Free Trade: The Only Fair Trade

The US issued a terror warning to Americans traveling to Europe. “Watch out,” said the feds. There could be strikes in Europe similar to those in Mumbai last year.

In the Mumbai event, terrorists came ashore in inflatable boats…heavily armed. They headed for major tourist hotels – like the one where we had reserved a room…the Taj Mahal. Once there, they started shooting people.

“Hey, we’re from Baltimore,” we answered when someone asked why we would go to such a dangerous place.

So, here we are at the Paris airport.

We see no signs of beefed up security. In fact, there are no signs of any security at all.

But the reckoning must go on. And what we reckon with today is a whole world that looks dangerous. The airports are dangerous. The hotels are dangerous. And the markets – especially the markets – are dangerous.

But what the hell… We’re from Baltimore.

The Dow fell 78 points yesterday. Gold lost only a dollar.

Gold has been such an investment sensation that the banks are opening up old vaults, and building new ones, to store clients’ money. Investors buy gold. Then, they need a place to keep it. So the banks have a new way of earning fees – by safeguarding gold.

As Warren Buffett tells us, at the beginning of a bull market people buy for the right reason. At the end, they buy for the wrong reason. We can’t but wonder: why are people buying gold now?

Ten years ago, we urged dear readers to buy gold. Why? It was cheap. It was bound to become dear.

And it has. Every year, gold has gotten more expensive. And it appears to be on course again this year for another big gain. But why are people buying so much of it?

We know why we’re buying it. Because we think the people running fiscal and monetary policy for the US and other countries are lunkheads. We think they’re going to make a real mess of the dollar. Gold is the best alternative.

For example, in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal was an article about the Currency Reform and Fair Trade Act. Once you see something called “fair trade” you know it’s going to be bad news. “Fair trade” is code for “managed trade” – which, like managed paper currencies, is a fraud. You either trade freely…or you impose conditions in order to protect some special interest or promote some pet project. Then, it’s not free anymore. Whether it is “fair” depends on your point of view. But the only really fair trade is free trade – that is, trade that people willingly do without asking anyone else’s say-so.

In the present case, the “Fair Trade Act” has been ominously appended to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act…a previous experiment in managed trade. Smoot-Hawley was partly responsible for the depth and breadth of the Great Depression. In the ’30s, it was bad enough that people were going broke. It didn’t help that Misters Smoot and Hawley prevented them from buying and selling freely.

But all but five Democrats voted for the bill last week. So did 99 Republicans. If passed and signed into law, it will give the feds new ammunition in their fight to make the Chinese stop free trade with China. If they get their way, you’ll only be able to trade with China if it complies with certain restrictions and qualifications regarding the yuan (or renminbi). They fair traders want the Chinese to raise the value of its currency. How they know what China’s currency should be worth is a mystery…

But if the ’30s are anything to go by, this legislation will make the Great Correction worse. It will stymie world trade – just like Smoot- Hawley did.

This might be good for gold. It might not.

But real messes can take time to develop. We wonder if these new gold buyers are prepared for the wait.

And more thoughts…

Zombies on the march.

What’s going on in Ecuador? Nobody seems to know. The president says the police held him captive for 10 hours.

“Did not,” say the police.

Why would the police kidnap the president? Zombies. The Herald Tribune says they were annoyed by his “austerity plans” – reduced benefits, slower salary increases and so forth.

Who knows?

Meanwhile, Bloomberg has a report, telling us that nearly 3,000 millionaires have collected unemployment compensation:

According to US Internal Revenue Service data, 2,840 households reporting at least $1 million in income on their tax returns that year also collected a total of $18.6 million in jobless aid. They included 806 taxpayers with incomes over $2 million and 17 with incomes in excess of $10 million. In all, multimillionaires reported receiving $5.2 million in jobless benefits.

“It’s a larger number than I would have expected,” said Alan Viard, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington research organization. “But, people at any income level can lose their jobs.”

“Hey, Bonner…what are you complaining about? They paid into the system, just like everyone else. They’re entitled to benefits, aren’t they?”

Hold on. We’re not talking about people breaking the law. Or people doing anything wrong. We’re just talking about zombification…in which you fully comply with the law…and begin standing in lines, filling out paper work…angling…chiseling…and getting something from the government. A special parking place…drugs…jobs…food… Then, once you get it…you don’t want to give it up. Look at what is happening here in Paris. President Sarkozy has proposed to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. What happens? The zombies take to the streets!

PARIS (Reuters) – French families, students and private sector workers joined mass demonstrations on Saturday as trade unions ramped up pressure on the government to drop pension reforms.

Opposition to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to raise the retirement age to 62 from 60 showed no signs of abating and hundreds of thousands across the country marched in the fourth round of rallies in as many months

Unions said that about 2.9 million had marched, while police said the crowds numbered 899,000. The union figure was about the same as at the last demonstrations on September 23. The police figure was slightly lower.

A survey published by French daily newspaper L’Humanite showed more than 70 percent of people backed the day of action.

“We won’t back down,” said Bernard Thibault, head of the powerful CGT union. “If the government won’t listen there will be further action.”

So far, dear reader, only we realize what is happening. Silently, slowly, stealthily the zombies are taking over…


Bill Bonner
for Markets and Money

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 Money.
Bill Bonner

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1 Comment on "Free Trade: The Only Fair Trade"

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Bill, the zombies are not taking to the streets. The zombies are in charge of the markets, and you are a zombie-in-chief. I love how unreal this talk of free trade and free markets is when free markets are always contaminated by the real work except in zombie minds. Maybe at the time of the big bang a free market existed for a nano-second, but I doubt it. The free market zombies drove capitalism off a cliff and when real people take to the streets to resist free markets and free trade Bill calls them zombies. You and your ilk… Read more »
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