Maximize Capital; Minimize Crap

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Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
Maximize Capital; Minimize Crap

September 20, 2016
Hot Springs, VA

He achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it;
Who has left the world better than he found it,
Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction…
To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived,
This is to have succeeded.
” – Bessie Anderson Stanley

The S&P closed out Monday at $2,139. Gold closed at $1,316 per ounce. Crude Oil closed at $43.80 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 1.70%. Bitcoin is trading around $608 per BTC today.

Dear Journal,

The first leaves of Autumn have begun to fall, and each new morning is now accompanied by a light breeze. Little Maddie seems to share her father’s love of the season, as she enthusiastically gathers black walnuts from the yard to feed the squirrels.

Here, squirrel, squirrel, squirrel… I have an apricot for you!

Yeah, she calls the walnuts apricots. I am not sure where that came from.

Madison has also been debriefed on the proper way to carve a jack-o-lantern, and I test her knowledge daily.

“Maddie, what’s the first thing we have to do to make a jack-o-lantern?”

“We have to carve the top and get the gunk out!”

“And what are we going to do with the gunk?”

“We are going to throw it on mommy!”

…I think you are ready, kiddo.”pumpkin

It is truly the simple things that make this life worth living.

We spend most of our time in these journal entries and especially in the Zenconomics Report discussing complex topics within the world of money, finance, and economics, but that is only because we want to be able to enjoy the simple things. Continue reading “Maximize Capital; Minimize Crap”

Become a Creator

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Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
Become a Creator

July 8, 2016
Hot Springs, VA

Let them be creators, not followers. Followers have a certain mentality, and independent creators a quite different mentality. We want creators – people who find solutions by themselves, who have their own conceptions of right and good, and who are capable of independent, righteous action. Followers don’t do that. To get the creator mindset, you have to get out of the way and let them rise to the occasion. Make sense? ” – Phillip Donson, A Lodging of Wayfaring Men

The S&P closed out Thursday at $2,097. Gold closed at $1,362 per ounce. Crude Oil closed at $45.14 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 1.39%. Bitcoin is trading around $652 per BTC today.

Dear Journal,

Wife Rachel took it upon herself to take me out on a date earlier this week! She had recently discovered a picturesque country inn nestled in the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, and she thought it was just the place for me. So we traveled an hour’s worth of winding country roads even deeper into the mountains of Virginia on a misty Tuesday night. Continue reading “Become a Creator”

The Future of Money

submitted by jwithrow.
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Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
The Future of Money

May 18, 2016
Hot Springs, VA

Just like the Internet gave information back to the people, Bitcoin will give financial freedom back to the people. But that’s only the first step… Bitcoin will allow us to shape the world without having to ask for permission. We declare Bitcoin’s independence. Bitcoin is sovereignty. Bitcoin is renaissance. Bitcoin is ours. Bitcoin is.” – Julia Tourianski

The S&P closed out Tuesday at $2,047. Gold closed at $1,280 per ounce. Crude Oil closed at $48.54 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 1.759%. Bitcoin is trading around $457 per BTC today.

Dear Journal,

Wife Rachel: Honey, look! Madison has a pet caterpillar in this jar! She put leaves and twigs in there so it can eat and turn into a butterfly…

Philosopher Joe: Oh… why does it look like all of the oxygen has been sucked out of the jar?

Wife Rachel: What do you mean…?

Philosopher Joe: Did you punch holes in the top to let air in?

Wife Rachel: Wha… oh crap.

Spring is in full swing here in the mountains of Virginia. The caterpillars are crawling, the butterflies are flying, the wildflowers are blooming, and the all-encompassing green foliage is a bright celebration of new life! Continue reading “The Future of Money”

America’s Last Statesman

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Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
America’s Last Statesman

February 5, 2016
Hot Springs, VA

“The #1 responsibility for each of us is to change ourselves with hope
that others will follow. This is of greater importance than working on
changing the government; that is secondary to promoting a virtuous
society. If we can achieve this, then the government will change. The
best chance for achieving peace and prosperity, for the maximum number of people world-wide, is to pursue the cause of Liberty.”

-Dr. Ron Paul

The S&P closed out Thursday at $1,915. Gold closed at $1,157 per ounce. Crude Oil closed at $31.72 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 1.86%. Bitcoin is trading around $388 per BTC today.

Dear Journal,

Most of the snow has finally melted here in the mountains of Virginia with only intermittent white patches left dotting the landscape. Having been covered for more than a week, the revealed ground appears saturated, muddy, and grimy – much like the current election cycle here in the U.S.

After ignoring the circus entirely for four months, I did tune in to a portion of last week’s GOP debate. I was primarily interested in observing Rand Paul as he seemed to move back towards advocating Liberty, having failed to adequately pander to the Straussian neoconservatives who have come to dominate the Republican party.

After distancing himself from his old man throughout his campaign, Rand even invited three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul to help rally supporters on the campaign trail in Iowa. Ron’s arrival was reportedly greeted by students chanting “End the Fed!”, which I must admit triggered heavy nostalgia within me. Continue reading “America’s Last Statesman”

Decentralization and Spontaneous Order

submitted by jwithrow.decentralization

Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
Decentralization and Spontaneous Order

November 25, 2015
Hot Springs, VA

The S&P closed out Tuesday at $2,084. Gold closed at $1,074 per ounce. Oil closed at $42.87 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 2.25%. Bitcoin is trading around $324 per BTC today.

Not much action in the markets this week as Wall Street humanoids are gearing up for the big holiday on Thursday. Only the high-frequency trading machines remain to trade back-and-forth with one another for a few days. Despite this calm, I get the sense that a big move is brewing…

Also worth mentioning, I appeared on the SovereignBTC podcast with host John Bush last week. We had a blast talking about many of the topics I often muse on here in the Journal. If you would like to listen to the interview, you can find it at the LTB Network here.

Dear Journal,

“That was really sweet what you wrote about Madison…” wife Rachel said after reading my previous journal entry. “But the only thing you said about me was that I wouldn’t read past a certain point!”

“Well did you read past that paragraph?”, I asked with a wry grin on my face.

“No, that’s as far as I got…”

My last entry discussed the potential for the family unit to act as a sovereign institution in light of the burgeoning Great Reset, much to the benefit of both the sovereign family and the local community. The underlying theme of that entry, and of many recent journal entries, has been decentralization.

I seek to offer my unfiltered perspective when I sit down to write these journal entries, and I only write them when motivated to do so for that reason. That’s why the Journal follows no set schedule whatsoever, though I try my best to post a weekly entry. Sometimes when I re-read my unfiltered entries, however, I get the feeling that readers may come away with a more negative sentiment then I intend to convey. Continue reading “Decentralization and Spontaneous Order”

Politics is Already Dead

submitted by jwithrow.politics is already dead

Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
Politics is Already Dead

October 14, 2015
Hot Springs, VA

The S&P closed out today at $1,994. Gold closed up at $1,187 per ounce. Oil closed at $46.59 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 1.98%. Bitcoin is trading around $252 per BTC today. My attention is currently focused heavily on the gold sector in the equities market. Many gold stocks were beat up and left for dead, having fallen 90% from their previous high. This sector has steadily traded higher over the past few weeks, including a brief pull-back, potentially indicating the gold sector has formed a bottom. Has the next gold stock bull cycle begun? It could be a big one.

Dear Journal,

Little Maddie celebrates her first birthday next week! Wife Rachel has been hard at work planning the party. She has been very busy picking out decorations, sending out invitations, putting together a food menu, picking out outfits (Madison’s and her own), getting her hair cut, wrapping gifts, cleaning the house, ordering her husband to clean the house, and acquiring all necessary items from the store. I notice a twinkle in Rachel’s eye as she talks about the birthday celebration with excitement. Madison couldn’t care less.

With wife Rachel in frantic planning mode, I take the time to savor the onset of Autumn here in the mountains of Virginia. As the leaves slowly transform into majestic shades of yellow, orange, and red, I casually work to stack wood in the garage and get kindling ready for winter. I sit and enjoy a Harvest Pumpkin Brew as the early Autumn breeze gently blows fallen leaves down the gravel driveway. Soon we will take Maddie to the pumpkin patch, and we will purchase apples from the local orchard to make Apple Cider. What a glorious season!

In my previous journal entry, I suggested that technological advancements were rendering many established institutions obsolete. I want to build on that suggestion from a slightly different angle today. Continue reading “Politics is Already Dead”

Why Peaceful Parenting is More Important Than Ever

submitted by jwithrow.peaceful parenting

Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
Why Peaceful Parenting is More Important Than Ever

July 10, 2015
Hot Springs, VA

The S&P closed out Thursday at $2,051. Gold closed at $1,160 per ounce. Oil checked out just under $53 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 2.30%. Bitcoin is now trading up around $287 per BTC as the Greek banks remain closed and the Chinese stock market continues to plummet.

Dear Journal,

We examined the Greek crisis last week and we wondered if depositors would find that they had generously “bailed-in” their bank with their hard-earned money when the banks finally reopened. Sure enough, the Greek banks have yet to reopen and there has been talk of a 30% haircut on all deposit accounts in excess of €8,000.

This is yet another example of why it is a bad idea to warehouse your funds in a domestic bank account. Fortunately, the Infinite Banking Concept offers a much better solution to warehousing capital without sacrificing liquidity.

These financial crises that continuously occur from time to time in various countries, along with government’s heavy-handed response in each instance, are the symptoms of a much deeper problem:

Our world is ill.

Modernity has constructed hierarchical systems of power and control and it has elevated the leaders of these systems to positions of prestige and authority. This has created a scenario in which the least among us fight tooth and nail to reach the top of Modernity’s power structures then they work to grow and perpetuate their power. This is done largely by bribing the masses with wealth-redistribution while aggressively cracking down on non-conformists and disruptors. The predictable result has been the disappearance of personal responsibility and basic human empathy. Continue reading “Why Peaceful Parenting is More Important Than Ever”

A Case for Monetary Independence

by Lucas M. Engelhardt – Mises Daily:monetary

“Sound money and free banking are not impossible — they are merely illegal. Freedom of money and freedom of banking are the principles that must guide our steps.” — Hans Sennholz

When I was asked to give the Hans Sennholz Memorial Lecture, I was uncertain what I should speak about. Should I give an inspirational, autobiographical talk about life as a young academic? Should I present cutting edge research? Should I advocate for better policy in some “hot” political topic? In the end, I looked at the title of the lecture — this was the Hans Sennholz Memorial Lecture. So, I decided that I should present something Sennholzian — especially since I am a Grove City College alumnus, though I was never a student of Sennholz — who had retired before I was a student here.

The only problem was that I knew embarrassingly little about Hans Sennholz. I had heard him speak — in the same room where I was going to speak — once. But, I only remembered two things about him. First, I remembered his German accent. Second, I remembered a brief story that he told about his experiences in academic publishing. Apparently, Harvard asked him to write an article — I don’t think he mentioned what — so he did, they published it, and he was paid $15 for his efforts. He thought this must be some mistake. Not much later, Harvard approached him again, so he wrote for them again — they printed it, and he received another $15. He decided to stop writing for Harvard. (Sennholz’s academic publishing experience is quite different from mine. I wrote an article that I sent to one of the American economic journals. They decided not to print it, and I paid them $100.)

Anyway, after realizing that I should discuss something Sennholzian, and realizing my own ignorance of Sennholz’s work, I hit the library and reserved every book by Sennholz in the state of Ohio’s library system. As I flipped through them: Age of Inflation; Debts and Deficits; The Great Depression: Will We Repeat It?; Money and Freedom a central theme emerged, and it’s the theme in the quote that I began with: Sound money and free banking. So, I hope to present to you today what I call a case for monetary independence — that is, a case for the separation of money and State. To make this case, I will consider a number of different institutional arrangements for how the monetary system may be organized.


Fully Dependent National Central Banks

Let’s start with the worst case — a central bank that is fully dependent on the political system. In effect, in such a system, the Treasury would have the power to create money at will. Economists generally agree that such a system would lead to very high rates of inflation. Government spending is popular — the left loves their social welfare programs, while the right likes funding a large military. However, taxes are politically unpopular — especially with those that have to pay them. So, it is unsurprising that governments typically run deficits. If the government were given direct control over money creation, one can expect that deficits would be funded largely by the creation of new money, as the effects of money creation are much easier to hide than the effects of taxation or decreases in spending.

The end result that economists expect with this framework is that hyperinflation becomes a very real possibility. Historically, hyperinflations tend to occur when large deficits are funded with money creation. This isn’t shocking — a $1 bill costs just about $0.07 to print, so money production is quite profitable. It’s a cheap way of raising funds for the government, and zeros are cheap. So, as prices go up and the money loses value, the Treasury can maintain their profits simply by adding zeros. Eventually, we end up with a Zimbabwe scenario. I have 180 trillion Zimbabwe dollars that I bought on eBay for $15 — and that included protective plastic sleeves. I suspect the sleeves are more valuable than the money inside them, but the point is: zeros are cheap. That being the case, there is virtually no limit to the inflation that a Treasury could create if it were giving the power to create money directly. For this reason, most economists now suggest that central banks should be independent.


Independent National Central Banks

In some ways, the claim that money should be independent of the State is a bit blasé. Over the past twenty or thirty years, the mainstream economics literature has converged around the idea that central banks — which govern monetary policy — should be independent of the governments that they operate under. Alberta Alesina and Larry Summers (Summers is the former Treasury Secretary under President Clinton, and former Director of the National Economic Council) found that independent central banks have better inflation performance — without having higher unemployment or more economic instability than countries with central banks that are less independent. Even President Obama has been clear that he supports a “strong and independent Federal Reserve” — an odd statement given that he has appointed all five of the current members of the Board of Governors, and appears to be looking to appoint more.

And the reality is that the Federal Reserve is not very independent. Dincer and Eichengreen, in a paper in the International Journal of Central Banking, ranked the United States’s Federal Reserve System as one of the four least independent central banks in the world — along with India, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia.

Beyond the institutional connections, there are clear policy connections between the Federal Reserve and government spending. After controlling for the state of the economy, a $1 deficit appears to be funded by about $0.30 of additional monetary base. So, while the Fed is not funding the government dollar-for-dollar, there does appear to be a very close connection between the two. The reason is simple: the Fed, under its current ideology, targets interest rates. If the government borrows a lot, it will drive interest rates up. So, the Fed produces more money to put into loan markets to drive rates back down to their target levels. The end effect is that the Fed is funding a significant portion of the government’s deficits.

So, is this any better than a fully dependent central bank? As many economists love to say — it depends. When the time comes, will the Fed decide to fight inflation rather than continue to fund government deficits? It is impossible to say for certain — though I will say two things. First, mainstream macroeconomists seem to have achieved a consensus that fighting inflation is a very important goal of monetary policy; perhaps the most important goal in most countries at most times. Second, the leadership of the Federal Reserve is convinced that, at the moment, inflation is not much of a concern. Whether they will change their minds in time, and have the political fortitude to stand up to a government that will, in all likelihood, still be deficit spending, is uncertain enough that I won’t speculate one way or the other.


Independent, Discretionary, International Central Banks

As we know, the Federal Reserve is not very independent. So, what does it take to make a central bank independent? Based on Nergiz Dincer and Barry Eichengreen’s research, the most independent central banks are mostly found in the Eurozone — where the European Central Bank is in control of monetary policy.

Is this international system a “better” one, though? Let’s take this to an extreme — an extreme which some people have suggested — and consider the benefits and drawbacks of such a system. Let us imagine that all central banks ceded their authority to the International Monetary Fund, which then acted as a single one-world central bank.

This system does, admittedly, have a number of very real benefits. Trade is certainly easier when there is a common currency. Decreased worries regarding exchange rate fluctuations encourage long-term investment projects across national boundaries, which can increase productivity by locating capital where it will be most productive, rather than where worries about currency stability are smallest. The IMF can be expected to be independent of any single government’s pressure to fund deficits — or at least more independent than a national central bank would be.

The drawbacks, however, are substantial. In his book The Tragedy of the Euro, Philipp Bagus suggests that the formation of the Eurozone created a tragedy of the commons in which weak economies — such as Greece, Portugal, and Spain — had incentives to run large budget deficits, funded, indirectly, by the European Central Bank. As the first recipients of newly created money, deficit-running economies can spend the money before it has its full impact on prices — thereby gaining at the expense of those countries that run more balanced budgets. This naturally creates an incentive for countries to run budget deficits — and, in fact, to compete for running the largest ones. This is a recipe for some combination of exceptionally high inflation — if the central bank were to accommodate the deficits or exceptionally high interest rates — if the central bank were to stand its ground.

While it may be that an international central bank could stand its ground more effectively than a national central bank could, recent experience in Europe raises questions about whether international central banks actually will stand their ground.

I want to make one last point about the danger of an entirely unified system: when doing risk management — and a lot of policy is really just risk management — one needs to pay attention to the worst case scenarios. As long as the central bank has discretion, the odds that — at some point in its history — the central bank is going to make a very large mistake is very high. The question then becomes: what is Plan B? We have seen in recent years that national-level hyperinflation, though terrible, has been fairly easy to recover from. The reason can best be seen by examining Zimbabwe. In its hyperinflationary episode in 2008, the internal economy of Zimbabwe was so disrupted that the gross national income per capita had fallen to its lowest level in forty years. However, since that time, gross national income per capital has more than doubled to its highest level since 1983. How did this happen? Zimbabweans abandoned their hyperinflated currency in favor of some combination of the euro, US dollar, and South African Rand — all of which were stable when compared to the Zimbabwe dollar. The adoption of a currency that is more stable gave people confidence to engage in market transactions again — which unfettered resources that had been largely unusable in a hyperinflationary environment.

This solution, though, required the existence of alternative currencies to switch to. What would happen if a single world central bank made a similar mistake? The answer is not at all clear, but I suggest that a worldwide hyperinflation, if it were to occur, would seriously disrupt the division of labor, and thereby lead to a collapse in the worldwide standard of living. The recovery would not be easy, as it would require the reintroduction of a new currency that is actually trusted by the people enough that they would accept it as a medium of exchange. Historically, some countries have succeeded at reintroducing a re-based form of their own currency — but there are also many cases, Zimbabwe among them — where the reintroduction failed.

Given, then, that there would be strong incentives toward hyperinflation, the odds of a hyperinflation actually occurring in a system with a single world central bank, at some point, are far from zero. In fact, given a sufficiently long time period, hyperinflation — or at least some form of serious monetary mismanagement — becomes highly likely. Is this risk worth the advantages? In my assessment, they are probably not.

Monetary Policy Rules

All that has been said thus far has assumed that money is produced by some human monetary policymaker that has some discretion about how much money they can produce. A popular alternative is a rule-based monetary policy. In this case, the political system sets up a monetary policy rule which, somehow, they are unable to alter. This rule then automatically decides what monetary policy should be.

There are several such rules that have been proposed. Milton Friedman’s constant money growth rule was one early — and remarkably simple — example. Friedman suggested that the money supply should grow at a constant rate near 3 or 5 percent. Given that production, on average, grows at a similar rate, this rate of growth will lead to an overall level of prices that is basically stable over the long run. Since Friedman, a number of other rules have been proposed. John Taylor famously proposed his rule which is based on a combination of recent inflation and the recent state of the economy relative to its long-term trend. Scott Sumner suggests what he calls Nominal GDP targeting — an idea not original to Sumner, nor does he claim it to be.

Rather than criticizing each of these individually, I will suggest a few difficulties with this institutional arrangement — regardless of the specific content of the rules.

The primary difficulty, of course, is the political one. Any political system that is strong enough to establish a monetary policy rule is strong enough to modify it — or discard it. So, what would it take for the monetary policy rule to be established and then left alone? We know that there are times that policymakers are actually strong enough to implement a policy, but would not be strong enough to eliminate it. I think of Social Security as an example. In this case, the policy created an interest group — and a popular one — that would fight for the policy to continue. Everyone loves their Grandma, and everyone’s Grandma loves Social Security — so it is such a popular program today that no politician would be willing to seriously attempt to eliminate it. For us to do this with monetary policy, we’d need to have a monetary policy rule that created a popular interest group that would resist any changes to that rule. How to do that is not clear to me — but I may just be uncreative at coming up with political solutions.

Even if we were to solve the political problem, these rules all share in common certain economic problems — primarily one of measurement error. Any use of economic data must acknowledge that discussing data from a scientific standpoint, such as saying that the overall price level will rise if the money supply increase sufficiently quickly, is different from saying that a particular measurement of that variable will act in a specific way. The Consumer Price Index, Producer Price Index, and GDP Deflator all seek to communicate the “overall price level” — but they all have weaknesses.

That is: the statistics that we can actually measure don’t align perfectly with the scientific conceptions that they are designed to estimate. In short: in reality, there is error in any macroeconomic measurement. For scientific purposes, this is something we can deal with. As long as our statistics are reasonably well correlated with the underlying reality that we care about, errors can be expected to, in a sense, cancel out, on average. So, as long as actual prices, on average, act like the CPI, and as long as the true money supply, on average, acts like M2, then any statistical connection between CPI and M2 would be expected, on average, to reflect the actual relationship between money and price levels.

But, policymaking is an entirely different matter — it’s far closer to engineering than science. That being the case, the errors are, in a sense, exactly what matter. If our measure of the money supply is temporarily undermeasuring the true money supply, then we’ll end up creating too much money under a Friedman rule. Is this temporary? Yes, but in the world of economics, temporary things are exactly those things that create economic disruptions.

An additional economic problem with these rules is that they assume that, in a sense, the world is, or should be, static. The Friedman Rule and Nominal GDP targeting both implicitly assume that overall price levels or total spending in the economy should not change. Why not? The Taylor Rule implicitly assumes that the equilibrium real interest rate in the economy should not change. Again, why not? The economic world is a dynamic one in which change is one of the very few constants. At its most fundamental level, economic activity is the use of resources to satisfy our preferences based on our technical know-how. But all three of these are in constant flux. We are continuously using, creating, exhausting, and discovering resources. We are continuously changing our preferences. Our technical know-how is continuously changing as we learn new things and unlearn others. Why then would we expect macroeconomic aggregates — even if we could measure them perfectly — to remain constant? So, rule-based policymaking has serious economic problems because of mismeasurement and the natural dynamism of the real world. Perhaps fortunately we will likely never experience these problems as the political problems with getting such rules established are likely to be insurmountable.


Market-Based Money

Our final stop in the spectrum of monetary independence is a truly independent currency — that is, a money that has no legal advantages or disadvantages when compared to other goods. In short: a free market in money where moneys are free to compete with one another to attain the favor of users. Anyone who wishes may introduce their own money — so I could print Engelhardt dollars in my basement — and try to convince people to use them. The only restriction would be that fraud would be banned — so no one else could mimic my Engelhardt dollars.

In such a system, I would expect that moneys would be governed by the normal, everyday actions of entrepreneurs that do so well satisfying so many of our desires. As they respond to demand and competition from other suppliers, the supply of money would grow at the pace that the market determines. If more of a particular money is demanded, that money will rise in value — increasing the profitability of producing it — leading those entrepreneurs that produce it to produce more, and drawing other entrepreneurs toward producing money that is similar — and therefore competitive — with that money.

As entrepreneurs respond to demand, one would expect that the value of a winning money is likely to be fairly stable over long periods of time — not perfectly stable, of course, as there is often a delay between a change in demand and changes in production to meet that demand. But, the market will reward those money producers that do the best job providing a money that people actually want to use.

As Sennholz observed in many of his writings, there’s something about gold that makes it a particularly good money. And that something is not just some undefinable “X Factor.” It’s a list of traits. As laid out in Sennholz’s Money and Freedom, gold is useful, but unessential, easily divisible, highly durable, storable and transportable. So, the fact that gold — in many cases operating alongside the remarkably similar, but somewhat less valuable silver — was, historically, what emerged as money on the free market. Like Sennholz, I also agree that it seems fairly likely that, if people were left to their own devices, they would again use gold as money.

The question then is: what would it take for us to establish a market-based money? When I first read Sennholz’s Inflation or Gold Standard? I read his plan for reform — and on nearly every step, I said to myself “Well, we’ve already done that.” Only a couple points remained. When Sennholz wrote Money and Freedom in 1985, his original intent was just to update Inflation or Gold Standard? — but he realized that the world had changed enough in the ten or so years since Inflation or Gold Standard? was written that a new book was required. So, he laid out a new plan for reform. It ends up very little has changed in the past thirty years — so Sennholz’s plan from 1985 is mostly still relevant to us today.

The first step: Legal tender laws must be repealed. Allow private debt payments to be written so that they can be repaid however the borrower and lender find acceptable. As Sennholz notes — this move isn’t really particularly radical. If the federal government wishes to receive its own fiat currency in payment for taxes, no one is preventing them from continuing to do so. If it prefers to borrow and repay in its own fiat currency, that is also fine. Similarly, if any private business or individual wishes to continue using paper dollars exclusively, they are free to do so. The only difference is that people would also be free NOT to deal in paper currency. To some degree, we already have this freedom in most of our transactions. When selling goods and services, businesses are permitted to refuse — or require — payment in any form they like. Legally in the US, only debt falls under the legal tender provision. Again, the legal change we’re asking for is not radical.

A second step is what I call “Honesty in Minting.” The US mint produces gold and silver coins — which have a legal tender value that is a small fraction of their metal value. Under Gresham’s Law, these coins are hoarded while paper money — which is worth far more in exchange than the paper it is printed on — is used as money. This should stop. Rather than stamping a Silver Liberty with a phony legal tender value, simply stamp it with its weight and purity. The back of a Silver Liberty should say 1 oz fine silver. I’d note that it already does include this — it just appends the rather silly “ONE DOLLAR” designation as well. This creates confusion for any business that may want to accept gold or silver coins by suggesting that the coin is worth one dollar when its metal value is worth far more than that. Simply eliminating the one dollar designation would make these coins far more usable in transactions, by allowing them to be traded for their fair value.

In addition to honesty in minting, additional freedom in the banking system would also make the market for money more competitive. For example, free entry in banking should be allowed. Banks should be free to accept deposits and offer check-writing and debit-card services denominated in any currency, or any commodity, that depositors and banks find acceptable.

Technically, you can have deposits in the US that are denominated in foreign currencies — but the minimum deposits tend to be prohibitively high — I found one account that you could open for a mere $50,000 or so. Allowing free entry for banks that specialize in foreign currencies would make the possibility of using alternative moneys real to more than just those that are exceptionally wealthy. In addition, banks should no longer be required to be members of the FDIC or Federal Reserve System. As with any organization, banks should be allowed to join if they believe that the benefits outweigh the costs, and not to join if they believe the costs outweigh the benefits.

Again, these are not radical moves. I am not calling for the end of the FDIC — though I confess that I would like to see it vanish. I am not calling for the abolition of the Federal Reserve — though, again, I am convinced that that would, on the whole, be a good thing. I am simply asking that these organizations be opened up to the normal market forces of competition from competitors who are free to enter or exit the market, producing innovative products that may operate alongside — or may replace — those products currently being provided by the Federal Reserve and FDIC.

I will close as I began, with Sennholz. The last paragraph of Money and Freedom declares to us:

Sound money and free banking are not impossible; they are merely illegal. This is why money must be deregulated. All financial institutions must be free again to issue their notes based on ordinary contract. In a free society, individuals are free to establish note-issuing banks and create private clearinghouses. In freedom, the money and banking industry can create sound and honest currencies, just as other free industries can provide efficient and reliable products. Freedom of money and freedom of banking, these are the principles that must guide our steps.

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College Alternatives

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Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
College Alternatives

March 20, 2015
Hot Springs, VA

The S&P opened at $2,090 today. Gold is up to $1,170 per ounce. Oil checks in at $46 per barrel. Bitcoin is still trading around $262 per BTC, and the 10-year Treasury rate opened at 1.96% today.

Yesterday we opined that the proverbial needle was rapidly approaching the student loan bubble and that the American system of higher education would shrink significantly once the bubble popped. Today I feel it prudent to discuss why this is not such a bad thing.

We briefly analyzed the student loan racket yesterday and discussed how students currently graduate college with a mound of debt disproportionate to the job market and income-prospects they face. This is enough to warrant questioning, but the ills of the college system run even deeper.

We have discussed at length the problems inherent within the public school system here and we have noted how the system systematically conveys a lack of purpose to students. Students are force-fed a medley of politically correct information on various subjects and they are expected to memorize and then regurgitate this information. They are told this is important so they can get good grades which they need to get into college. This is a very vague purpose which tends to lead students away from critical thinking and introspection thus few students really discover and cultivate their individual talents and passions.

To the students’ surprise, the higher education system simply expands upon this vagueness of purpose. Students arrive at these beautiful campuses expecting to learn the secrets to success but they soon find out the college curriculum is mostly more of the same – memorize the chapters in this standardized textbook and regurgitate the information on the test. Oh, and this textbook costs $200 but don’t worry you can get a student loan to cover it. So our student quickly learns that college is not a fountain of knowledge but rather just another system to be gamed.

This model of education encourages what Napoleon Hill, in Outwitting the Devil, referred to as ‘drifting’. Hill defines ‘drift’ by saying “people who think for themselves never drift, while those who do little or no thinking for themselves are drifters”. Hill continues: “A drifter is one who permits himself to be influenced and controlled by circumstances outside of his own mind… He doesn’t know what he wants from life and spends all of his time getting just that. A drifter has lots of opinions but they are not his own.”

The habit of drifting is exactly what the American higher educational system reinforces. Just as high school students were told college acceptance is their ultimate goal, college students are told a high-paying job is the ultimate goal to be pursued. Their focus then is on building best possible ‘resume’ (with as little work as possible) so as to impress the corporate recruiters who show up at job fairs on their campus every spring. Further, the college grading system reinforces the fear of making of mistakes already deeply imbedded in the minds of the students who have completed twelve years of public education. Errors are ridiculed and scorned in college just as they were in high school so the necessity to conform is hammered home even harder.

So upon graduating college most students: lack a defining sense of purpose, have been cultured to avoid mistakes at all costs, and are knee deep in debt. Naturally, they are compelled to take the first job that offers them a decently salary and a health insurance plan regardless of their actual interest in the particular job or industry.

Welcome to the rat-race.

Hill would admonish me for focusing exclusively on the negatives so I will humbly labor to present some positive alternatives to the current model of higher education. Mind you, the current system operates under the institutional model and that is a large part of the problem. The best alternatives are individualized in nature thus they require a break from the institutional way of thinking; simply replacing one institutional model with another will never accomplish much of anything.

Where to start?

Life is meant to be lived. Life is about freedom. Governments and institutions infringe upon personal freedom but try to convince you they are morally justified in doing so. Despite these constant infringements, we have the ability to claim more individual freedom today than ever before in modern history. Technology is the great enabler. It is also the great decentralizer.

The college years are a time to learn how to live independently and to explore various interests and passions. As we have pointed out, college does a poor job of facilitating real learning. I would suggest that college also does a poor job of aiding students in learning to live independently. Cramming two eighteen-year-old kids into a room the size of a single office and forcing them to share a bathroom with even more eighteen-year-olds is not realistic prep for the real world unless the kids plan to live on a commune somewhere. Likewise, living with four or five other twenty-year-old kids in frat (and sorority) houses doesn’t really facilitate independent learning unless the kids want to make a career out of party planning.

At the same time, college towns are a great place to meet people with all kinds of backgrounds and cultures. They are also great places to meet people with similar passions and interests. This exposure certainly fosters a tolerance for different ideas as well as the potential to form lasting partnerships with others of like-mind.

College Alternatives Number One: What if our eighteen-year-old, instead of enrolling in college, simply moved to a college town of their choice? They could take on internships with local businesses for low (or no) pay to explore traditional career paths. They could organize or attend meet-up groups for students with similar passions to share ideas and knowledge. They could work to develop online business opportunities around those passions and interests to learn what works and what doesn’t. They could potentially sit-in on select classes of interest if they wanted to as well. Though the overall curriculum may largely be a waste of time, there are certainly individual classes that are interesting and valuable. Whether it’s art or computer programming or classic literature or astronomy or whatever, the professor would probably be thrilled to have someone in the class who is actually interested in what he has to say… everyone else is simply interested in getting a good grade and moving on within the system. And I am sure our eighteen-year-old would do all kinds of other interesting things that I have never thought of before also.

All with zero student loan debt. Sure there would be living expenses but they would pale in comparison to tuition, room, board, and textbooks. If the parents had employed the Infinite Banking Concept for our student then living expenses would already covered for several years at least.

College Alternatives Number Two: what if our hypothetical eighteen-year-old spent a year traveling internationally? They would experience all sorts of different worldviews and cultures and probably learn a foreign language or two in the process. Maybe they would observe a growing trend somewhere which could lead to a tremendous business or investment opportunity. Maybe they would become a freelance travel writer and make a career out of the experience. Maybe they would blog about their travel and build a readership that would lead to income opportunities. Maybe they would see an underserved community and start a niche charity dedicated to a singular mission.

College Alternatives Number Three: Suppose our eighteen-year-old has been homeschooled and permitted to develop skills around a particular passion already? He could go directly into his chosen field either by starting a business or by seeking out internships and mentors in the chosen industry. If he already knows what he would like his first career to be then there is no reason for him to pursue additional generalized education at this point. The beauty of this scenario is that our eighteen year old will have twenty years of experience in his industry by the young age of thirty-eight. In all likelihood financial success will have followed his career mastership and he will be free to then explore other interests or passions if he desires something new and exciting. The notion of working in a single industry for one’s entire life and then retiring to go fishing and piddle around the house all day is a New Deal relic that will die off when Social Security implodes. Mastering two or three different careers over one’s lifetime will be extremely common going forward. And following this individualized model will leave plenty of time for fishing and piddling should you so desire as well. After all, it’s not work if you are doing what interests you.

These are just three examples of many possible college alternatives. With a little vision and a little faith, anything is possible.

More to come,







Joe Withrow
Wayward Philosopher

For more of Joe’s thoughts on the “Great Reset” and the paradigm shift currently in motion please read “The Individual is Rising” which is available at The book is also available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.

There’s No Political Freedom Without Economic Freedom

by Patrick Barron – Mises Daily:freedom

Can we have political liberty without first having economic freedom? Is the form of government predetermined by the form of economic organization? At first blush the opposite would seem to be self-evident, i.e., that our form of government determines all else, including our economic structure. But Mises advises otherwise. In Human Action (page 283 of the Mises Institute’s scholars’ edition), Mises explains (my emphasis):

“Freedom, as people enjoyed it in the democratic countries of Western civilization in the years of the old liberalism’s triumph, was not a product of constitutions, bills of rights, laws, and statutes. Those documents aimed only at safeguarding liberty and freedom, firmly established by the operation of the market economy, against encroachments on the part of officeholders.”

Likewise, in The Law by Frédéric Bastiat (page 49 of the Mises Institute edition),
Frédéric Bastiat has this to say (my emphasis again):

“Political economy precedes politics: the former has to discover whether human interests are harmonious or antagonistic, a fact which must be settled before the latter can determine the prerogatives of Government.”

Economic Freedom Is the Foundation of All Freedom

These insights counsel us that attempts to pass laws — or even constitutional amendments — to ensure our political liberty will be wasted as long as our economic freedom continues to be usurped by government. In other words, limited government will fade in the face of the modern regulatory state, and no laws can protect us from its deprivations. Economics not only trumps politics, it determines its very form.

The root cause of economic interventions is the mistaken belief that government can improve our lives by making economic decisions for us. As I explained in an earlier essay, by their very nature, economic interventions by government are coercive in nature. Voluntary cooperation in the marketplace, on the other hand, requires only access to an honest criminal justice system to enforce contracts and protect property rights.

Government mandates require government coercion for their enforcement, including, for example, the mandate that everyone contribute to the government’s Social Security and Medicare programs. Although the public requires no government mandate to buy any of the wide ranging retirement savings and health insurance products available on the free market, government must force us to participate in its Social Security and Medicare schemes.

Absent the mandates, few would participate, because many understand that these programs are fatally flawed transfer taxes — Ponzi schemes of sorts — posing as retirement savings and healthcare plans. There are no real profit-producing assets from which to pay the plans’ distributions, merely the promise by government that it will continue to force others to pay you in the future as it forces you to pay others in the present.

These programs must be maintained by the police power of the state, and what may appear to be widespread acceptance of the Social Security and Medicare mandates is really the vociferous support of those receiving benefits. Meanwhile, the taxpayers who understand the reality of the program continue to pay to stay out of jail.

Economic Regulation Requires Coercion

The more government meddles in the economic sphere — which should require no regulation at all, since it is completely voluntary — the more police power is necessary to force us to comply. All government agencies possess huge enforcement mechanisms that not only can confiscate our property but take away our freedom. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is little more than a government-supported extortion racket, finding nebulous health and safety violations in the workplace that apparently do not concern the actual workers themselves, who haven’t been chained to their machines for quite some time now.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shuts down businesses and threatens entire industries for violations of arbitrarily established environmental standards that are of little concern to the people affected. Smokestack emissions and the like are local environmental issues for which one would expect a wide variety of standards across the nation. Undoubtedly the people employed by the giant steel mills of Gary, Indiana tolerate smokestack emissions that Beverly Hills residents would find unacceptable. These arbitrary EPA standards are depriving Americans of the opportunity to work at higher paying jobs: their freedom to tolerate more pollution in order to enjoy a higher standard of living has been usurped by government.

Speaking of jobs, just try practicing some profession that requires a government issued license, even if the parties using your service do not care whether you have one or not. Better yet, employ someone who is willing to work at a wage rate below the proscribed minimum or who is willing to work without healthcare or family leave benefits. The police power of the state will descend upon you, even though there is no dispute between you and your employee. Want to reclaim discarded furniture, refurbish it, and sell it out of your house? Better not try to do that without a business license and a store front in an area that is properly zoned. Do you want to hire “an able bodied man” to do some heavy lifting at your place of business? Uh, oh! The discrimination police will put you in your place, which may be a jail cell if you cannot pay their fine.

No truly limited government can perform these police functions, so expecting a limited government in a world where such regulations are common falls into the category of a cognitive dissonance. In laymen’s terms, we are just kidding ourselves that we are a truly free people with a government that is subservient to our wishes and exists primarily to protect our life, liberty, and property. Keep this in mind the next time you hear that some new economic regulations have been proposed or implemented. Concomitant with these regulations comes an ever more powerful and coercive government.

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