POITOU, FRANCE – A revelation is at hand…
We got back home in the late afternoon, after a long drive from Paris. It’s August in France… Shops and restaurants are closed. Call a repairman and you get a recording.
The highways groan under the weight of campers, RVs, and autos loaded down with roof racks on top and bicycles on the back… coming or going to or from the South… Provence or the Pyrenees.
We went up to Paris to pick up one part of the family and to drop off another. A few years ago, we all converged independently… But now, the children come with their own children, along with luggage, strollers, car seats, and other modern paraphernalia.
“Napoleon invaded Russia with less stuff,” we said to a daughter.
But the role of a grandparent is a new and different challenge. Humor… irony… and fuddy-duddy insights are not always appreciated. The culture evolves. One generation learns. The next forgets.
And every generation has its own fads and foolishness. Our advice on how to raise children is no more welcome than our insights into the economy…
…to which we turn now.
Buy the Dip
Yesterday, automatic, algorithm-driven investment programs bought the dip, as they were programmed to do, leaving the Dow up 371 points. Trade wars… approaching recession… inverted yields… $15 trillion in negative yields!… jimmied prices… cockeyed signals… soaring debt… Who cares!
Buying the dip has been the winning formula for the last 40 years. Stocks hit a bottom in 1980. They were ready to go up.
Then, in 1987, Alan Greenspan pulled out his “Greenspan Put”; this was the beginning of a new phase in market history. The Federal Reserve had investors’ backs.
If you had bought stocks in 1980… and simply held on through the dips and slips… you would have multiplied your investment 26 times. Buying more on each dip would have increased your profits further.
And now, both investors and their algorithms are programmed to believe that the Fed still has their backs… and that only chumps sit on the sidelines in gold.
But it is not just the stock market we are looking at today…
“What’s a Television?”
And we begin by turning in an unlikely direction – to our grandchildren.
“What’s a television?” one asked yesterday.
At home, she watches Netflix, HBO, or Bloomberg. And when she comes to visit, she brings her own tablet and turns to it like a junkie to a fix, playing video games or texting with her friends until her grandparents find other things for her to do.
But apart from the technology, she could be any other grandchild, visiting her grandparents in the summer, 50 years ago… or 100… or maybe even 1,000. She comes to us already programmed, not just with 8 years of experience… but with 200 million years of trial and error, embedded as instincts.
Our old friend, now deceased, Richard Russell of Dow Theory Letters, spent much of his life in psychotherapy. In his 80s and 90s, he reflected on the way his parents’ child-rearing techniques had damaged his life. His mother, he said, had taken the experts’ opinions as fact. She had followed their advice; the results, for him, were disastrous.
“Never hug and kiss [your children],” wrote the quack John Watson in the 1920s (Russell was born in 1921). “If you must, kiss them one time on the forehead when they say goodnight. Shake hands with them in the morning.”
Infant Care, a popular magazine of the period, advised parents what to do when an infant cries:
Do not hold him, nor rock him to stop his crying, and do not nurse him until the exact hour for the feeding comes. It will not hurt the baby, even the tiny baby, to cry.
Til the end of his life, Richard Russell – stock analyst, WWII bombardier, motorcycle enthusiast – believed much of his angst and fear came from getting this treatment as a baby.
Fortunately for us, our own mother rejected it. She said she just decided to do “what felt right to [her].”
It felt right because in the Late Triassic Period, approximately 200 million years ago, mammals peeled off from birds and reptiles.
A critical distinction was that the young needed their mothers to nurse them and protect them. Without an almost instant bond between mother and child, the baby – whether human or hippopotamus – was unlikely to survive. And mothers who didn’t experience this desire to nurture their young, generally, did not pass along their genes.
But people are capable of forsaking their most deeply-etched urges in the name of progress, vanity, and quackery.
And with that prelude, we return to our beat – money – and our anagnorisis.
Our job is to connect the dots. And in the last few weeks, we’ve made some extraordinary connections, revealing a pattern that is breathtaking.
Why has the rate of GDP growth gone down? American capitalism should be at its zenith. Donald J. Trump says the economy is working better than ever.
But real growth rates, averaged over the trailing 10 years, are only about half those of the 20th century. Why?
Because capitalism – like child-rearing in the 1920s – has been separated from the lessons of the last 4,000 years… and been perverted and distorted by the feds and their fake money.
They penalized saving (capital)… favored debt (anti-capital)… and misled businesses, consumers, and investors with fake interest rates.
And why is the average U.S. man poorer today than he was 45 years ago? His income is lower. And a typical lifestyle costs him twice as many work hours as it did then. Why?
Because the only thing the feds have to work with is fake money (inflation)… and they feed it into the wealthiest – but least productive – sectors of the economy: speculators, government, Wall Street, military misadventures, and boondoggles of all sorts.
They inflated the wealth of the top 10%… but, relatively, deflated the wealth of everyone else.
Then how come the stock market has continued to hit new highs?
It hasn’t. Gold tells the tale. In gold terms, it has lost nearly 60% of its value since January 2000. Our guess: It has a lot further to go.
To be continued when we reconvene next week.