(Excerpted from Chapter 12 of How to Prosper During the Coming Bad Years in the 21st Century.)
Wall Street ignored gold and silver during most of the 1970’s hyper-profitable bull market. They were either outright hostile, or acted as though the metals didn’t even exist. I got no respect, even though the first edition of my book sold 2.6-million copies and was near or at the top of The New York Times best-seller list in both hard and soft cover for two years, and I was all over the media; Wall street Week, Oprah twice, Regis and Kathy Lee three times, etc, etc. They were usually hostile also. Wall Street paid little attention to gold until it reached about $650, far too late for them to have much of a chance for their clients to make money.
Why the hostility? Partly because they believed their own rhetoric! Historically, because rising gold always means falling stocks or a troubled world, and they made most of their commissions in the stock market, they had to remain bullish on stocks, and bearish on gold. Their bullish stock-market recommendation was necessary because investors wouldn’t buy stocks if their advisors were dubious about the market’s future. They sneered at the inflation fears of us gold and silver fans, and derisively called gold investors “gold bugs.” Most of the young whippersnappers who now control Wall Street were in diapers 25 to 30 years ago during the last gold bull market so they haven’t experienced rising gold and inflation. Consequently, another gold bull market is inconceivable to them.
One of the funniest things that ever happened to me illustrates the skepticism of mainstream media types regarding gold and silver. In 1978 I was on a national promotion tour for the first edition of my book when I found myself in Detroit, rushing to a TV station for a scheduled interview on a big morning show. I barely got there in time when the host turned to the camera and said, “Today we’re going to study psycho-ceramics, and with us today is a crackpot from California.” And the interview went downhill from there; with his biggest argument being that silver was an impractical investment for most people, unless you were very rich.
One year later I found myself in the same studio, same host, promoting the mass paperback of my book. But this time, when the light went on, he said, “Today we have with us one of America’s most brilliant financial advisors,” and the interview was terrific from then.
After the show, I reminded him of what he had said before, and asked him what had changed his mind. He very sheepishly said, “I read your book and bought silver from a local coin dealer, and tripled my money since you were here last.” So the media is not always infallible, even though they are usually wrong.
Inside Wall Street
Wall Street is a culture, as well as a financial institution.
Most of the young brokers who are the big producers on Wall Street are human beings, subject to all the errors of habit and behavior and peer pressure that plague all of us. They are surrounded by “group-think.” They make tons of money on the status quo. I have visited firms on Wall Street with big trading rooms full of twenty-something men and women whose annual income is measured in the millions – all on commissions on stock sales.
Few big Wall Street firms sell bullion (right off hand I can’t think of any) so it is only money out of their pockets if hot-shot brokers tell their clients to sell some stock and put the money into bullion or coins. Maturity and client concern are scarce commodities on Wall Street.
They are congenitally bullish on stocks, because that’s where their bread is buttered.
Many of you listen to or watch financial shows, populated with people who are typical examples of main-stream Wall Street financial thinking.
If your broker’s opinion is important to you, you may be uncomfortable here. If you aren’t a maverick, you had better become one, and be quiet about it. You will have to leave the herd, and for a while, Merrill Lynch’s herd is all on Wall Street.
Terrorism and Other Things
Let’s consider just a few possible scenarios.
Panama and the Dollar
When we negotiated away the Panama Canal to Torrijos, the Panamanian Dictator, our chief negotiator was Sol Linowitz, a member of the board of Chemical Bank in New York. He was appointed for one day less than six months, so his appointment would not be subject to Congressional approval, and sure enough, the giveaway deal was signed one day before Linowitz’s term was up.
One key part of Linowitz’s banker-inspired mission was that the Canal Zone would be a “Free-banking Zone,” not subject to regulations or oversight. Even before the deal was signed, bank buildings were going up all over the Zone. Every multi-national bank was there, and it appears that they moved many of their international money systems there, with no oversight or regulation. Who determines their safety or vulnerability? No one!
If terrorist hackers were to hack into those computers and infect them with a destructive virus, the entire dollar-based monetary system would disappear in a nanosecond. In that case, for all practical purposes, the only spendable money left would be gold or silver coins or barter.
And what if they were able to sneak a nuke onto a ship and detonate it in the canal? It’s already bad enough that the Chinese are in control of the ports on both ends of the canal. Imagine the chaos with the banks obliterated and commerce fatally crippled.
These and innumerable other scenarios may seem beyond the edges of credibility, but I dare you to say they are not possible.
This is not a forecast, only a speculation about a possible worst-case, we-hope-not scenario.
The Hyperinflation Scenario
What if monetary inflation rose as a result of soaring demands on government with the soaring deficits, and the subsequent inevitable consumer inflation broke out into a real hyperinflation, with the modern money machine running night and day, like Germany during the 1920s. This would make money increasingly worthless and the precious metals increasingly precious. History tells us that this has happened over and over again, and we are repeating most of the same deadly mistakes.
Let’s pretend we are transported into a future where America is devastated by hyperinflation, and see what it looks like
The world will be in terrible trouble, and the prosperity and comfort that now surround you will be in tatters. You will be surrounded by people struggling to survive, let alone to prosper, as in the 1930s. That’s what happened in Germany after the hyperinflation of the deutschmark, and the general suffering was the fertile ground which gave birth to Adolph Hitler, dictator. If you have prospered by holding gold and silver, you can buy a lot of safety and security.
These are only a few of the possibilities.
The Best Case
Even if we wipe out or neutralize al Qaeda and the currency system hangs together, monetary inflation has already been cooked into the economic cake by the Federal Reserve and industry, and so is the silver supply/demand situation. Even in this “best-case” situation, you will make a bundle on this monetary-inflation-sensitive investment, even in a still-orderly world.
If all else fails, you still can count on Social Security, Medicare and the prescription-drug program to trigger a flood of trillions of dollars of “money printing” and the subsequent monetary inflation, followed as night follows day with soaring price inflation. As it becomes obvious to the public that these programs are plummeting into insolvency, the consumer inflation rate and gold and silver will soar.
When the dire facts become obvious, Congress will start desperately searching for solutions, but which ones?
Will they raise taxes and watch FICA soar and taxpayers revolt? Very little, if any! Will they cut benefits or raise the Social Security retirement age? Maybe a little bit, but not much. Will they dig in their heels and memorialize the current dysfunctional system by simply printing money? You bet! This will lay the groundwork for more ruinous inflation, and soaring gold and silver.
In this best case (the most likely – I think, I hope?), we will at least see rising inflation and an inflationary recession (which is already written in cement), and gold and silver and the metals and their mining stocks will go up – perhaps five to ten times, perhaps a lot more.
There is no best-case – or worst-case – scenario in which I can conceive of gold and silver being losers. You can mortgage the kids and bet the farm!
By Howard Ruff
The Ruff Times