The mass impulse of a cattle stampede can be triggered by something as innocuous as a blowing tumbleweed. A sudden startle, or a perceived threat, is all it takes to setoff this mass uncontrolled running. Once the herd collectively begins charging in one direction it’ll eliminate everything in its path.
The only chance a rancher has is to fire off a pistol with the hope it turns the herd into itself. If the rancher is successful, they’ll stampede in a giant circle. If the rancher isn’t, they’ll run off a cliff.
Today’s modern man, a complex species that ranges between Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis, like Bos taurus, is also predisposed to herd behavior. What’s more, the human animal will take just about anything and everything to the extreme. Religious pilgrimages, sporting events, music concerts, New Year’s Eve celebrations, and political rallies gone bad have all triggered deadly human stampedes. Just last year, for instance, over 2,400 people were trampled to death during the Hajj Stampede in Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, in today’s frenetic society, humans are granted a variety of avenues for a mob dynamic to express itself. Financial markets and the fear and greed prospects of economic scarcity provide a fertile landscape for remarkable human folly. Manias, panics, and crashes come to pass with near regularity.
After an abundance of speculations have piled up on one side of a trade, they must eventually reverse course and charge elsewhere. The precise moment and duration are never clear. But, when the time comes, those at the back of the pack are left holding worthless depositary receipts.
Key Lessons from the Past
Social moods and mass collective movements cycle over and under in ways that are only really predictable in hindsight. The solution to high prices, of course, is high prices. Unfortunately, the lessons of the past are often the wrong instructions for the future.
For example, the key lessons from the 1930s were that one should have no debt; one should keep large stashes of cash outside the banking system; and, one should plant a vegetable garden and hoard scraps of aluminum and bags of flour and sugar…and whatever else you can store.
But those that heeded the lessons of the 1930s and held cash through the 1970s were rewarded with a significant loss of purchasing power. Their industry and thrift were covertly subtracted from their bank accounts. The landscape had shifted.
For the key lessons from the 1970s were that one should borrowing large amounts of money; and, one should not hold a stash of cash. This was especially true if the borrowed money was used to buy a house. In no time at all, the debt burden was cut in half and house prices ballooned up.
For instance, the median unadjusted home value in 1960 was $11,900. By 1990, it was $79,100. Over the course of a 30-year loan, monthly payments on a home bought in 1960 were reduced to pocket change. At the same time, by 1990 it took $4.42 to purchase what $1 could buy in1960. Home values increased at a rate near double to the dollar’s loss of value.
The result is that one generation shuns credit like the black plague of death. The next laps it up like pigs eating slop. What are the correct lessons from yesterday to be applied to tomorrow?
“People still have a memory of what happened during the recession,” remarked IHS economist Chris Christopher, earlier this week. “Millennials, if they have money left after paying their student loans, do put money aside.”
Christopher was commenting on the recent Gallup Poll that concluded that Americans are more likely in the post-2008 world to perceive saving money as more enjoyable than spending it. And, to a certain extent, their attitudes have reflected this, as savings rates have increased from 1.9 percent in 2005 to 5 percent today.
Gold Stampede Imminent
Yet the lesson from 2008 may not be the correct lesson for tomorrow. On Wednesday the Fed announced their efforts to normalize rates have stalled out. Then, yesterday, first quarter GDP growth was reported at an abysmal 0.5 percent. What to make of it?
The Fed and other central bankers have executed radical policies of mass money debasement for nearly the last 8 years. This was supposed to jumpstart the economy and stimulate an economic boom. But the new boom has yet to come…instead the economy is flat lining. Meanwhile, the U.S. stock market is near its all-time high.
No doubt, this is a precarious situation…one that cannot last for much longer. When the stock market breaks, and the herd rushes out, where will they stampede to?
For the last 35 years, wealth’s destination safe haven has been U.S. Treasuries. Many even referred to U.S. Treasuries as the ‘safest investment in the world.’ However, social moods with respect to government debt securities, and the veracity of monetary policy, have dimmed since 2008. What we mean is, the next crisis, which is just over the horizon, will likely be a crisis of confidence.
Under this scenario, when the crisis comes it will come quick and without explicit warning. Wealth will exit financial markets like cattle stampeding from gunfire in the night. At the same time, people will quickly realize that stampeding into U.S. Treasuries is like stampeding off a cliff. The preferred destination will likely be gold.
Hence, if you haven’t already, go get your hands on some physical gold; make it a small portion of your overall asset allocation. If you wait until the crisis arrives, it will be too late.
Plus acquiring physical gold is simple enough. In fact, it’s as simple as buying a new pair of shoes. Save up some cash, take it to your local coin shop, and trade it in for bullion coins. Alternatively, if you’re short on cash, or have some ambivalence, try starting with silver bullion coins. See how you like it. You’ll be glad you did.
for Economic Prism