August 15, 2011
Zell am see, Austria
It’s easy to be pessimistic on a day like today. Forty years ago on this very day, Richard Nixon put a bullet into George Washington’s face, cancelling the direct convertibility of dollars into gold and once and for all ending any hope of an honest money system.
Over the past four decades, the dollar has fallen 98% against the price of gold. Politicians and central bankers pretend that inflation is not a concern, but the rising cost of living around the world has prompted people to such extremes that they’re willing to light themselves on fire to protest government bungling.
Despite all the economic troubles in the world, though, I’m extraordinarily optimistic for the future. You see, this morning I just concluded our second annual Liberty and Entrepreneurship youth camp– a five day event where my business partners and I put a group of students from all over the world through an intensive, hands-on ‘value creation laboratory.’
We believe that whenever there are problems in the world, there are always opportunities to solve those problems and create value; we took the students through practical exercises in how to spot these opportunities. This included things like developing credible business plans without making the common rookie mistakes that drive most businesses into the ground.
The camp culminated in a series of group presentations about actual business ideas they had come up with… and to be honest with you, every single one of them was impressive. These weren’t silly, amateurish, rinky-dink ideas like operating a summer lemonade stand, but rather creative solutions to large-scale problems that actually have serious potential.
Let me give you a few examples.
One of our students, Philipe from Brazil, came up with a great idea to address a real need in his home country: elderly care. Brazil’s rapidly growing middle class now has the disposable income to provide better in-home care to its elderly parents, and he devised an elegant solution that is just screaming to be deployed. I’m eager to invest.
Another student, Julian from New Zealand, came up with a creative solution to personal security challenges that plague both travelers and worried parents of small children. His idea makes a twist on GPS tracking, and if he takes the necessary steps to build this business, I’m convinced it could be worth $20 million to a big satellite company in a few years.
Another student, Kim from Germany, recognized that the growing appeal of precious metals in the broader consumer market warrants a higher level of quality in portfolio tracking services. His team came up with some extremely clever ideas for a precious metals portfolio app, and given where we are in the commodity’s growth phase, the idea has significant merit.
Ultimately, this is the reason we keep doing these camps year after year: we believe in people, and we’re making a long-term investment in their capabilities.
At some point down the road, whether it’s next year or 10-years from now, there’s not a doubt in my mind that many of these students will be wildly successful in their chosen fields… and if we can have the opportunity, now, to influence their skills and knowledge, then the investment that we’re making today will pay enormous dividends in the future.
I truly believe that bright, clever, creative people can solve any problem that is presented to them. Every single one of us has the power to do this– something, or perhaps many things, that we’re good at that can solve a problem in the world. If you solve a problem, it creates value for the consumer, and it creates wealth for you. That’s a win/win for everyone.
It’s clear there are a lot of problems in the world and a lot of things that need to change; most people attempt to affect change through a political grassroots movement that can take decades to make any headway, if ever. Going door to door trying to get others to vote for ‘your guy’ is an exercise in frustration, even futility.
Government is what creates the problems to begin with; they are not the solution. We are the solution. Nurturing those skills to become self-reliant and create value in the world, or investing in others’ capabilities to do so, is a much more productive way to fight.
We’ll send out links to download MP3 files from the camp lectures once I have the opportunity to have the audio cleaned up for you, but the short version is this:
1) Take steps to protect what you have and diversify your sovereign risk; what we’ve seen so far in terms of riots, systems failures, and Draconian government response is just the tip of the iceberg, and you have to be able to operate from a position of strength without all of your eggs in one basket;
2) Develop the necessary skills that you feel will be the most valuable in the future, especially given the dynamic nature of the tumultuous times in which we live.