No, he wasn’t protesting the incredible intrusions our Big Nanny government is making into all of our personal affairs. Superman doesn’t need to worry about being groped at an airport; he can fly anywhere he wants, unaided.
In case you haven’t followed the Man of Steel in recent years, Superman has become embarrassingly politically correct. The reason he was thinking of giving up his citizenship was because borders are obsolete these days. The Superman character said: “The world’s too small, too connected.”
At least so far, Superman hasn’t surrendered his U.S. passport. But for a bunch of people who gathered in Vancouver, Canada, two weeks ago to attend the 12th annual Agora Financial Investment Symposium, the question of how to preserve their liberty and savings was very much on their minds.
The theme of this year’s conference was Fight or Flight: Your Capital at Risk. Among the questions speakers addressed were:
- How bad do you expect things to get? (Keep in mind this was before the market’s reaction to the Standard & Poor’s downgrade.)
- What can we do to change things?
- (Here was the killer) If you can’t stand what’s happening in the U.S. but don’t think it’s possible to make things better, is it time to consider moving your money — and maybe yourself – outside U.S. borders?
The mood of this group was captured perfectly by Byron King, author of the popular newsletter Outstanding Investments. When panelists at the Whiskey Bar (an extremely popular give-and-take closing session) were asked to name their favorite hero, philosopher and cocktail, Byron replied: “Patton, Patton and Molotov.” (I’ll give you a moment to enjoy the joke, which brought the house down.)
Doug Casey was at the opposite end of the fight-or-flight spectrum. He’s been an “international man” since he wrote a book of that title nearly 40 years ago. Today, he says he is, by choice, homeless — although he will admit to living on five continents and owning homes on most of them.
Agora founder Bill Bonner, who gave the closing address at the conference, said he did not agree with either point of view. Rather than fight or flight, he prefers to watch and chuckle. With his sardonic sense of humor, the Daily Reckoning columnist is an expert at poking fun at the posturing and platitudes of those who are sure they know what is best for us.
Speaking of politicians, no one at the conference had a more attentive audience than bestselling author John Mauldin when he described a private, invitation-only meeting he had with a roomful of Senators and their staffs in Washington a week earlier.
John is the author of an important new book, Endgame, which discusses various possible outcomes to the dilemmas our country faces. As you might imagine, many of them aren’t pretty. John describes himself as an optimist; by that, he means he thinks we will somehow muddle through.
Apparently, several members of “the world’s most exclusive club,” as the U.S. Senate is sometimes called, aren’t as optimistic. Here is how John described what happened:
It started when a friend gave Senator Dan Coats a copy of Endgame. He read it and underlined, highlighted and scored it. Then Senator Rob Portman took it off his hands and read it. They asked me to come to Washington to meet with a few of their colleagues. You don’t say no to such a request.John met beforehand with several chiefs of staff who advised him not to use a PowerPoint or even a prepared presentation. Rather, they suggested, just talk with them about what you see happening.
Evidently, Coats and Portman had worked the room, because nine guys showed up more or less on time. Two Democrats, six Republicans, and an independent (Lieberman). Jon Kyl was there, as well as Gang of Six member Tom Coburn from Oklahoma. Also Corker, Lugar, Coats, Portman and Mike Lee, the Tea Party senator from Utah. Overall, I was very impressed with the level of knowledge in the room and the candor.The thing that surprised and worried John — as it surprised and worried everyone who heard him in Vancouver — was that no one was very optimistic about a solution. None of the Senators or their staff he met with thought the present situation could be papered over with another round of quantitative easing, or even by a temporary increase in the debt ceiling. “I told them we could see a banking and credit crisis that was worse than the subprime crisis,” John reported. No one present disagreed with him.
When some of the most powerful people in Washington admit they don’t know what will happen next or even what to do about it, the situation is extremely serious, folks. Even Pollyanna is getting nervous.
But enough of the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Were there any positive suggestions for us? Of course. John Mauldin mentioned one of the most popular: Own gold. In fact, he says he spends some of every paycheck on the Midas metal (he’s partial to the gold American Eagle). And a lot of speakers agreed with him.
Egon von Greyerz got the crowd’s attention when he said, “There are only three kinds of money: Money which is already worthless, money that will become worthless (he put a picture of a $100 bill on the screen), and real money: gold.”
Egon also used one of the best analogies I’ve heard in a long time. It would take 100,000 workers, he said, making an average wage, more than 330 years to earn the same amount of dollars that Ben Bernanke has created in one year. Makes you appreciate just how big the tsunami of fiat currency really is, doesn’t it?
But not everyone recommended owning more gold. Gary Gibson, the editor of Whiskey and Gunpowder newsletter, had an interesting twist. Instead of buying gold coins, he said we should stock up on nickels. “Right now,” he said, “you can walk into your bank, give them a $100 bill, and receive $120 worth of nickels.” Yes, the metal content of that lowly coin is actually worth 20 percent more than its face value.
“And there’s another plus to owning nickels,” Gary told the crowd. “If you’ve got $10,000 worth stashed at home and a burglar breaks in, no way is he going to cart off more than $40 or $50 worth.”
There were many other dramatic promises and predictions at this year’s Agora symposium, including some truly eye-opening possibilities about the future of technology and biotech. But I’m running out of space to share them with you.
Instead, let me suggest that you get the CDs or MP3s of the conference and listen to the talks yourself. You can get every main session speech on a digital, downloadable MP3 file for only $99. Or if you prefer a boxed set of CDs, as I do, it costs only $149. Whichever you order, you will also receive a special report listing every investment recommendation in the afternoon breakout sessions.