The Great Opportunity for Free Markets

submitted by jwithrow.Free Market

Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
The Great Opportunity

August 26, 2015
Hot Springs, VA

The S&P closed out Tuesday at $1,873. Gold closed at $1,138 per ounce. Oil closed out at $39.31 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 2.00%. Bitcoin is trading around $229 per BTC today.

Dear Journal,

My last entry suggested that the centralized nation-state model looks to have peaked in the 20th century. I speculated that troubling macroeconomic trends related to government interventions will lead to a “Great Reset” sooner or later – probably sooner – as these massive nation-states are forced to ramp up the printing presses in attempts to service all of their debt and unfunded liabilities.

Today I would like to point out that we are approaching a crossroads and there is a tremendous opportunity for the growth of free markets and prosperity if we can shed the 20th century paradigm of centralization. A great golden age for civilization is staring us right in the face, but few have noticed. Why? Because we have placed too much emphasis on politicians, presidents, elections, and democracy and too little emphasis on individual self-empowerment.

For starters, consider the following advancements: indoor plumbing and electricity, refrigeration, cooking appliances, heating & air systems, local and long-distance transportation, local and long-distance communication, and access to information. Each of these items were non-existent, scarce, or unreliable just one hundred short years ago. Additionally, roughly 40% of the U.S. population was involved in agriculture in the year 1900 in order to produce enough food to meet demand. Today that number is around 2% and food is more available than ever. Fresh fruits and vegetables are available at the grocery store year-round. Also, thanks to technological development, oil and gas are now more abundant and cheaper than ever. This has reduced the costs of production and distribution significantly, and it has created competition for the oil cartels and monopolies that have had a strangle-hold on the industry for decades. Continue reading “The Great Opportunity for Free Markets”

Employment Does Not Drive Economic Growth

by Frank Shostak – Mises Daily:economic growth

For the head of the Federal Reserve Board Janet Yellen — and most economists — the key to economic growth is a strengthening in the labor market. The strength of the labor market is the key behind the strength of the economy. Or so it is held. If this is the case then it is valid to conclude that changes in unemployment are an important causative factor of real economic growth.

This way of thinking is based on the view that a reduction in the number of unemployed persons means that more people can now afford to boost their expenditures. As a result, economic growth follows suit.

We Need More Wealth, Not Necessarily More Employment

The main driver of economic growth is an expanding pool of real wealth, gained through deferred consumption and increases in worker productivity. Fixing unemployment without addressing the issue of wealth is not going to lift economic growth as such.

It is the pool of real wealth that funds the enhancement and the expansion of the infrastructure, i.e., an expansion in capital goods per individual. An enhanced and expanded infrastructure permits an expansion in the production of the final goods and services required to maintain and promote individuals’ lives and well-being.

If unemployment were the key driving force of economic growth then it would have made a lot of sense to eradicate unemployment as soon as possible by generating all sorts of employment.

It is not important to have people employed as such, but to have them employed in wealth-generating activities. For instance, policy makers could follow the advice of Keynes and his followers and employ people in digging ditches, or various other government-sponsored activities. Note that the aim here is just to employ as many people as possible.

A simple commonsense analysis however quickly establishes that such a policy would amount to depletion in the pool of real wealth. Remember that every activity, whether productive or non-productive, must be funded. When the Fed or the federal government attempt to increase employment through various types of stimulus, this can result in the expansion of capital goods for non-wealth generating projects which leads to capital consumption instead of growth.

Hence employing individuals in various useless non-wealth generating activities simply leads to a transfer of real wealth from wealth generating activities and this undermines the real wealth-generating process.

Unemployment as such can be relatively easily fixed if the labor market were to be free of tampering by the government. In an unhampered labor market, any individual that wants to work will be able to find a job at a going wage for his particular skills.

Obviously if an individual demands a non-market related salary and is not prepared to move to other locations there is no guarantee that he will find a job.

For instance, if a market wage for John the baker is $80,000 per year, yet he insists on a salary of $500,000, obviously he is likely to be unemployed.

Over time, a free labor market makes sure that every individual earns in accordance to his contribution to the so-called overall “real pie.” Any deviation from the value of his true contribution sets in motion corrective competitive forces.

Purchasing Power Is Key

Ultimately, what matters for the well-being of individuals is not that they are employed as such, but their purchasing power in terms of the goods and services that they earn.

It is not going to be of much help to individuals if what they are earning will not allow them to support their life and well-being.

Individuals’ purchasing power is conditional upon the economic infrastructure within which they operate. The better the infrastructure the more output an individual can generate.

A higher output means that a worker can now command higher wages in terms of purchasing power.

Article originally posted at Mises.org.

Fourteen Lessons for the Federal Reserve

submitted by jwithrow.fed-speak federal reserve

Excerpt from The Folly of the Fed’s Central Planning:

1. Increasing money and credit by the Fed is not the same as increasing wealth. It in fact does the opposite.

2. More government spending is not equivalent to increasing wealth.

3. Liquidation of debt and correction in wages, salaries, and consumer prices is not the monster that many fear.

4. Corrections, allowed to run their course, are beneficial and should not be prolonged by bailouts with massive monetary inflation.

5. The people spending their own money is far superior to the government spending it for them.

6. Propping up stock and bond prices, the current Fed goal, is not a road to economic recovery.

7. Though bailouts help the insiders and the elite 1%, they hinder the economic recovery.

8. Production and savings should be the source of capital needed for economic growth.

9. Monetary expansion can never substitute for savings but guarantees mal–investment.

10. Market rates of interest are required to provide for the economic calculation necessary for growth and reversing an economic downturn.

11. Wars provide no solution to a recession/depression. Wars only make a country poorer while war profiteers benefit.

12. Bits of paper with ink on them or computer entries are not money – gold is.

13. Higher consumer prices per se have nothing to do with a healthy economy.

14. Lower consumer prices should be expected in a healthy economy as we experienced with computers, TVs, and cell phones.

All this effort by thousands of planners in the Federal Reserve, Congress, and the bureaucracy to achieve a stable financial system and healthy economic growth has failed.

It must be the case that it has all been misdirected. And just maybe a free market and a limited government philosophy are the answers for sorting it all out without the economic planners setting interest and CPI rate increases.

A simpler solution to achieving a healthy economy would be to concentrate on providing a “SOUND DOLLAR” as the Founders of the country suggested. A gold dollar will always outperform a paper dollar in duration and economic performance while holding government growth in check. This is the only monetary system that protects liberty while enhancing the opportunity for peace and prosperity.

Investors Are Coming to Grips with Reality

by Justin Spittler – Hard Assets Alliance:gold investors

Today’s financial markets have acquired a knack for ingesting bad news without so much as a hiccup. Lately, that same resiliency—or more appropriately, complacency—has come under pressure.

After lying dormant for months, volatility has come storming back with a vengeance. Investors are finally coming to their senses—much to the delight of the precious metals community.

Patience Wearing Thin

The problems facing the global economy didn’t come out of nowhere. It just took a jolt of volatility to put them in the spotlight—and you can thank the soaring US dollar and the collapse of energy prices for putting investors on high alert.

Of course, there are perks to a strong dollar and cheap energy. A strong dollar makes imported goods more affordable for American consumers, while it’s estimated that weak oil prices will put roughly $500 into the wallet of the average American driver. While neither is positive for precious metals, the euphoria won’t last long.

An appreciating US dollar makes American exports less competitive. Depressed oil prices could cripple the domestic energy revolution, which has been the backbone of the US recovery. The breakout of the dollar also threatens to derail commodity-centric emerging markets, particularly nations that have relied on cheap credit for growth.

Monetary Tools Becoming Dull

The precarious state of the global economy doesn’t just have investors on edge. Policymakers in countries across the globe face a dilemma: risk an economic crash by stepping away from their maligned economies, or provide their debt-addicted with another dose of stimulus. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Yet it’s a no-brainer for central bankers, whose greatest fear is deflation.

The situation is no different in the United States even though the Federal Reserve ended its quantitative easing program in October. Remember, the Fed has said it will be “patient” in raising rates; and you can bet Yellen will fire up the printing press the second that the US economy shows symptoms of flatlining.

Unfortunately, the next round of stimulus won’t be as effective as previous installments, and investors seem to be waking up to that harsh reality.

Perceptions Change; the Case for Gold Stays the Same

As an analyst, I spend most of my days sifting through data, crunching numbers, and gathering different perspectives in an attempt to gain clues about the future. And yet, I’ll be the first to admit that economic forecasting is a silly process. Nonetheless, my feeling is that gold has hit a bottom.

That’s probably something you’re sick of hearing. Some in the precious metals community have been calling an end to the gold market rut for months… others for much longer.

Why do I think that this time is different? It has little to do with fundamentals. The case for owning gold has changed little recently, although we’re receiving more and more reminders. What’s changing is the perception of Western investors.

After witnessing unconventional monetary policies push financial markets to new heights, investors seem to be losing faith in this grand experiment. This uneasy feeling is starting to bring them back to gold—the most crisis-proof asset of all.

Luckily, there’s still an opportunity for investors to pick up gold while incurring little downside risk. There are few sellers at today’s prices, and those holding gold are what I like to call “strong hands.”

Even if gold hits a few speed bumps throughout the year, investors will sleep easier knowing that some of their wealth is held in the most time-tested of all assets.

Article originally posted in the January issue of Smart Metals Investor at HardAssetsAlliance.com.

IBC – What’s it all about?

by R. Nelson Nash
Author of Becoming Your Own Banker
Article originally published in the October issue of BankNotes

It should be evident to most people that the last 100 years have been very violent in the financial world. Why? What happened to cause all this turbulence?

During this period we have witnessed the bloodiest century of all time. Two World Wars. Endless smaller wars all over the earth. An influenza epidemic after WWI. Nations formed and then self-destructed. New diseases coming into existence. Endless turmoil in the Mid-East. Empires coming apart. Financial euphoria followed by inevitable busts. Unbelievably powerful weapons and weapon systems. Propaganda perpetrated on an unsuspecting public such as man-made global warming. The list could take several pages to itemize them.

So, what’s going on? All of these actions are preceded by thoughts of the people involved at any time and place. Or, maybe it could be best described as lack of thought! It appears to me that people have forgotten how to live. It could be that they never learned how to live in the first place. Maybe it could be because of the way people feel. We seem to have a generation of “touchy-feely” folks that are in places of leadership and they influence the actions of every-day people.

Wars make absolutely no sense, but it is evident that this behavior is a common denominator throughout this time frame. Nothing good came from them. Yet, wars are glorified in the minds of many people. Things like Tom Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation. In reality it was a disaster — because of what it did to the minds of the people. They heard lies and came to believe them. Our country had already adopted Socialist ideas a number of years earlier, but this head-long plunge gained tremendous momentum during this period. I was there to witness it as a teenager and have seen it unfold to become the monster that we have today.

The historian, Dr. Clarence B. Carson wrote a masterful book entitled, The World In The Grip Of An Idea back in the 1970’s. He did a great job of explaining how we got into this abominable situation. The book needs to be re-published and Dr. Paul Cleveland and Dr. L. Dwayne Barney are in the process of re-writing it at this time. The world needs this book very much and so I encourage you to get a copy when it becomes available.

From my own perspective, money is the real common denominator in human action. The great Austrian Economist, Ludwig von Mises points out that the business cycle is caused by central banks. They inflate the money supply dramatically and people can’t tell the difference between “real money” and the “counterfeit money” (fiat money has no real basis). They feel that it is real wealth and so they do things that are totally irrational. This creates booms in the economy. In due course of time, reality rears its ugly head, and the bust follows.

This pattern has a long history, but it seems that every generation during the boom years feels that “Yes, those things happened in the past – but, this time it’s different!” This is nothing but hubris in its purest form. It is the “Arrival Syndrome” that I describe in my book, BECOMING YOUR OWN BANKER. It is the worst thing that can happen to the human mind!

Government debt all over the world is huge. But, consumer debt in these nations is approximately equal in volume. Bankers have created a mind-set in people that “you don’t have to save money– just spend, spend, spend! We are going to take care of your financial needs.” A local Credit Union advertises “Get a Legacy Lifestyle Loan from us.” Translated: “If you don’t like your present lifestyle, then get a loan from us so you can live the way you want to today! Don’t worry about having to repay the loan.”
We are bombarded with such stuff every day. If you listen to financial advertising very long then it becomes “hourly!”

Your local, commercial banks are the primary source of inflation. They lend money that doesn’t exist. If anyone else did that they would be put in jail! But, this chicanery has been going on so long that most everyone considers it normal.

In the video, Banking With Life, Dr. Paul Cleveland points out that people confuse money with wealth. Wealth is your productivity, and things that you own. Money is just the medium of exchange that we use to acquire wealth. Creating a pool of money from which to buy wealth is a necessary function in an economy. This pool of money is known as banking! We could not live the way we do today without the concept of banking! It is sovereign! Some party in your life is going to be the banker whether you recognize it or not!

That party should be you! John Donne (1572-1631) gave us the thought, “No man is an island.” Therefore, this Infinite Banking Concept must involve other people in the form of a contractual relationship. The perfect financial instrument to accomplish this has been in existence for over 200 years. It is known as Dividend-paying Whole Life Insurance (Preferably with a Mutual Company – one that is owned by the policy owners). Your medium of exchange must be warehoused somewhere! There are no exceptions!

This is a place that cannot inflate the money supply. This Infinite Banking Concept has been taught through my book, Becoming Your Own Banker and the follow-up book, Building Your Warehouse of Wealth. Further explanation is provided by How Privatized Banking Really Works by Carlos Lara and Robert P. Murphy, PhD.

Through these books and seminars that are taught all over the USA and Canada, there are now thousands of people who will never have to make loans from an institution that inflates the money supply and creates “booms and busts.” You, too, can become your own banker!

Please see the October issue of BankNotes for the original article and others like it.

Distinguishing Wealth from Money

submitted by jwithrow.Wealthy Life

At Zenconomics we feel like it is extremely important to differentiate wealth from money.  Pop culture and mainstream personal finance relentlessly tell us that the two are one in the same but they are mistaken.

The key to differentiating wealth from money is to understand the difference between exchange value and use value.  You already implicitly understand this difference but it is not immediately apparent in our culture today.

Money, by nature, holds an exchange value.  You can exchange money for goods and services and the quantity of goods and services for which you can exchange money is determined by the value of your money.  But this is all that money is good for – serving as a medium of exchange.

Wealth, on the other hand, holds both exchange value and use value.

You can exchange wealth for goods and services and the quantity of goods and services for which you can exchange wealth is determined by the accepted value of your wealth.  Wealth in most forms, however, is not as easily exchanged for goods and services and this is precisely why money plays a vital role in a developed economy.

Unlike money, wealth also holds a use value.  You can ‘use’ wealth in some capacity. Take real estate for example.

If you own residential real estate then you can either live in the home or you can rent the home out to a tenant to generate income.  These actions both utilize use value.  Of course, you can also sell real estate for money which utilizes exchange value.

Maybe your real estate consists of farm land which could be used to produce food.  Now your real estate, which is wealth if owned outright, can be utilized to produce additional wealth in the form of food.  Now your food has both an exchange value and a use value.  You can take your fruits and vegetables down to the farmers market and exchange them for money if you want to utilize the exchange value.  Or you can eat your fruits and vegetables if you want to utilize their use value.

It is important to point out that an asset must be owned free and clear of an attached debt in order for it to be considered personal wealth.

If you own a home with a big mortgage on it then you are one financial emergency away from losing the home and thus the case could be made that you do not truly own the home yet.  This is not to say that taking out a mortgage to buy a property is a bad idea, but be cognizant of the fact that you will need to satisfy the mortgage before the property can truly be considered wealth.

It is also important to point out that some forms of wealth may hold better exchange value than others.  A classic car collection may be extremely valuable to the owner but it may be difficult to find a willing buyer if the owner wished to exchange the collection for money in the future.

To reiterate, money is not wealth.

In fact, the only reason to hold money is to use it to purchase desired goods and services.  There is no other use for money.

And if you want to maximize your own wealth, you must wisely use money as a tool to acquire wealth.

**For more of Joe’s thoughts on the “Great Reset” and personalized asset allocation please read “The Individual is Rising: 2nd edition” which will be available later this year. Please sign up for the notifications mailing list at http://www.theindividualisrising.com/.

Money is an Illusion

submitted by jwithrow.Money Illusion

Currently we use fiat currency as money, but this money is just an illusion. If you doubt this then ask yourself the question: what is money?

Yes, you know what money does – it buys things. But what is it? Is it a green piece of paper with numbers and words and some symbols printed on it? Is it a card with your name, a string of numbers, and a bank logo on it?

Or is that just a piece of paper and a piece of plastic?

Fiat money is not wealth. That runs contrary to everything that our consumerist society has told us, but it is the truth. Fiat money is simply a medium of exchange which can then be used to acquire wealth, but the money itself is nothing more than a tool.

Historically we have used gold and silver and notes backed by gold and silver as money. Our fiat currencies today serve the same purpose as historical gold and silver money but there is one major difference – fiat currencies can be created arbitrarily from nothing. And the central banks of the world are now creating these fiat currencies out of thin air in increasingly massive quantities.

This is the biggest secret of the 1% – fiat money is an illusion that is available in abundance.

While fiat money can be created out of thin air, the value of existing money necessarily diminishes as new money enters the economy due simply to the concept of supply and demand; the market adjusts to account for the new money in circulation. We see this loss of value primarily when we go to use our money – the loss of monetary value is experienced as an increase of prices for goods and services.

While market forces are a factor in the price adjustments of goods and services in differing locations and industries, inflation results in price increases across the board. So the grocery store is not arbitrarily charging you more for food – your dollar just does not buy as much as it once did.

The Federal Reserve creates money every month with its quantitative easing programs and its purchases of Treasury Bonds. The new money then flows to the Wall Street banks that “sell” their toxic mortgage backed securities to the Fed and it flows to the federal government that “sells” their bonds to the Fed. This new money then flows into the economy when the banks lend it out to customers and when the Feds make their purchases from government contractors.

This is inflation.

Now this is not to say that bank lending is a problem – it is a key element in a capitalist economy. The problem occurs when the money being lent is not capital that has resulted from production and savings but rather funny money that has been conjured into existence.

Money is an illusion and it is only valuable as long as it is perceived to be valuable.

Fiat money is now little more than an idea and a few digits on a computer screen. To illustrate this: think about what would happen if everyone went to their bank tomorrow to cash out their deposits.

So if you think of money as an idea and not as a tangible asset, you will come to the realization that it takes nothing but an idea to obtain money but that money must then be exchanged for tangible assets in order for it to be converted into wealth.

**Want more information on how to implement the lesson from Monopoly and build a sustainable asset allocation model? Are you ready to turbo-charge your retirement portfolio? Do you yearn to exit the rat-race? Is financial freedom calling to your spirit?

To better understand the digital nature of the modern monetary system, as well as corresponding financial strategies, please see the online course Finance for Freedom: Master Your Finances in 30 Days.

Do not take a backseat when it comes to your own finances. Learn everything you need to know to master your finances in 30 days by enrolling in Finance for Freedom today!

 

Real Estate for the Long Haul

submitted by jwithrow.Real Estate2

Did you know that the average real estate mortgage is in existence for less than seven years?

Wall Street does and that is why they are willing to purchase and package thirty year fixed rate mortgages into securities for retail. Which is why banks are willing to originate thirty year fixed rate mortgages to sell to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to then sell to Wall Street to package into securities to then sell to their “muppet” clients (ask Goldman Sachs).

This is also why mortgage contracts are front-loaded with interest. You see, fixing an interest rate for thirty years (or fifteen) would be a losing position for the bank if it had to keep the mortgage on its books for the contractual length of time. Fortunately, most people are not terribly disciplined so they either refinance or sell their home within seven years of purchase.

Let’s examine this process from a financial point of view. The bank collects a myriad of origination fees when real estate is purchased and it collects an un-proportional amount of interest in the early years of the mortgage contract. Then, within seven years, the homeowner either refinances or sells the home. When the homeowner re-finances, the bank collects a myriad of origination fees once again. When the homeowner sells the home, the bank also collects a myriad of origination fees again.

Now we don’t mean to vilify bank fees, We are simply pointing out that this revolving process results in a constant drain of private capital. Each time origination fees are paid that is a little bit of capital being drawn into the banking system that could have been used by the individual to build wealth instead. Once in the banking system, exponential debt will be pyramided on top of that small amount of capital.

The point is this:

We have been buying the same real estate over and over again for decades and we have been giving up small chunks of capital each and every time the same houses have been purchased.

Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense if we just bought our homes, paid off the mortgage, and then kept them within our control? Imagine the possibilities! Of course this wouldn’t make sense in every case, but the idea is worth considering…