GOLD AND MYTHS IN A GLOBAL WORLD

goldBOOK “The Law of the Abbot and other Stories about Globalization”
5nd Story

The plot of the story: Lecturing to a group of gold investors with a libertarian bent can be a source of controversy and misunderstandings about gold and money.

A few Ideas & Some basic facts:

Globalization is also shaped by ignorance, human biases and outlandish ideas… We can see it in the past, and we can see it in the present. Some ideas about gold (and money) are a good illustration of it.

Bizarrely a blind faith in gold was instrumental in the first steps of globalization: it helped to build the first monetary webs.

The role of American silver and gold in the sixteenth century:

The Spaniards have found a mountain of silver in Potosi, in present-day Bolivia. In less than one hundred years, they have extracted 45,000 tons of silver.

This silver – and the gold and silver of other parts of the New World – paved the way to the economic globalization. It’s difficult to devise how globalization – including the Industrial Revolution – could have unfolded without these first monetary webs (based on silver and gold).

Modern money

The American stock of money amounted to about $13 trillion in 2016; the amount of Euros in that same year was €10.6 trillion, while the amount of Chinese Yuan was 151 billion. Globalization rests on a huge stock of money. Worldwide, the total of bank notes, coins and short-term deposits is somewhere around $81 trillion (*).

This means that money is now mostly digital and made up of short-term deposits.

The value of gold varies with the ever changing prices and amounted to about 8 trillion dollars, in 2013. The gold in the possession of the central banks amounts to about $1.3 trillion.

Gold in contemporary societies

Gold remains a powerful financial asset and key store of value.

Middle-class and poor Indian and Chinese people have entered the gold game, and are buying tons of gold every year. Gold extraction has never been so high, which is a manifestation of globalization.

Globalization is in the background. Without globalization the scale of gold mining, the amount of gold transactions, and the overall importance of gold would be significantly lower.

The return to the gold standard is a fantasy

Full gold backing of broad money would require at least a tenfold rise in the prices of gold – a boon for speculators and gold mine companies, but a disaster for the world.

Realistically, gold backing of existing money is impossible.

Modern money is information

Banks can create money out of nothing, by lending money and creating new accounts, or by increasing the money in the accounts of their clients, when they make loans. And they do it by simple registers. There is no physical money, no special secrets or intricate operations. Just digital registers.

Most of modern money is digital and is created by commercial banks when they make new loans to people and companies. Money is mostly bank deposits.

Vampire bats and primitive economies

Our present monetary systems aren’t that original. They are a sophistication of the money-books in the minds of primitive people and the algorithms in the minds of a few animal species.

An example? See the vampire bats: they need to drink about an ounce of blood every night to survive. And if a bat doesn’t get it, one of its roost-mates will typically offer the much needed blood.

But bats do not do favors indiscriminately; they keep a close track of the favors they receive and do. If a bat doesn’t reciprocate, the others will refuse to reciprocate.

This means that the vampire bats have a kind of debit and credit records in their mind: the foundation of modern money…

SOURCES
(*) TradingEconomics data

Modern Money composition, worldwide, and the recent role of China:
Financial times

How banks create money, by PositiveMoney.org
The proof that banks create money, by PositiveMoney.org

Wikipedia: Money creation

History of money (HistoryWorld.net)
History of Latin America (HistoryWorld.net)

Potosi silver
How silver turned Potosí into ‘the first city of capitalism’ (The Guardian).

Definition of money
Financial Times:  M0, M1, M2, M3, M4

Monetary issues
The Shifts and The Shocks, Martin Wolf
Between debt and the devil, Adair Turner
The New Case for Gold, James Richards (The return to the Gold standard, from the standpoint of a supporter)
The Federal Reserve and the Financial Crisis, Ben Bernanke
The great wave: Price revolutions and the Rhythm of History (Amounts of silver and gold, 1500)
The Gold Bug Variations: The gold standard–and the men who love it, Paul Krugman

 

 

 

The Law of the Abbot

BOOK “The Law of the Abbot and other Stories about Globalization”

abbot1st story, 1st Chapter: The Law of the Abbot
In this story you are going to be an abbot in a medieval monastery, in the year 1000 AC.

Backdrop of the story:

The Europe of the year 1000 is divided in thousands of small communities, removed from the outer world. People eat and dress and use the tools and the stuff that they produce locally.

Without commercial webs and relationships bringing goods, services, capital and ideas from other parts of Europe and the world, life in medieval communities is incredibly difficult. The Europe of the year 1000 AC, with its small and closed communities, and its famines and miserable standards of life, is a huge greeting card with a simple message: Welcome to a world without international commerce, finance and globalization.

The contrast between the medieval world and the globalized societies of the 21st couldn’t be greater. But there is something in common behind the dynamics of the Medieval and the 21st global economies: the LAW OF THE ABBOT.

What does this Law says? It’s simple:

In a competitive environment you have to follow and adapt your strategies according to the moves of your competitors, and the values and the forces ruling the society.

It’s easy to detect the Law of the Abbot in the 21st century: Top managers (and politicians) are constantly following, or adapting their strategies or responding to the actions of other top managers.

Companies tend to replicate and respond to what others are doing, whether it is socially beneficial or not, and in doing so they reinforce and auto-perpetuate blind economic dynamics.

The Law of the Abbot explains many things: why companies go to low-wage countries and tax havens, following the move of the pioneers; why they break environmental rules; issues like the flag of convenience in the shipping industry, and so on.

The example given in the story is about the huge amounts that media companies pay to get contracts with modern celebrities (singers, footballers and other stars), and their implications.

But the Law of the Abbot is also present in the economies of the year 1000, as shown by the commerce of bones of saints.

Bones of Saints Medieval AgesIf a monastery pays a large amount of money for the bones of a famous saint, other monasteries may have to replicate the offer (bones of famous saints, and other relics, are critical to attract peregrines, prestige and revenues). If an abbot is foolish enough to offer a small fortune for a bone of a saint, the others will also have to be foolish to get it. That’s a manifestation of the Law of the Abbot (the abbots follow and move according to the actions of the others).

Globalization reinforce these mechanisms. Globalization allows the contracts to spread over dozens of countries, and the gathering of huge amounts of money. Globalization and the Law of the Abbot explain why some people can become incredibly rich, and why there are so many multimillionaires in the 21st century.

References:
The Business of Bones: Relic Trafficking in the Middle Ages (article, Atlas Obscura)
Relics (Wikipedia)
Georges Duby, O ano mil, Edições 70 (book, portuguese)
Footballers Earnings, David De Gea, Mirror
Rodulfus Glaber, Year 1000 (Wikipedia)
Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages (book)
Monasteries in the Middle Ages (LordSandLadies.com)

Politicians, economists and Mao’s Great Sparrow Campaign

maozedongThe Great Sparrow Campaign is a grotesque episode of the China’s Great Leap Forward campaign. It explains, in part, the Great Chinese Famine, in the late fifties and early sixties of the last century.

The Great Sparrow Campaign is responsible for many millions of deaths and was driven by immediate economic goals.

Surely the biggest responsible, the man behind the campaign, the ultimate mastermind of this grotesque episode, was Mao Zedong (1893-1976), the powerful leader of the communist revolution. The Great Leap Forward hasn’t been inspired by the economists of the regime, or by the inner workings of some specific economic school. It was mostly a political campaign. But it has an economic background, and a lack of economic sense that should be stressed.

But what was exactly the Great Sparrow Campaign?

The campaign was designed to kill billions of sparrows – literally. And it attained it. The reasoning behind it was very simple: sparrows eat grains; they are a cause of food scarcity, then should be killed.

Chinese citizens were mobilized to kill the birds. They were invited to scare them, by banging pots and pans or by beating drums. Sparrows were forced to fly until they fell from exhaustion. Their nests were torn down, nestlings were killed. Rewards and recognition were offered to kids and schools, and to worker organizations and government agencies in accordance with the number of birds they had killed.

When two years later the Chinese politicians realized that sparrows also ate a huge amount of insects, and that with the killing of birds the rice and other agricultural production had decreased sharply, it was too late.

In a country largely cut off from the rest of the world, the sharp decrease in food production, associated with swarms of locusts and other insects, had a dramatic impact. The decimation of the birds, compounded by the ecological problems caused by deforestation and industrialization campaigns, or the misuse of pesticides, were at the heart of the great starvation crisis known as the Great Chinese Famine, and the death of dozens of millions of people.
This grotesque episode, and all the lack of sensitivity, awareness and perspective that it reveals, is masterly documented in a few books:

Tombstone, the great Chinese famine
Mao’s Great Famine

There is also a small YouTube video, documenting the episode: Great sparrow campaign 1957.

But however grotesque and foolish the Great Sparrow Campaign was, we should not forget that there are many other foolish episodes happening before our eyes, and that they will affect the future of our children in a much more powerful and irreversible way. Climate change is happening all around us, fueled by our insensibility and awareness. It’s not just our industry and agriculture, and our transportation sector, and the fossil fuels we burn in them. It’s also the consumption of energy in our homes and buildings: responsible for about 40% of CO2 emissions.

European employment & Solving the Greek crisis

greece Overcoming the Greek crisis (and the crisis in other south European countries) depends heavily on the economic growth and job creation in Europe as a whole. Without strong partners, able to provide financial support but also investment and commercial activity, Greece will be doomed in the long run.

Hence the question: Is the European economy getting it right?

NO!

That’s the answer of the unsuspected Ben S. Bernanke, the former chairman of the American Federal Reserve. The Euro zone is not delivering the broad-based economic growth that is needed to give depressed economies like Greece a reasonable rate of growth and employment.

And Mr. Bernanke illustrates it with the highly asymmetric outcomes among countries within the Euro area and its poor overall performance, illustrated by the figure below, showing the evolution of the unemployment rate since 2007 in the Eurozone and the U.S.

Unexployment Rates

More: Greece and Europe: Is Europe holding up its end of the bargain?

EURES: 1,852,639 job vacancies in Europe

europe jobsEuropean job seekers – especially those of countries with high levels of unemployment: Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy…. – have now an important tool to look for jobs all over Europe: the new EURES network.

The EURES is a co-operation network between the EU Commission and key job institutions and organizations in the member states (and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). Its ultimate goal: «to provide information, advice and job-matching»

EURES connects 958 EURES key advisers, in daily contact with job-seekers and companies across Europe.

The network is currently listing 1,852,639 job vacancies, 177,856 CVs, 4,502 employers.

More: EURES

German job creation formula

germany jobs Germany’s unemployment rate is now at 5% (2014 est.), down from 6.9% in 2010 and 8.6% in 2007.

What’s even more interesting is that German is the developed country with the highest manufacturing labor force: 24.6% of the population, compared to 20.7% in the USA.

And this raises a question:

Is there a German formula to maintain manufacturing jobs in Germany? Is there a German way of preventing manufacturing jobs from going to China, India or even to other European countries?

The brief answer is YES.

There is a number of key factors explaining why Germany is having much more success than the United States or other European countries in keeping jobs at home.

In very broad terms Germany is succeeding because of…

  • Its specialization in high-quality and innovative industrial products;
  • The keep-factories-at-home policy of many German family-owned companies;
  • State job-protection schemes in times of crisis.

All this within the framework of an export-oriented economic policy.

We will deal with these issues in future posts.

They have a significant impact on what’s happening in Europe (where other countries are not taking advantage of German investment and job creation; and it is interesting to compare the German way of creating and maintain jobs in German with the economics of job creation and destruction in the US, the UK or China.

Data: CIA Factbook

Getting out of the financial crisis: Greece vs. Ireland

Greece IrelandThis article’s main thesis: Ireland is a tax haven, with thousands of big corporations based in Dublin. And that explains much of its success in getting out of the crisis, while Greece is failing.

Ireland is still struggling with a huge fiscal burden, due to the 2007 bursting of a housing bubble and subsequent bank failures.

But Ireland’s GDP, exports and jobs are now growing. And the unemployment rate is decreasing (15.1% in 2012; 13.1% in 2013; 11.3% in 2004…)

It’s very different what’s happening in Greece, where the current unemployment rate remains around 26% (March 2015), and the GDP and exports are not increasing (recent events have worsened the problems, but the previous situation was already dramatic).

Obviously there are many reasons and explanations for such a disparate evolution.

But there is one that outstands from the rest, and is rarely mentioned. That reason involves the corporate taxes of the two countries and the role of the foreign companies in Ireland and Greece.

See what’s happening in Ireland: there are thousands of big international corporations based in the country. They have flocked to Ireland (before the crisis) to benefit from its especially low Corporate Tax (12.5%). And they are again flocking to Ireland, attracted by its low tax. And these foreign companies are creating jobs and exports.

Yes. Ireland is a tax haven, and that’s a great trump card to fight the crisis.

In a small country like Ireland, the presence of thousands of foreign companies is extremely important. It’s not so much the recent policy of the Irish government, or a significantly better economic structure relative to Greece.

Greece can be accused of profligacy, and bad management; and it has a very weak export sector. But above all Greece hasn’t attracted the thousands of big corporations that Ireland has. Greece has a high corporation tax (33% for big companies). And that makes all the difference.

Obviously, with the current situation and the future prospects, things would not change much if Greece also became a tax haven.

And would the other European countries allow it?

Of course not.

Ireland is an exception. Not all countries can be tax havens. Not all countries can implement a “beggar my neighbor” job policy. The Irish corporate tax has a long history, and only a small country like Ireland could have it (though there are a number of European countries increasingly close to the Irish fiscal policy, including the UK).

Can’t Greece print the Euros that it needs to avoid financial chaos in its banks?

greeceflagWhat if Greece print the Euros that it needs?

The common answer to this question is that Greece can’t do it. But that’s not so straightforward.

Greece can create euros under the cover of the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) program.  And the Bank of Greece, through the Mint of Greece (IETA), can print euro banknotes.

The IETA need to have authorization from the European Central Bank to print Euros, but if the situation becomes chaotic, to avoid more chaos, Greece politicians can be tempted to do it illegally (or to do it with some sort of agreement from the European politicians).

See also:
Billions of Millionaires: making everyone rich by printing money
Greece after the default: creating jobs and economic growth

More:
What if Greece just printed the Euros it needs?
Bank of Greece, IETA

UK beggar my neighbor jobs policy

cameron jobs ukA beggar my neighbor policy is a policy by which one country attempts to solve an economic problem (high unemployment rate, for instance) by means that have a very negative impact in other countries (the employment in other neighboring countries).

And in a way that’s what’s happening today in the UK (it’s also happening in Ireland, Finland or Cyprus… but we are going to limit our analysis to the UK).

During the last few years, the UK – especially the London region – has created hundreds of thousands of jobs. And we may ask: What’s the formula (or a key part of it)?

Fiscal policy, or more exactly, the lowering of UK corporate tax (CT).

That tax was 28% when Mr. Cameron came to power – and the unemployment rate 2.7 million at the end of 2011. Now the unemployment is close to 1.86 million, according to the latest ONS figures – and the corporate tax is 20% – “the lowest CT rate of any of the G7 member states and the joint lowest rate in the G20” (1)

We can look into other few reasons to explain these figures, but the UK Corporation Tax is a key one. Big corporations are flocking to London and other UK cities, to profit from the low UK Corporation Tax. And this brings jobs and generates economic activity, which creates other jobs, growth and more activity in other sectors, and so on.

Compared to the corporate tax of France (33.3%), Italy (27.5%) or Germany (30%), the UK tax makes a big difference. And to paraphrase a Wall Street Journal article about Ireland, and applying it to the UK/EU situation, we may ask: “If the UK isn’t a tax haven, what is it?”

Or in other terms: the UK is using a beggar my neighbor fiscal policy with a strong impact on the European market job. With a corporate tax of 20% in the UK, there will not be many big corporations basing their businesses in other continental European countries. That’s the UK beggar my neighbor jobs policy.

But this poses another question – a provocative question following two premises and two suppositions:

  • 1st Premise: most of the foreign companies establishing bases in the UK are not limiting their activity to the UK; the UK is mostly a business-friendly place from which they conduct their transnational operations in many other European countries.
  • 2nd Premise: There will be in 2017 a referendum about the UK’s membership of the EU – a referendum that Mr. Cameron has enthusiastically supported for a long time.
  • 1st Supposition: a UK EU exit, following the referendum.
  • 2nd Supposition: the EU strikes back with restrictions to capital movements of UK-located companies (it is not expected trade barriers, but financial activities can be significantly affected).

And the question is: In such circumstances, what will happen to job creation, foreign investment and economic dynamics in London and other British cities?

Biotechnology, medical, pharmaceutical and health care job opportunities in Silicon Valley

silicon valleyThere are many job opportunities in the health care sector or in the biotech and pharmaceutical clusters of Silicon Valley.

Boston has become a fierce competitor of Silicon Valley in the biotech sector, but a large part of the world’s startups, labs and know-how is still in Silicon Valley. The San Francisco region remains in the world’s top, with thousands of pharmaceutical startups and companies looking for drug discovery.

Pharmaceutical giants continue to flock to Silicon Valley to set up research centers, and to benefit from the University labs and the know-how of dozens of thousands of professionals associated with biotechnology.

A large part of this activity is closely related to some local universities – Stanford; University of California; DeVry University; California State University – and key hospitals in the region.

If you are looking for jobs in Silicon Valley’s biotech startups and pharmaceutical companies, or for medical and nursing jobs, or for jobs related to these sectors, consider the institutions and companies listed below (and the links to their current job openings).

JobSearchJob opportunities in leading Universities

Stanford, the University of California, DeVry and the California State University are key world players in biotechnology. For careers in these Universities, see:
Stanford job openings
University of California careers
University of California San Diego
University of California Ervine
University of California Davis
University of California Los Angeles
DeVry University
California State University
California State University Fullerton
California State University at San Marcos
California State Polytechnic University Pomona

Silicon Valley largest medical groups and job opportunities

California has about 440 hospitals.
Silicon Valley’s largest medical groups are big employers. Here are the largest ones:

Stanford Health Care (about 2,300 employers).
For jobs go to: Stanford Careers
The Permanente Medical Group (about 1,800)
For jobs go to: Permanente Careers
Palo Alto Medical Foundation   (about 1,300)
For jobs go to: Palo Alto Medical Careers
Physicians Medical Group of San Jose Inc. (about 900)
For jobs go to: PMG of San Jose Careers
Santa Clara County Individual Practice Association (about 800)
For jobs go to: Santa Clara Careers
Smaller Hospitals at the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose):
Kaiser Permanente (Careers)
El Camino Hospitals (Careers)
O’Connor Hospitals (Careers)

Main biotech companies in Silicon Valley: current job opportunities

There are thousands of startups and other biotech companies in the Silicon Valley region. Here a small list of the most important, and where you can look for current job openings:

Genentech Inc: Careers
Gilead Sciences: Careers
LabCorp: Careers
Life Technologies, Thermo-Fisher Scientific: Careers
Agilent Technologies: Careers
Pharmacyclics, of Sunnyvale: Careers

Other articles on job opportunities in U. S. biotech and medical clusters:

Fort Worth, Texas: Health Care and Medical job opportunities
San Diego technical jobs
Detroit Health Care and Medical opportunities