Science tells us this is all true

On April 30, 1934, under pressure from Italian-American lobby groups, the United States Congress passed a law enshrining Columbus Day as a national holiday.

President Franklin Roosevelt quickly signed the bill into law, and the very first Columbus Day was celebrated in October of that year.

Undoubtedly people had a different view of the world back then… and a different set of values.

Few cared about the plight of the indigenous[...] Click here to continue reading

The US government lost nearly $1 trillion in FY2017. Again

There was a time, centuries ago, that France was the dominant superpower in the world.

They had it all. Overseas colonies. An enormous military. Social welfare programs like public hospitals and beautiful monuments.

Most of it was financed by debt.

France, like most superpowers before (and after), felt entitled to overspend as much as they wanted.

And their debts started to grow. And grow.

By the eve of the French[...] Click here to continue reading

Nightstick Democracy at its finest…

The last several days in Venezuela have been absolutely mind-blowing.

Pretty much all the stories you’ve heard are true-- countless people eating out of garbage cans, the appalling shortages of basic staples like food, medicine, and even soap… and the lines.

Oh boy, the lines.

The longest lines I saw, in fact, were not at grocery stores, but at banks.

Hundreds of people were queuing up, many of them to pull[...] Click here to continue reading

This is what $100 buys you in Venezuela

The gunfire on the streets near my hotel started around 9pm last night.

The sound is unmistakable, especially at night on an otherwise quiet city street.

I had recently returned to the hotel after a few evening meetings. And coming back after dark it was as if they had rolled the sidewalks up -- restaurants with no patrons, bars and clubs that were totally empty.

There was an incredibly striking[...] Click here to continue reading

What do these CEOs know that we don’t?

Last night a good friend of mine came over for dinner.

He’s originally from Poland, and growing up there he heard a lot of bizarre stories about what it was like during the Nazi invasion and World War II.

In 1939, even as 1.5 million German soldiers prepared to invade, the general mood in Poland couldn’t have been more carefree.

My friend’s grandfather once told him that, just prior to the Nazi[...] Click here to continue reading

It doesn’t matter that we “owe it to ourselves”

Thousands of years ago, as far back as 3000 BC, the ancient Egyptians had developed a highly advanced system of writing using hieroglyphic symbols.

The used hieroglyphs for numbers as well.

A single line, for example, represented the number 1. Two strokes represented 2. Nine strokes for the number 9.

Since the Egyptians had not yet invented the “zero” in 3000 BC, representing the number 10 required a new symbol-- a sort[...] Click here to continue reading

Yes, governments CAN go bankrupt. And no, it’s NOT impossible…

In the year 1517, one of the most important innovations in financial history was invented in Amsterdam: the government bond.

It was a pretty revolutionary concept.

Governments had been borrowing money for thousands of years… quite often at the point of a sword.

Italian city-states like Venice and Florence had been famously demanding “forced loans” from their wealthy citizens for centuries.

But the Dutch figured out how to turn government loans[...] Click here to continue reading

How one Silicon Valley entrepreneur lost his faith in the system

Today I’m going to introduce you to my friend Ben, easily one of the most unique, intelligent people I know.

I first met Ben at my summer Liberty and Entrepreneurship camp several years ago.

He had recently dropped out of Harvard after winning the prestigious Peter Thiel fellowship, which has an incredibly competitive selection rate of less than 1%.

He was working on an intriguing new business, and after conducting our own[...] Click here to continue reading

The most shocking revelation from the CIA spying scandal

It happened again-- another spying scandal in the Land of the Free.

Yesterday Wikileaks released 8,761 CIA documents detailing the agency’s hacking of smart phones, routers, computers, and even televisions.

These files reveal that the CIA can and has hacked devices that were supposedly secure-- iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.

The documents further reveal that the CIA is deliberately infecting personal computers with spyware, including Windows, Mac OS/X, Solaris, Linux, and other[...] Click here to continue reading

Sock puppets and vomiting ghosts

[Editor’s note: This letter was written by Tim Price, manager of the VT Price Value Fund and frequent Sovereign Man contributor.]

It was at the height of the dot-com bubble in 1999 that The Onion famously satirized the epically irrational stock market:
“Anabaena, a photosynthesizing, nitrogen-fixing algae with 1999 revenues estimated at $0 billion, will offer 200 million shares on the NASDAQ exchange next Wednesday under the stock symbol ALG. The shares are expected[...] Click here to continue reading

Here’s an example of a bank you want to avoid

A few weeks ago, one of our Europe-based Total Access members reached out to ask us about a bank account he was considering for his new business.

This is important stuff.

As I’ve written before, most people spend more time thinking about what they’re going to have for dinner than even considering whether or not their bank is safe.

In finance there’s hardly anything more critical.

Never forget that the moment[...] Click here to continue reading

Finding a safe bank that actually pays a solid interest rate

Probably around the time I was 12 years old, my parents opened up a bank account on my behalf.

Decades later, even though 99% of my assets are outside of the United States, I still maintain a small balance at that bank.

I appear to be suffering from some sort of bizarre financial nostalgia.

This morning I received an email from the bank informing me that they were increasing the interest rate[...] Click here to continue reading

These guys are destroying Uber. Yet few westerners have ever heard of them.

[Editor’s Note: Peter K, the chief analyst of Sovereign Man’s private investment division, is filling in for Simon today.]

I’m visiting my brother in Indonesia right now.

Being a good host, he was fixing us vodka martinis, when he realized he ran out of olives.

Both of his drivers had finished for the day so I was expecting him to compromise on the olives.

No need.

He loaded up a[...] Click here to continue reading

Here’s one alternative, but it’s extremely unpopular

It’s my usual custom whenever I land at a major airport to stop by the rental car counters and inquire how much it costs to rent a vehicle.

For me this is a sort of informal, albeit imperfect, economic indicator.

High prices suggest strong demand from plenty of business travelers and tourists, which will likely have a positive economic impact.

Cheap prices, conversely, suggest that there’s something wrong.

Well, there’s definitely[...] Click here to continue reading

The biggest transformation story in the world

I’ve written before a number of times about the long laundry list of reasons why I base myself and most of my business operations in Chile.

I could go on forever about this, but in short the country presents an exceptional mix of business, investment, and lifestyle opportunities that are extremely difficult to find just about anywhere else in the world.

But people ask me a lot-- if not Chile, where else?

[...] Click here to continue reading

Boy was I wrong about this place…

In 1927, US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously wrote that “taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”

This quote is enshrined at the Internal Revenue Service, and it’s a rallying cry for people who constantly argue for higher taxes.

Almost everyone completely misunderstands what he meant.

First of all, tax rates in the United States were about 3.5% back in 1927, just a tiny fraction of what they are[...] Click here to continue reading

Fed president says US banks have “half the equity they need”

In a scathing editorial published in the Wall Street Journal today, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Neel Kashkari, blasted US banks, saying that they still lacked sufficient capital to withstand a major crisis.

Kashkari makes a great analogy.

When you’re applying for a mortgage or business loan, sensible banks are supposed to demand a 20% down payment from their borrowers.

If you want to buy a $500,000 home,[...] Click here to continue reading

World’s 2nd largest stockpile of gold leaves the United States

About 20 years ago when I was still a cadet at West Point, my economics professor organized a class trip to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The part of the trip that I remember most was touring the Fed’s high security vault, 80 feet below street level beneath the bank’s main office building downtown.

This vault houses the largest known depository of gold in the world.

None of that gold,[...] Click here to continue reading

Yes, money does grow on trees

If you’ve been a reader of this letter for any length of time, you may have noticed that I try to spend my weekends and free time at our farms in Chile.

I’m still on the road at least 6 months out of the year and travel to 30-40 different countries annually.

But when I’m not traveling or I’m not needed at our offices in Santiago, I go out of my way to[...] Click here to continue reading

World’s largest hedge fund manager predicts bleak future for markets

There are lots of famous investors and hedge fund managers who are legendary stock-pickers.

Warren Buffet is a great example.

Others are hard-core quantitative analysts who build complex trading algorithms.

Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates, is neither.

He’s a macro investor whose fortune was built on an uncanny ability to spot big macro trends.

He predicted in 2007, for example, that the US housing bubble would burst,[...] Click here to continue reading

More unbelievable facts from the US government’s own financial reports

Yesterday I told you that the US government had recently released its annual financial report to the public.

And the numbers are pretty gruesome.

For example, the government’s “net loss” in fiscal year 2016 more than doubled, from MINUS $467 billion to MINUS $1 trillion.

It’s astonishing that anyone could manage to lose so much money, let alone in a year where devoid of major wars, recessions, financial crises, or infrastructure projects.
[...] Click here to continue reading

US government’s 2016 net loss “more than doubled” to NEGATIVE $1 trillion

Every year around this time the US federal government releases an annual financial report to the public.

It would be hilarious if the numbers weren’t actually true.

Just like Apple or Exxon, the government’s annual report contains several important financial statements and detailed commentary about their finances and operations.

But unlike Apple, Exxon, the government can’t manage to turn a profit. Ever.

According to this year’s report, the government’s net loss[...] Click here to continue reading

Meanwhile, over in Zimbabwe. . .

On April 12, 2009, the government of Zimbabwe officially abandoned its currency.

You probably remember the stories; starting in the early 2000s, the Zimbabwe central bank began printing massive quantities of money in order for the government to make ends meet.

This resulted in one of the worst episodes of hyperinflation in modern history.

Zimbabwe’s rate of inflation in 2001 was more than 100%. Prices basically doubled.

But that was nothing.
[...] Click here to continue reading

See if you can flip this switch in your thinking

I’ve always been a big believer in entrepreneurship.

But not in the sense that most people think of that word.

My dictionary defines “entrepreneur” as “a person who organizes and operates a business, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.”

I think this definition is totally wrong.

Entrepreneurship doesn’t have anything to do with owning or starting a business, let alone taking on great risk.

[...] Click here to continue reading

This ancient city would still be among the wealthiest in the world today

In the year 440 BC, more than two decades into the reign of Pericles, an audit of treasury in Athens showed a massive surplus of more than 9700 “talents”.

A talent was a common unit of measurement in the ancient world, especially for gold and silver.

And, based on today’s precious metals prices and the traditional gold/silver ratio (14:1) used by the ancient Greeks, 9700 talents is equivalent to about $700 million today.
[...] Click here to continue reading

Not that there’s any inflation, but . . .

The numbers are pretty startling.

Nearly 7 in 10 Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.

1 out of every 3 Americans has nothing set aside for retirement.

And, according to Federal Reserve data, the median working-age couple has saved just $5,000 for retirement.

How is this even possible?

How could it be that the citizens of the wealthiest country to have ever existed in the history of the world[...] Click here to continue reading

The -other- “ban” that was quietly announced last week

Most of the world is in an uproar right now over the travel ban that Donald Trump hastily imposed late last week on citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

But there was another ban that was quietly proposed last week, and this one has far wider implications: a ban on cash.

The European Union’s primary executive authority, known as the European Commission, issued a “Road Map” last week to initiate continent-wide legislation against[...] Click here to continue reading

Nobel Prize winner says US should “get rid of currency”

In the mid-1800s at a time when the United Kingdom was still the dominant superpower in the world, an English scientist named Francis Galton wrote a series of papers arguing for the selective breeding of human beings.

Galton’s ideas became known as eugenics.

The concept was that genius and talent were hereditary traits passed from generation to generation, and that, to ensure the growth of our species, the best and brightest should be[...] Click here to continue reading

This data proves US stocks aren’t as healthy as we’ve been told

[Editor’s note: Tim Price, London-based wealth manager and co-manager of the VT Price Value Portfolio, is filling in for Simon today.]

Here’s some food for thought.

There’s been so much discussion over the past few years, and 2016 in particular, about the roaring US economy and stellar performance of US companies.

As an example, we are constantly told about the cash piles that US companies have hoarded around the world.

This[...] Click here to continue reading

Two more major problems for Social Security & Medicare

Not too long ago my step-dad had to spend a few days in intensive care. Pretty scary stuff.

He had just about every nasty symptom imaginable, from constant vomiting to dizziness to ultra-high fever, but the doctors couldn’t figure out why.

Fortunately his condition improved enough that he was released from the hospital, and now he’s on the mend.

Now, my step-dad is a Medicare patient. But he just found out that[...] Click here to continue reading

Land of the Free: Michigan man issued parking ticket in his own driveway

The state of Michigan is not exactly known for its balmy weather this time of year.

And residents reasonably do what they have to do to cope with often extreme winter temperatures.

Last Thursday a man named Taylor Trupiano of Roseville, Michigan did what a lot of people do in cold climates.

He walked out of his house, started his car, turned on the heat, and went back inside for a few[...] Click here to continue reading

How two people from New York started over in Chile

Yesterday on the drive back to Santiago from one of our blueberry farms, I stopped to visit some friends who lived in the area.

About a year ago they bought some land in Chile’s incredibly fertile 7th region, which boasts a rare Mediterranean climate.

It never gets too hot, and it never gets too cold. Plus, the rich, volcanic soil is packed with powerful nutrients.

As long as you’re in the[...] Click here to continue reading

Here’s a unique sign of inflation

I remember the first time I ever saw a $100 bill.

It was back in the early 80s, I must have only been 5 or 6 years old.

My parents took my sister and I to a fancy restaurant, and I distinctly remember a man dressed in a dark business suit a few tables over paying his bill with a crisp $100 note.

He pulled it out of his wallet, slid[...] Click here to continue reading

Wow. 60 Minutes was totally wrong about second passports

Steve Kroft has a problem with second passports.

Specifically, the reporter and his team of producers slammed “citizenship by investment” programs in an editorial piece that aired on 60 Minutes this past Sunday night.

As we’ve discussed before, many countries around the world, including Malta, Dominica, St. Kitts, and Antigua, have Citizenship-by-Investment (CIP) programs.

The programs differ between countries, but they all provide an opportunity for foreigners to receive citizenship in exchange[...] Click here to continue reading

US national debt soars by $100 billion. . . in just 8 hours

According to the latest statement issued yesterday afternoon by the Department of Treasury, the US national debt has reached $19,976,826,951,047.80.

That’s $19.976 trillion, as of the close of business on Friday December 30, 2016.

(The government is typically a day or two behind when it sends out these reports.)



That number itself is obviously remarkable, just shy of $20 trillion.

But what’s even more astounding is that, according to[...] Click here to continue reading