with the market now down 270 pts, this seems like a good time to tackle this subject ... as faithful readers can appreciate, I have shorted and shorted this market over the past several years and been burned pretty badly, finally reaching the point where I simply could not afford to do so any longer ... and I am quite certain that numbers of other folk find themselves in very similar circumstances ... the market, as always, hurts the most number of people; now that most shorts have finally capitulated the market can collapse ....
I read web site after blogs, etc on the subject of what money is and what wealth is and is gold money and so forth, all the time. Though I'm just a bit player I think I have a few noteworthy ideas to add to the conversation. Here is one example:
Most of these discussions represent "money" as being a storehouse of wealth,
in much the same way that a gallon of gasoline is a storehouse of energy.
Discussions of gold do not generally raise this point, but it takes a huge amount of human labor to raise and refine every new ounce of gold coming out of the ground ... in fact, 99% of all the physical gold now available for trading is "old gold",
the amount of new gold produced each year is trivial in comparison with what's already been extracted, refined, and stored for safekeeping.
Other discussions get into the subject of "symbol versus substance". I could devote numbers of blog entries to that subject but I don't. There seem to be a whole lot of people who just don't "get" this distinction. I tend to think that my own people in my own time are particularly foolish in this but I could be biased. Certainly authors ever since antiquity have railed at those who don't understand the difference. Obviously a piece of paper, or worse, a digital entry on a ferro-magnetic hard drive is not an item of substance but only a symbol for wealth ... and people can change their general opinion about the meaning and value of a symbol, sometimes very, very quickly.
So what I want to add to the discussion is a reckoning of some of the items which I count as making up my personal wealth, some items which are not generally discussed in any of these pontificating discussions. I suppose that they are not discussed because none of these additional items are fungible. They cannot be duplicated and they cannot be traded. However, these non-tradable items constitute the vast majority of what I consider to be my net worth.
To start off, very simplistically, I wish to enumerate a pair of 34-D's.
I don't actually "own" them, legally I am technically "married" to the owner,
but that can change. I list them because I have experienced them, and much much more, for the person who sports them is one of the sharpest and most cunning, most versatile and flexible, and when she chooses to be, one of the sweetest and most affectionate human beings that I have ever had the honor of knowing. I count myself as being very, very rich to have had the experiences that I have had with her and to know that whatever happens between us she will always respect me as the one who rescued her and effectively gave her life.
priceless, it goes without saying.
Next, I wish to relate a parable that I hear some years ago and began to apply in my own life, and the more I apply it the more wealth I believe I accumulate.
Again, not tradable.
A banker, recently completing a multibillion-dololar deal, finds himself lying in bed that night still in angst and actually praying to God for some answers.
The archangel Urial hears his plea and actually responds... he brings him above and he explains to him that he is going to show him two rooms, one of which happens to be a room in heaven and the other is a room in hell.
Without saying which he wants to show first, the archangel leads the banker to a door and opens it. Inside, he sees a very large, round table. Around it are seated a large number of people. the banker can see that the people are hungry and very, very unhappy. In the very middle of the table, there is a depression and set inside of it is a large round bowl of savory soup ... there are large chunks of meat, and potatoes, vegetables, and a wonderful aroma fills the entire room.
The table is so large that the people seated at the table cannot reach the soup with their free hands. However, on one forearm, every single person there has had fastened securely to it a very long, large spoon. each person is quite able to reach the soup with the spoon and pick up a good spoonful of the tangy, inviting repast. However, this does them no good at all, because the spoon is too long for them to then be able to reach their mouths. So the people all sit around as despondent as Tantalus and misery prevails.
Then, the archangel closes that door and opens a different door to show the banker.
Low and behold, the second scene is very like the first. Here is the same large round table, the same folk seated around it, the same tureen of soup in the middle, and even the very same spoons. but, but, but ... here, everyone is laughing, everyone is happy and telling stories and talking and enjoying one another; the atmosphere is totally different. After watching for a minute or two the banker suddenly understand why: each person is able to fill his spoon and then reach over to feed his neighbor! By feeding each other, all of the people take care of each other and everyone is fed as much as they desire!
The banker came to understand where his angst came from and what he could do about it, and he went forth the next day and began to change his life.
(Most bankers are never so fortunate(!!!!!)
Here is a shorter version of the same parable, in a proverb:
The best place, the very best place to store your wealth, is in your neighbor's stomach.
Obviously, neither paper money, nor digital money, nor stock certificates, nor even gold coins, are fit for your neighbor's stomach. but all of them, even the gold, can lose their value in the sight of those you trade with and deal with to supply your needs.
So I count my friends and the people I deal with regularly as a part of my wealth, a big part. I attempt to take care of them as best that I can. Its not always food, there are numerous other "gifts" that I have that I can share with them, some of them unique to me. Sometimes confidence and firmness are asked for, too, though I am known as kind and generous, people who try to take advantage of me eventually come to think better of it.
If our government collapses, there is no finer storehouse for what I have than with my friends, no better protection, no better chance of our mutual survival. Many of the doomsday predictions going around, such as James Kunstler painst so vividly, point out that few will survive when the electric grid and the gasoline stations go down ... the anarchy will be beyond our imagining ... still, the best chances we all have is to be known widely as a trusted friend.
Related to that is another set of items wherein I have accumulated a great deal of wealth, what I consider to be far beyond most of the people I relate with and also those I read about ... my skillset. I have always had a natural curiosity about this world and a certain naivety about anything I have not yet encountered harm from. As a consequence I have got my fingers into quite a lot of different activities and disciplines. The sum is one of the most eclectic set of skillsets and knowledge that I know of, the quintessential "renaissance man". True there is a great deal that I do not know. But I am a passing plumber, electrician, structural engineer, designer. I can do all things with wood, cut, gather, split, burn it, make fine furniture or art, marquetry, dressers, tables, sculptures. I understand the basics of computers, something woefully lacking among our young people today,
I have built a simple electronic counting machine with wires and resistors, transistors, capacitors. I understand binary ....
scuse me. one of my favorite jokes:
There are 10 kinds of people in this world. Those who understand the binary number system,
and those who don't ....
I can count on my fingers up to 1023 and I can do it while talking with someone
or other similar mental activity. I understand that a computer is nothing more than a bucket of on-off switches connected with a system of relays which do exactly, exactly, what they are told to do with no deviation or motivation whatsoever.
That's a pretty valuable (and rare!) concept, these days.
In my day I have coded in Fortran, Cobol, C, HTML, XSLT, and other languages and could do it again in a pinch.
Navigating ... sine qua non. I've been around the world, canoe, bicycle, hitchhike, fly, drive, camel... am not afraid to go anywhere ... not the Pentagon library, nor the monasteries on the isles of Lake T'ana, nor the girls rooms in my junior high school ... I don't use GPS because God gave me a much better one than that. So far, the power has never failed on mine. never.
For many years God has protected me and showered me with wealth beyond imagining,
everything that I have wanted, save for a few select things that He knew better about ....
I hope this adds to the discussion about what money is, and isn't ....