SGS Notes: These days, events are happening almost daily in the precious metals market. The latest big news this week is the move by Hugo Chavez, dictator of Venezuela, to Nationalize the Venezuela gold industry, and to repatriate the country's gold holdings around the world. See links in 'Other Articles' about this.
Gold, Silver And 'Leaky Buckets
Jeff Nielson, BullionBulls, Canada
To those of us who have "found" precious metals, their (financially) life-saving properties are blatantly apparent. Indeed, apart from explaining the 5,000 year heritage of gold and silver as premier financial assets in our civilization, most of the arguments in favor of gold and silver are straightforward, simple arithmetic.
Because of this reality, one of the great frustrations for all precious metals bulls are the thankless (and generally fruitless) efforts we make to try to enlighten friends/relatives/associates. The pattern of such attempts is maddeningly similar.
Some friend or loved one mentions how "inflation" is hurting them financially. So the gold/silver bull begins to explain what inflation really is, who is causing it, and how it is done. So far, so good. However, as soon as we move on to explain how we protect ourselves from this "inflation" (i.e. through accumulating gold and/or silver), a subtle metamorphosis inevitably takes place with our subject.
A bland/placid expression creeps over their face, and is frozen into their features. Through years of experience with this phenomenon, I know exactly what that expression translates to in terms of the person's thoughts: "I'm trapped with this dangerous lunatic. How can I escape?" At that point, any attempt at "conversion" becomes purely an exercise in futility.
After each such failure, I inevitably review the process which has taken place, and ask myself where I could have gone wrong. The reality, of course, is that the fault does not lie with ourselves, nor with the individual whom we have failed to convince. Rather, the "blame" belongs to the propaganda machine of the bankers, which for the past century has blared out one message above all others: paper currency = money = wealth.
It is the fact that this simple, but totally erroneous equation is embedded in the "programming" of most of us which prevents the precious metals message of financial salvation from penetrating the psyche of those so afflicted. Thus, the initial step in being able to re-program the minds of these propaganda victims is to de-program them first. It starts with repudiating the bankers' odious "equation" (above).
First of all, paper currency does not equal "money". This is actually an entire discussion in itself. I could abbreviate it by listing the four qualities which all "good money" must possess. However, without expanding on the reasoning behind those traits, such mere assertions will not sway the brainwashed mind. Readers can review my own previous discussion on this, or the many similar efforts of other commentators, however the conclusion is unequivocal: paper currency is not money.
Now let's examine the third element in this propaganda-chain: wealth. The more cumbersome way to refute this equality/equivalence would be to explain why paper currency does not equal wealth. However, the better way to do this would be to simply point out the basic difference in the properties of these three elements. Paper currency is tangible. Money is tangible. Wealth is intangible.
This can be easily demonstrated anecdotally. Many people (including myself) often go days at a time carrying out all of our commercial transactions without ever once using "money". Thanks to the credit card (which is simply an electronic cheque-book), we no longer need money to convey our wealth to a vendor to make a purchase. It can all be done electronically because of the intangible nature of our wealth.
In similar terms, if we get up in the morning to discover that interest rates have been raised or lowered, this immediately affects property values - and the wealth of each/every property owner. Our properties have not changed in any way. We have not done anything ourselves. However, our level of wealth has gone up (or down). In fact, countless exogenous events affect our precise level of wealth at any given moment. Clearly, if wealth was not intangible than its exact level at any moment in time would not be so fluid.
Our equity markets leap higher or plunge lower (affecting the wealth of any/every equities-holder) often based only on "sentiment" or "expectations" - purely intangible drivers themselves. Obviously anything which can be altered by mere attitudes is intangible. As with any "intangible" (in our material world), we often find it helpful to adopt a (tangible) metaphor to allow us to have a better conceptual grasp. In the case of wealth, the obvious metaphor is a liquid. Indeed, the very frequent use of the term "liquidity" as a synonym for wealth is proof of such suitability.
Once we have conceptualized wealth as a "liquid", then it becomes equally simple to conceptualize "money" and "paper currency" within the same metaphor. They are containers for this liquid. Now let us make our metaphor even more tangible and precise.
Instead of "money", let us divide this into two "containers": gold and silver - the best/most-preferred forms of money in the history of our species. And instead of "paper currency", let's call that container "U.S. dollar". Finally, let's simply refer to these containers as "buckets".
We now have a very specific metaphor, and a very clear choice for each of us. We each have our own quantity of liquid (wealth), and we can store/hold that liquid in the "gold" bucket, the "silver" bucket, or the "U.S. dollar" bucket. Now let's examine the quality of each bucket.
Why have gold and silver been the preferred forms of money for our species for 5,000 years? Because they perfectly preserve (i.e. contain) the wealth of the holder. Look back 2,000 years to ancient Rome, and a stylish Roman could adorn himself in the finest toga, sandals and accessories for the cost of 1 oz of gold. Flash ahead to today, and any gentleman could obtain a top-quality suit, shoes and accessories for the cost of 1 oz of gold. Clearly, the gold bucket does not leak.
Now let's look at the U.S. dollar bucket. In the less than 100 years since the creation of the odious Federal Reserve, the U.S. dollar has lost approximately 98% of its value. Obviously the U.S. dollar bucket does leak. Hold your liquid in the U.S. dollar bucket long enough and you will lose all of it.
A (literal) "Devil's Advocate" would argue that a bucket which takes nearly 100 years to lose all of its liquid is "good enough". The rebuttal to this is as frightening as it is simple.
In the 40 years since Nixon severed the last connection between the U.S. dollar and gold, the dollar has lost more than 75% of its value. In other words, the hole in the bucket has gotten much larger. Today, as the price of food soars, and the price of gas soars, and the price of gold soars, and the price of silver soars none of these items have changed in any way, rather it is the value of the U.S. dollar which is plummeting. The hole in the bucket is rapidly getting larger.
Throughout history, all paper currencies which have not been backed by gold or silver (i.e. "fiat currencies") have failed. The most common means of failure is through the destruction of these paper currencies via hyperinflation: the value of the currency plummeting to zero. We can describe "hyperinflation" in our metaphor very easily: it's when the entire bottom of the U.S. dollar bucket has disappeared. Liquid (i.e. wealth) pours out the bottom as fast as we can funnel it in.
Looking at the first two buckets provides us with a crystal-clear picture. We have the gold bucket which never leaks. Not in 100 years, not in thousands of years. We have the U.S. dollar bucket. Not only does this bucket "leak", guaranteeing the loss of all liquid/wealth over time, but the hole in the bottom is getting larger every day - and soon it won't be capable of holding any liquid at all.
Given this stark illustration with just two buckets, some might presume that my inclusion of a silver bucket in this metaphor is redundant. However (as we shall see), the silver bucket is actually quite distinct from the gold bucket.
Obviously the silver bucket is just as leak-proof as the gold bucket, but silver buckets cost much less. After decades of being impoverished by our own, elitist governments (primarily through storing our wealth in 'leaky buckets'), many people can no longer afford gold buckets - however virtually everyone can still afford silver buckets.
This makes silver the "People's Bucket", a leak-proof container to store our "liquid" (wealth) which everyone can afford. However it gets even better. In continuing with our metaphor, we must all understand that the bankers have their own "Magic Bucket". How magical? Every drop of liquid which leaks out of the U.S. dollar bucket ends up in the bankers' Magic Bucket. That's pretty "magical"!
It is because the bankers have their own Magic Bucket that they hate silver buckets with every fiber of their evil beings. For the last century, and especially the last 50 years the bankers have made a concerted effort to destroy all of the world's silver buckets. How? Through manipulating the price of silver to a ridiculous low (in real dollars, the price of silver hit a 600-year low in the 1990's), they simultaneously destroyed "supply" (by bankrupting more than 90% of the world's silver miners), while causing demand to explode. Global inventories and stockpiles have been obliterated.
The result of this is that in relative terms there has not been this little silver in the world (above ground) in thousands of years. This is true both in relation to the quantity of gold and on a per capita basis. This means that in relation to gold buckets, silver buckets are now very rare - some might even call them "magical" too.
Not only is silver a leak-proof bucket to carry our liquid (wealth) which is still affordable for the average person, but it has become extremely useful in countless industrial applications - meaning that "everyone" wants silver buckets. Because of this high scarcity and soaring demand, it is a matter of elementary supply/demand analysis that the price of silver must rise to many multiples of its current price.
To translate this back to our metaphor, when we put liquid in our silver bucket, not only does the silver bucket prevent any leaks, but it actually increases the amount of liquid in our bucket. The silver bucket is also a Magic Bucket - but not an "evil" Magic Bucket like the one owned by the bankers. The bankers' liquid increases through leeching all of the liquid out of the U.S. dollar buckets, while the silver Magic Bucket increases the liquid of the holder without stealing any liquid from anyone else.
Let us review (one last time) the three "buckets" we can choose from to store our liquid/wealth. We can choose the gold bucket, a leak-proof bucket guaranteed to hold every drop of our liquid over the long term. We can choose the U.S. dollar bucket: a leaky bucket, with a hole in the bottom that gets larger every day - and which is guaranteed to lose all the liquid contained over time.
Lastly there are the silver "Magic Buckets". These marvelous devices not only ensure against leaks, but actually cause the liquid contained to increase in volume. The only down-side to these Magic Buckets? There is a very limited supply.
It can be virtually impossible to explain to a brainwashed mind how/why U.S. dollars are just scraps of worthless paper - just as it was impossible to convince the Dutch 400 years ago that tulips were mere flowers. It can be equally difficult to explain the concept of "saving our money" (i.e. wealth) in the form of gold and/or silver - despite the fact that 100's of millions of Indian peasants understand it and have been doing it all their lives.
Conversely, even the most brainwashed mind should still be capable of understanding the difference in "utility" between a 'leaky bucket' guaranteed to fail in its sole purpose, and buckets which have demonstrated themselves to be leak-proof over thousands of years.