“Would you encourage foreigners to invest in Argentina,” asked a reporter in Cafayate. Our reply:
“Much of the world is going through a downswing of the credit cycle. Argentina doesn’t have and didn’t have much credit. So it will be spared the big problems. But it sells farm produce to the rest of the world. It has to expect a period of sluggish sales and soft prices.
“I don’t know if I would advise foreigners to bring their money to Argentina. But I would advise everyone to diversify beyond their home country – especially if they are American or British. Generally speaking, it appears that the go-go finance-based economies of the Anglo-Saxon world have peaked out. They lived on credit. Now, they die on credit. And they will find it very hard to shift their economies from credit-fueled consumption to investment-driven production and export. The competition is too stiff. America is a high cost producer. It can’t compete easily with the developing and emerging economies. So, it will just have to get used to a lower standard of living. That means lower asset prices too. Which is why an investor – broadly speaking – can anticipate a higher rate of return from his investments in India, Brazil and even Argentina, over the next 20 years, than he can from the US.”
But isn’t Argentina full of crooks, booty-shaking tango dancers, escaped Nazis and Norteamericanos on the lam?
A friend of ours thought so. She was having lunch at a nice restaurant in La Recoleta, one of the nicest parts of town, when someone stole her purse. Poor thing, we were afraid her trip was ruined. But then, she got this email:
“Hi good afternoon, my name is Emiliano, is that i work doing maintenance of parks and squares in the area of palermo, and in one of the trash bins encontre a series of documentation to its name and among other things i could detect this mail.
“That is why i warn that i have the papers mentioned, licenses, passports, credit cards, etc. without more and in anticipation of any response on their side and wishing you are with their belongings, i leave my mobile Phone in order to combine a meeting so that you can restore their belongings, but more, i dismissal of you carefully.”
She writes: “This ‘Santo Emiliano’ is now and always will be the patron saint of Buenos Aires. He has restored my faith in humanity by going beyond his job tidying up the beautiful local parks and helping a total stranger to once again see the real beauty of his city. He explained that he enlisted the help of many friends to compose the email above. I get teary-eyed thinking about it. I can’t wait to meet him and try to explain to him in my broken ‘castellano’ that he is working in the wrong municipal department and should be promoted to the head of the department of tourism!
“Ah, the world is once again a nice place to live.”
“I must say,” Elizabeth began, after hanging up the phone. “Being married into your family is an enriching experience.”
Elizabeth comes from a good New York family. Her ancestors were ambassadors, officers in Washington’s army, heiresses and socialites. She went to private schools and then to an Ivy League university. Poor thing. She had never had much contact with Irish riff-raff, tobacco road farmers, and lowlife financial publishers. She can thank your editor for introducing her.
She had just been talking with one of our cousins. Well, the wife of a cousin who died suddenly last week. He was only in his 50s and seemed like a nice enough fellow. But he was no Harvard-trained go-getter.
“I felt so sorry for her [the widow],” Elizabeth continued. “Your cousin hadn’t worked in years. He was on disability. I’m not sure what that is. Some sort of welfare, I guess. He didn’t look disabled when we met him two years ago. He was such a big, strong man.
“But when he died, he left his wife with no source of income at all. She’s applying for disability too. She has no income at all. I don’t think they have any savings either. And her disability status hasn’t been approved yet. It hasn’t come through. I wanted to tell her that we’d help her but I felt a little awkward. I’ve only met them a few times. You should do something…
“There is a whole world out there that I didn’t know anything about…that lives and thinks in a much different way than we did. They’re very nice. I like all your family. But they have very different attitudes and habits than what I’m used to. I wonder what caused it. Maybe they probably worked hard when the steel mills were operating. But then, when the mills shut down, maybe they got in the habit of getting paid not to work. I don’t know…but it’s very strange.”
“What do you mean,” was our reply. “Your family didn’t work for generations. They inherited wealth and spent it. They spent money they didn’t earn. My family did the same thing. They just spent wealth from other families…and didn’t get as much of it.”
Until next time,
for Markets and Money