suspended a renowned epidemiologist– a bona fide pandemic expert– because he opposed lockdowns and was hence ‘dangerous’.

Facebook censored more than 22 million posts in Q2 of 2020 for ‘hate speech’. Naturally, its entirely up to Facebook to define hate speech and judge whether or not you’re using it.

#killallmen, for example, is NOT considered hate speech. And even by the company’s own admission, hate speech against men, or white people, is a low priority.

It’s clear these companies have an enormous amount of unchecked power. They have the ability to erase you from the Internet, destroy your reputation, and, if you’re someone who makes money online, terminate your livelihood.

But the only reason they have this power is because we’ve given it to them. Hundreds of millions of people have intertwined their entire lives into the Big Tech ecosystem, to the point that they know absolutely everything about us.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why the price of silver could skyrocket

Why the price of silver could skyrocket

By the mid-6th century BC, Darius the Great was ‘King of Kings’, ruling over the vast Achaemenid Empire.

By that time, gold and silver had already been in use by earlier civilizations for thousands of years.

There are cuneiform tablets that are nearly 4,000 years old from ancient Sumeria which record commercial transactions made in gold and silver.

And subsequent civilizations– the Babylonians, Egyptians, Lydians, etc. all used gold or silver in commerce.

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But Darius had a unique idea.

He borrowed the idea of minting gold and silver coins from the Lydians… but then established a fixed exchange rate between the two metals.

Darius decreed that one gold “daric” was worth 13.5 silver coins– one of the first examples in history of a fixed, bimetallic standard.

His idea caught on. And for thousands of years afterward, later civilizations established a fixed gold/silver ratio.

In ancient Greece during the age of Pericles, gold was valued at 14x silver. In ancient Rome, Julius Caesar valued gold at 12x silver.

It remained this way for centuries.

Even in the earliest days of the United States, eighteen centuries after Caesar, The Coinage Act of 1792 established a ratio of 15:1.

(According to the law, one US dollar is supposed to be 24.1 grams of silver, or 1.6 grams of gold. So those pieces of paper in your wallet are not dollars– they are technically “Federal Reserve Notes”.)

In modern times there is no longer a fixed ratio between gold and silver, though its long-term average over the last several decades has been between 50:1 and 80:1.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

FDIC asks Americans to keep their money in the banks

FDIC asks Americans to keep their money in the banks

Yesterday the Chair of the FDIC released an astonishing video asking Americans to keep their money in the bank.

Accompanied by soft piano music playing in the background, the official said:

“Your money is safe at the banks. The last thing you should be doing is pulling your money out of the banks thinking it’s going to be safer somewhere else.”

Amazing. I was half expecting her to waive her hand and say, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for…”

As I’ve written before, there’s $250 TRILLION worth of debt in the world right now: student debt, housing debt, credit card debt, government debt, corporate debt, etc.

And let’s be honest, some of that debt is simply not going to be paid.

Millions of people have already lost their jobs. Millions more (like the 10 million waiters and bartenders across America) are barely earning anything right now because their businesses are closed.

A lot of those folks have no emergency savings to fall back on during times of crisis, so they’re going to be forced to choose: pay the rent, or buy food.

The government has already suspended evictions and foreclosures, which is a green light for people to stop paying the rent or mortgage.

And that means banks will take it in the teeth.

This is what happened back in 2008– millions of people across the country stopped paying their mortgages, and the banking system nearly collapsed as a result.

Today it’s a similar situation; a lot of people are going to stop paying their mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, etc. And that directly impacts the banks.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Banks are going to drown in an ocean of defaults

Banks are going to drown in an ocean of defaults

On November 6, 2000, then US presidential candidate George W. Bush told a crowd of cheering supporters, “they misunderestimated me.”

Now, if English is not your native language, allow me to clear the air: ‘misunderestimate’ is not a word. But then again, George W. Bush was legendary for hilarious slip-ups like this.

There are entire books dedicated to his ‘Bushisms,’ the ridiculous made-up words and incomprehensible sayings that became routine for the 43rd US President.

‘Misunderestimate’ seems to be a conflation of the words ‘misunderstand’ and ‘underestimate’. And while that was utterly hysterical 20 years ago when Bush first said it, ‘misunderestimate’ may be the most appropriate word of today.

The entire world has completely ‘misunderestimated’ the Corona Virus.

In terms of misunderstand– that’s obvious. There’s so much that we don’t know about the virus (officially known as SARS-CoV-2) and the disease that it causes (COVID-19).

For example, a group of researchers published a “peer-reviewed” research paper earlier this month stating that the virus had split into multiple strains.

(Peer-reviewed is a type of self-regulation among academics; it means the paper had been evaluated by other experts before it was published.)

But other specialists in the field strongly disagreed with the paper’s conclusions.

Swiss biologist Richard Neher described the research as, “wrong, misleading. . . downright dangerous inferences,” while Australian virologist Ian Mackay called it a “weak paper and poor science.”

Another peer-reviewed study released in the Journal of Medical Virology concluded that the virus originated from snakes. But plenty of experts disagreed with that assertion too.

The scientific community has learned so much about SARS-CoV-2 since it first surfaced a few months ago.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Start thinking about silver before it becomes popular again

Start thinking about silver before it becomes popular again

In 663 BC, King Ashurbanipal of the Assyrian Empire invaded Egypt and sacked the city of Waset (located in modern day Luxor on the Nile River).

Ashurbanipal vanquished the city, purportedly seizing more than 75 metric tons of silver for his personal collection.

At the time in the ancient world, the prevailing ratio between gold and silver was 1:2. In other words, 75 metric tons (= 75,000 kilograms) of silver was worth 37,500 kilograms of gold, equal to $1.76 billion in today’s money.

That 1:2 gold/silver ratio had held for thousands of years across Persia, Mesopotamia, and Ancient Egypt, possibly since as early as 3,000 BC.

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But over time it has changed periodically.

By the time of Alexander the Great in the 300s BC, the Gold/Silver ratio had shifted to 1:13. Mining techniques had advanced at that point, so the ancients were able to produce higher volumes of silver than ever before.

Under Julius Caesar in Ancient Rome, one ounce of gold was worth 12 ounces of silver. In the time of Mohammed and the early days of the Islamic Caliphate in the 600s, the ratio was 1:16.

Even in the early history of the United States, the Mint and Coinage Act of 1792 established a gold/silver ratio 1:15.

(According to the law, one US dollar is defined as 1.604 grams of pure gold, or 24.1 grams of pure silver. So those pieces of paper in your wallet are not technically US dollars, but ‘Federal Reserve Notes’.)

In our modern times, the ratio average is around 55 ounces of silver per ounce of gold.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Gold’s long-term gains have even outperformed Warren Buffett…

Gold’s long-term gains have even outperformed Warren Buffett…

Warren Buffett, despite his extraordinary investment success, has a rather famous and long-standing love/hate relationship with precious metals.

Maybe it started with his dad– Congressman Howard Buffett of Nebraska– who, as a staunch advocate for the gold standard, argued to his colleagues on Capitol Hill that “paper money systems have always wound up with collapse and economic chaos.”

Warren himself acquired a record-setting 128 million ounces of silver back in the late 1990s… which he later sold at a profit in the early 2000s.

But to listen to him talk about precious metals these days, he’s always negative.

Buffett often quips that if you took the world’s entire supply of gold and melted it together, it would form a cube of about 68 feet (~21 meters) per side and be worth around $9 trillion.

With that same $9 trillion, you could buy every share of Apple, Disney, Google, Microsoft, JP Morgan, Exxon Mobil, all the farmland in the United States, all the developable land in Manhattan, and still have more than a trillion dollars left over.

This is Buffett’s central argument: gold doesn’t produce anything. So it’s much better to invest in a productive asset like a business, farmland, etc.

Sure, I’d rather own a profitable, productive asset than a pile of metal.

But Buffett is completely wrong to compare gold to productive assets… they’re apples and oranges.

Gold isn’t an ‘investment’. It’s an insurance policy against paper currencies will lose value over time. So a MUCH better comparison for gold is CASH.

Using Buffett’s same thought experiment, would an investor with $9 trillion rather have all that money sitting in a bank earning 0%? Or buy all the productive assets I mentioned above?

Clearly it’s more attractive to own productive assets than cash sitting in a bank.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Anti-Fragile are you?

How Anti-Fragile are you?

I arrived back home to Puerto Rico late last night after traveling back from our Total Access event in Las Vegas.

It was probably around 11:15 pm when I climbed into bed. And, within minutes, just as the sound of the waves outside was carrying me off to sleep, the whole house started violently shaking.

It turned out to be a magnitude 6.0 earthquake, about 20 miles off the west coast of the island.

I lived in Chile for seven years before this– one of the world’s earthquake capitals– so I’m no stranger to seismic activity.

But earthquakes are EXTREMELY rare in Puerto Rico… as in, they almost NEVER happen. People simply do not expect them.

Hurricanes, tropical storms, etc., sure, those are common occurrences here.

And you might remember that Puerto Rico was almost wiped out from 2017’s Hurricane Maria. It devastated the island and much of the Eastern Caribbean, and two years later they still haven’t recovered.

Today there’s supposed to be some Tropical Storm coming through, which, by comparison to Hurricane Maria, is barely a bit of drizzle.

But the government here is on pins and needles, and so anxious to show that they’re ready for anything that they closed schools, many government offices, and even called up the National Guard…

I can’t help but feel bad for them. They’re so scarred from Hurricane Maria two years ago that they overreact in desperation at the first warning sign of a storm.

And then, in an instant, something completely unexpected happened: Puerto Rico was hit with a 6.0 earthquake, and the government has no idea how to react.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Here’s a dirty secret few people know about gold

Here’s a dirty secret few people know about gold

In 1962 in a picturesque setting in Santa Barbara, California, two local entrepreneurs opened a low-cost, roadside inn where the nightly room rate was just $6.

They called it Motel 6.

And today the chain has grown to over 1,400 locations.

If you want the most straightforward explanation for why you should own gold, consider your local Motel 6.

It’s noteworthy that, today, the very same Santa Barbara location now rents its rooms for nearly $90 per night.

That’s a 15x increase in 57 years, an average increase of roughly 5% per year.

Are the rooms 15x bigger, or 15x nicer? Not really.

The reason the price has increased so much is because of inflation– the gradual erosion of the US dollar’s purchasing power over the past several decades.

This is why it’s important to have a conversation about gold.

Unlike paper currencies, gold has a 5,000 year track record of keeping up with inflation.

In fact, when priced in gold, a room at the Motel 6 has actually gotten cheaper.

Back in 1962, an ounce of gold would buy you about 6 nights at the motel. Now, despite the 12-fold increase in the price of a room, one ounce of gold will buy you 21 nights there.

That’s because the price of gold has largely outpaced the rate of inflation and the decline in the purchasing power of the US dollar.

Gold is a fantastic long-term store of value. It’s also an insurance policy– a hedge against paper currency, systemic risk, and uncertainty.

And there’s plenty of those in the world.

But there’s also a number of catalysts emerging right now that could send gold prices substantially higher in the near future, so it may be worth considering gold right now as a speculation.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Four ways that Uncle Sam will respond to its $75 trillion insolvency

Four ways that Uncle Sam will respond to its $75 trillion insolvency

Last week I told you that the US government recently reported a negative net worth of MINUS $75 TRILLION.

That’s not a type-o. According to the Treasury Department’s annual financial report for Fiscal Year 2018 (which they just published last week), the US government is hopelessly bankrupt.

Now, I’m not talking about this trying to stoke fear and panic.

Quite the opposite– I’m hoping that this conversation results in calm optimism. But the point is that it’s an important conversation to have… because a number as large as $75 trillion absolutely has consequences.

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To believe that any nation can be so desperately insolvent without suffering any negative impact is just plain foolish.

Debts have to be paid. Obligations have to be met. So at some point, with numbers these gruesome, something has to break down.

This is not a dire prediction or wild conspiracy theory. It’s an arithmetic certainty.

Remember, this isn’t even my analysis. The government itself acknowledges its $75 trillion insolvency. The Social Security Administration acknowledges that its trust funds will run out of money in 15 years.

This is happening. So let’s take a look at the government’s very narrow playbook:

1) Ignore the problem

Politicians are already acting as if nothing is wrong.

Sure, occasionally you’ll hear someone complain about the debt, or there will be a debt ceiling showdown. But no serious alarm bells are ringing.

And because they don’t make a big deal over the debt, no one else does either. Everyone just goes along as if there’s not a problem.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

If Donald Trump is the King of Debt, these guys were the Kings of Inflation

If Donald Trump is the King of Debt, these guys were the Kings of Inflation

Maximilian Bern had saved up 100,000 German marks for what should have been a modest, but comfortable retirement.

But in 1923, he withdrew every last cent, and spent it all on one purchase: a subway ticket.

He rode around his city one last time before returning home, and locking himself in his home, where he died.

He didn’t kill himself. He starved to death… simply because he could no longer afford food. A single egg at the market would cost millions of marks, more than Maximilian Bern had saved over his entire life.

This was one of the most famous episodes of hyperinflation, certainly in modern history.

In the wake of World War One, Germany (known as the Weimar Republic) was completely broke.

The War to end all Wars had bankrupted them; and on top of losing the war, Germany was forced to make ‘reparation payments’ to the victors, including France, the UK, etc.

That took Germany’s overall war debt to impossible levels. So in a feeble attempt to keep the economy afloat and meet its war debt obligations, the German government printed massive amounts of paper money.

Prior to World War I, one US dollar was worth 4.2 German marks.

By 1923, a single US dollar was worth 4.2 TRILLION marks.

We’ve seen this in our own lifetime in places like Zimbabwe, and now Venezuela.

I remember the first time I went to Venezuela the official exchange rate was four bolivars to the US dollar—and the black market rate was eight to one.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Europe is so weak it can’t even handle 0% interest rates

Europe is so weak it can’t even handle 0% interest rates

Europe’s leading economic policy makers have officially thrown in the towel.

Last week, the European Central Bank admitted economic conditions are so dire that it already has to reverse its monetary policy.

I’ll get back to that in a minute…

Following the Great Financial Crisis in 2008, central banks printed trillions of dollars and pushed interest rates to their lowest levels in human history. Low interest rates (and lots of new money sloshing around the system) mean people should go out and buy things that would otherwise be out of reach… new houses, new cars, businesses, etc.

And, in theory, all of that activity creates jobs and helps the economy grow… in theory.

Ten years into this monetary experiment, central banks did create growth…

US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was about $15 trillion in 2008. Current GDP is about $22 trillion. That’s $7 trillion of economic growth.

Impressive… until you figure the cost of that growth.

Over the same period, the US national debt increased from $10 trillion to $22 trillion.

So, it took $12 trillion of debt to create $7 trillion of economic growth.  

The marginal utility of all of this new debt is decreasing (remember this point for later). And it’s the same story all over the world. 

The US economy is so dependent on cheap money, it can’t even handle 2% interest rates (the Fed hiked rates from 2.25% to 2.5% last December and stocks fell 20%).

But Europe is even worse. Europe has negative interest rates. And the European economy is so weak (it grew 0.2% in Q4), it can’t even handle ZERO percent interest rates.

Last week the ECB announced it would keep interest rates negative. And it’s starting its third round of cheap loans to banks (who, in turn, are supposed to lend to businesses and households).

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Reason #437 to own gold: The Fed wants Negative Interest Rates

Reason #437 to own gold: The Fed wants Negative Interest Rates

And just like that, it seems we’re headed back to quantitative easing…

After cutting interest rates to nearly zero following the 2008 crisis, the Federal Reserve starting raising rates near the end of 2015 (from 0.25% to 2.5% today).

Following the most recent hike in December 2018, Chairman Powell seemed hell bent on further tightening, saying “some further gradual increases” were in the cards.

Then the stock market promptly fell nearly 20%. 

Investors were in panic mode and calling for the end of the world.

The pain was too much…

Last month, the Fed left rates unchanged… and Powell removed any language about further hikes.

Already Powell is capitulating.

The new chief economist for the International Monetary Fund praised the move, saying she sees “considerable and rising risks” to the global economy.

And no surprise here, but Paul Krugman also supported the Fed’s policy. He’s also worried about a possible recession… but more worried the Fed won’t be able to cut rates low enough.

Central banks tried raising interest rates, but the market wouldn’t take it.

Now, the market is putting the likelihood of a rate hike this year at ZERO… and it’s expecting a rate cut next year.

Both the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan were supposed to start tightening policy and raising rates… now, they are both considering cutting interest rates even deeper into negative territory.

And after a 20% drop in US stocks, the Fed has taken its foot off the pedal. But the people still want more…

The President of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis thinks current interest rates are “too restrictive.” He too wants lower rates.

The San Francisco Fed agrees – they were singing the praises of negative interest rates in a recent research paper, saying they would have helped the economy recover even faster after 2008.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Get Ready– they’re coming for your money

Get Ready– they’re coming for your money

Every so often throughout history, the peasants grab their pitchforks and come for the elite. It happens when the wealth gap grows too extreme… when people feel like they are getting left behind, with no opportunity to advance.

Central banks around the world have printed trillions of dollars over last decade, and pushed interest rates to zero, and sometimes below. And all of that stimulus went directly into the pockets of the wealthy.

Since 2009, the world’s billionaires more than DOUBLED their combined wealth. All the billionaires in the world had $3.4 trillion in 2009. By 2017, they amassed $8.9 trillion.

Mark Zuckerberg multiplied his wealth almost 20 times over, from $3 billion in 2009, to over $58 billion in 2019.

$8.9 trillion is a massive, almost incomprehensible amount of wealth.

But it really shouldn’t be that surprising if you think about it… these people are wealthy for a reason. Typically, they are pretty good at making money. And with the snowball effect, if you give them more time, they will probably make even more.

For the last ten years, we’ve seen a huge asset price inflation in everything from the stock market, to bonds and real estate, and even fine art and wine.

But if you’re a wage earner without assets, you’ve been left out. Wages andmedian household wealth have stagnated.

And this is a global issue…

The combined wealth of the poorest half of the world–3.8 billion people–fell by 11% just last year, according to Oxfam, a group working to alleviate poverty.

The New York Times claims the richest 8 people on the planet have more wealth than the poorest 3.8 billion.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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