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Larry LaBorde’s Articles

China: Meritocracies, Copper, Batteries, Petrol, Solar and GOLD

In the fall of 2011, the LaBorde family attended the New Orleans Investment Conference in New Orleans.  A presentation about China by the very passionate Dr. Stephen Leeb, author of Red Alert: How China's Growing Prosperity Threatens the American Way of Life, warned that China is becoming an economic super-predator.


Leeb’s explanation of the current situation reminded me of a boxing match.  In one corner there stands a boxer who has a very strong reputation but who does not know he is in the ring.  In the other corner stands a boxer who is a little lighter but who has been training hard.  To tilt the scales farther in his direction, the latter boxer also purchased all of the boxing shoes, gloves, trainers and ring time while the other boxer was not even paying attention.  You can guess which boxer represents the U.S. and China in this scenario.  The United States is not necessarily done for, but it is time for us to at least realize that we are in a fight and act accordingly.


A long time chess player, Dr. Leeb expressed that he is downright scared of the way that our opponent is systematically playing an enviable game of strategy while the U.S. hasn’t even started to acknowledge that it is engaged in a competition that threatens our entire way of life.  His argument focused on resource acquisition for global economic control.  His comments invoked a mixture of respect for the efficiency of the Chinese machine and shock at how far behind the U.S. might be.


Leeb expressed particular concern about China’s workforce development strategies; its growing control of the mining and use of rare earth metals and of copper; its focus on petroleum resources; its dominance in the solar market; and its apparent stockpiling of gold and silver.


Workforce Development

Besides having a massive cadre of working age people and graduating more engineers each year than we have working in this country, China operates on more of a meritocracy, or by rewarding the merit of individuals, than the U.S. does.  For example, one of the premier female chess players in the world right now is a Chinese adolescent who was pulled out of the fields as a young girl when someone recognized that she had an aptitude for strategy.  If she continues on her current trajectory, Dr. Leeb suspects she will be playing grown men soon.


It is the mindset of elevating the best, brightest and hardest working that permeates much of Chinese society.  There are more businesspeople becoming billionaires each year in China than anywhere else in the world.  The Chinese have repeatedly been cultivating this kind of talent in government as well, and Dr. Leeb believes that this talent is playing the resource war very well. Now please don’t get me wrong, China’s leaders are not saints, and the country has a fair share of insider nastiness, but the country is playing harder towards merit than the U.S. is by far, and this should pay high dividends in the future.


Rare Earth Metals

Rare earth metals are the bedrock of the future of all long-life, lightweight batteries. Over the years, China has developed its mines in Mongolia and its processing plants to the point that China now produces 97% of the world’s supply.  These resources will be increasingly important as the world moves into greater use of electric cars.  Clean energy is a global concern, and the efficient storage of this energy is crucial to its adoption and success.


Further, China has stopped exporting rare earth metals in raw form and instead will only sell them as components in finished products such as batteries and permanent magnet motors, a core component of most high-efficiency electric generators. In doing so, China is locking down its control of key components markets.



China is spending dollar amounts of a similar magnitude in Afghanistan as the United States.  The difference is that the Chinese are spending their resources to build infrastructure in Afghanistan, in exchange for the exclusive right to mine the country’s copper, while the U.S. is creating the world’s best distraction for them to do so.  The reason that China is getting a leg up on the world’s copper supply is concerning is that copper is at the root of many of the world’s future “green” technologies in addition to being the backbone of many of the world’s existing technologies.


Solar Energy

First Solar is the U.S.-based company that was the second largest producer of solar panels in the world in 2010.  Recently, First Solar took a bath, losing 25% of its value, and the reason can be found in a recent quote from a Forbes article examining the firm’s slide.  “First Solar did not provide any details but the handwriting was on the wall.  Recently, there has been considerable anecdotal evidence that First Solar is no longer competitive with Chinese imports.”  The title of the article was even more succinct in its finger-pointing: “China Almost Kills Premier U.S. Solar Company.”


In 2011, First Solar led the roster of the 25 fastest growing technology companies in America.  What could bring an innovative giant like this down?  According to Forbes, the culprit was a $30 billion dollar helping hand from the Chinese government to its entire solar sector, singlehandedly making U.S. production uncompetitive.  With that kind of financial supports in play, there is just not much a company, or country, can do to prevent China from getting a complete lock on the solar industry, a potential lynchpin in the forward motion of clean energy.


The Oil Game

Dr. Leeb’s concern centers on one word, PetroChina.  PetroChina Company Limited is the listed arm of the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation, a state-owned producer of oil and gas.  The company tripled in value in the years since going public, was the most valuable publicly traded company on the Shanghai exchange as of September 28th of 2011, and was listed as the third most valuable company in the world after Apple and Exxon in 2012. Though the Chinese are gearing up for futuristic energy sources, they seem to have a firm understanding that petroleum-based energy will be ushering all of us into the world of green energy and will be critical in bridging the span between current and future technologies.



What is China doing with gold you ask?  It, along with Russia, appears to be attempting to accumulate enough to one day back its currency with it.  It is also encouraging its citizens to acquire gold by opening a new metals exchange and granting tax exemptions for its purchase.


China’s actions in the gold markets point to two important possibilities.  First, the U.S. dollar might be in more trouble than the western press has noticed.  Second, if metals become popular in a country with a population of 1.33 billion savers, there could be a giant boost in gold’s overall demand, driving up prices significantly. The potential that China is poised to change the global pricing of gold is sobering.


Dr. Leeb’s call to action has some very compelling points and, as a patriot, you can understand his battle cry.  “We are at war and we don’t even know it!  Wake up, America!”

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The French Revolution

My lovely wife, Puddy, accompanied me to France last June.  We went to Normandy for a conference then onto Paris for a week.  Our daughter and a guest met us in Paris, and we encamped in an apartment one block from the Louvre.


One day we all went to Versailles and toured the palace and the grounds.  I tried to explain to my daughter how the grandeur we were admiring came to be.  I showed her where the peasants stormed the palace and entered the queen’s bedroom.  Can you imagine what the emaciated peasants of Paris must have thought upon seeing the gilded excesses at the Palace of Versailles?  A rich aristocracy was living in the most lavish circumstances while regular French citizens starved.


As usual, the circumstance leading to the French Revolution made more sense when viewed through the lens of money or, to be more exact, money mischief.


In 1715 after the death of King Louis XIV, the Sun King, his five year old great-grandson was named King Louis XV.  The boy’s adult first cousin, the Duke of Orleans, was appointed to be regent, running the country’s affairs until the young king reached the age of majority.


Many people are familiar with the Scotsman John Law, who was a mathematical genius and gambler, but not everyone is familiar with is hand in the revolution.  One year into the regency of the Duke of Orleans, John Law established Banque Generale, the first central bank of France.  I am sure that John Law told the Duke that the coffers of France would overflow with paper money and that the people would not have to pay extra taxes.


In 1718, after a rocky start, the central bank was renamed Banque Royale, which allowed it to act under royal decree.  As you might imagine, things started out quite well for everyone.  The bank’s new designation meant that there was more money for the Duke to spend, and the economy got quite a boost.  However, after a while, inflation soared, as it will do when a government prints lots of money.  With the Duke’s permission John Law implemented all sorts of laws to fight this inflation of his paper money.


First, Law banned ownership of gold and silver over a token amount (equal to about 5.5 ounces of gold or 78 ounces of silver).


Next, Law ordered all payments over 100 livres (about one ounce of gold or 15 ounces of silver) to be paid only with his banknotes.


As citizens’ faith in paper money plummeted even further and wealth started to flow out of the country, Law implemented currency controls and banned the export of all gold and silver bullion.  When, to his dismay, the situation became even worse, he offered generous rewards for people who turned in neighbors who violated the aforementioned laws.


Finally, Law’s banknotes depreciated so much that he decreed that if a merchant even asked if the customer intended to pay in gold or in banknotes prior to quoting a price, the merchant was to be put to death.   The logic was that the merchant doubted the value of the King’s chartered bank’s notes and was therefore guilty of treason to his king.  Of course, the penalty for a merchant not to ask was bankruptcy.


The final scene in this farce was predictable.  In 1720, in spite of all the decrees by Law, there was a run on Banque Royal that could not be stopped.  The Duke dismissed John Law, and he promptly fled the country, leaving its banking system and economy in shambles.


In 1723, King Louis XV reached his thirteenth birthday, the age of majority, and he took control of France.  A large portion of the citizens had lost their savings and had developed a hatred for paper money that would exist for generations.


In 1774, King Louis XV died, and his grandson became King Louis XVI at the age of 20.  Fifty-four years had passed since the run on the Banque Royale.  Most people with any direct memory of the bank were long dead.  However, France was fighting several expensive wars, draining its treasury.  The grand Palace of Versailles, which had been under construction since the reign of Louis XIV, was still being expanded during Louis XVI’s reign.  France was arguably the greatest power in the world, and it was spending itself into bankruptcy in grand style.  To make matters worse, Louis XVI held himself aloof from the general population, which literally was starving while he was secreted several miles outside of Paris, living in high style in one of the greatest palaces ever built for a sovereign.


In 1789, Frenchmen had had enough.  In July, violent mob overtook the Bastille, a penitentiary in Paris, to protest despotism (and in the hope of making off with valuable gunpowder that was stored there).  In October, six thousand mothers armed with pitchforks, scythes, muskets and whatever other weapons they could find marched all the way from Paris to the palace at Versailles.  Pushing through the gates, they demanded bread to feed their starving children and for the price of bread, which made up half a typical Frenchman’s diet, to be brought down to affordable levels.  The stunned king agreed to their demands.


The French Revolution, begun in 1789 with these dramatic events, threw the country into chaos.


In 1790, the National Assembly confiscated church properties.  Shortly thereafter, it issued a bond representing the value of the confiscated church properties.  The bond, known as the assignat, became a currency.  The bonds were overissued, and hyperinflation, representing a loss of confidence, resulted.  By 1792, they were virtually worthless.  More paper money schemes were tried; all failed.  Food riots broke out because there was no stable money, and the economy collapsed.


In 1792, King Louis XVI was deposed and the monarchy abolished.  In 1793, he and Marie Antoinette were convicted of treason and beheaded in Paris as the government scrambled to get the economy under control.


The National Assembly passed the Maximum Price Act of 1793, declaring price controls that only caused even greater shortages.  After all, a merchant could not expect to sell something for less than he paid for it.  Farmers refused to plant and sell crops at a loss.  Goods simply disappeared as stores shut down or were sold on the black market.  As a result of the price controls and the resultant shortages, even more food riots broke out.


Napoleon became First Consul after a coup d’état in 1799.  During the coup of 1799, no one seemed to care who came into power as long as he could ease their suffering.  French citizens were tired after 10 years of revolution and chaos, and they simply wanted a stable government.


Napoleon appointed a senate that rubber-stamped his decrees.  In 1803, Napoleon sold Louisiana to the U.S. for a mere $15 million dollars ($.03/acre) in order to generate cash for his debt-ridden country.  The following year, after five years of political and military maneuvering, Napoleon became Emperor of the French, thereby assuming total power.


Just before ascending as Emperor, Napoleon finally put an end to the paper money experiment that plagued France for decades by introducing the germinal franc as the new currency.  (Germinal was a month in the new revolutionary calendar.  The new calendar had 12 months.  Each month had 3 weeks, and each week had 10 days.  Year 1 was the year of the revolution.)  The new franc contained 0.29032 grams of gold.  The 20 franc coin had 0.1867 troy ounces of gold and was minted for more than 100 years, until 1915.  The 20 franc gold coin provided a welcome monetary stability in France, a stability that had been lacking since John Law appeared on the scene.


As we have seen, in the French Revolution, it took a dictator or emperor who seized power through a coup to restore order to the economy by going back to gold as a stable form of money.  I wonder what it will take in today’s modern world, and in the U.S.?  How long will we suffer inflation (and then hyperinflation) until we agree to cede political power to anyone who will fix the problem by throwing out the bankers and re-establishing a gold standard?  Whom will we willingly surrender the republic to in exchange for a promise to end the bankers’ fractional reserve currency chaos and money mischief?

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What does a Trillion dollars look like?

A fun read to wrap your head around...

Last week the Federal Reserve decided to inject ANOTHER trillion dollars to buy treasury bonds and mortgage securities. In other words they simply decided to print another trillion dollars. So I thought you might enjoy these illustrations to help you put that number into perspective:



Counting by Hundreds



Think of a simple $100 bill.  It is only 0.0043 inches thick, very compact.



One hundred $100 bills, worth $10,000, creates a stack less than 1/2 inch thick



One million dollars can fit in a large women’s tote bag or a camping backpack.  It weighs about 22 pounds.



$100 million dollars, about a ton’s worth of dollars, can fit on a standard shipping pallet.


$1 billion dollars, then, would require 10 pallets’ worth of space.  Still very compact for a reasonable sum of money.



Finally, here’s one trillion dollars:

One trillion dollars would cover a football field with $100 bills stacked eight feet deep.



But Each Dollar Counts


If one thinks of the actual single dollars that make up this enormous sum of money that the Federal Reserve has so freely injected into the economy, however, the problem becomes even clearer.


How does it stack up?

One dollar is 0.0043” thick


$100 is 0.43” thick


$10,000 is 43” thick


$1,000,000 is 4,300” or 358.33 feet thick


$100,000,000 is 430,000” or 35,833.33 feet or 6.7866 miles thick


$1,000,000,000 is 67.866 miles thick


$1,000,000,000,000 is 67,866.66 miles thick.



Over the Moon…and to the Sun


How long does a dollar chain made of these amounts stretch if taped together lengthwise?


A dollar bill is 6.14” long



614” or 51.166 feet long



61,400” or 5,116.6 feet (almost a mile)



96.9 miles



9,690.6 miles



96,906.4 miles (The interstate highway system in the U.S. is a mere 46,726 miles.)



96,906,565.7 miles.  This is the distance from the earth to the sun.


If a $3.54 Trillion ribbon (one including all the dollars in the reported 2012 budget) were flowing out of a machine over the course of a government work year of 2000 hours, the ribbon would have a velocity of 171,524 miles per hour, 223 times the speed of sound and roughly 0.00026 the speed of light during the work day. The world from the perspective of the dollar requires Einstein’s quantum physics to measure time as it begins to get warped at that speed.


A lap around the earth at that speed would take eight minutes and 43 seconds.


Or, you could simply give everyone on the planet $507.67.



The Fed is printing a lot of money, folks.

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The press has spent endless hours debating how to deal with pirates lately.  It is obvious that the scoundrels do not respect our private property rights and want to make their living from plundering others.  Of course, pirates usually set up an opportunity to ambush their unsuspecting prey before pouncing upon them.  In recent days, there must have been some collusion with the government because it was fully aware of the commission of dastardly acts and made no attempt to stop them.  Some have even suggested that the government is sharing in the ill-gotten gain and therefore has a vested interest in allowing the piracy to continue.


I for one think a naval blockade might be effective.


However, I doubt the U.S. Navy would place its warships in the Hudson River to protect the rest of the United States from the Wall Street pirates.  (While I am not insinuating that the navy is in collusion with the Wall Street pirates, I have grave suspicions about everyone else in Washington, D.C.)


Somali pirates?  They’re just an annoyance and a sideshow. They only ask for a measly million dollars every now and again.  That amount could easily fit in a single briefcase.  Meanwhile, the Wall Street pirates are making off with $10 trillion or so.


The Wall Street pirates, I am afraid, are going to be a lot harder to repel than workaday pirates because they seem to have already boarded and made off with much of our treasure.  One of their own has even infiltrated our ranks and is now serving as the Secretary of the Treasury!  I am sure that there are others of them among us as well, and it is our duty to root them out and banish them one by one.  Let’s make them walk the plank instead of all of our grandchildren!  We cannot allow them to keep booty that was obtained through treachery.


In the meantime, get some of your assets out of the crooked system before it is too late.  Buy gold and silver and take possession while you still can.  Refuse to participate in the corrupt Federal Reserve System.  Take care of your own treasure.  Arrrgh!

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When Should I Sell My Silver?

People are always asking me, “When should I sell my silver?”


Well, that question is much easier to ask than it is to answer. I often tell them “Whenever the government starts acting responsibly and not only balances the budget, but also finally decides that it has grown too fat and announces it is going on a fiscal diet.”


Of course, any people want an actual dollar target, a distinct marker to write down so that they will know exactly when to get out.  I can’t give that sort of advice, but I can say that since the dollar is shrinking, that target number keeps getting bigger. This is exactly the problem with a shrinking yardstick.  It is hard to measure something today and for that measurement to have the same meaning in the future.  So, what can we use—instead of dollars—to measure when to sell our silver? Make no mistake; there will be a time to sell sometime in the future.


Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, a few years ago stated that he has a large position in silver and plans to exit when his target is met.  He says that when the cost of a median-priced single-family home in the U.S. sells for 500 ounces of silver (or 40 ounces of gold), he believes it will be time to exit the silver market.  He will most likely trade his silver for undervalued income-producing real estate rather than trading his silver for devaluing dollars.  Kiyosaki has stated that he believes silver is still very undervalued.  As a matter of fact, since the average value of single-family homes is now $228,000, it would take a silver price of $456/ounce in today’s money for 500 ounces of silver to purchase it.  This means that Kiyosaki will wait for an additional 15x rise in silver value before he trades in his holdings.


Of course, do not rely on anyone else’s target as your exit point, because by the time we get there in the next five to 20 years, that dollar figure represented in Federal Reserve notes (dollars) will not have the same purchasing power.  You just have to stop thinking in terms of dollars and start thinking in terms of value (what your silver will purchase).


Perhaps you might want to think in terms of how much oil your silver will purchase.  In 1980, the average price of a single barrel of oil was equal to a single ounce of silver or 1:1.  After the 1980s, silver prices spiked for the next 25 years.   Today, it is around three ounces of silver for one barrel of oil. In the past three years, the extremes have been from 3.3 to 8.7 ounces of silver per barrel of oil.  Even though there has been a lot of volatility in both the oil and silver markets, the average has remained around three to five ounces of silver per barrel of oil.  So perhaps the next drop to par with oil, or 1:1, it may be time to sell your silver and trade for oil. Currently that would represent an increase of three times its current value.


Another consideration is the gold/silver ratio. The gold/silver ratio has been between 12 and 17 throughout most of recorded history.  Only in my lifetime has the ratio gotten so out of balance. The high was reached in 1991 when it went up to 91 (1 ounces of gold = 91 ounces of silver). Since then, it has been trending downward.  Currently the ratio is around 53:1 (1 ounce of gold = 53 ounces of silver). It is my opinion that the ratio will come back to its traditional value of fifteen or sixteen.  Since it has been so far above its ratio it may even overshoot it and drop down somewhere below ten before it settles back to fifteen or so. Therefore a ratio of 10:1 would put silver at $170/ounce in today’s dollars. A ratio of 15:1 would set silvers current price at $113/ounce.


Another value to consider as a benchmark is the Dow Jones Industrial Average, priced in ounces of silver.  The low for the DJIA/silver ratio was 18:1 in 1980 (that is, 18 ounces of silver could have bought the DJIA).  During the 2000 stock market peak, the DJIA/silver ratio was 2,500:1 (it would have taken 2,500 ounces of silver to buy the DJIA).  Currently it is about 418:1. So, if it approached the extreme low of 18:1 again, then silver would have to be selling for $744/ounces (or 23 times higher). Maybe you should consider selling when the DJIA/silver ratio gets near 20:1.


Whether the target is set at twenty times, five times or thirty times higher than it is right now, I feel fairly confident telling anyone that the time to sell is not yet! Buy more and hang on for the ride of your life.

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The Bucket List

My wife and I enjoyed watching the movie The Bucket List, in which two men who have just been informed that they have a year left to live create a list of things to do before they “kick the bucket.”  The characters, played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, seem on the surface to have only impending death in common; one is very rich and alone while the other is middle class and surrounded by family.  Both, however, are just mortal.

I recently read that you should ask your boss for a raise while standing next to him at the urinal because it is one place where all men are equal (clearly this writer had not accounted for the surprise advantage women seeking a raise might have in this scenario!).   However, death is also the great equalizer.


In this life many people spend their days quietly expiring of boredom a little at a time, simply spending their lives doing what has to be done to pay the bills.  I can’t recommend a book written for women about how to lead more robust lives (although I’m sure they exist and encourage women to seek them), but I strongly recommend that men read John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secrets of a Man’s Soul.  In it, the author speaks of the way that God made men and wired their hearts.  He states that men desire to live a life of adventure and risk, to be the warrior, the hero and to rescue the beautiful girl.  But most especially, he says men desire to live a life based—to a degree—on instinct or gut reaction or, put another way, to follow their hearts.  He says that too often the Christian churches teach men that to be proper churchmen they must become wimps.  To bolster his point, he cites Jesus’s strong actions in the temple, King David, King Solomon and those of numerous other strong men who stood firm for principle and fought when needed.  He speaks about living your life with meaning, passion, adventure, truth and beauty.  Most of the items on the “bucket list” in the movie were about those very things.  I truly believe that God wants us all to choose to live a full, exciting, passionate and spiritual life.


I received several emails after publishing an article titled “Midlife Crisis,” which recounted my skydiving adventure.  It was all about tossing a life of safety (and me!) out the window.  One correspondent accused me of encouraging reckless behavior and sarcastically asked if I were going to swim with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef for an encore.  He even asked me how my wife would get along without me if something happened.  (Obviously he didn’t read the entire story, because he would have learned that my little wife jumped out of the plane right after I did.)  Sadly, the complainer missed that point that I decided to skydive to break up the ho-hum of my daily routine and to inject excitement into my life.  Most of the emails I got, however, were encouraging.


Emboldened by the skydiving lark, I am even working on getting back my third class medical certificate, required of all recreational pilots, and so that I can start to fly again. It's not just flying again that I desire- but living again! A few years ago, God had to remind me to take better care of myself and to get back on track. There is nothing like a good old-fashioned massive heart attack to get you thinking about the things left to do in your life. I thank God every morning for the second chance He has given me. Dr. Pat Day, my minister and author of When All Hail Breaks Loose: Weathering the Storms of Life, says we should all get up every morning and say, "Good morning, Lord" instead of "Good Lord, it's morning." I try to greet the new day and embrace all of it's possibilities.


Most people spend more time planning their television-viewing schedule than they do planning their lives. Even though sometimes I am pretty certain that God finds amusement in our plans, I feel they are necessary to make us think.  In 2006, I attended a seminar that lasted several weekends and focused on just that—crafting life plans.  How can life go “according to plan” if there is no plan?


Just one of the things that I want to do is to travel and spend more time with my wife.  I now plan several trips a year and have them inked onto my new calendar by the end of every January.  I encourage everyone to spend some time to plan the rest of his or her life.  Go away for a retreat. Spend some time in prayer and look deep into your heart.  Think back to when you were a little boy or girl and remember what you dreamed about.  What do you really want out of your life? No plan is perfect, and you undoubtedly will have to make a few changes here and there along the way.  But if we do not choose for ourselves the way in which we would like our lives to go, then we are allowing others to choose for us.  Life rewards our actions, not our good intentions.  So get started right now. Start your own bucket list.  Be sure to include a little fun and adventure.


Life is a journey, not a destination.

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Hold the Onions

Onion Heart_Silver Trading Company_iStock_000012225897_ExtraSmall

These events occurred in July, 2007.


I have been out of the game for a week or so getting in a little R&R at home.

Last Thursday, I had a few too many onions on my hamburger after work and had to go to the hospital. I was at the yacht club with my son helping him to get his boat ready to go to a regatta when I felt a little reflux and then my arms slowly went numb from my fingertips to my elbows. My son insisted that we go to the ER, and I agreed since my wife, Puddy, would send me straight there if we went home.

Naturally, the doctors misdiagnosed the problem as a heart attack. While I was assuring everyone in the ER that it was just indigestion, my heart stopped completely, proving my wife and the doctor both correct that the problem was more than an overdose of onions. I suppose my heart was just doing the gentlemanly thing, as no Southern gentleman would argue with his wife in public since it displays such poor manners. After the doctors applied a little electricity (and burned some chest hairs), I took a bumpy ride to the cath lab where a couple of six-foot coil springs were inserted into my heart. Continue Reading

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What I Believe

These observations were first published in 2007.

My grown children have from time to time suspected me of being a bit too negative.  While some of my writing might come across that way, I actually feel quite the contrary.  Even though the bulk of my writing has been about monetary history (sometimes pretty dull stuff), I occasionally dabble in political writing (even worse!).  I have even been accused of being unpatriotic at times in my writings about the South.  Let me attempt to set the record straight.


I feel I am living at one of the most exciting times in history.  The United States has accomplished great things in its history but is capable of much more greatness if we can only unleash its true power, which comes from individuals, not government.  While many people constantly look to the government for solutions and bemoan their slow progress, I feel, in contrast, that the government should simply get out of the way.  The true economic strength of a country depends on the number of people working in productive endeavors versus the number of people on the public payroll.  The role of the government should therefore be largely limited to that of a referee. Citizens who are freer—from regulation, from taxation, from any number of government interventions—are more productive and innovate more.  Consequently, I believe that freedom and liberty are the greatest economic incentives of all time.


Most of my political writings are simply about preserving that freedom and liberty.  The American Revolution saw the triumph of the wisdom of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which drew, in turn, on the Scottish National Convention of 1638, the Declaration  of Arbroath in 1320, as well as the Magna Carta in 1215 (some would even say it drew inspiration from the Ten Commandments).  All of these documents recognize liberty and freedom as an inherent right of man.


The Declaration of Independence states a powerful concept in asserting that people are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”  It clearly states that our rights as people are divine and granted by the Creator,not the state.  This means that only the Creator—not the state—can take them away.


Almost all of my most passionate writings center on this theme. Whenever the state tries to take away those unalienable rights, we risk surrendering something that is very precious to people in general and our individual liberty in particular.  It is only through the study of history that we can learn how these concepts have developed and how great they truly are and how they must, therefore, be safeguarded.  We must constantly protect against modern day counterrevolutionists who try to take away those liberties and freedoms.  In that vigilance, the truth is always our greatest ally.


I believe the U.S.’ current monetary system is fraudulent and the powers behind it are operating it for their own benefit and not for that of the common good as wen Senators and Representatives vote for pork projects so they can get re-elected.  A massive theft is taking place. People are starting to feel it even if they do not yet see it for what it is.  For that reason, I feel compelled to write and tell the truth as I see it.  I firmly believe that in the end we shall win as truth is on our side. Honest money is necessary for a truly free society to function in a healthy manner, yet many people don’t yet clearly realize the problems in the monetary system.  I write to expose those flaws.


I believe that whether or not we have passed “peak oil” in terms of numbers, energy now costs more than ever to harvest, process and use, and we are straining more and more to maintain our rate of consumption. I believe that much of the trouble in the world today stems from securing oil reserves.  Many young lives and much national treasure are being spent in the pursuit of oil.  However, I also believe that if governments would get out of the way and let energy prices rise, the free market forces would solve the problem.  Newer, lighter, safer, hybrid power system vehicles made from what used to be considered “exotic materials” can go a long way towards the solution.  With biofuels, renewable energy and better designs, we can move towards energy independence.  There will be no single, magical solution, but thousands of small solutions will add up greatly. We will still need oil but not nearly as much, if we simply unleash our individual creative power and let the free market work.  The results could be inspiring.


I believe that the truly great societies of the future will be decentralized.  I believe we are seeing the last gasp of large centralization in government.  Empires simply do not work efficiently. Central planning cannot compete with individual initiatives.


Finally, I believe that the future need not be bleak.  I believe God has put each of us here for a purpose.  The greatest illumination we can have is to find that unique purpose in our lives.  Our lives and our civilization can be big, bold and exciting if we only allow ourselves to dream big. Every great invention started with an idea, and every great idea started out as a dream.  Today is the only time we have on this earth.  Take charge of your life, turn off the television, hang on and hit the accelerator—and dream big dreams.


Many things will catch your eye but only a few will catch your heart; pursue those.  - Unknown

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It’s Time to Go Fishing

Back in late 2007, the dollar index was heading for the cellar, gold was heading for the moon, war with Iran was imminent, energy costs were soaring and a debt crisis loomed. Given these multiple threats, many friends were asking many questions about where I was putting my investments.  Frankly, people were pretty rattled.

During that time, though, one friend and his wife asked the perfect question: Could my wife, Puddy, and I come visit them Bozeman, Montana, to go fly fishing?  We hadn’t planned to vacation then, but we just had to say yes with so many of our investments doing so well and visions of beautiful vistas in Montana rising in our imaginations.
Puddy and I flew up and spent a week fishing, relaxing, watching the elk, resting, reading and viewing some of the most spectacular scenery in the United States.  While I did not catch fish quite as impressive as Brad Pitt’s in “A River Runs Through It,” which was filmed in Bozeman, I did manage to catch a couple of trout.  More importantly, I enjoyed a relaxing few days in the company of good friends in an extraordinary setting.  The time we spent visiting our friends was medicine for my soul.


I was able to go off fishing because I my long-term investment strategy, including investing in precious metals, precious metals mining stocks, energy stocks, defense stocks and a few select foreign Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) has paid off over the years.  In my view, it is more important to be invested in the correct sector than in an individual investment within that sector.  So long as the sector is promising, diversification within that sector should spread both risk and opportunity.  Knowing that whether my investments were up or down during the week I was away, they were likely to trend up over time made it much easier to relax and make some great memories with my wife and our friends.


Remember to live your life well with family and friends. Then you will truly be wealthy beyond measure.

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Unconditional Love This Year for Christmas

Just before the Christmas of 1997, when my daughter was 11 years old, she and my wife stopped by my office and encountered my older brother’s Christmas gift for our father.  It was a little black and white Border Collie puppy about six weeks old.  My daughter squealed, picked up the tiny dog and hugged her tight.  Not realizing the pup was a gift for someone else, my child looked at me, batted her eyes and said, “Daddy, can I have her?”


My brother, being a gentleman, answered for me, simply saying, “Of course you can have her.  Merry Christmas!” He then promptly went out, purchased another gift for our father and never said another word about it.  That was the day that little Haley came into our lives.

We have always had at least one dog during our 30 years of marriage but this one was different. She seemed to understand things quicker. Haley was also (as any Border Collie owner can tell you is common) a dog of exceptional intelligence and intensity. Her breeding was to herd animals for a living, but all her life the only thing she was ever able to herd was our old Shih Tzu, a fellow dog who always resented being mistaken for a sheep.
During those years, I was working long hours and first saw this new dog as just another nuisance, an expense, a chore (supposedly not “my” chore, but probably my chore). My wife Puddy, who has always been much wiser than me, saw things differently. She knew this little dog was something special. Puddy saw exactly how this little pup would enrich our family and spent time with Haley, teaching her how to sit up, beg, roll over and fetch and how to ring a bell when she needed to go outside. I don’t know if it was the years wearing me down or Haley’s uncanny intelligence and ability to read me, but this little dog did what many others before her hadn’t and bored a hole right into my heart.
When I would come home from a difficult day at work, Haley seemed to instinctively know my mood and would simply run up to me and look at me with those big loving, accepting eyes and want to play for a few minutes to help me unwind. As much as I complained about the dog hair that constantly seemed to be everywhere, I secretly knew that I was unconditionally loved by that little dog regardless of what had happened at work that day.
Mostly Haley spent her nights napping with my daughter and her afternoons patrolling the house. Occasionally, she’d deliver explosive sneak attacks on her backyard nemesis, the Evil Squirrel, or spend evenings talking at us in some very passionate undeterminable language only known to canines.
Time marched on, and my daughter went off to college while Haley stayed home. Haley and I didn’t really know what to do with ourselves. After a little moping, we added an evening walk routine to help both of us cope with the loss of our favorite little girl.
A couple months later, our son moved back to town after graduating from college, and with him came Deacon, his 5-month-old black lab puppy. Deacon stayed at the house during the days, and Haley suddenly had a new playmate. They would chase each other around and around the couch for what seemed like forever. She would even stalk Deacon throughout the house in good-natured fun and developed a sort of doggie judo to take him down when she caught him. The two of them got along famously.
Unfortunately, at the tender age of eight, Haley developed heart problems. At first there was just less play in her, but it quickly progressed to longer and longer afternoons of watching Deacon, the Evil Squirrel and all of us around her. On a sunny day in May, while she was sitting by the window and looking into the back yard, she seemingly left as quickly as she had come, and her sweet heart simply gave out. I cried for the little dog who had loved me so much. I was so sad that she left us but so joyous that God had sent her to us for the short time she was here.  There is so much we can learn from the unconditional love of a dog.
We buried Haley in the back yard that she loved so much, even holding a small funeral service for her.  Afterwards, I wrote out the simple little prayer that I prayed for Haley:
Will Rogers once said, “If there aren’t any dogs in heaven, I don’t want to go.”
We are here today to lay to rest Haley, a faithful companion for the past eight years.
Anyone who has ever had a dog knows the days pass all too quickly. That even when she is a little puppy, deep down we know this day is coming. It is a bittersweet relationship. One that we know will probably lead to this very day. So we say good-bye today all too soon.
May you run in the green grass of heaven and never grow tired. May you play again as a puppy. May you sit in the lap of God and rest.
Now go first and blaze a trail into eternity. Go on ahead; we will all be along shortly.
After a little time had passed and it was obvious that I missed Haley, Puddy suggested that we get another dog, but we had Deacon much of the time, and I wasn’t ready for another dog. Besides being double her size, Deacon was different than Haley. He would greet me with such ferocious tail-wagging when I came home that it would sometimes shake loose his own footing. Deacon didn’t need to pace the house; he was at peace lying at the feet of someone he loved. And unlike Haley and me with our Type A personalities, Deacon seemed to go along and get along with his world. He didn’t worry about thunder, firecrackers, sudden noises or a change in pace. (One time he even used a thunderous fireworks display as a prime opportunity to clean out an unattended chili bowl!)  His whole world revolved around his people, and he was at peace when he was around them. I had no way to know it at the time but my future was about to shift from a Haley lifestyle to a Deacon lifestyle.
Haley and I had always been on mission, looking for problems to solve and ready for action. What we also had had in common was that we both had untimely heart issues. Ironically, eight months before my heart attack, with no medical diagnoses, I had decided to live a life different than the very intense one I had been living. I wanted a less “serious-all-the-time” life with more smiling more and more time with my loved ones. I wanted a Deacon kind of life.
I am not sure how the world knows what you need, but after my heart attack, Deacon was my shadow. When I would nap on the couch, he would nap next to the couch. When I would wake, he would wake and greet me by plopping his big gentle head on my stomach. He would regularly study my face to make sure I was okay and then ask for a head scratch. During my six-week recovery at the house he kept an eye on me and helped me lead a Deacon kind of life.
Again, time marched on and after I recovered, both my daughter and my son moved to Nashville and into a house together. It was really hard to see both of my children move more than 550 miles away, and it became even harder when I realized Deacon soon would be moving, too. A month later they came back for him, and I was suddenly dog-less!
A year has passed, and recently, when we asked our daughter what she wanted for her birthday, she replied, “a dog.” We put her off and told her that she had Deacon, to which she replied, “He’s not my dog.” I then pulled my trump card and told her that if she made good grades, we would talk about it in the fall, maybe for Christmas. I’ll be darned if she didn’t call my bluff and make straight A's for the first time in her life!
We are now gearing up for Christmas and Puddy is trying to find a female Border Collie puppy to surprise our daughter with for Christmas this year. I think I even heard her whisper on the phone to the breeder to ask if he might have two female puppies! I’ll have to act surprised! I may even gripe a little for tradition’s sake as long as Puddy doesn’t take her back…
Don’t be afraid that your life will end. Be afraid that it will never begin!
Postscript by my son:
That December, my mother and father went to see a breeder an hour south of their home and found two tiny, furry female Border Collie puff balls. Both of them fell hopelessly for two pups, who are now named Gracie and Ellie.  My sister got her puppy for Christmas, and Mom and Dad kept the other one.
A year later, my mother had an opportunity to help out another lovely pup named Abbey, a golden retriever, by adopting her from a young couple who had a brand new baby and could not take care of Abbey properly.
Now, Abbey, Gracie, Ellie and Deacon are around when all of us get together for holidays.  Each of us has a dog to look after us, and our dogs continue to teach us lessons of unconditional love. There is just no substitute for the love of a good dog, and our family is very blessed in that department.

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