DUBLIN – Is Donald J. Trump a Neanderthal? Yes, of course. We all are.
One of the most interesting stories we’re following is some 300,000 years old. It is the story of our species.
What does this have to do with money? We’ll get to that…
Two weeks ago came news of a long-lost cousin discovered in Morocco. The human family is much bigger… and much older than we had thought.
The new findings are possibly 300,000 years old – about 100,000 years older than the oldest as-yet-discovered “human.”
Scarcely 10 years ago, people believed the simple “out of Africa” story. Its hero was a single species of humans… perhaps descending from a single mutant. The tribe survived and spread all over the world, adapting to local conditions as necessary.
At least the story was easy to remember.
But it wasn’t true.
In the last few years, anthropologists have identified several other human species. The first, already well known, was Homo neanderthalensis, presumed to be our closest relative.
There are enough bones around, so we have a pretty good idea of what he looked like – heavier than modern humans, often depicted with red hair, and perhaps smarter.
The surprise came when scientists traced a small percentage of the modern human genome to these Neanderthal ancestors.
Europeans and Asians, but not Africans, all have a Neanderthal swinging from their family tree.
Then, it came out that there were several other skeletons in the closet.
Homo naledi was discovered in South Africa. Homo sapiens Denisova was found in Siberia. Homo floresiensis was uncovered in Indonesia. And the latest – the aforementioned bones found in Morocco – were found to be very close to human.
Many of these relatives lived in the same place and the same time as Homo sapiens sapiens – aka us.
So far, the DNA record shows a connection between us and Neanderthals as well as Denisovans.
As for the others, we wouldn’t be surprised to find that they got up to hanky-panky from time to time, too, and that there are traces still of other human forerunners or competitors in us all.
It’s none of our business who did what to whom out in the woods.
But one of the things we’ve been thinking about lately is how civilization came to be and what it meant. And it relates to money… real money… and the role it plays in our civil society.
According to Freud (and many others), the distinguishing feature of civilization is restraint.
He didn’t have to be a genius to come up with the idea. All he had to do was read Roman-era historians. They described the difference between Romans and barbarians as the difference between “reason” and “tempers and… insatiable desires.”
The Romans of the fifth century found it impossible to stop the barbarians from crossing the Rhine into the empire. The best they could hope for, they said, was to turn these unwanted immigrants into new, Romanized men… who would reject impulsivity and instead rely on rational thought and calm reflection.
It was a tall order. And it inevitably went bad. You could take a barbarian out of the forests, but you couldn’t take the forest out of him.
The barbarians – Tervingi, Saxons, Salian Franks, Goths, Vandals, Huns… and tribes too numerous to mention – turned on their hosts, massacred and enslaved the Romans, and laid waste to most of Europe west of the Rhine.
That’s the way civilization goes. Two steps forward. One step back.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s not as easy as turning on a light. Civilization takes thousands of years and is never complete.
Even though, today, he puts on his Under Armour rather than his bearskin cloak, Homo sapiens sapiens has not noticeably changed in at least 200,000 years.
We still carry the genes of the forest, bog, and savannah creatures we come from… Neither bad nor good, but always subject to influence, we are still capable of slaughtering our rivals… and sacking Rome, just like our barbarian ancestors.
And when the money goes bad… restraint gives way… We show our teeth… and pull out our knives.
More to come…
By Joe Withrow, Analyst, Bonner & Partners
The last time gold stocks were at these prices, they soared 253%. Are they gearing up for another run?
Today’s chart of the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX), which holds a basket of gold mining stocks, shows the boom-bust nature of gold stocks. Fundamental supply and demand factors drive these boom-bust cycles.
Gold production stalled back in 2005 then slowed down in 2006 and 2007. This led to a lower supply of gold… which led to a higher price tag for existing gold… which led to a major boom in gold mining stocks in 2008.
But look at where GDX is trading today – right back where it was in 2008.
And with gold production down 12% in the first quarter this year, another rally could be on the way…
– Joe Withrow
We Have Nothing to Fear but Fearlessness Itself
Despite increasing global and political volatility, stock markets continue to be surprisingly docile. The VIX, Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” is hovering near a 20-year low. Here are a few possible reasons why.
Have Minimum Wage Hikes Backfired?
Cities around the country have been boosting the minimum wage. Seattle recently hiked its minimum wage to $13 an hour. But all these wage hikes may have a surprising side effect…
How to Hedge Against Political Crisis
Most people depend on their credit and debit cards to make everyday purchases. But the federal government can, and does, freeze these cards without notice. Consider taking this one step to hedge against political crisis.
In today’s mailbag, more discussion on Bill’s plan to truly make America great again…
I enjoyed your suggestions for improving the government, especially the one about politicians being prohibited from passing any law they could not explain in detail while standing on one leg.
Here’s another: For years I’ve thought that politicians should all be required to wear jumpsuits like NASCAR drivers do. And each jumpsuit should have the names and logos of their “sponsors” prominently displayed on brightly colored patches, just like NASCAR. That way we’d have an idea of who was pulling their strings.
– Ed M.
There is an obvious question we should ask ourselves to make this country great. I have not heard it asked nor answered by Dems or the Republicans. The question is… Can we as Americans take a good long look at the working healthcare models of other countries such as Canada, Australia, Sweden, and others? Can we build off of their healthcare systems, improve, modify, or tweak to design a better American healthcare system?
– David S.
There was one part of your platform for making the country great that was missing. You used to talk about it often. The plan was to eliminate all federal agencies that were an acronym (FBI, CIA, NSA, etc.)…
But the steps you listed would be a good start, too.
– Kevin B.
Meanwhile, Bill’s “Eulogy for My Mother” has had a lasting impact on readers.
I keep rereading your mother’s eulogy. I’ve printed it and passed it out to the veterans I serve at the VA. I’ve emailed it to my dad, and other thoughtful friends. Your writing is always spirit-provoking, sometimes causing me to laugh out loud or tear up. This, however, was extraordinary in its ability to do so. I suspect it is because your mother was extraordinary. Thank you for gifting this to us.
– Brenda T.