Posts by Simon Black

Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter Notes from the Field is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom, make more money, keep more of it, and protect it all from bankrupt governments.

  • First post: 16/06/2009
  • Posts written: 1488

Latest Articles

After 1,428 years here’s what brought down the world’s oldest business

kongo-gumi-temple
In 578 AD, a Korean immigrant named Shigemitsu Kongo made his way to Japan at the invitation of the royal family.

Buddhism was on the rise in Japan at the time; though it had only been introduced a few decades prior, the Empress consort had been actively encouraging the adoption of Buddhism across Japan.

But since the Japanese had no experience building Buddhist temples, they looked overseas for help.

That’s where Kongo[...] Click here to continue reading

Thirteen years ago my life changed forever

powell-un-wmd
Thirteen years ago my life changed forever.

Colin Powell, then US Secretary of State and the most credible person in George W. Bush’s cabinet, made the case for war in Iraq on February 5, 2003.

As a young military intelligence officer at the time, watching from a makeshift army base in Kuwait not far from the Iraq border.

Back then I was a true believer, trusting that the government was a force for[...] Click here to continue reading

Congress wants to turn the US Postal Service… into a bank

usps-bank
It’s news that seems ripped from the pages of The Onion. Or perhaps Atlas Shrugged.

But incredibly enough it’s actually true: earlier this week, Congress proposed a new law authorizing the US Postal Service to provide banking and financial services.

It’s called the “Providing Opportunities for Savings, Transactions, and Lending” Act, abbreviated as… wait for it… the POSTAL Act.

And it provides explicit authorization for them to provide banking services including checking[...] Click here to continue reading

Meet the world leader who stole his citizens’ gold–

King-Charles-gold
Even before his coronation in 1626, King Charles I of England was almost bankrupt.

His predecessors King James and Queen Elizabeth had run the royal treasury down to almost nothing.

Costly war and military folly had taken its toll. The crown had simply wasted far too much money, and brought in too little.

To make matters worse, King Charles was constantly at odds with parliament.

The English government was completely dysfunctional,[...] Click here to continue reading

Infographic visualizing America’s new $19 trillion debt

Dollar-Blow-Up
In case you missed it, yesterday we alerted you that the United States government has now officially accumulated $19 trillion in debt.

This time it took them just 427 days of printing to pile on this last trillion dollars, compared to the over 75,000 days it took to rack up the first trillion dollars in debt.

They're definitely getting better at this.

The thing is—most of the mainstream new sources that have[...] Click here to continue reading

The United States just hit $19 TRILLION in debt…

Dollar-on-fire1
On October 22, 1981, the national debt in the United States of America hit $1 trillion for the first time in history.

It had taken the US federal government over two centuries to reach that mark. And in that period, America had won its independence and built a nation from scratch.

They created an army and a navy, and used them both to aggressively expand the nation’s domain.

They fought an incredibly[...] Click here to continue reading

Good things require a little bit of effort. So does freedom.

Bermuda
It’s been nearly a dozen years now that I’ve been living abroad as an expat.

In that period I’ve lived in at least half a dozen countries and traveled to more than 100 on all seven continents.

People often ask me questions like when am I going ‘back home’, as if my leaving the mother ship was the result of some temporary insanity.

But when I look back on that decision, it[...] Click here to continue reading

The Podcast Awakens: The best kept secret in finance

058-best-kept-secret-in-finance
This week I’ve been down in Southern Chile with the Board of Directors of our agricultural company.

It’s summertime right now, and the weather is absolutely gorgeous.

Last night, after a long day visiting one of the farms I had a chance to sit down with Tim Price to share a bottle of our very own Sovereign Valley wine and record a podcast.

It’s been about two months now since the last[...] Click here to continue reading

Three critical ways an offshore bank can protect you

feature_bank
Let’s take a moment to compare the world today to before the Global Financial Crisis struck roughly eight years ago.

In this short period of time, US federal government debt has DOUBLED.

The Federal Reserve now holds $2.4 trillion of that debt, up from $479 billion.

Interest rates, which were between 2-4%, are today just a hair above zero.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which is expected to guarantee bank accounts,[...] Click here to continue reading

Italian officials warn that the system is about to erupt

Vesuvius-erupting
On August 24 in the year 79 AD, one of the most famous natural disasters in history struck the Ancient Roman city of Pompeii, and its surrounding area.

We have an eye-witness account from Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, whose letter to Roman historian Tacitus vividly describes how the eruption of Mount Vesuvius rained down hot, black cinders and smoldering ash onto the towns below.

Pompeii was buried in about six meters of volcanic[...] Click here to continue reading

If you don’t conform to the crowd now, you’re a ‘radical’

Radical conformist
In 2014, the Journal of Neuroscience published the results of a unique study that probed deep into human emotion.

Two Dutch scientists had conducted an experiment in which they exposed test subjects to a wide range of scenarios to evoke some of the most primal human emotions-- joy, anger, etc.

Subjects were hooked up to an electro-encephalogram (EEG) in order to quantitatively measure their brains’ cognitive response to powerful emotions.

And the[...] Click here to continue reading

If this isn’t the start of the crisis, just imagine how bad the real crisis is going to be.

Despair-Stocks-Slumping
Chances are you’ve never heard of William White.

You might have heard of the organization that he used to manage—the Bank of International Settlements (BIS).

The BIS is often called the central bank of central banks; their role is essentially to facilitate international financial transactions among the world’s central banks.

So they are a major component in the international financial system, just like the IMF and World Bank.

William White is[...] Click here to continue reading

After curing AIDS, North Korea courageously invents ‘consequence-free debt’

North Korea Consequence Free
If you believe the official propaganda, no other nation in the history of the world has advanced the cause of humanity more than North Korea.

According to the North Korean Ministry of Truth, their great nation has cured cancer, ebola, AIDS, SARS, MERS, and much more.

Now they’re saving the world again, this time having invented an extra-strength adult beverage that won’t leave you feeling like a train wreck in the morning.

[...] Click here to continue reading

Here’s how low one bank just took its interest rates—

banking-system-collapse
Julius Caesar was kind of a deadbeat.

The guy was in debt up to his eyeballs, and had borrowed so much money to finance his rise to power that he threatened to skip town forever if he lost an election.

Back in Caesar’s day, interest rates in Rome were about 12%. In ancient Mesopotamia, interest rates could be as high as 25% or more.

In ancient Greece, 10% to 15%. During the[...] Click here to continue reading

Privacy safeguards used by Clooney, DiCaprio, and Obama under fire by the Treasury Department

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, has a word with actor George Clooney at the National Press Club for "SAVE DARFUR: Rally to Stop Genocide."  Clooney discussed he and his father's recent visit to the region.  Sam Brownback, R-Kan., also appeared.
As a kid I remember hearing it all the time. It was an idea that was drilled into my head over and over again.

It was in movies and legal dramas. You could see it in the newspapers. We learned about it in textbooks.

“In America,” people would say, “you are always innocent until proven guilty.”

I didn’t really understand what that meant as a child. But it sounded great.

My[...] Click here to continue reading

Two technologies that are revolutionizing the financial system

Blockchain financial sector
Eight centuries ago as Marco Polo traveled across the vast dominion of the Mongolian Empire, he encountered what few westerners had ever seen.

One of those astonishing experiences was how the Mongols happily and willingly used paper currency.

Marco Polo was so intrigued by this that he devoted an entire chapter in his famous diaries to the Mongolian monetary system.

Back then, Kublai Khan’s imperial mint was located in the city of[...] Click here to continue reading

Becoming an expat was the best decision I ever made

El-Golf-Santiago
I had a bit of a housewarming party a few days ago with a pretty diverse group of friends, many of whom had moved here to Chile from foreign countries.

One girl that I know is a tattoo artist from New York.

Now, back in the United States, she has a great reputation as a phenomenal tattoo artist.

But in New York, and in the US in general, she is a phenomenal[...] Click here to continue reading

If you don’t agree with Obama you are “peddling fiction”

2016 State of the Union
If you’re not watching it purely for the entertainment value, sitting through a State of the Union speech ranks somewhere between a colonoscopy and a root canal.

Every year I opt for the former (entertainment value, not colonoscopy).

But because I live overseas, one of the added entertainment benefits is that I’m surrounded by foreigners who are seeing this highly ritualistic propaganda for the first time.

The absurdity starts almost immediately.

[...] Click here to continue reading

You know negative interest rates are bad when…

Dollar-Closeup
Switzerland is famous for being punctual.

The trains. The buses. The meticulously crafted, hand polished luxury watches.

The Swiss are so culturally punctual that they even tend to pay their taxes well in advance of the filing deadline.

So it was quite a shock to hear this morning that the Swiss canton of Zug is asking its citizens to delay paying their taxes for as long as possible.

Why? Negative interest[...] Click here to continue reading

Federal Reserve’s “net worth” collapses 33% in two weeks

Banks-collapse
In case it weren’t completely obvious how completely screwed up the financial system is, please allow me to introduce Exhibit A: the Federal Reserve’s own balance sheet.

First we need a quick accounting background. And, stay with me, because this is important.

Think about your own finances. You, me, everyone… we all have assets and liabilities.

Your assets might be things like cash, your house, car, baseball card collection, etc.

And[...] Click here to continue reading

The first lesson from history: Human beings always rise

Exchange rates scam
About a week and a half ago when I landed in Australia, I walked past the currency exchange booths in the arrivals hall and took a quick look at their rates.

Their quoted price to change US dollars into Australian dollars was 77 cents that day.

I quickly glanced at my phone and found that the actual market rate was just 72 cents.

So these guys were charging an unbelievable 7% markup![...] Click here to continue reading

Why you need to have PHYSICAL CASH… now.

Dollar-Dollars
Think of the word “money” for moment. What’s the first image that comes to mind?

Perhaps the folded paper in your wallet. Or the balance in your bank account.

Or perhaps the investments in your brokerage account.

In our modern financial system where unelected central bankers wield totalitarian control over the financial system, all three of these are forms of money.

But the relationship between them is very tenuous, and very[...] Click here to continue reading

Here’s the ultra-clever way that Chinese are circumventing capital controls

China flag
Well, it happened again.

China’s stock market plunged, sending more than half a trillion dollars to money heaven.

What a surprise, it turns out that a massive credit bubble is actually unsustainable and will eventually burst. Shocker.

And just like what happened last year when Chinese stocks tanked, the government is stepping in to centrally plan the stock market recovery.

Last year we saw some of the most extraordinary tactics; China’s[...] Click here to continue reading

Is 2016 the year of the dollar collapse?

Dollar-Ben-Franklin
On September 4, 1993, President Bill Clinton spoke about the American Dream in a weekly radio address.

He told his audience that “in America, the idea is that if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll be rewarded with a good life for yourself and a better chance for your children.”

That’s what America used to stand for, and indeed much of the Western world. Freedom. Truth. Hard work and fair[...] Click here to continue reading

What Silicon Valley’s Orgy of Christmas Party Excess says about America

yahoo-christmas-party
Do you remember the first website you ever visited?

I do. It was Yahoo!

The year was 1995. Toy Story was the #1 movie in the world. The Oklahoma City bombings claimed the lives of 168 people. War and genocide raged in the ongoing Balkan conflict.

America Online and Prodigy, both early Internet pioneers, offered the public access to the “information superhighway” for the first time.

And a couple of engineers[...] Click here to continue reading

The ‘other’ big news out of Colombia

Colombia-MedicalMarijuana
Sometimes it strikes me as bizarre that in our modern, egalitarian society, we still award prizes to women who have the most artificially contrived beauty.

Nevertheless, that is our reality.

And so the big news from this week was the SNAFU at the Miss Universe pageant in which the host accidentally awarded the crown to Miss Colombia, only to take it back moments later and give it to Miss Philippines.

For a[...] Click here to continue reading

Congress’s $1.15 trillion spending bill: Heads they Win, Tails you Lose

Money-printing-inflation
Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s seminal masterpiece Crime and Punishment is often thought of as one of the longest classics at more than 200,000 words.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, which was signed into law on Friday, is nearly twice as long.

In case you’re not familiar with the background, the author was once quite wealthy.

But through years of reckless, irresponsible behavior, he gambled away his wealth until he was impoverished and unable[...] Click here to continue reading

In a free country, Martin Shkreli should be free to act like a complete asshole.

martin-shkreli-free
The most hated man on the Internet was arrested yesterday.

If you haven’t heard this story, his name is Martin Shkreli. He’s the guy who rose to infamy a few months ago when he increased the price of a life-saving medication by over 5,000%.

Something tells me he’s not going to win any humanitarian awards anytime soon.

(Then again, Shkreli has probably killed fewer people than Nobel Peace Prize recipient Barack Obama,[...] Click here to continue reading

This is how I would explain the Fed’s rate hike to a space alien

fed-interest-rates
When you think of the word ‘money’, the first thing to come to mind is probably those pieces of paper in your pocket.

High school economics textbooks teach students that ‘money’ is a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a measure of account.

And while all that fancy-sounding language may appropriately describe the ways in which we use money, they do not define what money actually is.

Money is not[...] Click here to continue reading

Amazing. Look at how silver has held its value for 23 centuries–

silver-coins-bars
Thousands of years ago in ancient city of Babylon, specially trained scribes gathered each day in the Temple of Marduk to record the day’s events.

They used cuneiform writing instruments and clay tablets, over 1200 of which still survive today.

These scribes kept excellent records, detailing astronomical observances and water levels of the Euphrates River, as well as market prices for the most popular commodities like wheat, barley, and wool.

It’s incredible[...] Click here to continue reading

Denmark to confiscate gold, jewelry, and other valuables from refugees

Soren-Pind-Refugees
It started on December 8, 1931.

Germany was in a world of pain at the time. They were still financially debilitated from having to make reparation payments after losing World War I, and had just barely recovered from one of the worst bouts of hyperinflation in recorded history.

By the early 1930s, the onset of the Great Depression had taken hold in Germany, driving the government to desperation once again.

They needed[...] Click here to continue reading

The massive bubble in US dollars is so obvious in this country

south-africa-oceanfront
When I did the math in my head last week, I had to pull out my phone’s calculator just to make sure I hadn’t mentally misplaced the decimal point.

It turns out I was right. My rental car in Cape Town would cost me just $8/day. And that included all the silly taxes and fees and nonsense.

Eight bucks. I imagine that the car depreciates more than that.

The rest of my[...] Click here to continue reading

3 signs we’ve reached ‘the top’ in the financial system

3-signs-of-top
It was 1720, and Paris was completely mad.

The city’s brand new stock exchange, located at the ultra-swanky Hotel de Soissons, swarmed with citizens of all stripes looking to get rich.

Stocks were still a novel concept back then, and the allure of getting rich overnight was so appealing that people lined up for hours to buy shares.

The most popular was the ill-fated Mississippi Company, whose share price frequently rose up[...] Click here to continue reading

Check out the new law that Obama quietly signed over the weekend

Obama-signature
It’s time to get serious.

One of the major themes of this daily e-letter is that major western governments are flat broke.

This is not the first time that a major world power has gone bankrupt, and we need only to look to history to see the consequences.

Thousands of years ago, as Rome’s bleak financial condition deteriorated, it didn’t create a crisis all at once.

Initially the Empire was able[...] Click here to continue reading

Brazil’s government creates 46 new tax rules EVERY DAY

Brazil-tax-code
One of the truest aphorisms in the world of investing is that Brazil is the country with the MOST potential… and always will be.

There are few other countries on the planet blessed with such an abundance of resources—fertile land, plenty of water, a huge population, incalculable mineral and natural resource wealth, etc.

And yet Brazil can’t ever seem to get out of its own way to realize its potential.

Don’t get me[...] Click here to continue reading