Friday, October 15, 2010

Basic Supply and Demand or How Low Can Interest Rates Go?

10/15/2010 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

Before we get into interest rates, I would like to present for your perusal and enjoyment a wonderful example of Government management.  It appears that absentee ballots in Atascosa County, Texas, have for years contained an error.  Can you pick it out?


Image provided by the Austin American-Statesman

Do not fear, dear reader, if you did not you are still probably over-qualified for a position in Government.  The flag above is the “bandera de la RepĂșblica de Chile” (flag of the Republic of Chile) and not the Texas state flag, as logic would dictate.  In defense of the persons responsible for this error, they do look similar.

In other news, it appears that commodities and major currencies are all rallying against the dollar.  This is nothing new for anyone who has been paying attention for the past 10 to 97 years since the creation of the Federal Reserve to mismanage the US Dollar.  However the speed of the current movements is worth noticing, especially if you are a holder of dollars or bonds payable in dollars.

So what is causing this?  We are glad you asked!  In basic terms, Supply and Demand.  The Federal Reserve is just now delivering a supply of US Dollars to the market that the market demanded back in August of 2007, when the collapse of the financial world as we knew it was on the brink of occurring.  So why are the dollars coming to market now, just over 3 years later when the world has already begun to adjust to a world with fewer potential dollars floating around than previously anticipated (indicated by falling interest rates)?  Why was a the Chilean flag proudly displayed on ballots in Atascosa County, Texas?  Sadly, for anyone who depends upon the stability of the US Dollar and the competency of its managers, Government Management is the “why,” nothing more.

While Atascosa County Texas voters and the international press can have a good laugh, correct their error, and go on with their business, US Dollar dependents may quickly find themselves faced with the knee-slapping hilarious problem of holding a currency which is losing purchasing power at a very rapid pace.  What is even more hilarious is that the normal market clearing mechanism for such monetary madness, namely long term interest rates, are on the verge of being manipulated lower by the Federal Reserve (affectionately known as “Quantitative Easing”).  How low can they go?  That is anyone’s guess, dear reader.  From time to time in Japan and Sweden they have gone sub 0% (negative).  Does this seem insane?  Only if you are trying to maintain or increase the purchasing power of the US Dollar it does.

However, the idea of a negative interest rate has an academic appeal as seen in the design of the terra, a global resource backed currency proposal.  In the case of the terra, it is labeled a “demurrage charge” which would be a 3.5% cost to allegedly store the resources used to back it.  All I can say is, if you think the world burns through resources at an unsustainable pace now, wait until there is a 3.5% cost of not using those resources and watch how quickly resources deteriorate.  Concepts such as the terra and implied negative interest rates have no place in the real world where resources must be conserved.  Not only are they insane, if mandated they are downright criminal.

Thankfully, God gave the wise (not academic) gold and silver to use primarily as money.  We just need to be smart enough to actually use it!

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Is Inflati… I mean, Economic Recovery Around The Corner?

10/14/2010 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

A quick glance at the news tells us that inflation at the producer level, the kind that comes downstream to the items we purchase every day, increased by 0.4% in September, which would be 4.8% annually if the pace kept up.  Well above the 2% that the FED pretends to manage the money supply to.  These statistics are all to be taken for what they are worth as they are, after all, the product of Government work.

Meanwhile, the price of gold is breaking nominal price records and is now at $1,376 and your author's favorite metal, the one we believe to be one of the best investments on the planet, silver, is at $24 and rising.  More of this to come for today we must quickly take a look at what the FED may be doing or, in our view, overdoing.

The chart below is an attempt by yours truly to model the effects of the FED’s machinations intended to somehow “control” the money supply.  In this case, it is the widely observed tool called the FED Funds Target Rate which is currently at or below 0.25%.  The wave like image in the foreground is the rate announced corresponding to the month in which it is announced.  In the background is what I call the “Perceived Economic Effects”, in other words, when the average Joe actually feels this wave of new money coming his way.


According to the model, in November 2010 the average Joe should begin the downhill descent off of the pressure put onto him (or her) by the 5.25% rates that were in effect until August of 2007.  In essence, the model contemplates that it takes 39 months for actions by the FED to be felt on main street.  This would explain why most of the positive results are currently being reported by banks and other entities who are closest to the spigot of new money that the FED opened in August 2007.

Have you felt the effects, dear reader?   If you are in synch with the chart above that answer would be "not yet."  When people look back on these hard times, my prediction is that they will begin to notice a change for the better starting in November 2010.  The great question in my mind is whether or not this will be a true recovery, the beginning of stagflation, or a preamble to hyperinflation and the destruction of faith in paper currencies?  While hoping for the former, I would put my money on either of the later two.  Hold on to your hats!

Thank you for your time,

David Mint

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Subtle Change from Principles to Rules (Part III) What does it all mean?????

10/13/2010 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

So it looks like the Federal Reserve is set to unleash what they call QE2.  Yesterday, Reuters informed us that, as the masters of the universe met back in September, they:
“had a "sense that (more) accommodation may be appropriate before long,"  and that “Several officials felt that unless conditions improved, they would consider it appropriate to take action soon in hopes of spurring a stronger recovery.”


For the uninitiated, that is code for “shamelessly printing money”.  We will discuss this issue in the chronicles as this will not be the last time we hear of it and it is likely to become VERY IMPORTANT and relevant to our day to day existence in the not so distant future.  Needless to say, it is, thanks to the miracle of technology, much easier to create money today than the old fashioned way of printing money, which more often than not involved pulling hard metals from the ground, refining it, and giving it a “finishing touch” (as demonstrated by your author.)

No, the hard work of making money in the digital age rarely if ever falls to the pusher of said button, rather, the work is socialized.  As for spurring the economy, that is code for “causing people to buy anything and everything they can at a rapid pace to avoid holding a rapidly depreciating currency.”  In other words, it is the ultimate stimulus project.

But enough of this, where were we in our exploration of what happened in the meadow?  Ah yes…


The Subtle Change from Principles to Rules (Part III) What does it all mean?????:

If you have missed the previous two posts, you have missed essential data that will hinder the understanding of what comes next.  To avoid becoming completely lost, please visit them below:

The Subtle Change from Principles to Rules (Part I)

The Subtle Change from Principles to Rules (Part II) “Meadow Improvement”

 

 As you will recall, we left our meadow to step back and ask the question that is begging to be asked.  WHAT DOES THIS ALL HAVE TO DO WITH THE SUBTLE CHANGE FROM PRINCIPLES TO RULES ALREADY???  What does it mean?????  Have I suffered through the previous posts in vain?  Please read on as I pray that this is not the case, dear reader.

The parable that was elaborated during the last two posts was intended to highlight the difference between principles and rules.  In the meadow parable, “meadow improvement” represents rules.  Rules were made by those who either do not fully understand or care to adhere to the principles of an activity with the purpose of maintaining or “improving” the status quo.  Once a human institution, as the meadow was to represent, makes the inevitable but subtle change from being guided by principles to being governed by rules, these rules fill the meadow with “cordoned off areas” and “canals” until no one can freely move about within them.

I would like to offer the following definitions to help us better understand the conceptual difference between principles and rules.  A principle, according to the wikipedia, “signifies a point (or points) of probability on a subject (i.e. the principle of creativity), which allows for the formation of rule or norm or law by (human) interpretation of the phenomena (events) that can be created.”  By contrast, a rule, according to dictionary.com, is “a principle or regulation governing conduct, action, procedure, arrangement, etc.”  You can see how making a distinction between principles and rules is confusing because the terms are often used interchangeably to define two concepts that could not be more different.  This is why the change is subtle.

We will attempt, dear reader, to summarize the concepts I am talking about in the following manner:  Principles make things possible.  Principles create.  Rules “govern conduct” or regulate.  Rules destroy.  Here I will postulate that, while Principles tend to create rules, rules tend to destroy principles once the propagation of rules dwarfs the principle that created them.  It is as if an invisible prison has been constructed by the growing threat of going to a real one.  Does this mean that Principles are bad because they create rules?  By no means, in the same way, rules are not bad either, but principles must be held above the rules that they create in order for them to continue to create and make things possible.  Once rules are allowed to dominate, they thrust aside principles and the prison begins to quickly “auto-construct” itself.

This is what our brilliant local CPA was alluding to in the “GAAP Update” seminar, now so long ago, when he mentioned that the word “should” in of some of the pronouncements had been changed to “must.”  You see, the word “should” bestows some glimmer of freedom of choice upon the hearer.  As in “You should wear a jacket, its cold.”  While a strong suggestion that “should” be heeded, it is understood that the hearer may ignore the guidance at their own peril.  Once you place the word “must” in the same sentence, this freedom is removed and the only thing that remains is the expectation of punishment for non-compliance.  This, perhaps better than the meadow parable (which I hope you enjoyed, nonetheless), describes this subtle change from principles to rules that is happening in not only in GAAP but, if you look for it, in many other areas of society as well.

For the accounting addicts in the audience, we will, in coming posts, I will relate, as eloquently as possible, the tale of the glorious days of GAAP before Enron, when they truly were principles to be embraced instead of a set of rules to be judged by and punished according to.

GAAP.

Thank you for your time,

David Mint

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Subtle Change from Principles to Rules (Part II) “Meadow Improvement”:

10/12/2010 Portland, Oregon -  Pop in your mints...


Can you believe they are not going to give a cost of living increase to Social Security dear reader?  From the looks of it, Bernard Sanders certainly can't.  Either that or he is watching as an approaching mob comes to show him that Social Security recipients are a much larger constituency than the bankers.  But enough of current events...



The Subtle Change from Principles to Rules (Part II) “Meadow Improvement”:

In a metaphor which has reached into the field of philosophy and attempts to use it to explain what I observed at the “GAAP Update”, we will return to our once vibrant meadow and attempt to gain an understanding of difference between principles and rules and what it means for us as persons living in this subtle but important cultural change.

We pick up our meadow in the aftermath of Woodstock.  It has become obvious to everyone in the meadow that the meadow has not continued to become the utopia that they had entered, and they become desperate to understand what went wrong, and how to keep it from going wrong again in the future.  How do they go about this?  First, they cordon off a bounding area, so that bounding may continue in a limited fashion.  Other areas are cordoned off and efforts are made to revive the grass in these areas.  It is prohibited to enter into these areas until it has been deemed “suitable for bounding.”  Second, they decide to construct a canal system in part of the meadow and allow the stream to “revive” itself within its newfound confinements, and water is rationed, which in turn limits bounding, which seems to rejuvenate the meadow for a time.

BUT THEN WHAT HAPPENS?  The people in the meadow begin to see that, although bounding now has become a limited activity and their other projects have worked, they dedicate themselves more and more to “meadow improvement” and less to bounding.  There is not time nor space for bounding, anyhow, and “meadow improvement” is a much more worthy cause.  Why just look!  We have grass growing where no one can bound and our canal system now provides more rations of more water for more people who are not bounding.  What could be better?  Why, bounding, of course, bounding without rations and cordoned off areas.  But nobody dares to say it, because “meadow improvement” has become so “vital.”

Of course the original, “genesis” deer and their principles, are all long gone, searching for another meadow to freely bound in.  Some who remain in the meadow are still searching for these principles and long for the days when they will bound freely again.  However, since most of those who remain were either unaware of or in some stage of disagreement with the original principles, the “why” of the boundless joy that they once beheld, “meadow improvement” continues and the deer and their principles are idolized, but rarely sought.  Why?  That would lead to too much bounding, of course.  And, of course, too much bounding leads to ruined meadows.  And, of course, too much bounding leads to ruined meadows.

So what is the point of this tale, dear reader?  What can you and I learn from a humble accounting lecture, bounding deer, and “meadow improvement” projects?  What does it all mean?????

Stay tuned,

David Mint

Click here if you missed part I

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Subtle Change from Principles to Rules (Part I)

10/11/2010 Portland, Oregon - Pop in your mints, its time for something fresh.  From time to time my occupation affords me the opportunity to listen to experts ramble on and on about rules and numbers.  What little of value that I usually take from these opportunities generally comes in the form of free breakfast or lunch, depending upon the time of day.  Through the searing boredom, from time to time I find a nugget, that is, an insight worth the seemingly wasted precious moments on this earth.  One autumn day four years ago, I got one.  Enjoy!

 
The Subtle Change from Principles to Rules (Part I):

I recently attended a brief seminar which was titled “GAAP Update.”  This title, to anyone who is not an accountant, makes it sound like some sort of fashion show.  While I had hoped to observe some of the latest models of pocket protectors, the only thing that any reasonable person (that is you and I, dear reader) could observe to be “in fashion” was decreasing reliance on professional judgment and increasing scrutiny, oversight, and more rules.  In order to understand this observation, we must first understand GAAP.  GAAP, while not addictive, should be taken in small doses.  As such, I will administer it in small doses so that we can avoid the common side effects of confusion, drowsiness, and its other less understood attacks upon the human psyche.

GAAP, for those of you who have been fortunate enough to avoid the acronym thus far, stands for “Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.”  According to wikipedia, “GAAP is the standard framework of guidelines for financial accounting. It includes the standards, conventions, and rules accountants follow in recording and summarizing transactions, and in the preparation of financial statements.”  Wikipedia goes on to list the principles by which GAAP is guided by as the principles of sincerity, permanence of methods, non-compensation, prudence, continuity, and periodicity.  We will return to these principles in future tips as they are important for anyone trying to understand the methods and madness of the world of accounting.

The presenter at the seminar, a brilliant local CPA, alluded to what I am calling the “subtle change from principles to rules” when he mentioned that the word “should” in of some of the pronouncements had been changed to “must.”  On the surface, this sounds like a simple grammatical correction, as if a language expert had been asked to make the writings of accountants more accessible to the general public.  The deeper truth, the one that our brilliant local CPA alluded to, is that trust in professional judgment has disintegrated and the need for specific, carefully worded instructions that remove the need for “flawed” professional judgment, is taking its place.  This should alarm us all as the accounting field is by no means the only field that this subtle change is taking place in.

Any institution that is organized by human beings, such as a company, a religion, a government, or a soccer team, follows a pattern.  Observe closely, dear reader, and see if you can pull an example from your own experience.  These institutions begin with some sort of principle or set of principles.  The person or persons who begin the institution understand the principles upon which they were founded and operate according to these principles.  When something is in its genesis, it is fresh and exciting.  Its possibilities bound about, like deer in a meadow in early spring.  It is a thing to behold.  People flock to this bounding, this life, to simply breath it in, to somehow be a part of it.  “Let it always be this way,” they say “I love this!  How do I join?”

So join they do, in great multitudes.  Everyone wants to bound with the deer, drink from the stream, to lie in the grass.  BUT WHAT HAPPENS?  The new people, those that were not there for the genesis, do not understand why the deer are bounding.  And when the deer try to explain this to them, the new people may not understand or perhaps disagree with the why.  But they do agree that the bounding must continue, and increase, by all means.  So they continue to flock to the meadow.  BUT THEN WHAT HAPPENS? Soon, because of the crowds, the bounding area becomes a mosh pit, the water in the stream becomes undrinkable, and the grass turns to mud.

SO THEN WHAT HAPPENS?  In Part II, we will look at what happens once the meadow turns into the aftermath of Woodstock…

Oh Deer,

David Mint

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Welcome to the Mint!

10/10/2010 Portland, Oregon - Your author minting a coin at the "Casa de la Moneda" in PotosĂ­, Bolivia circa 2009...

 

While technically making money, it must be noted that we actually paid for this privilege.  

Welcome to The Mint!  Via The Mint I hope to bring you a fresh perspective on the world we live in.  This will generally involve economics and politics, which are closely intertwined, especially so at the moment, as well as dabbling into philosophy and religion (what I call Truth).  My ideas, while they may twist and turn as all man's ideas tend to, are centered around the basic tenet that men were created free by an all-powerful and all-merciful God, and that the more freely they are able to operate and make decisions, the better off they themselves are as well as all of society.  God has set the boundaries, given us the rules, and the incentives and punishments for our actions here are built in to this wonderful existence that He has given us.  The world we are living in now does the best it can to keep God at arms length, which keeps people in the dark as to how it works.  My goal is to enlighten you.  I hope you will find these humble chronicles both entertaining and profitable, both in fleeting earthly riches and, more importantly, eternal ones.  Thank you for taking time to join me, dear reader!

Freshly yours,