Laissez Faire Books have just released a splendid new edition of Doug French’s book, Early Speculative Bubbles, previously published by Mises.org. So how do I know this book is splendid? Because I wrote the new Foreword, which just by itself is magnificent. For those who want more of a breakdown, you can see a review I did of the first edition, here. Below, is the new Foreword to this book’s LFB edition, a book which mainly concentrates on the hard-money inflation of Tulipmania:
IN A SINGLE LIFETIME, there are only so many books you can read. Obviously, at the top of that time-limited list is Human Action, followed by Man, Economy, and State. Following that, you might add the Bible, and The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Though as I’ve yet to meet any man or woman who has actually read the whole of The Complete Works of Shakespeare, from cover to cover, then perhaps we need to add another book to fill that coveted fourth spot.
Should it be this book, the one that you currently hold in your hands?
Okay, so perhaps Lord of the Rings, the complete set of Patrick O’Brian novels and Socialism by Ludwig von Mises spring to mind ahead of this one.
Maybe even Sword of Marathon — by my very good friend, Jack England — earns that coveted fourth spot.
Yes, well, except for these magnificent testaments to the creativity and brilliance of mankind — especially when unleashed from the ten-thousand-year-old tyranny of the state — what should we read next?
Well, my friends, I think it has to be this book. Why? Because it is extraordinary, that’s why.
Why is it extraordinary? Because it is filled with the spirit of one of the greatest men who ever lived, Murray N. Rothbard, as propagated through the fingers of one of his lucky students, Douglas E. French. For where most Austrian economic texts deal with paper money, and its problems, this book deals with something most others have been afraid of exploring, which is hard, precious-metal money, and its problems.
There is a reason why centuries passed before any Austrians attempted to explain the problem of hard-money inflation, as opposed to the much easier subject of paper-money inflation, and that is because nobody possessed the requisite testosterone and the essential nerve to do it. And as a former American football player, Doug French possesses that requisite testosterone and that essential nerve by the syringeful.
How could hard metal fail? How could a 100 percent reserve of pure, physical silver fail? How could the Bank of Amsterdam fail — the hardest hard-money bank in the world, which made the goblin Gringotts Wizarding Bank look like a Federal Reserve outlet populated by Paul Krugman clones?
Tulipmania, based upon a banking system with a 100 percent silver metal reserve has to be explained. Otherwise, we are left with the madness of crowds as an explanation to everything, which our friends in government would love to be seen as the solution to everything, so that they can bring a hobgoblin promise of order to this supposed madness of crowds. But if you’re an Austrian, you believe that all events, no matter how illogical on the surface, possess a valid praxeological explanation.
And that is what Douglas French provides when describing Tulipmania.
I shall leave him to explain how hard-money metal failed, in this magnificent new edition of his book. However, let us assume for now that it had something to do with the power-crazed protection-racket gang known as the state. French uncovers how the chaos of government managed to mess up such a simple and otherwise perfectly functioning system of a totally voluntary money supply. He achieves this with the dexterity of a quarterback winning a Super Bowl in the last second, with one inch to spare on the final touchdown.
And just when you think he’s done, French also explains the South Sea Bubble and the Mississippi Bubble too, as a postgame treat. However, as these were both based upon paper monies and paper share certificates, it’s like men playing against boys. The real meat of this book is delivered in his section on Tulipmania, as supervised by Murray Rothbard, and as brought to us now by the hall-of-fame team of Laissez Faire Books.
The distinguished and forthright Professor Thorsten Polleit explains why we’ve failed to see a real free market money for several hundred years…
Episode 115: Professor Thorsten Polleit, whom recently founded Polleit & Riechert, an investment management company, is an economist who specialises in the Austrian School of Economics, sits with Andy Duncan at the Austrian Economics Research Conference 2013.
Thorsten delivered a speech at the conference entitled “The gold standard that never was.” This speech, which is discussed, details the conditions Thorsten sees as being necessary for a gold standard to be compatible with free market principles.
Thorsten is an advocate of a 100% commodity backed currency and explains how this would work with regards to the banking system.
No central banking, no tender legal laws and no government involvement in the monetary system; radical ideas or a sensible approach based on the axioms of human action.
Professor Polleit leaves us with a lot to ponder.
This podcast was recorded on 22 March 2013 and previously published at The Euro Vigilante.
Following the Mt. Gox takedown, I acted as referee between Doug Casey, of Casey Research, and Jon Matonis, of Bitcoin Foundation, as they discussed the relative merits of two free market monies, gold and Bitcoin. It was a great contest.
Episode 121: Doug Casey of Casey Research debates e-money researcher and “crypto economist” Jon Matonis on the virtues – or otherwise – of Bitcoin, and how it compares to gold as a form of money.
Casey, a Bitcoin sceptic, notes that Bitcoin satisfies Aristotle’s definition of what constitutes “good” money in all but one important aspect: that it doesn’t have value in any kind of non-monetary sense, unrelated to its use as a medium of exchange. This is in contrast to precious metals, which have unique chemical properties and uses in an industrial context.
Matonis argues that this is unimportant set against Bitcoin’s strengths: notably the ease of transacting in them and its decentralised nature, meaning that there is no central point of attack for its enemies (whoever they may be). He also points out that – unlike gold – physical confiscation of Bitcoin, a la FDR in 1933, is for obvious reasons impossible.
This podcast was recorded on 11 April 2013 and previously published at The Euro Vigilante.
I spoke recently to the splendid Professor Gerard Casey about his philosophical notions of property, before moving this on to talk about money (as property), Cyprus, Iceland, Ireland, and other related issues…
Episode 120: The GoldMoney Foundation’s Andy Duncan talks to Professor Gerard Casey of University College Dublin (www.ucd.ie/philosophy/staff/gerardcasey/). They discuss the philosopher’s views on property and the implications of the recent levy on Cypriot bank deposits.
Professor Casey explains why there is a need for property and how the notion of property evolved historically. They go on to talk about how this relates to money and legal tender laws which are essentially the monopolisation of counterfeit.
Talking about Cyprus, Casey states that wealth confiscation can come in different guises — upfront via taxes or hidden via inflation. He points out the unintended consequences of the Troika’s strategy in Cyprus as the taxation of depositor’s bank accounts is leading to a flight from the banks which the confiscation was supposed to rescue from insolvency. It also reveals that no property is safe in the EU.
Finally they discuss the chances of a euro break up; Casey’s book on Murray Rothbard; and the appointment of the new pope.
This podcast was recorded on 23 March 2013 and previously published at The Euro Vigilante.
While trying to find out as much as I can about the BitCoin revolution, for my latest GoldMoney podcast I throw every conspiracy theory I could think of at Jon Matonis – of the BitCoin Foundation, and also a writer for Forbes magazine – and he comes up smelling of digitally encrypted roses…
Episode 118: GoldMoney’s Andy Duncan talks to Jon Matonis of the Bitcoin Foundation who is also a contributor to Forbes Magazine. They discuss Bitcoin’s latest price spike and whether crypto-currencies are a credible alternative as a medium of exchange.
Though the price for Bitcoins has risen from $15 to $95 at the time of the podcast, Matonis does not think that it is a speculative bubble. With a fixed supply of Bitcoin and rising demand – in part due to fears related to Cyprus — surging prices are only logical. As there is no futures market for bitcoins yet, there is no leverage, which makes Bitcoin also suitable for investment purposes.
They discuss whether Bitcoin could become a serious rival to precious metals when it comes to alternatives to national currencies. He points to the complementary nature of physical bullion and Bitcoin. While Bitcoin has advantages in the digital world, nothing beats the security of tangible metal as it is not reliant on the existence of electricity and internet connectivity.
Matonis sees a bright future in crypto-currencies and especially values its possible impact on capital controls and taxes. For Bitcoin the important question will be whether it will be accepted by big merchants and whether governments will impose regulation against such acceptance.
This podcast was recorded on 28 March 2013 and previously published at The Euro Vigilante.
I speak to the excellent Professor David Howden about the future of the euro, how Cyprus changed everything, and what’s happening in Iceland…
Episode 117: The GoldMoney Foundation’s Andy Duncan talks to David Howden; Chair of the Department of Business and Economics, associate professor of economics at St. Louis University and co-author of Deep Freeze. They discuss the debt crisis in Europe and the race to the bottom between fiat currencies.
Howden thinks that the Euro will hold together in the short term, but he is rather pessimistic on the long term outlook of the common currency. One at a time countries which were formerly regarded as “stable” are being dragged into the debt hole. Though he assesses the problems in the United States to be even greater than Europe’s, he points out that whenever Euro fears start to creep up the US is benefiting due to the depth of its Treasury market.
They go on to talk about the situation in Iceland and Ireland, bank bailouts and the adverse effects of capital controls. With regards to the possibility of a global fiat currency Howden states that such a push would only happen under American involvement which he deems unlikely. Both men express their hopes that the coming currency crisis will make visible the flaws of monopolised money and lead to popular demand for the idea of competing currencies.
This podcast was recorded on 22 March 2013 and previously published at The Euro Vigilante.
Another one of my interviews for GoldMoney Foundation, this time with Robert Wenzel, of Economic Policy Journal, on the subject of his Henry Hazlitt Memorial Lecture at the recent Austrian Economics Research Conference, in Auburn, Alabama, at the Mises Institute. We spoke mainly about how the topic of his speech – the long slow collapse of the Soviet Union – and how it could be applied to modern western economies.
Episode 109: On behalf of the GoldMoney Foundation, Andy Duncan interviews Robert Wenzel at the Austrian Economics Research Conference 2013 in Auburn Alabama.
At the conference this year, Wenzel is delivering the The Henry Hazlitt Memorial Lecture. His topic: “An Examination of Key Factors in the Collapse of the Soviet Union” leads the discussion. Wenzel, the editor and publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.com, argues that the commonly held view of President Reagan being instrumental in the downfall of the Soviet Union is questionable and that the policies of Gorbachev were the pivotal components.
The time it took for the Soviet Union to collapse was around 70 years and Wenzel describes 4 reasons why this was so and how these concepts may apply to modern day economic conditions in America.
Tribute is then paid to the late Henry Hazlitt, his work and contribution to economics.
For those interested in hearing the whole of Robert’s speech on the Soviet Union, you can watch that here:
This podcast was recorded on 21 March 2013 and previously published at The Euro Vigilante.
Stop all the Bloomberg feeds, cut off all the cell phones, prevent the press from thinking with a juicy story about the failed politician’s marriage. Because the new governor of the Bank of England, the extremely well-compensated Mark Carney, has just discovered how to fix Great Britain’s economic woes. Can you guess what it is yet? Yes, you might be ahead of me on this one, but he’s going to ‘rescue’ Britain’s economy by printing more money. Who would have thunk it?
(If you can get through the Financial Times paywall, you can read about this here.)
It seems Mr Carney is going to be granted a Federal-Reserve-style mandate of ‘targeting’ both unemployment and price inflation, as opposed to just price inflation. However, since the Bank of England has failed to hit their price inflation target for quite a number of years now, who was counting anyway? This Keynesian dual-targeting of both unemployment and inflation is hilariously based on the 1958 Phillips Curve, which never really worked as a model even back in 1958 and which was repeatedly smashed on the Procrustean rocks of stagflation in the 1970s, to the point where teenage boys would laugh at economics professors who tried to teach it in the ivy league halls of the United States.
However, Keynesians never let history, lost decades, or indeed logic and the unchanging nature of the human condition, ever get in the way of a good mathematical curve, especially when completely unrelated to reality and where it can be used to justify million dollar salaries for themselves personally (once again proving the unchanging nature of the human condition).
And so, after five years of quibbling with a mere half a trillion dollars of quantitative easing, the Bank of England has finally decided to really ‘rescue’ Great Britain, just as Mr Ben Bernanke has ‘rescued‘ the United States, Mr Shinzo Abe has decided to ‘rescue‘ Japan, and Mr Mario Draghi has decided to ‘rescue‘ Euroland. It seems remarkable that they’ve all hit upon the same solution, which is to print more money. Who knew it was that easy?
So why has the Bank of England waited so long outside the western central banking party before deciding to ‘rescue’ Great Britain by flooding it with quadrillions of paper currency units? Before they drown us in yet more digital scrip, however, perhaps they ought to speak first to Mr Gideon Gono, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. I’m confident he has an opinion on this crucial central banking tool.
Maybe they decided against this because money printing is the only central banking tool, and if they’re to be denied this wonder drug, they may as well just all sack themselves? Though it does seem amazing to me that you have to pay a man a million dollars a year to tell you that he’s going to swing the only golf club available in the bag. However, I suppose if he wears a suit nicely, sounds vaguely foreign, and looks ‘authoritative’ on financial news programmes, it’s cheaper than hiring Brad Pitt. We must also remember that although money printing has never done any general society any good, it has done one group of really special people lots of good, especially over the last few years, when most of them should have been made bankrupt. These people are of course the closet friends and the shadowy shareholders of the western central banks, the über-wealthy bank-rollers of the western political classes.
For they just love money printing, especially when it is used to bail out the banks they own and operate. And they’re still über wealthy as a result, when many of them should be pushing trolleys around supermarket car parks. Though collecting supermarket trolleys is honest work, and honest work is something the über-wealthy long since gave up on. Why work when printed money can steal the production of others? Just make sure that you control the people who do the printing. You can ask any mafia gang controlling a high-quality basement counterfeiter about that. And if the money you’re printing is such high quality that it is the currency of the realm, then you can laugh all the way to the Bank of England. So long as you possess the collective morals of a cackle of hyenas.
In China, eight is the lucky number. The Mandarin symbol for eight is a pictogram representing a side of meat being sliced in two, in infinite progression. This forms the symbolism of multiplication and increase, in the same mythological way that the biblical story of Noah represents multiplication and increase, two by two by two, giving us this same powerful, capitalistic, and mystical number of eight.
For where chapters one to seven of Jim Rogers’s new book, Street Smarts, are a wonderful how-to-get-rich and rags-to-riches story of his life so far – including a description of his wedding in Henley-on-Thames, a town where I also got married – he really pulls out the economic meat cleaver in Chapter Eight. He begins to lay it, at first, into Alan Greenspan, and then rolls up his sleeves before setting to work with Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all, with a fiendish delight which had your author calling for more Pinot Noir to appreciate the greater subtleties of the author’s carefully-crafted words.
Chapter Eight is thus a joyous chapter to read as this maestro of real-world global investment lifts the withered fools-gold slab of Keynesianism and exposes the insectoid Krugmanite creatures below to a well-deserved blow-torch of common sense, slaking them in a coruscating fire of simple concise words, well chosen, and written in the flowing liquid style of a master wordsmith craftsman.
For Jim Rogers is far more than than meets the eye on financial news interviews. Wherever he’s been, in whichever geological strata of life he has found himself, he has risen inexorably, like a molten volcanic stream of gold, improbably filled with diamonds, to the very surface of that strata. And that includes the rare earth mineral layer of superlative writers and teachers.
Fortunately, even by the close of his pivotal Chapter Eight, Rogers is far from finished. For the wonderful and refreshing pummeling continues apace in Chapter Nine, which ends with the Frank Borman quote, “Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without hell,” a hearty tagline I’m sure the illustrious Joseph Schumpeter would have appreciated.
And so the unwinding story of Jim Rogers and the entertaining dance of his thoughts continues onward towards distant future prospects, until the unwanted end of the book in which I was left pleading with the author for more. Alas, for the world’s hard-core band of dedicated Misesians, the horse-frightening words of ’Rothbard’ and ’Mises’ fail to show up in any part of the book. However, you can still feel their willing paired ghosts standing in the shadows throughout the entire manuscript, urging Rogers forwards in his clinical evisceration of America’s supine political class, which has sleepwalked Paine’s and Jefferson’s America into the socialised, regimented, and bureaucratised United States of George Walker Bush and Barack Hussein Obama.
One especially feels this Misesian support with Rothbard’s bow-tied ghost, willing on the bow-tied Rogers to land yet another skewering blow into the heart of the Washingtonian beast, which is strong-arming the United States into the same destructive chasm as the draconian Athenian empire, whose hated and once-almighty Delian league was eventually wiped from the ancient classical map by the lowly and simplistic Sparta (metaphorically, read China).
Bring the troops home, let bankrupt companies fail, shrink the state, bring back liberty. These are the heartfelt messages of Rogers. Truth, wealth, and freedom thus abound in the pages of this wonderful book.
And these are messages Austrians everywhere can believe in and subscribe to, as we march on the eternal road towards knowledge, harmony, and peace.
And if you’d like some excellent investment tips too, then this really is the book for you.
Episode 93: GoldMoney’s Andy Duncan talks to Professor Mark Thornton, Senior Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, about a recent Mises Daily article he wrote entitled, ‘Where Is the Inflation?‘, which explains how monetary inflation is seeping into the US economy.
They also discuss the Federal Reserve’s policy of recapitalising and protecting America’s “Mega Banks”, and what this policy means for the future gold price. In the second half of the interview, they discuss the Irish economist Richard Cantillon. Cantillon was heavily involved in the Mississippi bubble in pre-revolutionary France, and his book – first written in 1730 – was the first truly modern treatise on economics. Professor Thornton edited a recent translation of this book: An Essay on Economic Theory.
They wrap up the interview by discussing the Professor’s latest works on the economics of prohibition.
This podcast was recorded on 23 January and previously published at GoldMoney.com.