GUALFIN, ARGENTINA – The Dow was flat yesterday.
Investors must have been distracted by the latest tempest in the Washington teapot.
Did President Trump say something he shouldn’t have?
He told the Russians that terrorists were trying to make bombs out of laptop computers.
Trump was careful to get the gunmen and the moneymen on his side; he’s stocked his team with generals and Goldman guys.
He’s stayed on the course set by Bush-Obama. But he’s alienated a big part of the Establishment.
They regard him as reckless and unreliable. They’d prefer more of a dull Deep State team player, such as Vice President Mike Pence.
Who knows? Maybe they’ll get their wish.
Progress = Learning
Meanwhile, we return to the basics…
Win-win deals get people more of what they want. Win-lose deals – usually imposed by government – bring them less. The few (the insiders) use government to exploit the many (the rest of us).
Win-lose deals also depress economic progress for everybody. Partly, this happens for an obvious reason.
Dropping the atom bomb on Hiroshima was a technical milestone, but not the kind of progress we’re talking about. Progress only makes sense if it means that people are able to get more of what they want.
By definition, when a person is forced into a bad deal, he gets less of what he wants. (Later this week, we’ll look at how Venezuelans are getting a lot less of what they want as a result of their government’s win-lose programs.)
Progress is also a learning process. You try something. You see what works and what doesn’t. As people experiment in this way, they learn… and the economy accumulates knowledge and wealth.
They learn to get to work in the morning, for example… to say please and thank you… to save their money… and to invest it wisely.
Win-lose deals interrupt the learning process. That’s why welfare programs fail: People get money without learning.
Temptation to Cheat
That is the real reason the Soviet Union failed, too.
Consumers were forced to buy whatever shoddy products were made available to them; producers had no way to learn how to make good ones.
Toward the end, products available for purchase in the Soviet Union were worth less than the raw materials and labor that went into them.
What do you need for win-win deals?
1) People must be free to make choices with their time and money.
2) They must have money they can trust.
3) They must trust each other to respect their rights and property.
Yesterday, we described how these things don’t happen smoothly and without interruption.
Progress is cyclical. Win-win deals add wealth and move society forward. But they depend on trust. And as trust increases, so does the temptation to cheat. When everyone leaves his liquor cabinet open, for example, who can resist having a drink?
Then trust declines. Barriers go up. Costs increase. Win-win gives way to win-lose. Progress goes into reverse.
Money You Could Trust
The invention of real money – based on gold – gave a boost to win-win deals… and to progress.
It was money you could trust.
If you are paid a gold coin for a day’s labor, you don’t have to trust the person who pays you. You don’t have to wonder if he has the money in his account to cover his check… or what will happen to his money in the future.
You don’t have to trust him; you put your trust in gold. This allows you to do transactions more freely – and speeds up economic progress.
Gold-backed dollars were trustworthy for nearly 200 years (setting aside Lincoln’s phony “greenbacks”).
People became so confident in the integrity of the dollar that they hardly noticed when the gold backing was removed (on March 19, 1968, when President Johnson signed a bill eliminating the “gold cover” for Federal Reserve notes).
But that’s the way it works: The more trusting people become, the easier it is to rip them off.
Set Up by the Elite
Of course, as trust expands and win-win deals proliferate, some people gain more than others.
The typical Chinese day laborer makes six times as much today as he did in 1999. The typical American day laborer has gained little.
And job competition from overseas made him feel like a loser. Now he wants walls – to keep out foreigners and foreign-made products. He wants win-lose deals that guarantee to make him a winner again.
He has no idea that he was set up by his own elite.
Former Fed chiefs Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan got their pictures on the cover of Time magazine. Most people think they are heroes, not rascals. Most people think they saved the economy from another Great Depression by dropping interest rates and injecting it with trillions of dollars in quantitative easing (QE) money.
Most people – even the POTUS – believe we need more fake money to “prime the pump” and get the economy rolling again.
Almost no one realizes it, but it was these stimulating, pump-priming, new credit-based dollars that fueled the trends that ruined America’s working-class wage earner.
Overseas, his competitors used cheap credit to gain market share and take away his job. At home, the elite imposed their crony boondoggles… their regulations… and their win-lose deals – all financed with fake money.
The average American’s medical care now costs him more than seven times more than it did in 1980. His household debt rose nearly 12 times since 1980.
He blamed the Chinese, the Mexicans, the liberals… the media… and the government.
He wanted change.
But who would have guessed that he had been ripped off by his own untrustworthy money?
After you account for inflation, the American worker has not had a significant raise in 40 years – almost since the new money system was put into place after 1971.
But the rich – as measured by the inflation-adjusted Dow – are 10 times richer.
Who would have imagined that after 3,000 years, the elite would have come up with money that betrayed his trust… a “bezzle” so subtle that he didn’t even notice?
More to come… including a win-lose deal right here at the ranch.
Economic Insight: Confidence Hits Post-Trump Low
BY CHRIS LOWE, EDITOR AT LARGE, Bonner & partners
Confidence in the economy has hit its lowest point since Trump stepped into the Oval Office.
Today’s chart is of Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index going back to Election Day.
It’s based on two factors…
How Americans rate today’s economic conditions and whether they believe the economy is improving or getting worse.
A reading of 100 would indicate that all Americans surveyed believe the economy is doing well and improving. A reading of negative 100 would mean all those surveyed believe the economy is doing poorly and getting worse.
As you can see, fewer Americans today believe the economy is doing well and improving than at any point since President Trump took office on January 20.
— Chris Lowe
Why Retirees Are Hoarding Their Cash
Conventional wisdom says that people save during working years and spend during retirement. But today, retirees are hoarding their cash at an alarming rate. Here’s why.
U.S. Congressmen Are Doing What?
A disturbing trend has started to emerge on Capitol Hill. Brazen members of Congress are buying shares in companies that depend on congressional approval for growth. And it’s about to get worse.
The Biggest Change to Business Since Email
Late last year, Barclays facilitated a $100,000 trade of cheese and butter between two food companies. It seems mundane. But this transaction used a new technology that is transforming how business is done forever.
Today, high praise for Bill’s review of Shelby Foote’s trilogy on the history of the American Civil War. (You can read this issue of Bill’s Book Club — usually reserved for paid-up lifetime subscribers of The Bill Bonner Letter — by going right here.)
Bill is 100% correct about the value of Shelby Foote’s non-fiction trilogy on the “Civil War.” The approximate 2,850 pages gave me a sense for what the war felt like. The War of Northern Aggression ended the republic and replaced it with the empire, with tragic consequences for the United States and for all of world history.
Nevertheless, most readers of Foote probably will find themselves empathizing with the men on both sides of this horrific war – a war from which the U.S. has not yet recovered intellectually and morally.
– Carl W.
In Case You Missed It…
The U.S. is on the cusp of the biggest military spending boom since World War II. That’s the message from our friends at Casey Research.
And it won’t be the industry giants such as Boeing or Lockheed Martin that benefit most during the spending spree. Thanks to a new government program, four small-cap defense stocks could turn a $1,000 investment into $550,000 in the coming years. Get the full story right here.