Gold and Envy

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The English seem obsessed. Each and every news item in popular press comes with a price tag.

A recent murder/suicide story, for example, told us what seemed like superfluous information: how much the killer’s house was worth… and what kind of car he drove. But the more we study the popular press, the more we see that nearly every news story has a touch of envy about it. Hardly a person is mentioned without some reference to the market price of his house… or his car… or his yacht… or his last vacation.

Ooh la la… here, an English reader has missed the point:

“Thank you very much for renewing your daily mantra of ‘Buy gold’ and, more specifically, precious metal mining shares. I’ve heeded your advice on this various times in the past five years — and now I’m sick to death of reading it… as well as being so gullible about heeding it. Bill Bonner and associates have a way of seeming so authoritative and convincing that I’ve acted on their recommendations a few times… and am still waiting to come out ahead in the long run.

“The first time I put my money where your mouth is was when I switched from ailing media and leisure funds into gold. My fund manager at Credit Suisse was aghast when I instructed him to get into gold at $63 a share, with dire warnings of the volatility of such stocks and how they showed no gain over a protracted period. When they rose to $108, he congratulated me for buying ‘at exactly the right time.’ I bought more and watched them rise to $126. Three years ago, they began to fall — every day — then tumble and then topple into free fall. I checked you for updates, explanations or any kind of advice… but there were none.”

The reader goes on to describe his efforts — trying to trade in and out of gold stocks — and blaming us!

Yes, we like gold, dear reader. But, no, we never suggested trying to make money from the stuff. And never would we recommend trying to trade it!

We like gold the way we like stacks of firewood, jars of canned green beans and cheerful women. They make the going so much more fun when the going gets rough. As we mention above, the going has never been easier. So easy have things become that people no longer see the need for reserves… savings… manners… or inventories. Unless there’s a hurricane, everything seems to come along just in time. The food on the table. The electricity to run the air conditioners. The money to make the monthly payments.

But someday, the going may not be so good. We hold it in inventory for the day when “just in time” fails and “just in case” comes back into style.

A couple of readers took up the question of voting:

“I discussed this around the dinner table at a big family gathering last Sunday and was met with looks of horror and disbelief.

“‘You mean, you’re not going to vote?’ my poor mother asked.

“‘It only encourages them… ‘ I say.

“‘What are you anyway if you are not a Republican or a Democrat?’ my brother asked.

“‘I belong to no party. I like to say that I am part of the intellectual tradition started by the patriots of the American Revolution… You know, Thomas Jefferson — “the government that governs least governs best,” or something like that. Live and let live, I say.’ Eyes roll.”

Another: “I’ve been sitting here trying to think of some way in which the choice of presidents touches me personally. But I can’t. That’s true of local elections, too: governor, mayor, judges and sheriffs… I’m not going to pay less taxes. Nothing in my life will improve dramatically as a result of who gets elected.

“I’ve never in my life once thought, ‘Damn! If only I’d voted for the other guy. I wouldn’t be in this horrible bind right now,’ or, ‘Whew! That was close. I almost voted for the wrong guy,’ or ‘Thank goodness. Now I won’t have to throw half my salary down the drain for taxes.’

“So this is my question: Can you ever remember a time in your life when you thought to yourself, ‘Damn! If only I’d voted for the other guy, I might not be in such bad shape right now,’ or either of the other two quotes above? If so, please forward the details to me.”

Bill Bonner [send him mail] is the author, with Addison Wiggin, of Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of The 21st Century.

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