Tim Price: Without a doubt
Comment of the Day

June 28 2010

Commentary by David Fuller

Tim Price: Without a doubt

This is a gem of a letter from the witty, erudite author, published by PFP Wealth Management. Here is a sample which requires no further comment

David Fuller's view Governments are doing their best to muddy the financial waters. It is impossible to assess values for financial instruments when the risk-free rate (whether defined as something approximating to cash or the interest rate payable on short-term government bonds) sits at zero due to administrative manipulation. Since governments are widely also attempting to depreciate their currencies in the (probably futile) cause of driving exports - we cannot all take in each other's washing - there is a wholesale and growing flight from fiat. This is still, we would argue, being misunderstood. Dr. Paul Kedrosky on Seeking Alpha suggests that either gold is overvalued or everything else is undervalued. (The binary structure of this expression is not helpful.) Gold is certainly not "(newly) part currency" - it has always been currency. Or as one respondent ironically observed:

"For any author to suggest that gold or other "hard assets" could possibly be "over-valued" versus worthless paper proves that this "doctor's" degree is ALSO just more worthless paper."

And as another even more ironically observes,

"Right. Gold is in a 4,000 year bubble, and we should accept this. Fiat currencies are far more stable than that."

It would be madness, when faced with such massive and systemic uncertainties, not to have an element of portfolio or wealth insurance. Gold in its various forms (physical / ETF / mining companies) goes some way to providing that insurance.

And as we shepherd our assets through this period of acute uncertainty, we should try and learn to live with our limitations, rather than seek the certainty of being wholly and unchallengeably right. As Kathryn Schultz says, in discussion of her book "Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error" (Portobello Books, 2010):

"Recognizing that error is an inevitable part of our lives frees us from despising ourselves - and forbids us from looking down on others - for getting things wrong. Once we recognize that we do not err out of laziness, stupidity, or evil intent, we can liberate ourselves from the impossible burden of trying to be permanently right. We can take seriously the proposition that we could be in error, without deeming ourselves idiotic or unworthy. We can respond to the mistakes (or putative mistakes) of those around us with empathy and generosity. We can demand that our business and political leaders acknowledge and redress their errors rather than ignoring or denying them. In short, a better relationship with wrongness can lead to better relationships in general - whether between family members, colleagues, neighbors, or nations.

"Embracing fallibility to prevent catastrophic error, embracing fallibility to prevent conflict: These are two hugely worthy goals. But learning to do either one consistently is close to impossible as long as we insist that mistakes are made only by morons, and that an intelligent, principled, hard-working mind is the only backup we need. This is the deep meaning behind the pat cliché "to err is human." Take away the ability of an intelligent, principled, hard-working mind to get it wrong, and you take away the whole thing."

Buy a copy for a politician you know.

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