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The "Common" We
An inquiry into the origins and nature of the everyman...
Joel Bowman, reckoning today from Buenos Aires, Argentina…
“No puedo aceptar estos billetes,” the young woman behind the plexiglass informed us, holding our derelict $100 bills up to the light. “Estan mercados... they’re marked.”
Your editor was on his routine trip to the local cueva (literally: cave) – a currency exchange which trades US dollars for pesos at the blue market rate (that is to say, the “black,” “unofficial” or “free” market rate, depending on your personal stance toward government capital controls).
Apparently, a few of our otherwise-crisp Benjamins had suffered some minor abrasions on the journey south from the Land of the Free. The attendant – a fresh face we didn’t recognize – would exchange them... but only at a steep discount. What to do?
As Bill mentioned in his “monetary memento mori” column on Friday, all government monies eventually pass from the realm of the living... to the great fiat inferno in the hereafter.
Some – like the Zim dollar, the German Papiermark and the French assingnat (about which, more tomorrow) – go gently into that good night, barely putting up any resistance at all. Others, stubborn and persistent, rage against the dying of the light.
All succumb, eventually.
The Argentine peso belongs squarely to the former category... spineless, slack-jawed and slinking into the afterworld with all the grace and poise of a climber falling from a burning rope.
When we first visited the Paris of the South, a dozen years ago, the local currency was trading for between 3-4 pesos to the dollar. By the beginning of this year, it had fallen to 200-to-1. Within the first weeks of January, it plunged to 210... then 220...
The smell of scorched nylon in our nostrils, we marshaled our greenbacks and made for the exchange.
“No te preocupes,” (no worries) said we, in our Aussie-accented Spanish. We would sell our jilted USD elsewhere. Visibly disgruntled, the new clerk took the remaining bills and disappeared into the counting room out back.
Wondering how many wheelbarrows were needed to make a daily peso delivery to the “cave,” we were surprised by a familiar face which popped up behind the glass.
“Don’t worry about the new girl,” la dueña de la casa (owner) apologized in her eager, chipper English. “She will learn. Meantime, we take your dollars. We take any dollars we can get.”
Within minutes, our regular trader was back with a hefty brick of bright orange, 1,000 peso bills (worth less than $5 a piece... or enough to buy a milanesa con pure at the corner cafe for lunch, copa de Malbec incluida).
Ed. Note: Might we see capital controls, parallel rates and black market “currency caves” in America’s future? It’s a daily reality here already. And with inflation in the US running at a 40-yr high and the great fiat inferno beckoning, anything’s possible. At the very least, it may prove prudent to get your hands on some of history’s best-tested inflation hedge in the meantime. BPR Investment Director, Tom Dyson, will be updating his Gold Report for paid readers next Wednesday. You can sign up for a couple of rapidly-depreciating dollars/week, here…
And now, over to Bill for a special weekend reckoning…
Delusions of Grandeur… Or Cloak of Modesty?
By Bill Bonner
On Monday we received a familiar letter from a new reader. And since we have so many new readers here at our new project, we thought it would be helpful to answer it again, lest you think we are full of ourselves.
Here’s the question, from reader Patrick Neff:
Hello Bill. Please tell us again why you write as We instead as I .
We’ll try! And please be advised there is nothing in today’s essay of any urgency. But we you an explanation. And we want you to understand that no matter how pompous we may sound at first, it’s the common man we’re for.
The Queen uses the “royal we” to signify that she is not speaking for herself, but for the Crown… an institution that was around for hundreds of years before she was born and will, presumably, outlast her by hundreds more.
Here at the Diary, we do not use the “royal” we. We use the “common” we… a plebeian, down-market, gutter kind of we, with no pretension to grandeur, nor even mediocrity.
For here we are, writing from a house we didn’t build… in a country that is not ours… wearing clothes we didn’t design… looking out on rain we didn’t cause…
…and passing along ideas that are not original. Even when we think we have had a new idea, we discover later that someone had the same idea 2,000 years ago.
Not one molecule in our body, thought in our brain, or feeling in our heart is of our own making. It would be vanity to use first-person singular; there is nothing singular about who we are or what we do.
No, we have neither scepter nor orb; all we have is a laptop computer.
We wear no royal purple. We favor brown and gray. We dress in dull colors so we may think in vivid ones.
We have no throne, no influence, no privilege, no position, and no armed guards to protect us.
We speak not for the Crown, but for all those common people who try to put two and two together…
And we use “we” to recognize all those real thinkers whose ideas we have dragooned into our service…
…all those tortured poets whose songs we have misunderstood and misused…
…all those clever people whose insights we have purloined and presented as if they were our own…
…all those scientists, statisticians, and economists whose numbers we have hijacked and abused…
…and all those generations that have come before us and – by bad luck, bad manners, and bad judgment – learned painful lessons so we might be spared from learning them again…
“We” speak for them all – as best as we can.
Time and Love
As time passes, the conceits of youth… the illusion of timelessness… the passions and competitions – to have the biggest bank account, the biggest car, the biggest house, the biggest muscles, and the biggest you-know-what – all get dropped along the way, like discarded pianos on the Oregon Trail.
All that is left is the shriveled up, naked reality… of time, love… and death.
And “I”? Does it matter what “I” do? What “I” want? “I” am too small… too nothing… too ephemeral. “I” am here, but “I” will be gone soon… in a flash, vanished, like a lost civilization or a forgotten language. Not even I care what “I” think.
So let us at least speak for a group… not of royals, but of commoners… and use “we” in sympathy with all those sinners, geniuses, half-wits, saints, and jackasses that came before and will come after us…
Those who will delight in Heaven for reasons we will never understand… or cry in Hell for all eternity because they forgot to fill out their census form.
Yes, let us speak for all those who feel most intensely and horribly the vacant truth…
They are as meaningless as we are.
Ed. Note: If you feel like sharing the modest meditations contained in these here pages, please feel free to do so. “I,” “they,” “he” or “she”… we welcome all comers at Bonner Private Research, saints and sinners alike…
Now over to Tom Dyson, checking in from Chiswick, London…
My family and I are a homeschool family. We’ve just arrived in London, where we’re going to spend the next few months making friends, getting active in the local community, and educating ourselves.
We’re staying at my late mother’s beautiful townhouse in Chiswick, which we just inherited (along with my brother who lives in Canada.)
Life is good here.
We tested positive for Covid the day we arrived in London, so we cut ourselves off from the rest of the world for two weeks. And then, we found we were quite comfortable living like that, and so we’ve remained in our family cave, hardly going outside.
Here’s Penny making banana bread this morning.
As for me, I have a desk, a computer, a printer, two financial newspaper subscriptions, a public library nearby, a bicycle to get me there, and a pile of great books around me…
… and I’m together with my family 24/7.
My idea of paradise.
BTW… Did you catch this week’s “golden thread?”
Earlier this week we hosted an open “thread” discussion with Investment Director Tom Dyson. (You can read the entire thread here) The question at hand: Which is more likely to occur first, Gold $10,000 or Dow 10,000?
As you might imagine, the ensuing conversation was lively and insightful. Literally thousands of Dear Readers tuned in for the event, with more than a hundred comments on everything from the Buffett Indicator to Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) to Wall Street manipulation.
There were, as you would expect, a couple of technical difficulties (we’re new to this platform, too!) but it was a lot of fun nonetheless and we’ll likely try another one soon.
For those paid readers keeping track at home, Tom has gone practically “all in” on his Gold/Dow trade, betting that stocks will become much cheaper (priced in gold) in the future. Tom will be publishing his Gold Report in next Wednesday’s weekly letter to subscribers. You can join them, here…
And now to Bill Bonner’s missives from the past week...
We have farms in France, the US, Nicaragua and Argentina. None were bought as serious farm investments (although… we had hopes!) We lose money on all of them. Is this a good idea? Probably not. Each one makes us poorer.
Here’s an old Diary Dictum: tomorrow doesn’t always bring the future you want or expect; more often, it brings the future you deserve.
This week we are wondering about the connection. Without yesterday, today wouldn’t be the same. And when we climb onto the bathroom scales tomorrow, is it today’s pudding the needle will detect?
When we left you yesterday, we were just doing a little simple math. What we discovered was that it was impossible to refinance America’s enormous debt at anything approaching ‘normal’ interest rates.
One of the problems with new forms of money is that tomorrow they are gone. You open your eyes, and they’re not there anymore. Hundreds – thousands – of new currencies have been born over the years. Now, they’re almost all dead.
Finally, look out tomorrow for The Sunday Sesh!
“Fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly. And writers gotta keep on writing.”
So observes Bill Bonner, a man who for decades has filed his daily columns “with the happy nonchalance of a chicken laying an egg.” (Those of us who enjoy his wisdom might think of these missives more like golden eggs… but the point stands.)
Neither especially piscine nor avian by nature, your weekend editor is nevertheless an avid student of the written word. And with all that’s going on in the world today, there’s certainly no shortage of subject matter over which to muse and reckon.
Enter “The Sunday Sesh.” A space to pull up a chair, scratch our graying whiskers and try to make sense of the delightful discord swirling around us.
In our native Australia - a country we left more than 20 years ago - the “Sunday Sesh” (antipodean slang for “Session”) refers to that unhurried stretch at your local watering hole of a weekend with friends, when you reflect on the events of the week gone by... and prepare for what’s ahead.
As befitting the proper tenor of barroom talk, we’ll touch on third-rail topics with all the naïve enthusiasm of a man who finds himself in the company of good mates. And unlike the prevailing, censorial impulse of the day, we’ll attempt to shine some light on subject matter that otherwise thrives in the shadows.
We’ll also use this mailing to preview our Fatal Conceits podcast, a show about money, markets, mobs and manias. In tomorrow’s episode, we catch up with Tom Dyson to talk about inflation volatility, old economy value plays, and what he sees ahead for his role as BPR investment director.
Tune in tomorrow for your first Sunday Sesh.
P.S. Someone you’d like to invite to the pub for a Sunday Sesh? Easy. Get ‘em on board by sharing today’s article, here…