Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It's Tuesday - Do You Know Where Your Money Is?

Originally published at woodpilereport.com  
"I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today," says J. Wellington Wimpy art-link-symbol-tiny-grey-arrow-only-rev01.gif. And there you have the whole of modern economics. We have one hamburger. It's worth one hamburger, exactly and indisputably. And we have one promise. It's value is ambiguous. Perhaps one hamburger, perhaps nothing. 
But the IOU is said to have a non-obvious value. It's more easily carried around than a hamburger and can be passed from person to person until the last star in the galaxy winks out—or until it's repudiated by Wimpy, whichever comes first. Before either of these happen, the promise can be used as collateral and borrowed against, perhaps many times over, creating wealth and, at its furthest extension, a world-spanning 'virtual hamburger' empire of unexampled power and glory—right up until Tuesday should Wimpy default. Then everyone in the empire wants the hamburger they were promised. The emperor doesn't have 'em. Never did.
Woodpile Report photo
Today's Federal Reserve Note "dollar" will buy you 5/100 of a one Silver Eagle. On a good day.
The Federal Reserve is our J. Wellington Wimpy and, unsurprisingly, he substituted IOUs for money. And not good faith IOUs, our Wimpy freely and openly repudiates paying on Tuesday, or any other day. His IOUs come pre-defaulted, how's that for worthless? It's astonishing enough that people accept this fraud, but more astonishingly, they think it endearingly quaint, or hopelessly naive, to favor "hard cash money" over Wimpy's "financial instrument". Worse yet, they're not merely suspicious of real money, they're can't tell you what real money is. Money is what you buy stuff with, that's good enough for them. Our grandparents would bury their head in their hands and quietly weep over what's become of their progeny. A bit of explaining is in order. 
Currency and other paper point to money, meaning it represents money without being money. There's a counterparty to these things, namely the one who will allegedly redeem them. Unlike financial instruments—certificates, currency, notes, bonds—silver has no counterparty. Silver is not a deed or a claim to a territory, it's the territory itself. In short, silver is money. It's been money for thousands of years. It's the money financial instruments allege to represent. Money and only money settles debt, all else are accounting memos for who owes what to who, and one of these memos is called currency. 
Our currency dispenses with even a pretext of pointing to money. There was a time when US currency was directly convertible into silver. A key requirement for a "national bank" charter was to act as agent for the US Treasury in exchanging actual silver for silver certificates. This is why silver certificates had serial numbers. When the exchange was made the claim was settled and the certificate was voided. This duty was hardly a burden, it largely amounted to supplying businesses with change. For all else, businesses and their customers preferred the paper version. Like Wimpy's IOU, it was easier to carry and store, one hundred dollars in silver coin weighs around six pounds. 
Circulating concurrently with silver certificates, and nearly identical in appearance, were Federal Reserve Notes. When silver certificates were discontinued in 1964 it left only the Federal Reserve Note in circulation, severing the last significant connection of US currency to money. The operative word is "Note." The full term is "Promissory Note" and what it promises is redemption in still other promissory notes. That's it. That's all there is. The main claim to value for these notes is their exclusive acceptability in payment of taxes and, therefore, as legal tender for private transactions. Okay, but what's in it for us? They're scrip. Fiat. Funny-money. Good for "best case," probably, and even that decision is in hands other than ours. 
Coupled with the confiscation of 20,000 tons of privately owned gold in 1933—technically a "buy back" with paper currency, enforced with threat of fines and prison—it suggests a calculated theft of the people's money and, thereby, the theft of their financial security and any commerce independent of DC. Nor is it reassuring mere possession of "legal tender"—Federal Reserve Notes—in uncommon amounts is considered evidence of criminal wrongdoing sufficient to warrant its seizure without charging the bearer with any crime. The legal concept is Medieval. It's called Civil Forfeiture, where the currency itself is named as defendant in any subsequent proceedings, thus evading the annoyance of due process art-link-symbol-tiny-grey-arrow-only-rev01.gif. Said differently, your legal tender is not legal when DC says it's not legal. And they take it from you. 
Also notice the largest circulating note is the hundred dollar bill. It makes a tall stack for relatively small amounts, a few thousand dollars say, calling into question the claim to convenience. Taken together, all this suggests currency itself is on a path to outright criminalization. If we understand the so-called "underground economy" to be the formerly free market, it all makes sense. It also makes a compelling case for hard money. 
And there's no hard money quite like silver, especially bullion. Bullion is any precious metal traded in bulk on the commodities market. The exchange requires a high level of purity and so, in the popular mind and common usage, fine silver in any form is bullion. The most common forms are bar stock and "bullion coins" of standard weights. The US Silver Eagle is such a coin, the standard lot from the US Mint being a so-called "green monster box" containing 500 coins of one troy ounce each. 
The Treasurer is required by law to mint sufficient Eagles to meet the demand which, aside from collector proofs, has risen from the three-to-five million range of the late 1990s to the thirty-to-forty million range in recent years. The biggest jump came in 2008 when sales went from nine million per year to over twenty million, then to over thirty million in 2009. There were times when sales were suspended for lack of product. 
Rare is the person not charmed by silver's tactile appeal, its seductive presence and satisfying heft, its subtlety hued luster. Silver is said to be the money of gentlemen. It's also the money of bus drivers and motel desk clerks who want a reliable store of value as a hedge against the machinations of paper manipulators, or an economic calamity, a Mad Max societal collapse or even a disastrous war. Platinum or gold or palladium bullion are too concentrated in value to be practical for Joe Everyman in such settings. He's looking to buy supplies, not the truck they came in. In fact, one ounce silver coins may be the top end for common use in "interesting" times. 
Should silver regain its historic place as every day money, so-called junk silver—circulated pre-1965 silver coins with no collector value—would reassume its time-honored status as change. A silver dollar or Eagle may be too large for some items, for others it may be too small by something less than a neat multiple. It's here the halves and quarters and dimes, and probably the nickel, would make silver practical for post-collapse commerce. 
In such a time the arcane measures of melt value in troy ounces would become as familiar as pints and yards. Once again the classic tests for authentication would become common. And we'd revisit avarice on a human scale, meaning the Uriah Heeps among us, counting their stacks by candlelight and storing their little hoards in canvass bags. It's only fitting, the best villains are those we actually know. The survivalist will have such a stash of course, but concealed, dispersed and discreetly accessed. 
Silver has been money for at least twenty-seven centuries. US currency has never been money, but in post-Civil War times neither did it claim to be, until the era of the Federal Reserve Note of 1913. The dollar, once a specific weight of silver, now relies entirely on confidence in its future value. This is the meaning of the phrase, "full faith and credit." The pathetic clad coinage of today does claim to be money, rather than the insult to coinage it is. Even Judas wouldn't knowingly accept them. They're the sort of trash an insolvent, corrupt Third World ... but that's another discussion. They're but tokens which, like Federal Reserve Notes, began with deceit and ended in swindle. 
The people's money was stolen from them, first their gold by amending the wartime Trading With The Enemy Act art-link-symbol-tiny-grey-arrow-only-rev01.gif. It was the largest heist in the history of civilization. The most degenerate of the Roman emperors never dared attempted it. It was also the fabled "perfect crime". Tuesday came and went. There was no investigation, no indictment and no arrest. Thirty-one years later the people's silver was stolen by substituting base metal look-alikes, withdrawing silver from circulation and piling it up in a bloated "National Defense Stockpile" from which they sold back the gargantuan excess to its former owners at the market price for bullion. Were these things done by a foreign conqueror, rather than our very own Wimpy and his elected accomplices, the country would have risen in righteous outrage from coast to coast.
Finally, here are some facts about silver. 
Silver is an element, a useful metal, like copper and aluminum. It's the most efficient electrical and thermal conductor, it's ductile—meaning it can be worked by a craftsman with a hammer or drawn into wire, it's the most optically reflective metal and in colloidal form it's claimed to be an effective antibiotic. Silver weighs a little more than half, about 53%, of what gold does. It occurs in the earth's crust at about 19:1 (18.75 to be exact) to gold but is valued far less, currently about 65:1, meaning 65 ounces of silver buys one ounce of gold. The average ratio over the last 350 years has been about 27:1, although the ratio was a steady 16:1 from the late 1600s to the late 1800s. Because it's consumed in industrial usage, there's far less "above ground" silver than gold. 
The Coinage Act of 1792 defined the dollar as 371 4/16 grains of silver, to be minted as a coin containing 1485 parts pure silver alloyed with 179 parts copper. Silver dollars minted from 1878 and through 1964 contain 0.773 troy ounces of pure silver. Smaller denomination coins followed the same analysis, 90% silver, 10% copper. "Kennedy halves" were 40% silver from 1965 through 1970. Silver Eagles minted from 1986 to the present are one troy ounce of .999 pure silver, which conforms to the standard analysis for silver bullion and are priced accordingly.