Archive for the ‘Individualism’ Category

Gold Trends Analysis

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Gold Medium Term and Resistance Line
Long Term Trend ~ Neutral since 4/12/13 @ 1501 ~ Moving averages 1560 – 1561
Medium Term Trend ~ Bearish since 4/5/13 @ 1575 ~ Moving averages 1321 – 1370

From a medium term perspective, as long as price is below the UPPER RED LINE near and below the moving averages, the overall medium term trend is still down. We need a close above the moving averages in order to neutralize the downtrend and take it out of bearish mode. The moving averages have now come down to 1321-1370 as we enter this week.

The potential for the year end to be another low cycle has not been eliminated.   We’ve got to get above the averages and the red line in order to become more favorable towards the medium term.  Last week we lost the 1220-1222 area and came within 8 dollars of our target (1180) if broken.

If you look at the end of 2008 you see that the green channel line was broken right at the crash low.

If the lines do break the June lows on the downside the next support is the dotted line near 1100 and then the 1000-1040 area where the white line crosses.   The key for gold is for price to get back above 1370 on a weekly basis for the medium term trend to get out of this bearish mode.  Support is getting thin as we’re at the weekly trend lines.  The June lows can still be taken out if those lines give way but there is a weekly support at 1172 on a Friday close basis that would be the next point to watch for support before the line near 1000 on the chart comes into play.

Gold Trends Analysis

Gold Trends Analysis

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Monday, April 29th, 2013

livre3DReview by Mark Rogers

Gold, A Different Point of View by Paul McGowan

With a Preface by Bill Bonner

Published by Ferrington in association with

Following the drop in the price of gold a few weeks ago, record sales of gold coins were reported (see here, and here for a rise in its price). The publication of this little book is therefore timely and pertinent.

There may be many people who would like to hold some gold but are dissuaded by the thought of large and expensive ingots. But bullion is not the only way in which to invest in or purchase gold. Yet as the author states: “Gold is not just ingots. The common response to gold is that it is only for the wealthy: those heavy bars, alluring though they may be, are simply unaffordable.”

This book argues that this view of gold is misguided and misinformed: there are affordable routes to investment in gold.

Although short the book contains a wealth of information. There is an introductory chapter giving a brief history of gold’s 6,000 history, which includes its denigration by politicians and academics in the twentieth century; Keynes for example thought it a “barbarian relic”. Proudhon, Marx, Lenin, Hitler all denigrated it, and to this day it troubles the likes of Ben Bernanke and George Soros.

Gold’s function as a stabiliser of value and its use over time as actual currency coin in circulation suggest that gold is today an alternative currency, and this first chapter ends with a comparison of gold with modern economies, noting that the latter are not working, while attempts to remonetize gold are afoot in, for example, Utah.

There is also discussion of the vexed problem of clean extraction with some useful information about the certificating process that reassures investors that their gold has been mined under the highest standards.

Chapter Two, “Gold, the last bastion of individual freedom”, examines the role that gold may play in hedging one’s investment portfolio, as well as its potential as a regulating device, controlling the whims of politicians and central bankers. This chapter contains a concise guide to the problems of paper currency unsecured against tangible value, with the inevitable consequence that savings are eroded and destroyed and more and more paper is required to purchase fewer and fewer goods. In other words, paper currencies are a direct attack on people’s individual control of their lives, rendering it harder and harder for them to provide for themselves, their families and their futures. We have been here so many times in history, with the latest example being the eurocrisis, that it is nothing short of scandalous that the political and academic classes cannot see the lessons to be so plainly learned.

Gold on the other hand “observes a constancy. With one ounce of gold you can almost buy today the same quantity of basic goods as at the time of the Roman Empire or Egyptian civilization. Inder the Pharaoh Tutmosis III, one needed the equivalent of 2 ounces of gold to buy an ox. Today, 2.5 ounces would be needed. Inflation has been rather weak in 4,000 years!”

This is a salutary reminder of gold’s stabilising power, which is just the very thing that the modern politician resents about it.

A strong bullish potential

The importance of gold in the contemporary world is underlined by an examination of those countries which invest heavily in it, both at the national as well as the individual level. Russia, China and India are at the forefront of this investment, with others, such as Vietnam, making significant moves in this direction. There is a useful digest of information about these countries, the role gold has traditionally played in them and how they are managing their portfolios at present. This analysis clearly establishes trends which are not going to vanish: China indeed buys enormous quantities of it, even though she also produces it.

These markets ought to assure the potential gold investor that while prices do indeed fluctuate, bullish potential is always there in gold, and has been for most of human history. Any falls in the market have identifiable causes – for example, the wedding season in India sees a rise in prices. Indeed, this analysis is testimony to the fact that we have had 6,000 years to observe people’s behaviour with gold and make it one of the easiest assets to manage.

An Investment Portfolio

Nevertheless, the author does not argue that gold should be the sole asset in one’s portfolio, far from it. Instead it should be looked on as the preserver of a portfolio’s value, that depending on the scale of one’s other investments a relevant proportion should always be kept in gold to support the rest of the portfolio.

There is a very useful chapter on investments other than gold, such as arable land and forestry, fine art and fine wines. These all have valuable potential (after all, we all need to eat), but each has significant drawbacks which are clearly and carefully spelled out. Gold’s position as being free of such drawbacks means that it is essential to invest in it, as a hedge against the dormant disasters in the rest of one’s investments.

And gold enjoys an enormous potential over any other investment, including in things such as diamonds that might seem to share some of gold’s economic potential. Gold is superbly versatile. Cut a diamond, and much of it is waste; melt an ingot of gold, and you still have the same amount of gold.

Gold Coins

The heart of the book is in its last chapter which really gets down to brass tacks – or gold coins! Coins represent gold at its most versatile, allowing even those who do not have huge fortunes to start saving in gold. While one ingot is beyond the reach of most, a single coin, perhaps purchased at the rate of no more than one a year, is a realistic and feasible option.

The book contains a wealth of information on tax regimes; storage; what to do and what not to do in actually physically handling coins and how to transport them; what to look out for as enhancing a rare numismatic coin’s value and what depletes it – all fascinating information in itself, and eminently practical.

“If we had to state only three reasons to buy: gold is a recognized and accepted safe haven throughout the world, demand from the emerging countries is strong and the total demand over the mid to long term is reliably forecast as being higher than the supply.”

The book is available on Amazon in a Kindle version (price: £5.14). Those readers who would like the printed version, should send a cheque for £12.50 (includes p+p) made out to: Ferrington, and send it to: Ferrington, Bookseller & Publisher, 24 Shipton Street, London E2 7RU. The book is also available as Buy It Now on eBay.


Sunday, January 27th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

A recent story in the London Evening Standard announced that first time buyers are expected to stump up a £100,000 deposit. Thus, evermore young, first time buyers are being denied their place on the bottom rung of the housing ladder – or that is what at least it is usually called: edge of a bottomless abyss might be more accurate, and something from which they should be glad they have been saved!

A question that might at first blush seem curious: if there is a housing shortage, why are there so many estate agents? There are parts of London where they even cluster together. However, this is easily explained. Many of the properties on offer will not be unlived in – they will be the homes of people wanting to move for the sake of employment or retirement, and perhaps many more will have been put up for sale to realize their value, given that they were bought not merely to be lived in but primarily as an asset. The real explanation of the number of estate agents is that there are few buyers because most people, especially that class of “first time buyers” or rather would-be first time buyers, cannot afford the prices.

Estate agents earn their bread and butter from management fees for lettings: the houses for sale are the window dressing. Which is one among several factors that explain the high cost of housing: fees on sales are adjusted to take account of the length of time the house is on the estate agents’ books.

Another thing that the number of estate agents indicates in economic terms is the relative lack of information in the market: houses are expensive partly because there is no proper market in them, and therefore the information about what houses are worth – their prices – is limited. (See here, here and here for further discussion of the problem of the modern mortgage.)

Nevertheless, the modern fashion is to own – or at least to aspire to own. This is historically unprecedented. Most of the time, most people rented. Families who acquired houses, or who bought plots of land to build their own, usually did so towards the end of the pater familias’s career in upper middle class families who had acquired serious money. The house was then left to the children, so over time the number of people who owned their own homes increased, but slowly.

Why Rent?

Many families rented for their entire lives. And this in turn meant that there was a real market in housing, because renting meant that the market was flexible, price-sensitive and therefore price informative, and, crucially, not sodden with debt, i.e. a mortgage on your future which your income may never catch up with because of inflation.

Properties rented were owned in terms of the Common Law: what you were buying with your weekly or monthly rent was a lease with an almost full entitlement to property rights in respect of the inviolability of your privacy and the contents of the property that you brought into the house: landlords could not, for example, demand unilateral access while the current rent was paid in full, or demand that certain objects not to their taste were excluded. Landlords of course owned the property in the fullest sense of the term given that they had the right to sell it – but even this ultimate test of ownership was circumscribed by the rights of the resident tenants. So for the ultimate owner, the property represented two things: a current income, and a future saving.

The great advantage of renting was that the tenant’s obligations were contracted serially under the terms of the lease, which meant that, provided proper notice was given and dilapidations were duly paid for, the owner of the lease, i.e. the tenant, could leave the property at whim or out of the necessity of looking for work.

Leases were therefore one of the engines of a free and flexible economy. And they also have the advantage that they are a regular provider of price information.

One must wonder then if one of the reasons politicians are keen on promoting home ownership is that the modern mortgage is in fact a means of control over the home-owning population without the state actually having to nationalize their property…

In this context it should also be remembered that Victorian prosperity did, as mentioned above, mean a gradual increase in home ownership and homes therefore being left to descendants. However, the invention of inheritance tax in the late nineteenth century combined with modern inflation – which brackets houses into inheritance tax even though the residents’ incomes do not reflect that nominal, inflated value – have, all the while the politicians sing the virtues of home ownership, denied homes to an increasing number of inheritors.

And another problem arises with the so-called “homeless”. There are a lot of vendors of the Big Issue but they are not homeless: their hostel rooms or their flats are provided by the local authority and their rents are paid out as benefits by (and of course to) that same authority. The real homeless, the people who sleep on the streets, are either mentally disabled or young people who have fled home, in many cases state institutions. So once again in an economy dominated by the welfare state, it is all a matter of juggling with words, rather than material fact.

These considerations once again prompt reflections on what it is we really value and how that value is measured: as pointed out here, our money is not really money, and our mortgages are not real mortgages.

And once again, the question arises: when will this house of cards collapse? The eurocrisis is allowed to drift, quantitative easing underpins access to cash while piling up crisis for the next generation, politicians urge the banks to lend, and banks remain free of the consequences of moral hazard…

Readers curious as to why articles of this nature should be appearing on a gold investment website should read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

And for background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

And for a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES


Saturday, January 26th, 2013

They must be worse than blind who cannot see with what undeviating regularity of system, in this and in all cases, they pursue their scheme for the destruction of every independent power … The design is wicked, immoral, impious, oppressive: but it is spirited and daring. It is systematic; it is simple in its principle; it has unity and consistency in perfection. In that country entirely to cut off a branch of commerce, to extinguish a manufacture, to destroy the circulation of money, to violate credit, to suspend the course of agriculture … does not cost them a moment’s anxiety. To them the will, the wish, the want, the liberty, the toil, the blood of individuals is nothing. Individuality is left out of their scheme of Government. The state is all in all.

Letters on the Regicide Directory 1796

Quoted by Christopher Booker and Richard North as the epigraph to their book The Castle of Lies: Why Britain Must Get Out of Europe, Duckworth, London 1996

For an article by Mark Rogers on the cult of the state, click here.

Readers curious as to why articles of this nature should be appearing on a gold investment website should read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

And for background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

And for a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES


Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

By Mark Rogers

We have seen how the Deutsche Bank analysts who wrote Gold: Adjusting for Zero made a central place in their discussion for the Misean concept of human effort, and how an inflationary, fiat currency economy naturally destroys the value of effort. While at first glance it might seem odd to find such a discussion in an analysis of the feasibility of a return to the gold standard, it is precisely gold’s potential to act as a restraint on, a chastener of political ambitions, that returns the question of human effort to centre stage.

That is, of course, if you have humans in the first place who make that effort. This is so in both an absolute and a relative sense: there must be living humans capable of effort, and those living humans must want to make that effort.

In his important book America Alone, Mark Steyn analyses the western world’s contemporary woes in terms of demographics and makes the sobering observation that only America is breeding at replacement level. Elsewhere, the Spaniards are amongst the lowest in western Europe and the Russians are on an irrecoverable downward trend.

He squarely puts the blame on the welfare state, that “cosseted consumerism”, as the Deutsche Bank report puts it, that has replaced the individualism of free markets. And more to the point he makes clear what the source of this malaise is:

“Unchecked, government social programs are a security threat because they weaken the ultimate line of defence: the free-born citizen whose responsibilities are not subcontracted to the government.”

Readers curious as to why articles of this nature should be appearing on a gold investment website should read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

And for background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

And for a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES


Friday, January 11th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

Keynes was notorious for believing that savings, especially in a welfare state, were a form of selfishness. Alan Greenspan, quoted in the previous post, pointed out that: “The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves.”

The implications of that last remark are that everyone is depersonalised, for it surely applies to those who wish to be wealthy, to those who wish to fend for themselves whether they are particularly rich or not. People are no longer regarded as autonomous individuals, capable of taking responsibility for themselves and their families and friends. So Greenspan’s insight needs modification: that there be no way for anyone to protect themselves: the wealthy are assaulted in their wallets to subsidise the rest and the rest are subsidised to keep them docile: everyone loses out.

The slogan “the personal is political” is, like so many slogans, not merely obfuscatory – what does it really mean, or rather what purpose does it serve? – but, taken at its ostensible face value, is the opposite of the truth: politics is the impersonal, and the greater the state intrusion into ordinary life, the more impersonal it becomes. Government departments deal with aggregates, and in doing so must strip people of their individuality; the more a person or family relies upon the state, the less they are dealt with individually. It is statistics that are housed not humans, or as Jane Jacobs put it housing is thought of “as a collection of separate file drawers”.

The idea that owners of wealth should have no way of protecting themselves is overtly clear in the attacks upon individuals who have allegedly avoided paying taxes. Indeed, the entire taxation machinery of the modern Western welfare state is designed to reverse the traditional notion of accountability: it is we the citizens who must be called to account for ourselves, rather than that the state is held accountable to us. One result is the eurocrisis.

At the heart of this enormous problem lies a fallacy that Ronald Reagan drew attention to, and it goes a long way to explaining why crises such as those engulfing Europe are proving so hard to deal with: “If no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?”

Readers curious as to why articles of this nature should be appearing on a gold investment website should read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

And for background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

And for a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES


Friday, December 28th, 2012

By Mark Rogers

Globalization: what is it but an activity that is as old as civilization – simply a modern name for trade? Joseph Addison’s paean to its virtues stresses the civilizing effect it has, bringing together merchants from every clime and culture, who, in furthering their own mutual interests, enhance everything from landscape to palates to manners and morals.

So why is it scorned and despised by so many, especially in the rich west?

Martin Wolf in “Why Globalization Works” (first referenced here) provides a useful list summarising the attitudes of the anti-globalizers, the first three of which I will deal with in this article. His summary is an accurate one of these views, so equally accurately does he indicate their incoherence.

“The critics make the following more or less specific charges against market-driven globalization.

“It destroys the ability of states to regulate their national economies, raise taxes and spend money on public goods and social welfare.

“In the process, it undermines democracy, imposing in its place the rule of unaccountable bureaucrats, corporations and markets.

“It amounts to an abdication of power by benevolent democratic governments in favour of predatory private corporations.”

Underlying assumptions

The first thing to notice about these attitudes is the underlying assumption that the modern democratic state is benevolent and rational and that its primary function is the regulation of the economy in order to tax the productive and furnish what are laughably known as “public goods and social welfare”.

The second underlying assumption is that modern democracies are accountable, and that it is corporations and markets that somehow are not. On the contrary, the collapse of accountability is manifestly evident in the euro crisis and the concomitant collapse of the European project, yet far from behaving in a responsible, accountable manner, the politicians are desperately trying to cling onto their power and privileges.

In the U.K. we have seen how politicians brazenly justified their expenses, in the process demonstrating their ignorance of the legal system. In one of the more scandalous moments of that preposterous saga, when one of the overtly criminal M.P.s was on trial and facing the prospect of jail if convicted (which he duly was), more than one hundred M.P.s wrote the judge a letter to try and influence the outcome of that trial, pleading with the judge not to sentence him to prison. One simply does not do this to an English common law judge: he duly ignored them, but that it was possible for so large a number of M.P.s to bring themselves to behave in this way shows a sorry disregard for our constitution – but then, at least since the Second World War, that disregard has become increasingly the parliamentarians’ mode of proceeding.

Markets, on the other hand, are engines of accountability, through bankruptcies and competition. That we may not see those who run companies, and anonymity is largely how free societies function, they are nevertheless under the remorseless pressure of their customers and competitors to provide the goods and services desired.

State Worship

The most important thing about these assumptions is that they amount to an unquestioning assumption that the state is the proper director of human affairs, and that ordinary humans are not – the ordinary person is not trusted, and the greater his wealth, the less trustworthy he is deemed. This is a preposterous view, and a dangerous one. I have quoted before Paul Johnson’s dictum that the ability of the state to wreak great evil has been amply proved; whether it is capable of good is open to considerable doubt.

Take two recent stories in the press. I have dealt with the first already in several articles about tax avoidance, the latest twist to which is the transformation of a parliamentary committee, the Public Accounts Committee, which is meant to hold the government to account, the proper function of M.P.s, instead turning on taxpayers and in accusatory mode devising ways to hold the public to account. We had also earlier seen how H.M.R.C. was devising means to use schools to snoop on tax avoiders.

A yet more recent story of the government turning on the people is the revelation this week of a costly scheme to monitor every child taken to an A. & E. Department for signs that its parents are trying to hide evidence that it is being abused. The National Health Service, that is, is being turned into a Stasi-like instrument to intrude into family life. This gross violation of privacy is based on an illusion. After the prominent publicity given to the deaths of battered children such as Jasmine Beckford, Victoria Climbié and Baby P, public inquiries were held. In spite of the detailed evidence in the findings of specific neglect at best, malign acquiescence at worst, combined with ignorance and lack of care, on the part of the social workers, each inquiry came to the same conclusion: that there had not been sufficient sharing of information between the relevant branches of the state.

So now in the fullness of time, some bright spark in the government has seen how the NHS can be turned into an information gathering and disbursing scheme – entirely neglecting two essential facts: the male abusers of infants are not the children’s natural fathers (mothers may hide the evidence of abuse, but this is because they are either mentally deficient, as Baby P’s showed every sign of being, or simply scared) – this is common knowledge, but is routinely overlooked. The second is that a highly abused child is more likely to be imprisoned at home than be taken to hospital. When a social worker did manage to get Jasmine Beckford and her sister into hospital, the police were adamant that they should not be returned. The social worker over-ruled them, and the police acquiesced (why they didn’t take advantage of that hospitalization to arrest the step-father I have never understood).

There is ample evidence that when the state reaches a certain size, and has acquired powers of intrusion into daily life by nationalizing health and education, its functionaries become a coterie, acting in their own interests at the expense literal and figurative of the general public. That the state in this form should be trusted with our welfare is belied by history, the same history that shows the most dangerous religion ever invented is the cult of the state.

Re-inventing the wheel

The present writer indeed agrees with those who object that globalization “destroys the ability of states to regulate their national economies, raise taxes and spend money on public goods and social welfare” and hopes that destruction proceeds apace. To quote the American commentator Michael Ledeen: “Faster please!”

Joseph Addison was right to see in the mercantile classes of his day the great benefactors of mankind: we in our day have seen the “benevolence” of the state in action, not least in those developing countries the anti-globalizers weep for where state aid has created destitution, and where restoring trade and expanding markets have repaired the ravages of that aid.

Not for the first time in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries have we been required to re-invent the wheel – under the baleful glare of those who think it shouldn’t have been invented in the first place.

Readers curious as to why articles of this nature should be appearing on a gold investment website should read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

And for background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

And for a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES


Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

THE ROYAL EXCHANGE by Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

There is no place in the town which I so much love to frequent as the Royal Exchange. It gives me a secret satisfaction, and, in some measure, gratifies my vanity, as I am an Englishman, to see so rich an assembly of countrymen and foreigners consulting together upon the private business of mankind, and making this metropolis a kind of emporium for the whole earth.

I must confess I look upon high-change to be a great council, in which all considerable nations have their representatives. Factors in the trading world are what ambassadors are in the politic world; they negotiate affairs, conclude treaties, and maintain a good correspondence between those wealthy societies of men that are divided from one another by seas and oceans, or live on the different extremities of a continent.

I have often been pleased to hear disputes adjusted between an inhabitant of Japan and an alderman of London, or to see a subject of the Great Mogul entering into a league with one of the Czar of Muscovy. I am infinitely delighted in mixing with these several ministers of commerce, as they are distinguished by their different walks and different languages: sometimes I am jostled among a body of Armenians, sometimes I am lost in a crowd of Jews, and sometimes make one in a group of Dutchmen. I am a Dane, Swede, or Frenchman at different times, or rather fancy myself like the old philosopher, who upon being asked what countryman he was, replied that he was a citizen of the world.

Though I very frequently visit this busy multitude of people, I am known to nobody there but my friend Sir Andrew, who often smiles upon me as he sees me bustling in the crowd, but at the same time connives at my presence without taking any further notice of me. There is indeed a merchant of Egypt who just knows me by sight, having formerly remitted me some money to Grand Cairo; but as I am not versed in the modern Coptic, our conferences go no further than a bow and a grimace.

This grand scene of business gives me an infinite variety of solid and substantial entertainment. As I am a great lover of mankind, my heart naturally overflows at the sight of a prosperous and happy multitude, insomuch that at many public solemnities I cannot forbear expressing my joy with tears that have stolen down my cheeks. For this reason I am wonderfully delighted to see such a body of men thriving in their own private fortunes, and at the same time promoting the public stock; or, in other words, raising estates for their own families, by bringing into their country whatever is wanting, and carrying out of it whatever is superfluous.

Nature seems to have taken a peculiar care to disseminate the blessings among the different regions of the world, with an eye to this mutual intercourse and traffic among mankind, that the natives of the several parts of the globe might have a kind of dependence upon one another, and be united together by this common interest.

Almost every degree produces something peculiar to it. The food often grows in one country, and the sauce in another. The fruits of Portugal are corrected by the products of Barbados; the infusion of a China plant sweetened with the pith of an Indian cane. The Philippine Islands give a flavour to our European bowls. The single dress of a woman of quality is often the product of a hundred climates. The muff and the fan come together from the different ends of the earth. The scarf is sent from the torrid zone, and the tippet from beneath the Pole. The brocade skirt rises out of the mines of Peru, and the diamond necklace out of the bowels of Hindostan.

If we consider our own country in its natural prospect, without any of the benefits and advantages of commerce, what a barren, uncomfortable spot of earth falls to our share!

Natural historians tell us that no fruit grows originally among us besides hips and haws, acorns and pig-nuts, with other delicacies of the like nature; that our climate of itself, and without the assistance of art, can make no further advances towards a plum than to a sloe, and carries an apple to no greater perfection than a crab; that our melons, our peaches, our figs, our apricots and cherries, are strangers among us, imported in different ages, and naturalized in our English gardens; and that they would all degenerate and fall away into the trash of our own country if they were wholly neglected by the planter, and left to the mercy of our sun and soil.

Nor has traffic more enriched our vegetable world than it has improved the whole face of nature among us. Our ships are laden with the harvest of every climate: our tables are stored with spices and oils and wines; our rooms are filled with pyramids of China, and adorned with the workmanship of Japan; our morning’s draught comes to us from the remotest corners of the earth; we repair our bodies by the drugs of America, and repose ourselves under Indian canopies.

My friend Sir Andrew calls the vineyards of France our gardens, the spice-islands our hot-beds, the Persians our silk weavers, and the Chinese our potters. Nature indeed furnishes us with the bare necessaries of life, but traffic gives us a great variety of what is useful, and at the same time supplies us with everything that is convenient and ornamental. Nor is it the least part of this our happiness that while we enjoy the remotest products of the north and south, we are free from those extremities of weather which gave them birth; that our eyes are refreshed with the green fields of Britain at the same time that our palates are feasted with the fruits that rise between the tropics.

For these reasons there are not more useful members in a commonwealth than merchants. They knit mankind together in a mutual intercourse of good offices, distribute the gifts of Nature, find work for the poor, and bring wealth to the rich and magnificence to the great. Our English merchant converts the tin of his own country into gold, and exchanges his wool for rubies. The Mohammedans are clothed in our British manufacture, and the inhabitants of the frozen zone warmed with the fleeces of our sheep.

When I have been upon the change, I have often fancied one of our old kings standing in person, where he is represented in effigy, and looking down upon the wealthy concourse of people with which that place is every day filled. In this case, how would he be surprised to hear all the languages of Europe spoken in this little spot of his former dominions, and to see so many private men, who in his time would have been the vassals of some powerful baron, negotiating like princes for greater sums of money than were formerly to be met with in the royal treasury!

Trade, without enlarging the British territories, has given us a kind of additional empire: it has multiplied the number of the rich, made our landed estates infinitely more valuable than they were formerly, and added to them an accession of other estates as valuable as the lands themselves.


Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

By Mark Rogers

Perry Anderson, editor of The New Left Review, wrote an editorial for the January-February 2000 issue, in which he looked at all that had happened over the previous twenty years, and what it meant for the Left: the collapse of the Soviet Union, the resurgence and resilience of capitalist market economies and the emergence of “New” Labour. The piece contains a remarkable acknowledgement of two of the strengths of the market idea as they had emerged in that time:

“The only starting-point for a realistic Left today is a lucid registration of historical defeat. Capital has comprehensively beaten back all threats to its rule, the bases of whose power – above all, the pressures of competition – were persistently under-estimated by the socialist movement. The doctrines of the Right that have theorized capitalism as a systemic order retain their tough-minded strength; current attempts by a self-styled radical Centre to dress up its realities are by comparison little more than weak public relations. Those who always believed in the over-riding value of free markets and private ownership of the means of production include many figures of intellectual substance. The recent crop of bowdlerizers and beauticians, who only yesterday deplored the ugliness of the system they primp today, do not.”

The first of those strengths he identifies percipiently as the pressure of competition, that creative pressure that stimulates prosperity by weeding out bad, corrupt, or ineffectual ideas and practices. His recognition that the machine-like description of capitalism that pervades socialist writings from Marx onwards was an inadequate base from which to understand just what drives markets is a welcome change from denunciations of markets in terms of conspiracy theories, which is often the revolutionist’s bolt-hole when confronted with matters he cannot comprehend or which have actually defeated him. Anderson’s realism is based on an actual understanding of what had been happening.

This is reinforced by the second strength that he describes, that “tough-minded strength” of those “doctrines of the Right that have theorized capitalism as a systemic order”. This is the source of capitalism’s resilience, and his phrasing suggests that it is, amongst others, Hayek that he must have in mind, which in turn underpins his acknowledgement that those “who always believed in the over-riding value of free markets and private ownership of the means of production include many figures of intellectual substance.”

Anderson had looked defeat in the face and realized that it came about in part through treating arguments for the market as being merely those of vested interests, and in doing so failed to acknowledge the real strengths of what socialists thought they were opposing. While his pessimism is to be understood, his clarity in perceiving that there is integrity amongst his opponents and any future discussion is going to have start from there is a real measure of how comprehensive the Left’s defeat on these questions has been.

An adequate gloss on those pressures of competition and what they mean in practice, both politically as well as economically, is found in Martin Wolf’s Why Globalization Works (Yale Nota Bene, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2005).

In stating that a market economy is a necessary condition for a stable democracy, he goes on: “The market may not be a sufficient condition for such a democracy. But it was a necessary one, because the concentration of power inherent in a planned economy was incompatible with effective pressures from below.”

Readers curious as to why articles of this nature should be appearing on a gold investment website should read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

And for background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

Hayek and Mrs Bunch: The Irregularity of Individuals

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Marshalled by Mark Rogers

It is perhaps not surprising that the English Common Law presages so much of Hayek’s understanding of how law underpins economic life, particularly as it is so heavily concentrated on property. Common Law has another importance, however, in an Austrian, Misean sense in that it is founded in human action, not in abstractions – which tend to the fiat diktat sense of “law” – that is,  in the ordinary practicalities of everyday life. Judges are often to be found revelling in them, as in this glorious example from the late nineteenth century. The judgment is taken from Not In Feather Beds, a collection of essays and speeches by Lord Radcliffe (Hamish Hamilton, London 1968). The essay is entitled “How a Lawyer Thinks”, and Lord Radcliffe has chosen this particular judgment as being an apt specimen of that thinking. The opinion was delivered by Lord Macnaghten, “one of the greatest exponents of the legal art that this country has known,” in an appeal to the House of Lords.

“The period 1888; the setting a late-Victorian, foggy, lamplit Christmas Eve at Paddington; the subject a Gladstone bag lost at the station by a certain Mrs. Bunch. Mrs Bunch is now at grapples with the Great Western Railway as to which of them is to bear the burden of the loss. This is how Lord Macnaghten deals with the problem.” [I should add that it is beautiful specimen of English prose: and, not least, pay attention to the punctuation!]

Your Lordships are familiar with the evidence in this case, and I do not propose to repeat it. It is enough to say that on the 24th of December 1884, at 4.20 p.m. Mrs Bunch came to Paddington with a Gladstone bag and some other luggage, meaning to travel with her husband by the 5 p.m. train to Bath, that on her arrival at the station her luggage was received by a porter in the employment of the company, and taken by him to the platform for the purpose of the journey, and that the Gladstone bag was last seen on the platform with the same porter a few minutes afterwards. From that time all trace of the bag is lost. The porter and the bag both vanish from the scene. It was suggested by the learner counsel for the appellants, by way of explanation, that the porter was possibly one of a number of men picked up by the company for the day to meet the pressure of Christmas traffic. But I may observe, in passing, that so far as the public was concerned, there was apparently nothing to distinguish the casual helper of whom little, if anything, was known, from the regular and trusted servants of the company.

            On these bare facts standing alone it seems to me that there would be evidence upon which the County Court judge might reasonably find for the plaintiff, even if the company were not under the liability of common carriers as regard the lost bag.

            But then it was contended with much earnestness that it ought to have been inferred from the circumstances of the case and from Mrs. Bunch’s conduct that at the time of the loss the bag was not in the custody of the company for the purpose of the journey. It was said that Mrs. Bunch came to the station too soon – that she came before the train was drawn up – that she broke the journey, if the journey is taken as having begun – and left the bag in the charge of a porter who was then not acting as the servant of the company within the scope of his authority as such, but acting as her agent in his individual capacity, and that if this was not what she meant, it was an attempt on her part to saddle the company with a liability which they were not bound to undertake.

            It seems to me that there is no substance in any of these objections. Mrs. Bunch, no doubt, came to the station somewhat early. But the one thing that railway companies try to impress on the public is to come in good time. And considering the crowd likely to be attracted by cheap fares during the Christmas holidays, and the special bustle and throng on Christmas Eve, it does not seem to me that Mrs. Bunch came so unreasonably early as to relieve the company who received the luggage from the ordinary obligations flowing from that receipt. It is impossible to define with the extreme limits on both sides the proper time for arrival. Everything must depend upon the circumstances of the particular case. But, among those circumstances, the least important, as it seems to me, is the time when the train is drawn up at the departure platform. That is, as everybody knows, a very variable time. And it is a matter over which the passenger has no control, and of which he can have no notice before he comes to the station.

            Then I think that there is nothing in the conversation which took place between Mrs. Bunch and the porter. Mrs. Bunch’s question was a very natural one. The answer which she received was just what might have been expected. Nine women out of ten parting with a travelling bag on which they set any store would have asked the same question. In ninety-nine times out of a hundred the same answer would be returned. I do not think that this conversation altered the relation between the parties in the least degree. It seems to me almost absurd to treat it as a solemn negotiation by which the lady abdicated such rights as she possessed against the Great Western Railway Company and constituted this ephemeral and evanescent porter in his individual capacity the sole custodian of her Gladstone bag.

            Nor can it, I think, be said that Mrs. Bunch broke the journey by leaving the platform to meet her husband and get her ticket. To take a ticket is a necessary incident of a railway journey. It is, at least, a very common incident in railway travelling for persons, who intend to travel in company, whether they be members of the same family or not, to meet by appointment in the railway station from which they mean to start, and it is certainly not unusual in such a case for the purchase of tickets to be deferred until the meeting takes place…

            It was said that if everybody acted as Mrs. Bunch acted in this case, railway companies would require an army of porters, and that it would be almost impossible for them to carry on their business. I quite agree, but I am not much impressed by that observation. I apprehend that if all travellers acted precisely alike, if everybody arrived at a station for a particular journey at precisely the same moment, though the time of arrival were the fittest that could be imagined, there would be no little confusion, and perhaps some consternation among the railways officials. Whatever may be the result of your Lordships’ judgment, there is no fear that it will have the effect of making everybody act alike. Things will go on just as usual. The fidgety and nervous will still come too soon; the unready and the unpunctual will still put off their chance of arrival till the last moment, and the prudent may have their calculations upset by the many accidents and hindrances that may be met with on the way to the station. And it is just because of the irregularity of individuals that the stream of traffic is regular and easily managed.

Lord Radcliffe justly comments: “the style is very nicely fitted to the subject. It is grave, without being portentous; it is admirably detailed, without being finicky; and at the same time there is, I think, at the back of it a gleam of decorous amusement that these sober legal propositions have to be marshalled and weighed to solve the problem of Mrs. Bunch and her Gladstone bag. Next, these paragraphs which seem to be no more than a recital of facts, or a rather quizzical glance at certain arguments, do in fact contain an exposition of legal principles – so much so that Mrs. Bunch’s case has become a leading case determining for good the kind of considerations that are to govern the loss of Gladstone and other bags at railway stations and the weight to be given to some of those considerations. But the legal principles are, as it were, built into the factual structure of the story itself, not imposed upon it, so that the story seems to arrange itself naturally around them and to take its form and order from their intrinsic logic… And, lastly, the whole passage, though the careful simplicity of it is to some extent delusive, is irradiated by a vivid common sense.”

It is the last paragraph of Lord Macnaghten’s opinion that sums up the whole problem of economic planning and direction; it is this quality of the Common Law that fits so neatly and substantively with the analysis of human affairs that distinguishes the work of Hayek and Mises.

Readers curious as to why articles of this nature should be appearing on a gold investment website should read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS 

And for background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST