Feb 1, 2022 • 26M

Joel Bowman and Dan Denning on A New Beginning

After 40 years in the publishing business, Bill and his team have decided to go private...

 
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Dan Denning
Joel Bowman
Investment insight and analysis each month as Joel Bowman sits down with a member of Bill Bonner's private research team to discuss the pressing issues of the day. From high finance to lowly politics, irrational markets and international real estate, great wine and classical books, nothing is off the table in these freewheeling discussions. New episodes every Sunday.
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“This is now the greatest financial crisis in American history. We don't know how long it'll last, whether it'll be something like the 1930s or whether it will be something more volatile and violent, but let's not be afraid to call it what it is.”

~ Dan Denning, Bonner Private Research

TRANSCRIPT:

Joel Bowman:
Welcome back to the Bonner Private Research Podcast. I'm Joel Bowman coming to you from my home office down here in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Now, it is a capital city in the middle of South America, so if you do hear some impatient Argentines honking horns and some construction across the street, you'll just have to chalk that up to a little ambient sound. A special thanks, too, to our new readers and listeners, many of whom are joining us for the first time this Christmas season. By way of a little backstory, I've known Bill Bonner personally for almost 20 years now. And as his long-term readers will know, nothing Bill ever does is uninteresting. I expect this latest adventure to be no exception to that general rule. For those of you who perhaps don't know, it's been a decade or more since Bill, Dan, Tom, and I wrote together for the same publisher back in Baltimore, in and around the mid-2000s.

So, in that way, this does feel a little like getting the old band back together. I'd like to say thanks therefore to my once and future colleagues for joining us along the ride. On that note, we'll have some other personalities dropping in along the way, some of whom you may be already familiar with. Folks like Chris Mayer, Rick Rule, Byron King, Verne Gowdie in Australia, Tim Price and Charlie Morris in the UK, Ronan McMahon, wherever we can track him down, and plenty of others besides.

As you well know, the world has changed plenty over these past couple of years, not least in the way that we communicate with one another, from Zoom conferences to webinars and podcasts just like this one, we now have more tools than ever to stay connected with you, which is exactly what we're hoping to do with this new venture. It's a small core team to be sure, just the four of us, Bill, Dan, Tom, and myself. So, we'll be freewheeling a bit and ask your patience for any bumps that we may encounter along the ride. "Ready, fire, aim," is our general motto here. To help us explain a bit more of what you can expect from the Bonner Private Research project, I caught up with my co-pilot Dan Denning a little earlier this week. I invite you to stick around for our quick powwow up right after the break.

All right. We're talking today to Dan Denning, all the way up in Wyoming in the northern end of the Americas. I'm Joel Bowman. I'm coming to you from down in Buenos Aires in the southern tip down here in Bill's sometimes home of Argentina. Dan, how are you doing today?

Dan Denning:
I'm all right, Joel. Thanks. Yeah. Laramie's really high plains. It's where the, as you know, where the Great Plains meet the Rockies. And it is super windy here today. That's one of the quality of life issues I ran into when I picked it. So, if I blow away or the roof rips off, that's why.

Joel Bowman:
We'll just-

Dan Denning:
But hopefully we'll be okay.

Joel Bowman:
We'll just continue recording. It'll make for good footage. Mate, so, we've got a little bit of housekeeping to get through today because we've got some new readers and new listeners along for the journey, along with our long-suffering, faithful and unfaithful readers, I guess. So, we'll get to all that in a little bit, but first, I guess, an update on something that you and I have been discussing for a long time, both professionally and just by way of email, and something that you and Bill and Tom have been writing about for the better part of a couple of decades, perhaps even longer, and that is the question on everyone's lips and one which becomes more urgent with every passing month and every passing week, it seems like now, and that is whether or not we are in the greatest financial crisis in American history.

Dan Denning:
Yeah, that's a good question. And-

Joel Bowman:
Just to start with a small question.

Dan Denning:
No, it's a serious one. And it's one that I've already received from new readers who've signed up for Bonner Private Research. And I should say that that's not my phrase, actually. Tom Dyson and I went and visited Bill in Baltimore in late October, and we were trying to be very precise about what we thought was at stake for investors right now. And Bill, who is not prone to hyperbole and is usually fairly reserved about what he claims to know had said, "Well, what we're really talking about is the greatest financial crisis in American history." And one of the reasons he had mentioned that is we had been discussing what happened during the Civil War, which was obviously more than a financial crisis, but there was an aspect to it that was purely financial.

And the monetary aspect was Lincoln printing greenbacks in order to pay for the war. So, that was a huge crisis for the country. Then there was another crisis in World War II where the government's debt inflated massively against the size of GDP. And again, there was an existential crisis for the country and it came after the Depression. So, we coupled the Depression and World War II as a second great crisis. And both of those were also historical and demographic. But since our beat here is money, we're always focused on following the money. And typically when the money goes, everything else goes. So, when we were talking about it in Baltimore, Bill said, "Look, the trends are pretty unequivocal." We look at government debt to GDP. We looked at the inflation figures, which have just gotten worse since then.

And we look at the length of the current monetary regime, which started in 1971 when the Fed, Richard Nixon, decoupled gold from the dollar. This is now the greatest financial crisis in American history. We don't know how long it'll last, whether it'll be something like the 1930s or whether it will be something more volatile and violent, but let's not be afraid to call it what it is. So, that really focused our minds and energies on, "Well, what can we do now to prepare for that and to help readers get through it unscathed?"

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Joel Bowman:
Right. So, we're now, this year, actually, you mentioned 1971, where exactly half a century into this monetary experiment. And I think people are getting a sense that things are starting to unravel. The kind of things that you and Bill and Tom have been writing about for the past couple of decades are really now coming to the fore. And we're seeing what previously would've been headlines in fringy, alternative news outlets starting to hit the mainstream papers. So, I think people are really starting to wake up to what's going on around them. So, this brings us to, why this new project? Why have we chosen this particular outlet affording us the independence to speak directly to readers? Do you want to speak a little bit to that about Bonner's new project and how we're all involved in that?

Dan Denning:
Sure. I think when we had our discussion we just thought, "It's a really serious moment for anyone who's retired or at or near retirement age." If you already have a lot of money invested in both the housing market and the stock market, typically we don't like to lose that money. So, for a long time, since Bill and I have been collaborating, especially since the Bonner-Denning Letter started almost five years ago, the main investment goal was not to lose money. And the main investor that we were speaking to was someone who may be doing other things with their money, but also wanted someone who looking at for what the big risks were. And so we wanted to be able to just focus on that message without any interference, not interference, really, but without any distractions, because it's not only a full-time job to try to understand this stuff and then make the right moves with your money, but it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

We think that this is something that may play out over the next decade or so. So, what we really wanted was a way to talk to and write to readers who are interested in help in that problem, where we could write to them as often as we'd like, where we could sometimes talk to them this way, or they could engage with us on message boards. And also, they could do it in an ad-free environment. This is the only thing we're doing now, and so we can focus on it 100% and they're not going to receive any other ads for anything else, which to some readers that helps them focus on what's going on as well.

So, we looked around for a platform. There's a lot of interesting digital platforms where you can express yourself without getting canceled, hopefully, and we thought this was a really good self-publishing platform. A little bit different than what we've worked with in the past. But as Bill mentioned, the world is changing and we thought, "Well, let's change with it and try something to see if it's a better service for the readers that are interested in our message."

Joel Bowman:
Right. So, you and I have been having conversations much like this for the past, going on maybe a year or so now. And we've touched on a bunch of different topics that seemed to us, at the time, very relevant. We couldn't have known, of course, how relevant they would become. And I'm talking, of course, about all of the trends that have been accelerated during this past year, whether it be with regards to government indebtedness or surveillance, or our ability or rather inability to travel freely, to protect our money against the inflationary whims of central bankers, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. This medium, us being able to speak directly to our readers, is something that's going to change our relationship with our readers. Do you want to take a look under the hood and maybe explain to readers and listeners now how this is going to be different and maybe a little bit of what exactly they can expect going forward with regards to specifics of subscriptions and such?

Dan Denning:
Sure. Yeah. That's a good question. And I'll just tell a quick backstory. I first started working with Bill in 1997, but I was in France before I'd moved to France permanently in 2002. I was there in the August and September of 2001. I was there with some other colleagues and we had retreated to Bill's house to try to figure out what was going on in the world. And of course we were all in the Paris office on September 11th, and we didn't see what had happened until later. We heard it on the radio, but the media world was different back then. So, the fortunate thing, which was very small in the context of what was going on, is that we were in the same place and we had a chance to spend some time thinking about what it might mean for a lot of things, not just financial markets, but for the universe of issues that we concern ourselves with: money, history, markets.

So, a similar thing happened in late 2019 when Bill and I were in Baltimore and we started hearing about this virus from China and what was going on. And then of course, I ended up shortly thereafter... Tom was with us at that time as well. And then we all spread to the four corners of the earth. Bill got trapped in Argentina. I got trapped in Australia. And I don't know where Tom was at the time. He was somewhere in America on the road or something.

Joel Bowman:
Might been up in Canada or something. Yeah.

Dan Denning:
Yeah, yeah. But we started doing things like this. We knew we needed to talk about what was going on. And we were having private conversations about what this meant for investors. So, as you remember, in March of 2020, the S&P 500 fell 35% in 23 days. And since then the rally has been considerable. So, everything that was happening in the world started happening a lot faster. We needed a way to talk about it amongst each other so we could better advise the readers what was going on. So, we started having a lot more private conversations, not only amongst ourselves, but with you and with people we'd known for a long time, like Verne Gowdie down in Australia, Tim Price and Charlie Morris in the UK, and then Rick Rule, Byron King, Chris Mayer, Ronan McMahon. Just people Bill has known and relied on for a long time to help him figure stuff out.

And so we thought, we've been doing that really since 2020, and in the last six or eight months we thought, "Well, maybe that's what we should be doing for everyone. Maybe that should be available to all of our colleagues and readers that we've met all over the world all these years past." So, we decided to do it. Now, what it means is it's really not going to change much if you were already an existing reader of the Bonner-Denning Letter or Tom Dyson's Portfolio or Bill's Diary, except you're going to get all that work in one place now, instead of having to subscribe to multiple things that come out at different times. What you'll end up getting is you'll end up getting an email from Bill every day, which is his Diary. It used to be the Daily Reckoning. You'll end up getting, if you're a free reader, you'll get a summary of everything at the end of the week which, Joel, you're going to prepare so people can see what's going on behind the scenes if they're busy and they don't always have time to read every day. And then for-

Joel Bowman:
Yeah. It's a kind of digest.

Dan Denning:
Yeah, that's right. It's a little more convenient for people to keep up with everything that we've published. And then for readers who are paying subscribers, I'll continue to provide what I've been providing to readers of the Bonner-Denning Letter, which is just a review of any important events that happened that week that might affect either our long-term strategy or, and and this will be a bit different, our shorter term strategy. And that's because Tom, the work that he used to be doing for his Portfolio readers, will now be doing in this place with Bill and I. So, Tom's work is a little bit more tactical. There are a few more trades involved. And by trades, I don't mean day trading. I mean, things that he has spotted in his research, like the tanker trade that he made and obviously the Dow gold ratio. That's going to be what he's focusing on. So, in the weekly updates you'll get anything related to Tom's individual trades.

And then you'll get a monthly research report, which is a collaboration amongst all of us, which focuses on our best ideas. And it tends to be a weightier, more thoughtful piece that you can print out, sit down and read. And that's a lot like the Bonner-Denning Letter, except now it's going to be called Bonner Private Research. Tom has accepted the role of being our investment director. I'm going to be the managing editor. And my job is to continue my work on the macro themes, but to also bring in the work of people that I mentioned before, like Chris Mayer and maybe Byron King from time to time, and anybody else who we know, like Rick, who has interesting things to say and wants to share them with you. So, you'll be getting daily, weekly, and monthly research. And then from time to time, hopefully even before Christmas, we'll be doing something like this, where you get to engage and talk back and ask questions. And it's more of a conversation or a dialogue rather than a monologue.

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Joel Bowman:
Right. All right. So, lots of new stuff to look forward to. I feel like this might be just the right time for this. I mean, were we to have this exact conversation a couple of years ago in the pre z-Zoom era or the pre-work-at-home era, some of this might have seemed a little different. But as you say, the world's changing. Platforms are adapting. The way that we best reach our readers and our listeners is changing. So, there's a whole host of new ways that we're going to be able to engage and people will be able to choose a level of engagement that best suits their needs. So, on that point, I wonder if there might be people asking, "Hey, is this for me? Do I need to be a pro investor? Maybe I'm just somebody concerned about what I see on the headlines." Who in particular is this for? Do you want to speak a little bit to that perhaps?

Dan Denning:
Yeah, I can try. And in fact, this is the interesting thing. If you've ever owned a small business or started a business, or I guess really worked in any enterprise whatsoever, small group dynamics are funny. People all have their own idea of how things should be. And so I think one of the things new subscribers should expect is that we kind of have an idea of what we're trying to do in terms of... Well, we definitely know the problem we're trying to solve, but the division of labor and how we work together, those things are evolving. And one of the issues we'll have is, who are we writing for? So, for example, I know that Bill and Tom write to currently hundreds of thousands of people who don't consider themselves investors, but they enjoy reading about the world. They enjoy Bill's perspective on financial markets. I know a lot of people are completely fascinated with Tom's journey with his family, with his personal story, with his getting back together with Kate, and of course, with the homeschooling of their kids.

So, we don't want to lose that because we're real people too, and we all have real lives. And some of the things that we're doing in our own lives are interesting to our readers. But I would say that the focus will probably shift more work towards investors. So, if you are a saver, if you are a retiree, if you're on a fixed income, if you're interested in buying a house or selling a house, these are huge financial decisions. And if you're at that point in your investment journey where you're trying to preserve the value of the assets you've accumulated, that's mostly our audience. So, those are mostly the things we're going to be writing about. And so a lot of the work that we're going to be doing now is for investors, and therefore you're going to have to pay for that work. But Bill's also made a career out of not being too adamantine about how he wants to do things. He likes to let things evolve. So, he wants to continue to write for free every day.

People who want to read that, even if they don't necessarily invest, will want to subscribe to what we're doing. So, we're going to try to create a subscription option where you can read all of the research at a reasonable price, but also make it possible to continue to read, if you're just interested in Bill's analysis of what's going on in America. Because it's funny, it's lighthearted, it's not as serious. It doesn't mean it's not sophisticated, but Bill has this incredible talent of making complex things sound interesting and finding the humor in them. And I think that's important as well for people, that we don't want to just write about problems that are not solvable. We want to try and solve them. And occasionally we want people to remember, "You're not in this alone and sometimes there's even funny things that happen." So, that's how we're going to try it going forward.

Joel Bowman:
Yeah. Something tells me we're going to need, as much as anything, a sense of humor over the months and years that are waiting ahead of us. So, definitely stay on board for that. And I wanted to just ask very quickly if people are just joining us now for the first time and maybe they want to get other people, their friends or family, their loved ones involved, they want to sign them up, they can share links to our free resources and there'll be no problem with sharing our stuff around and inviting other people on board. That's correct?

Dan Denning:

Yeah, that's right. And this will be strange for people who've been with us for a long time because we're used to being part of larger organizations that we've built or joined and they have substantial resources to create large archives and libraries of introductory material. And there's lots of resources available, including customer service and phone numbers. This is very much a startup. And I know it sounds strange to hear that coming from people who've been in the publishing industry for, in Bill's case, 40 years, and in Tom and I's case, 25 years almost, but it's really a four man band right now. It's you, me, Tom and Bill. We're doing everything ourselves. And so the reason we picked the platform we picked is that they could do the payment processing and all we're going to do is write to you.

So please, when you go to those construction sites and it says, "Please excuse our dust. We're trying to improve things," we're building everything from scratch here. And if we had waited to have everything built out so that it was a brand new, shiny, gleaming, perfectly functioning thing, we would've waited too long. We thought it was more important to start now and just focus on the important stuff, which is the ideas, the investment research and getting those to readers on a regular basis. But if you think it's interesting to you and you want to share it, the only social media we have right now is Twitter. So, if you want to follow us on Twitter, it's @bonnerprivate. Otherwise, if you want to keep hearing what we have to say, then you can either sign up for the free email, which doesn't cost anything, and that gives you what Bill says every day and that weekly update from you, Joel.

And then if you want to pay 10 bucks a month or 100 bucks a year, that gives you a subscription with all the research. That's it so far. And it really is paired back. There's no fancy website. There's no username or password to log in. Substack handles all of your login for you. So, I know there'll be a few bumps in the road and I know people will have some questions on how things are going to work. We'll try to get to them as quickly as we can, but be as patient as possible with us, since it's just the four of us. Which really, because Bill's in Ireland and Tom is on the road, means it's just you and me. And you have a daughter and a wife, so it means it's just me. So, I will do my best as quickly as I can, I promise.

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Joel Bowman:
Right on. Well, having worked with you on and off over the years, Dan, I know our readers and listeners are in good hands. And really, this is all part of the adventure too. Because as the old motto, "Ready, fire, aim," goes, we're going to be learning by the seat of our pants. But one thing that it does mean is that we're going to be able to be nimble and dynamic and responsive, which I think is very key in the kind of world that we live in today, where things are changing week by week, month by month.

For anybody who had travel plans interrupted over the last year or budgets that they had to recalibrate because of price differences or market action or what have you, we'll be able to hopefully stay on top of all that with conversations like this and plenty more. But I think, mate, that probably does it for a bit of an introduction to our new readers. Please spread the word. Get other people involved and on board. And we look forward to talking to you again soon. Dan, thanks for chiming in from Wyoming today, mate. Good to talk to you.

Dan Denning:
Yeah. Thanks, Joel. One last thing real quick just so people, whenever they're listening to this... Our first monthly issue will be in January. Tom is headed back to London. He's made the decision to hunker down there for a while with the kids who got their passport from the home office. So, the first monthly report will be in January. We're going to start publishing Bill's daily emails in late December, and I'll start putting out weekly updates this weekend. So, if you're just joining us, that's what you can expect in the coming days. There's always a little bit of a lull in the holidays, which should help us work out any of our technical issues. But on a personal note, I just want to thank everyone who's decided to join us. It's really exciting to be involved with it again. It's always a little intimidating when you're not quite sure what it looks like, but off we go.

Joel Bowman:
All right, mate. Tally ho. For readers who are just joining, there's a whole bunch of archives on the website of old podcasts and things that we've had over the last couple of years or the last couple of months. You'll get a little bit of a look in to some of the other personalities that will be joining us along the way. Dan mentioned a few of them at the top of the episode. So, have a look through there, and look out in your inbox for future communications. Thanks a lot, and talk to you again soon.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Bonner Private Research Podcast. You can find more conversations like this in the members only section of our website. We look forward to hearing from you either way. Until next week.