A Daily Reckoning Desideratum

Maybe it’s the bad mushrooms that he ate, but Bill Bonner shares his hopes for the direction that the advice and warnings found our daily missive will take you, dear reader…

(Found in Old Saint Paul’s Church in Baltimore, Dated 1692…we have merely updated it.)


Remember that there is a fool on every corner and a sucker born every minute; be on good terms with all of them. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; listen to others, even the dull & ignorant, for they too have money to spend.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter – especially if you check out their balance sheets – for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you…before it goes broke.

Keep interested in your career, however humble; you’ll probably need the money.

Exercise caution in your business affairs…for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is: many persons strive for high ideals, though everywhere life is full of private heroism, as well as public humbug.

Desideratum: The Counsel of Years

Be yourself, but only if you can’t do better than that. Especially, do not feign affection, for what is the point? Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is perennial as the grass…or at least as cyclical as presidential elections.

Take kindly the counsel of years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth; the old codgers might know something. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune; misfortune is practically guaranteed, especially after 18 years of Alan Greenspan at the Fed. But do not distress yourself with imaginings; there is no need…things are worse than you could ever imagine anyway. Beyond a wholesome disciple, be gentle with yourself. But do not forget to kick a man when he is down; he would do the same to you.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees, the stars, and bathtub rings; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should, whether you like it or not.

Therefore be at peace with God and on even terms with bookies and barkeeps. With all its shame, drudgery, claptrap & broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning

October 28, 2005 — Ouzilly, France

Bill Bonner is the founder and editor of The Daily Reckoning. He is also the author, with Addison Wiggin, of The Wall Street Journal best seller Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of the 21st Century (John Wiley & Sons).

"Are you sure these mushrooms are OK?"

Thus begins an explanation for why today’s Daily Reckoning is more abbreviated than usual. Your editor ate wild mushrooms for dinner. During the night, he wondered if he would ever eat again.

Lying in his bed, in the early morning, he marveled at the elegance of nature and composed a desideratum (below) for his dear readers. In the event of his untimely passing, they can print it out, frame it, and put it on their walls to remember him.

Why do we write about money…and about markets…every day? We do it because the markets are a source of amusement, but also because they hate humbug in all its forms. No matter what people say or think, the markets eventually have their say, and their say is final.

"There’s no housing bubble," says Ben ‘Printing Press’ Bernanke.

"[U.S. Treasury Secretary] Snow sees no housing bubble," either, says Reuters.

Is there really a housing bubble? Two of the most powerful and knowledgeable financial officials in the world say ‘no’. Does that settle the issue? Nope. The markets still have not spoken. If there is a ‘bubble’ in housing, it will burst. That’s what markets always do to bubbles. If no bubble bursts, well…Bernanke and Snow will be proved right.

We will see.

More news from our team at The Rude Awakening…


Justice Litle, reporting from Reno, Nevada:

"Gold has been irrelevant for so long that most investors ignore it completely. That’s unfortunate. The precious metal’s three-year advance from $265 an ounce to $470 is no accident."


Bill Bonner, back in France with more opinions on various subjects…

*** But we had a feeling about the mushrooms. There was something about them that didn’t look right. And now we have a feeling about housing prices…and the U.S. economy generally. They don’t look healthy.

U.S. markets have changed noticeably in the last five years. Aside from speculation in tech stocks, in 2000 U.S. investors believed in ‘buy and hold…stocks for the long haul.’ The Nasdaq crashed, and the Dow has gone nowhere for the last five years. People are tired of waiting for the long haul; they want it now! So, houses have taken over from stocks, patience has given way to recklessness, and prudence has yielded to leverage. Anyone without a big mortgage on his house is considered a fool; he could have so much more house – and so make so much more money – if he used leverage. Condos are flipped. Houses are refinanced. And so many new residential buildings are going up that construction materials are soaring in price. Whether or not this is the stuff of a bubble or not, Mr. Market will tell us soon. Misters Bernanke and Snow are just talking.

*** From Harper’s Weekly:

"In Brooklyn, New York, a man was getting an image entitled ‘Last Rites’ tattooed on his right arm when he passed out and fell onto a counter; glass shards cut his throat and killed him."

The elegance of nature! She only sets men up so she can knock them down. Was there ever an exception? Was there ever a man born of woman who did not die? Was there ever a fool whom the markets did not sooner or later separate from his money?

And here cometh Ben "Printing Press" Bernanke to the nation’s top financial post: head of its central bank. What elegant punishment is nature readying for the man? "We have a technology," said Bernanke, "called the printing press."

With the confidence of an imbecile or a saint, the next Fed chief explains why we need not worry about deflation. And yet, falling prices would be just the sort of treachery nature might be tempted to bring to a nation in debt and a Fed chief in denial; not what they expected, but what they richly deserve.

"No way," Bernanke might say. "Remember, we have a printing press. We could always print up some extra currency…even drop it from helicopters if we needed to. Deflation is nothing to worry about."

And yet, Japan suffered a decade of on-again, off-again deflation. We don’t know, but we’d be surprised if the Japanese had no printing presses. Maybe it isn’t as simple as Bernanke believes.

*** We feel sorry for Bernanke. When Volker took over at the Fed, his mission was clear: to reverse the errors of previous Fed chiefs. When Greenspan took over, the bull market in bonds that Volker began (with falling interest rates) was still going strong. All Greenspan had to do was to not mess it up.

But now comes Bernanke, and the scene has completely changed. The bull market in bonds seems to be over. Yields on the 10-year note rose again yesterday. And all of the things that seemed so in need of correcting when Volker came to the Fed have now gone so far in the other direction that they are ready to reverse. Stocks sell for 20 times earnings. Houses have gone up so much that the typical wage earner cannot afford a typical house. Real rates (even with low nominal rates) could go up for the next 20 years, not down as they have for the last 24.

Bernanke sees his mission as continuing the boom that Alan Greenspan is alleged to have created. In the London Times Anatole Kaletsky describes the shoes Mr. Bernanke now seeks to fill: "Mr. Greenspan, together with his predecessor Paul Volcker, and if all goes well, his newly announced successor Ben Bernanke, will take pride of place when historians try to understand the transformation from the solid golden world of Midas and Mammon to the modern global economy, where completely worthless bits of paper and coded electronic signals are sufficient to represent all material dreams and aspirations and keep billions of people permanently in their thrall."

Even with a modern German printing press, we bet the poor man won’t be able to do it.

*** One of the problems of having more than one home is that the clothes you need are always in the other one. Another problem is that the food in the refrigerator is always moldy.

We arrived here in Poitou on Wednesday. It is the kids’ All Saints vacation; they have two weeks off. Looking around for something to cook for dinner yesterday, Elizabeth found several inedible items in the refrigerator…and a bunch of mushrooms that she judged comestible.

"Are you sure they’re OK?" we re-launched our question.

"Yes, it’s the season for mushrooms. Danielle (the local cleaning lady) probably picked them. And she wouldn’t have put them in there if they weren’t good."

"Do we owe Danielle any money?" we wondered.

This morning Danielle came over. We studied her eyes. For a moment, we thought she was surprised to see us still standing."

"Bonjour Mr. Bonner," she began, innocently.

"Bonjour…" we replied. "Danielle, do you know anything about those mushrooms in the refrigerator?"

"Yes…don’t eat those. They’re a little old. I was going to throw them out to the chickens."