Are We Wrong About Gold?

‘Are you new to Aiken?’ said an attractive 70-something woman with a soft, local cotton accent, named Sissy. We were coming out of the Willcox hotel. She spotted us as visitors and offered help.

She was wearing a floppy hat. She admired our hats. We admired hers. Later, we learned that she is known locally as the ‘hat lady’.

‘Come on. I’ll take you on a little tour.’

Elizabeth and I looked at each other…each startled. We have travelled the world. Never before had a complete stranger ever offered to show us around without some kind of ulterior motive.

Yesterday was a holiday. We are down here in South Carolina accompanying Elizabeth, who is doing horse competitions.

We were supposed to be in Mumbai. But we got to Dulles airport and realised that we lacked a visa for travel to India. Seizing the opportunity, we walked around the corner to the US Airways counter…and took a plane to Charlotte, NC, where a snowstorm stopped our progress. Almost.

The plane to Augusta, GA, was delayed…delayed…and delayed again. Finally, we got fed up and rented a car… joining Elizabeth in Aiken, South Carolina, at midnight.

This is just the way life is meant to be. You don’t always go where you intended to go, but you always end up where you ought to be.

Which raises a number of deep and disturbing issues. If you always end up where you ought to be, why strive to go anywhere at all? Won’t you still get where you were supposed to go? Surely, that wouldn’t work.

You have to try to get somewhere in life. If you don’t, you’ll never get anywhere. If you don’t try to get anywhere, of course, you’re not likely to get anywhere. And then, nowhere is where you ought to be…but not where you want to be.

Are you following us, dear reader?

No matter.

In her competition on Sunday, Elizabeth won a blue ribbon. ‘Eventing’ it is called, with three parts – cross country, dressage, and jumping. She won the blue ribbon because she worked on her riding for many years. Had she not striven, she would not have won. In the winner’s box would be where she ought not be.

Effort pays off. But that doesn’t mean you always get where you want to go.

That is true in investing, too. You don’t always get what you want, but you always end up with what you ought to get. That is, you get what you deserve.

Last week, stocks bounced around…getting nowhere. But on Friday, gold sank…and seems to be heading below US$1,600.

Uh oh. How come, if it is true that the central banks are flooding the world with cash and credit, gold does not rise? Does not gold anticipate inflation? Aren’t investors – especially the central banks themselves – accumulating gold to protect themselves from the degradation and degeneration of their money?

Apparently not.

Which merely makes the question marks bigger. Is there something wrong with our theory? Does printing press money not cause consumer price inflation? Is there something else… something important…going on?

Thinking hard about these questions does not guarantee success. It only guarantees that we will not deserve to lose money…which is the best we can do.

Still, yesterday was a national holiday. We didn’t think about it too much. And we weren’t in Paris. We weren’t in Manhattan or London. We were in the Carolinas…and Sissy was just being friendly.

Aiken is a horse town. It’s fairly warm in the winter months and not too hot in the summer. It attracts sportsmen from the northern states, including those from Maryland. Back at the turn of the century, rich people came down on the train from New York, came down and built mansions. They established horse trails… parks… and elegant hotels.

Sissy showed us where the Whitneys and the Graces lived. She showed us the tennis court building (one of the oldest in the country) and the new train station (rebuilt on the old model).

We saw the tunnel of live oak trees over East Boundary Street… and the new theatre.

‘This used to be cotton fields, when I was a child,’ she explained.

‘My people worked in the textile mills,’ she said, pointing out the modest house where she was raised.

‘I met my husband in high school. His family had a family that went back to the original land grant.

‘I’ve seen a lot of changes in this town. And now look at all these ‘for sale’ signs. We got hit hard by the financial crisis. It could take years to recover… and maybe it will never be the same.’


Bill Bonner
for Markets and Money

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From the Archives…

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Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America's most respected authorities.

Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind Markets and MoneyDice Have No Memory: Big Bets & Bad Economics from Paris to the Pampas, the newest book from Bill Bonner, is the definitive compendium of Bill's daily reckonings from more than a decade: 1999-2010. 

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1 Comment on "Are We Wrong About Gold?"

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John Graham
Yes I think a reason why inflation isn’t high is because the economy is so bad in the first instance that even with floods of cheap money by Central Banks its only barely keeping the economy breathing. Another thing happening is Mining Companies at least in Australia are selling way too cheaply their product to China who then makes the raw materials into something like a Sandwich maker for example which as each year passes the price becomes lower and still lower. In fact my son brought home sandwich maker from Coles supermarket earlier this week that he paid only… Read more »
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