Some days ago, the King World News blog posted an interview with the octogenarian Mexican billionaire, Hugo Salinas Price. He says "full-blown socialism" is on its way. Some might read the results of the recent French and Greek elections in that context.
There comes a time in a successful old man's life when he starts to ride a hobby-horse, whether it be philanthropy or politics. Sir James Goldsmith, dying of cancer, spent his last energies urging a British referendum on membership of the EU, having previously and presciently warned (in 1994) of the social instability inherent in the GATT agreement that set the labour forces of nations against one another. For all his faults, such as they may have been, I think that was a heroic finish.
Mr Price's horse is sound money, and he has worked long to reintroduce silver to Mexico as at least an alternative to fiat (paper, symbolic) money. In February he was interviewed by James Turk of GoldMoney and explained that this would be silver money with a twist: no face value expressed in currency terms. That is because when silver rises in price, it tends to be melted down for its scrap value; so the Libertad coin issuance is in various degrees of weight of silver content. He tells Turk that even if it is accepted as a partner with fiat, it won't necessarily be used in daily commercial exchange; instead, it will be held, as a store of value.
Why is this important? Because private property is a bastion against the powerful. In this latest interview, Price notes that Italy and Spain now ban cash purchases larger than 2,500 euros, and refers to the U.S. food stamp system as "ration cards": all part of a drift towards the state seizing control of commercial transactions.
The trouble is, states and big businesses become a threat when they join hands. As Marc Faber said (on King World News, again): "Near the end of a society or civilization, they typically become very corrupt. Either the government runs the businesses or the businesses run the government." Faber's hobby-horse is doom -- perhaps this old man's conceit has persuaded him that the world will end shortly after he does; one can only hope that in this, unlike previously in other matters, he will be proved wrong.
What I find interesting about Price is that his is no simple redneck, damn-commie outlook: he sees socialism as merely a means used by an elite to continue in their position of power over the rest of us. They have made us dependent on a welfare state largesse based on corrupt money, and will move to a more naked form of control when the financial system breaks down. Since (he says) socialism is less efficient, this means declining resources (especially post Peak Oil) and therefore, ultimately, a dwindling world human population. That process of dwindling is easily referred to, but would be so hard to live through; perhaps we face a spring and autumn period; I very much hope not.
But remember, this is not primarily about socialism; it is about power. From 2008 on, we have seen businesses take over government, from the way Hank Paulson and his banker friends bullied Congress into re-voting to ensure that the first $700 billion of public money was paid via TARP, to the EU central bank installation of puppet financial regimes in proud independent states like Greece and Italy.
So, in a pseudo-capitalist phase, the businesses run the government; and then, in a faux-socialist aftermath, government will run business.
The people doing this will be essentially all of one class: I started saying to friends some years ago, that we are witnessing the reconstruction of a pan-European (perhaps I should have said, global) aristocracy. The bankers, politicians, journalists, advisers are dining and sleeping together, intermarrying, living in great houses and sailing fine yachts; and don't know the price of milk. They may ride bikes in public, forget to wear ties, slur their speech in demotic imitation; but it's all like Harold Wilson as PM, stubbing out his cigar and seizing his pipe as he strode from Number Ten to be photographed by the press. The ones who lead the mob to supplant them are their brothers and sisters, under the skin. And the hereditary principle is stronger among socialists: look at peerage-renouncing Tony Benn and his constituency-inheriting son, look at Peter Mandelson and his vaunted descent from Herbert Morrison (possibly even the throne of Poland), look at North Korea. The sense of entitlement stinks to high heaven.
Yet, if only the mice could bell the cat, the solution could be so quick. Debt forgiveness (or repudiation); mutual debt cancellation (since a debtor to one is the creditor to another, in a great international web); or simply starving the beast, by shifting our deposits to more responsible banks.
But fundamentally, holding your own money means it is not the creature of a central bank (created out of debt), or a government's (created out of nothing, by printing). Despite the high price of silver and gold, I find myself leaning to their promise of a degree of wealth preservation in an increasingly unstable economic (and political) system.
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Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.