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Does anyone honestly believe that inflation is ‘transitory’ anymore?

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In the early summer of 1514, Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon returned home to the court of King Ferdinand as a hero. De Leon was among the first of Spain’s conquistadors to discover gold-- right here in Puerto Rico. And that was enough for him to be knighted and bestowed all sorts of royal honors. By that time, Europe had been suffering a shortage of gold and silver for nearly a century; mines and mints had closed down all across the continent, triggering what economic historians call ‘The Great Bullion Famine’ in the mid 1400s. So the supply of money, i.e. gold and silver, was essentially stagnant. Technically European money supply was falling, because most European kingdoms ran a trade deficit with Asia and the Middle East. Yet at the same time, European economies were finally starting to grow again following the consequences of the Black Plague and the Hundred Years War. English wool production, for example, nearly tripled between the mid 1400s and the early 1500s. So with more goods and services being produced at a time that money supply was falling, prices declined. This essentially what deflation is. Wages, rents, and food prices in Spain, for example, dropped 25% over a century, according to economic historian E.J. Hamilton. Now that actually sounds pretty good. But to Europe’s rulers, this deflation was a total catastrophe. And it sparked a number of international expeditions to find more gold. Ponce de Leon was just one of many conquistadors to discover rich mineral deposits in Latin America… and then enslave the local populations to mine them. The end result was a veritable mountain of gold being transported back to Spain, triggering a flood of new money into Europe’s economies. Suddenly there was a surge in the money supply… yet roughly the same amount of goods and services being produced. You can probably imagine what happened next: inflation. These are clearly simple concepts; it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in economics to understand that, when you flood the financial system with money, it’s going to have an impact on prices. That was true in Spain in the 1500s. And it’s true today as well. Earlier this year when the government announced sharply higher inflation for the month of March, the Federal Reserve deemed the inflation to be ‘transitory’. That was six months ago. Inflation has surged even higher since then. It’s not hard to understand why. First off-- the Fed expanded the money supply last year more than in any other year in US history except for 1943. That’s obviously going to have an impact. At the same time, the government forced businesses to close… and then paid people to stay home and NOT work. So essentially we had a LOT more money in the system, but far fewer goods and services being produced. This has predictably created substantial inflation. Here’s what’s really interesting, though. In its announcement yesterday, the Fed tacitly acknowledged this big inflation problem. They understand that their zero interest rate policy and their bonanza of money printing are both driving prices higher. They also understand that inflation is a MAJOR concern. But then they essentially said, “Yeah, we’ll get to it in a couple of months.” This was astonishing. To give you an example, the Fed has been engaged in a ‘bond buying’ program… which means that they’re flooding the financial system with $120 billion per month in new money. This is definitely a major factor that contributes to inflation. Yet according to its announcement yesterday, the Fed is not even going to START the process of terminating this program until November. And even then, it will take them until the middle of NEXT YEAR before it’s been fully wound up. What’s more, the Fed suggests that they might start raising interest rates by the end of 2022… and only HALF of the voting members think that’s a good idea. Unreal.

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    Does anyone honestly believe that inflation is ‘transitory’ anymore?

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    In the early summer of 1514, Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon returned home to the court of King Ferdinand as a hero. De Leon was among the first of Spain’s conquistadors to discover gold-- right here in Puerto Rico. And that was enough for him to be knighted and bestowed all sorts of royal honors. By that time, Europe had been suffering a shortage of gold and silver for nearly a century; mines and mints had closed down all across the continent, triggering what economic historians call ‘The Great Bullion Famine’ in the mid 1400s. So the supply of money, i.e. gold and silver, was essentially stagnant. Technically European money supply was falling, because most European kingdoms ran a trade deficit with Asia and the Middle East. Yet at the same time, European economies were finally starting to grow again following the consequences of the Black Plague and the Hundred Years War. English wool production, for example, nearly tripled between the mid 1400s and the early 1500s. So with more goods and services being produced at a time that money supply was falling, prices declined. This essentially what deflation is. Wages, rents, and food prices in Spain, for example, dropped 25% over a century, according to economic historian E.J. Hamilton. Now that actually sounds pretty good. But to Europe’s rulers, this deflation was a total catastrophe. And it sparked a number of international expeditions to find more gold. Ponce de Leon was just one of many conquistadors to discover rich mineral deposits in Latin America… and then enslave the local populations to mine them. The end result was a veritable mountain of gold being transported back to Spain, triggering a flood of new money into Europe’s economies. Suddenly there was a surge in the money supply… yet roughly the same amount of goods and services being produced. You can probably imagine what happened next: inflation. These are clearly simple concepts; it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in economics to understand that, when you flood the financial system with money, it’s going to have an impact on prices. That was true in Spain in the 1500s. And it’s true today as well. Earlier this year when the government announced sharply higher inflation for the month of March, the Federal Reserve deemed the inflation to be ‘transitory’. That was six months ago. Inflation has surged even higher since then. It’s not hard to understand why. First off-- the Fed expanded the money supply last year more than in any other year in US history except for 1943. That’s obviously going to have an impact. At the same time, the government forced businesses to close… and then paid people to stay home and NOT work. So essentially we had a LOT more money in the system, but far fewer goods and services being produced. This has predictably created substantial inflation. Here’s what’s really interesting, though. In its announcement yesterday, the Fed tacitly acknowledged this big inflation problem. They understand that their zero interest rate policy and their bonanza of money printing are both driving prices higher. They also understand that inflation is a MAJOR concern. But then they essentially said, “Yeah, we’ll get to it in a couple of months.” This was astonishing. To give you an example, the Fed has been engaged in a ‘bond buying’ program… which means that they’re flooding the financial system with $120 billion per month in new money. This is definitely a major factor that contributes to inflation. Yet according to its announcement yesterday, the Fed is not even going to START the process of terminating this program until November. And even then, it will take them until the middle of NEXT YEAR before it’s been fully wound up. What’s more, the Fed suggests that they might start raising interest rates by the end of 2022… and only HALF of the voting members think that’s a good idea. Unreal.
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    301 AD was a big year for the Roman Empire. That was the year that, amid spiraling inflation, Emperor Diocletian issued his Edict on Maximum Prices, essentially fixing prices of just about everything across the Roman Empire. The price of wheat, a day labor’s wages, a quart of olive oil, transportation rates-- everything was established by the Emperor’s edict, and enforced under penalty of death. Diocletian’s edict infamously didn’t work, and the empire plunged into even more severe inflation. The other big event of 301 AD was the introduction of the solidus gold coin, roughly 4.5 grams of nearly pure gold. And while the Romans had a history of debasing their other coins, like the silver denarius and sesterce, the government actually did a pretty good job maintaining the value and purity of the gold solidus. Even hundreds of years later, after the western empire in Rome had fallen to the barbarians, and imperial power was concentrated in Byzantium, the gold solidus was still approximately as pure as it was in the early 300s. That’s an extraordinary track record for currency stability. Confidence in the gold solidus was so high, in fact, that various tribes and kingdoms around the world used the coin for trade and savings. This became a source of pride for the Byzantine Empire; Justinian I, who ruled in the mid 500s, stated that the solidus was “accepted everywhere from end to end of the Earth,” and that it was “admired by all men in all kingdoms, because no kingdom has a currency that can be compared to it.” It wasn’t until the mid 11th century, more than seven centuries after the introduction of the solidus, that an Emperor began to debase the currency. Just like Hemingway described going bankrupt, the debasement of the solidus was gradual… then sudden. Emperor Constantine IX, who ruled from 1042 to 1055, reduced the gold purity down to 87.5%. His successor brought it down to 75%. By the end of the century it had been reduced to just 33%. The rest of the world took notice. The Byzantine Empire’s political, economic, and military power were waning. And with the rapid debasement of the solidus, international traders looked for other options. Soon the rising Italian city states, particularly Venice and Florence, began minting their own gold coins; Italy was rapidly becoming the dominant economic power in Europe, so their ducats and florins became widely accepted, essentially replacing Byzantine coins for international trade. Throughout history, in fact, reserve currencies have routinely changed, just as frequently as power and wealth shift. For example, the Spanish real de ocho was the dominant reserve currency for hundreds of years, just as the Spanish Empire was the dominant power in the world. But eventually Spain’s wealth and power waned, and the real de ocho was replaced. The Dutch guilder dominated European trade in the 1600s and 1700s, just as the Netherlands’ wealth and power soared. Yet they were displaced by the British Empire and pound sterling in the 1800s and early 1900s. Both the United States and the US dollar have held this status for the last 80 years. And at the moment this is still the case. History, however, is very clear on this point: wealth and power shift. Reserve currencies change. And it would be foolish to assume that this time is different. Reserve currencies hold their status because the rest of the world has confidence-- confidence in the soundness of the currency, confidence in the power and prestige of the country that issues it. But let’s be honest: the rest of the world is probably not brimming with confidence in the United States right now. They’re looking at this shameful, disgraceful catastrophe in Afghanistan and wondering, “Is this seriously the world’s dominant superpower?” But it’s more than Afghanistan. It’s endless deficits. It’s ridiculous spending initiatives that pay people to stay home and NOT work.
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    Nearly every year in his annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letters, Warren Buffett spends a few pages talking about the dynamism of the American economy. His message is clear: the United States has faced adversity before. It will again. But America always prevails and you should never bet against it. That theme has certainly held true during Buffett’s life. He was born in 1930 and came of age at a time when the US had become the world’s undisputed dominant superpower. Buffett’s entire business career, in fact, took place at a time when America was on the rise. But even Buffett would have to acknowledge that times have changed. Today the government is obsessed with passing regulations that create obstacles to growth and new business formation. They’d rather pay people to stay home and NOT work rather than encourage production and innovation. They rack up enormous quantities of debt without a single thought to the long-term consequences. They engineer inflation. They stifle competition. And they constantly ridicule anyone who took a chance, worked hard, and became successful. Not only do they want to raise your taxes, they want to shame you because of your hard work and success. Buffett knows this now from personal experience. Last month, in an effort to make wealthy people look bad, Buffett’s private personal tax returns were illegally leaked on the Internet for everyone to see. He never had to deal with that sort of rage before in his life. Moreover, when Buffett was a young man, he never had to contend with fanatical mob of woke Marxists. And he never knew a time when the biggest companies in America bent the knee in subservience to them. And while there have always been small groups of Communist sympathizers and socialists in America, Buffett made his fortune at a time when the vast majority of people understood the awesome, prosperity-generating powers of a capitalist system. But today, socialism is totally mainstream, with New York Magazine last month proclaiming that “Socialism isn’t a dirty word anymore.” And according to a recent Axios poll, most Gen Z (ages 18-24) have a negative view of capitalism. Bottom line, the America of today is not the same America where Buffett made his fortune. This isn’t to say that there aren’t extraordinary opportunities to create wealth and become successful. Of course there are-- opportunities abound everywhere, both within the US, and around the world. But it would be foolish to ignore these trends, or the fact that the country may be past its economic and political peak. To paraphrase former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, how much longer can the worlds biggest debtor continue being the world’s biggest superpower? How much longer can a country which debases its currency, embraces socialism, silences intellectual dissent, brainwashes its youth, and encourages unproductive behavior, continue being the world’s most dynamic economy? These are not controversial statements. They’re relevant, important questions that any independent-minded person might consider. This is the topic of today’s podcast, which you can watch here (on YouTube) or here (on SovereignMan.tv), or listen to here:
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    Why a second residency abroad makes so much sense

    1:18:14

    The most astute investors in the world understand that there is no such thing as a risk-free investment. Every investment carries at least some risk; stocks, bonds, venture capital, real estate... even something as simple as keeping money in a bank.… they all carry some degree of risk. Sharp investors take steps to identify and hedge their risks, so if the worst happens, they’ll still be protected. Stock market investors, for example, might purchase ‘put options’ which increase in value in the event that their stocks fall. That way, if there’s a crash, the investor is protected from any major losses. Bondholders often purchase credit default swaps, which is like an insurance policy in case the bond issuer defaults. And real estate investors routinely buy insurance to mitigate the risk of property damage caused by fire, flood, and hail. These are all sensible precautions that can dramatically reduce an investors’ risk. And this is ultimately what a Plan B is all about-- taking sensible steps to reduce obvious, often substantial risks. Inflation is an easy example; we’ve long argued that misguided government and central bank policies (like paying people to stay home and NOT work, or conjuring trillions of dollars out of thin air) would eventually create painful levels of inflation. This was a significant risk, but one that could be mitigated with certain investments (like gold, which is up 16% since the start of the pandemic, or silver which is up nearly 60%.) But there are plenty of risks that don’t have anything to do with money or finance. Over the past year, for example, we’ve seen an aggressive erosion of our freedom, angry mobs hijacking our children’s education, increased tensions with China, etc. These are all obvious risks. And one type of ‘insurance policy’ to protect against these sorts of non-financial risks is looking abroad and making sure that you and your family always have another place to go. That means having either a second passport, or at a minimum, legal residency in another country. Like any other insurance policy, you might never need to use it. No one goes to bed at night complaining that they haven’t been able to ‘cash in’ on their home’s fire insurance policy. But if you ever really need it, you’ll be extremely happy that you took the steps to set up residency in another country. Besides, there’s very limited downside in having another option to travel and live somewhere, especially if it’s a place that you and your family really enjoy spending time. This is the topic of our podcast today; Viktorija is actually in Panama at the moment applying for residency there, and she recently obtained legal residency in Mexico too. We talk about both of those, and much more. You can watch it here (on YouTube) or here (on SovereignMan.tv). Or can access the podcast here:

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