The Hera Research Newsletter (HRN) is pleased to present the following exclusive interview with legendary international investor, best selling author, adventurer and family man Jim Rogers, Chairman of Rogers Holdings and founder of the Rogers International Commodity Index (RICI). Jim Rogers’ commentaries on economics and finance have been featured in Time, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Barron’s, Forbes, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and other major publications, and he appears regularly on television networks around the world.
After growing up in Demopolis, Alabama, and earning degrees from Yale and Oxford Universities, where he studied politics, philosophy and economics, Jim Rogers co-founded the Quantum Fund in 1970, which gained 4200% over a 10-year period, during which the S&P advanced approximately 47%. After retiring at age 37, he managed his own portfolio while serving as a guest professor of finance at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business and as the moderator of WCBS’ "The Dreyfus Roundtable" and host of the Financial News Network’s (FNN) "The Profit Motive with Jim Rogers."
Between 1990 and 1992, Jim Rogers fulfilled his lifelong dream of motorcycling across six continents in a 150,000 kilometer journey that won him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. He also undertook a Millennium Adventure in which he traveled around the world in 1101 days, passing through 116 countries and traversing more than 245,000 kilometers.
Jim Rogers’ English language books include Investment Biker: On the Road with Jim Rogers (1994), Adventure Capitalist: The Ultimate Road Trip (2003), Hot Commodities: How Anyone Can Invest Profitably in the World’s Best Market (2007), A Bull in China (2008), and A Gift to My Children: A Father’s Lessons for Life and Investing (2009).
Hera Research Newsletter (HRN): Thank you for speaking with us today. Let’s start with the world reserve currency. What do you think about the International Monetary Fund (IMF) replacing the US dollar as the world reserve currency with Special Drawing Rights (SDRs)?
Jim Rogers: The world didn’t have an IMF for a few thousand years. The IMF was founded after the Second World War to take care of any short-term currency needs that countries might have. It turned out pretty quickly that they didn’t have very many as the world recovered from the war, so the IMF found other things to do. They now have thousands of employees and have manufactured jobs for themselves. They’ve not had much success, if you look back over the past 60 years. Nearly everything they’ve done was wrong. Why do we need the IMF? It’s not 1945 anymore.
HRN: Rather than using a national currency as the world reserve currency, what about a global central bank?
Jim Rogers: That’s not what the IMF is, first of all, but even if they were, we certainly don’t need a central bank for the whole world. We never had one and the world got along pretty well for thousands of years without bureaucrats taking the world’s money. I’ve never added up how much the IMF has spent during the last 60 years but it must be a staggering amount, and for what good? I mean, we certainly haven’t gotten anything out of it. We haven’t gotten nearly as much for our money as they have spent.
HRN: So, you wouldn’t agree with using IMF SDRs as the world reserve currency?
Jim Rogers: I’m sure the world does need to replace the US dollar. I’m not the only one who knows that. The US dollar is a terribly, terribly flawed currency. The US is the largest debtor nation in the history of the world. Something has got to be done. We cannot continue with a currency which is so deeply flawed and something is going to have to be changed. Special Drawing Rights, I don’t know. It could work. I don’t know what’s going to work. Most people, however, want to have something in their hands that they think they can spend. A Special Drawing Right is pretty amorphous and, while some professors and some bankers may understand them, I suspect that most people in the world will not understand Special Drawing Rights and will not be terribly enthusiastic, if that’s what happens. So, I would suspect it wouldn’t last. You know, I cannot imagine that a Special Drawing Right, which has no real existence, could survive a crisis or two. Human beings just don’t think that way, I’m afraid.
HRN: Would you advocate a commodity-backed reserve currency instead?
Jim Rogers: Reserve currencies can be anything that you want. The problem with paper money is that it’s easy to debase and abuse. As I said, the US is the largest debtor nation in the history of the world. They keep printing the stuff. The UK, once upon a time, had the world reserve currency. They abused it mightily. Eventually the world just said "no, we’re not going to take sterling anymore" and rightly so. So, in my view, that’s the problem with paper money. Now, gold has its own problems too. Gold didn’t survive very long either as the world reserve currency since politicians kept changing the rules. Unfortunately, politicians know how to abuse and destroy. One can think of various and sundry solutions. My only worry is that, no matter what mankind has come up with in the past, politicians have always found a way to abuse it and debase it.
HRN: Do you think a return to the gold standard would constrain government abuse?
Jim Rogers: Well, it never has. The Romans had precious metals as their currency and do you know the term "debase"? The Roman politicians had the brilliant idea that if a coin was 100% pure precious metal, they could slip a little base metal in and, over a couple of hundred years, they went from 100% pure precious metal to almost 0%. That’s where the term "debase" comes from. So, we’ve tried it.
HRN: You mentioned that the US is the largest debtor nation in the history of the world. Do you think that will lead to high inflation or hyperinflation in the US?
Jim Rogers: Well, there will be inflation. First, you have to have inflation before you can have hyperinflation. I mean, we have inflation now. If you go to the shop, whether it’s groceries, or education or insurance or health care, prices are going up for everything. The government lies about it in the US. Some countries lie, many countries don’t: Australia, China, India and Norway. Many countries don’t lie about it and acknowledge that we have inflation. Others lie about it, the UK and the US, but if you go shopping you know prices are up.
Jim Rogers: In my opinion, yes, of course it is. Have you looked at it? They’ve changed their accounting several times in the past few decades. When housing was 20% to 25% of the CPI and housing was going up, they didn’t count it, saying rents weren’t going up, and then when home prices started going down, they counted it. It’s the same with many things. It’s staggering some of the tortuous reasoning that the BLS has used over the past 25 or 30 years. When the price of gasoline goes up, they say it’s not really going up because it’s better gasoline, better quality, therefore you’re getting more for your money. I mean, it’s endless, the stuff that they say and for some reason people sit there, although more and more people are catching on, and accept what the government says. As I said, in other countries, they acknowledge that there’s inflation. I don’t know how there could be inflation in Australia and not in the US; how you can have inflation in Norway or India and not in the US, but the US says there’s no inflation.
Jim Rogers has taught finance at Columbia University’s business school and is a media commentator worldwide. He is the author of Adventure Capitalist, Investment Biker, Hot Commodities, A Gift to My Children, and A Bull in China. See his website.