POITOU, FRANCE – You can divide the world’s people – all its bumblers, fumblers, fools, and saints – into two categories.

There are the decent people who go about their business trying to improve their lives by honest toil, invention, forbearance, and luck.

And there are the scoundrels.

All of us are one or the other… and often both.

Imagined Tyrants

Progress and improvement involve change. Most people try to avoid it. But by improving their own lives, they change themselves and the world around them. The scoundrels try to force somebody else to change.

Either can work, in the short run. Long-term, only one does.

Even in our private lives, we all blame others for our problems from time to time. The boss at work… the spouse at home – both can be tyrants, real or imagined.

Still, good people get along and go along, adjusting their own behavior as necessary.

They bake bread… and feed the hungry. They write computer software… and entertain the shiftless. They brew their own beer… and quench the thirst of millions.

They change themselves into doctors, builders, and accountants… and a miracle happens. The world is a better place!

Ancient Win-Win

One of the readings at last Saturday’s wedding was about the famous wedding at Cana, where Jesus performed his first miracle. He turned water into wine.

In his sermon, the priest elaborated (here we embellish; we lost track of much of the sermon, as the sound system was poor):

The creation story… Adam and Eve… contains a miracle, too. And it’s the miracle we celebrate here today. It’s the miracle that brings two people together. Yesterday, these two people were separate individuals. After today, they will not be separate at all. They will be transformed – like the way nature transforms a caterpillar into a butterfly – into a different thing. And they will each be part of that new thing. And from this new and different thing another miracle may issue – a new life.

This miracle is only possible because you are willing to change yourselves… from what you were… to what you will be, what you can be. That is all God asks of you.

He didn’t mention it, but a marriage is the most ancient form of win-win deal.

Like all win-win deals… the parties enter into it freely, each expecting a miracle. Often, they get one. They add one plus one… and get three, four, or five.

A better life, more wealth, higher status, more love – whatever they are after, they hope the deal will bring it to them.

Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes, a marriage results in miserable people and a drug problem… and a school shooting. But these results are rare.

Blame the Other Guy

Win-lose deals are completely different. The world improvers never take any personal blame or responsibility. And they never admit that they need to change.

Instead, it’s always the other guy. He has to stop worshipping false gods… stop exporting cheap steel… stop taking drugs… and stop giving jobs to illegal aliens. He has to do what the win-lose world improver says – or else.

Even when they perform pretend acts of kindness and charity, the scalawags do so with slave labor and stolen money.

Force the rich to support the poor! Use young people’s earnings to pay for old people’s medical care. Banks must give mortgages to deadbeats… Employers must provide access ramps for cripples.

Believers pay for abortions… Atheists use paper money emblazoned with “In God we trust.” Even climate change deniers can damned well pay for subsidizing our pals in the solar energy sector!

And what does anyone learn when the programs fail? “I won’t do that again,” has no meaning. If the victims had any real choice, they wouldn’t have done it in the first place.

And in the dense fog of campaign slogans and claptrap… reflected on the shimmering muck of fake news… who really knows what is going on anyway?

Attack on the Potomac

Last weekend, the problem du jour was America’s trade deficit of more than $550 billion. Is it really a problem? Donald Trump says it is.

Who’s to know? And who’s to blame?

It must be the other guy. Canada!

But wait. What’s the big deal? Under pressure from Wharton and other business schools, trade barriers have been coming down for more than 30 years.

And until Peter Navarro’s ascent to Washington power as Trump’s top man on trade, practically all economists and all policy wonks agreed: trade barriers should go. Donald Trump said so himself; free trade is better.

Canada has gone a long way already. Its average trade-weighted barrier with the U.S. is less than 1% – nothing, in other words.

But while trade barriers have gone down, spending and debt have gone up… and now threaten the solvency of the whole economy.

So why spend so much time and political capital squeezing the orange with so little juice left in it?

Why not attack the plump fruit south of the 49th parallel… on the banks of the Potomac?

Oh, Dear Reader… you already know the answer, don’t you?

More to come…

Regards,

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Bill

MARKET INSIGHT: BITCOIN STALLS

By Joe Withrow, Head of Research, Bonner & Partners

Bitcoin, the world’s first cryptocurrency and last year’s hottest asset, is struggling in 2018…

That’s the story of today’s chart, which tracks the price of bitcoin from January through today.

Chart

As you can see, bitcoin has fallen 60% from its 2018 high… and each rally attempt this year has failed to gather steam.

This week’s price plunge came on the news that Coinrail, a cryptocurrency exchange in South Korea, was hacked, reportedly losing $40 million in crypto assets.

Coinrail is the latest of several bitcoin exchange hacks…

But the bitcoin blockchain itself has never been hacked. For that reason, experts in the space recommend storing bitcoin in secure digital wallets that are not tied to any exchange.

– Joe Withrow

FEATURED READS

The Trade Surplus Trump Isn’t Talking About
Official figures show that the United States ran a $550 billion trade deficit with world trading partners last year. But that might not be the whole story. According to new research, the United States might actually have run a $1.4 trillion surplus. Here’s why it’s possible…

Are We Due for a Recession?
The U.S. has had a recession every decade since 1850. With the last recession officially ending in 2009, some are wondering if the next economic downturn is overdue…

Amazon-Coin
Most investors missed it. The mainstream media never even reported on it. But e-commerce giant Amazon just did something very unusual…

MAILBAG

In the mailbag, more talk of empires

I enjoyed your take on the death of the American Empire. How can we get back to gold and silver backing our currency? How can we ever get to be debt-free? What will it take? An overthrow of the government? Or is there another way to go after the “Deep State”? Enough is enough!

– Dave H.

What will kill the American Empire? As I read on, I was expecting you to inform dear readers of the [technically] constitutional reason that POTUS can do whatever POTUS wants, regardless of all other considerations. But alas! I got to “Regards, Bill” with nary a peep about it. Let me suggest that “vernacular” is a detour rabbit-hole in comparison with the emergency war powers escape clause in the Constitution. This country has been operating as a military dictatorship (aka a democracy… We can vote, right?) since 1933.

– Gary C.

This is another great read. Actually, I told my friend that he might want to sign up for this e-letter. It’s some of Bill Bonner’s best writing in years. And it has rancor! I’m loving it. It’s now one of my two daily must-reads.

– Clayton I.

Meanwhile, a reader comment sparks debate…

I just finished reading the note from Maria R. in the mailbag. I am amused, insulted, and completely astounded at how well the government’s line of misinformation about Social Security has been swallowed hook, line, and sinker by the majority of the citizens of our country.

When the Social Security program was created, it wasn’t a simple, one-time effort to get the program in place. Most folks understood it for what it is – a welfare program for elderly people. The majority of U.S. citizens at the time were far too proud and self-sufficient to submit to welfare payments, and so, the program failed to pass Congress several times.

In a very unethical sleight of hand, the Social Security program was packaged as an “insurance” plan (that is where the Federal Insurance Contributions Act – FICA – comes into the picture), with an account for each individual, and contributions made over a lifetime of employment held in a separate trust fund.

In truth, politicians lied and called a welfare program by another name – insurance. It was the only way they could get the law passed.

Nothing could be further from the truth as that lie foisted on U.S. citizens. Social Security is a transfer tax, pure and simple. It is money taken from working people and redistributed to “retired” people.

There has never been, nor will there ever be, a “trust fund.” The “accounts” that many people believe is their own money, paid in much the same way as a premium for a real insurance policy, are nothing more than a long-term record of payments to determine how much welfare each Social Security recipient is allowed at retirement – a perverse sort of needs-based qualifier, if you will.

It is unbelievable that in a nation that has universal compulsory education, folks are so gullible as to believe this pernicious lie.

– Don G.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

Why is it that some connected Wall Street insiders always seem to be in the right place at the right time just before a stock shoots up?

They’re not lucky… or smart…

Instead, they know something that the rest of us don’t know. The man they’re calling the “Billionaire Broker” reveals the truth this Thursday. Details here.

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