The conspiracy theorists and gold bugs fired up over my Rum Rebellion article last Friday, 2 August 2019…‘Cashing in on Fear’.
The cause of their angst was my declaration of…
‘your money in the bank is safe up to the $250k deposit guarantee.’
The responses came thick and fast…
The banks and government are in cahoots to confiscate our money. Government guarantee is not worth the paper it’s written on.
What’s their solution?
‘The ultimate protection against a bank failure is to withdraw funds from the banking system and buy gold.’
Before people get the impression I’m anti-gold, here’s an extract from page 121 of my book The End of Australia…
‘The aim is to ultimately transition our cash holdings [during the next debt crisis] into the Model Portfolio asset allocation.
‘As a reminder, the asset classes are:
- ‘Cash and fixed interest
- ‘Australian shares
- ‘Australian listed property
- ‘Emerging Markets
In the August 2015 issue of Gowdie Family Wealth, I recommended an allocation to gold…when the price was under AUD$1500/oz.
On the current AUD price of $2220, we’re sitting on a paper profit of almost 50%.
When reading the conspiracy theories about confiscation, I’m reminded of this quote…
‘In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, while in practice there is’
Benjamin Brewster 1882
The theorists point to the fact that the legislation (as it currently stands) limits the government guarantee to $20 billion per ADI (approved deposit taking institution).
The deposits held by the big four, five and six banks easily exceed this limit, so the government guarantee won’t be enough to cover these institutions.
Also, the government has not set aside any funds to pay depositors in the event the guarantee is activated.
That’s true too.
The banks are changing the terms and conditions of their deposits accounts…giving them legal immunity from any capital controls or bail-ins.
Again that’s true.
Fiat currencies have never lasted. But gold has endured.
Can’t deny that.
In theory, the scaremongers have an open and shut case — withdraw all your cash and buy gold and/or cryptos.
It’s in practice that this theory just doesn’t add up.
The one thing the fear merchants and I agree on is we’re building towards a debt crisis that’ll make 2008/09 look like a Sunday school picnic.
I’m also of the view that capital controls (limited access to physical cash) could be introduced to prevent bank runs.
While cash might be restricted, we’ll still be able to transact electronically…internet banking, debit and credit cards.
Where we differ is on how government is likely to respond to the pressures this looming crisis will place on our banking system.
When trust in our banking system erodes…
Society functions on an orderly basis when there’s trust and confidence. Absent these two components, we have anarchy.
Hong Kong is a prime example of what happens when the people no longer trust those in power.
If push comes to shove, and trust in our banking system is eroded to the point where public confidence becomes fragile, government will not sit idly by…that’s not the nature of populists politicians.
The cry ‘to do something, anything’ will be too loud to ignore.
Firstly, the government has the power to change the legislation. With a declaration of ‘the ayes have it’ the limit of $20 billion can be crossed out and replaced with unlimited.
But there’s no money set aside to cover an unlimited guarantee? Ever heard of the printing press? The RBA owns one.
The days of printing money (quantitative easing) being the refuge of Zimbabwean despots is long gone.
As reported in Business Insider on 22 May 2019 (emphasis is mine)…
‘In the absence of some fiscal assistance from the government, something the RBA continues to call for in order to help achieve those goals, it’s little wonder why speculation is mounting that the RBA may need to follow in the footsteps of other major central banks and adopt unconventional monetary policies such as quantitative easing (QE), negative interest rates or even more experimental measures.’
As we’ve seen in Japan, Europe and the US, what was once deemed to be ‘unconventional’ has taken on the mantle of ‘conventional’.
Doing whatever it takes to maintain stability and confidence is the modern day central bank mantra.
While history is firmly on the side of gold outlasting fiat currencies, the modern day money system is far more sophisticated than those of olden times.
The US dollar, the British pound, the Japanese yen, the euro, the Chinese renminbi. These are all used to transact domestically and in international trade.
Countries will not give up the control of their sovereign currency (and the ability to print it) without a fight…especially the US.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, ‘the reports of the death of fiat money are greatly exaggerated’.
The so called solution…‘The ultimate protection against a bank failure is to withdraw funds from the banking system and buy gold’…is self-serving nonsense being whipped up to increase bullion sales.
If we take, at face value, the claim that all deposits — even those under $250k — are at risk of total confiscation, then let’s explore how this might impact society.
In good times and bad, we all need to buy groceries…food, toiletries and other essentials.
One of Australia’s largest retailers is Woolworths.
The following is a screen shot from page 91 of Woolworths 2018 Annual Report showing ‘Cash and cash equivalents’ of $1.273 billion.
Source: Woolworths Annual Statement
That cash is presumably set aside for things like wages, rents, payment to suppliers and the tax office.
Meeting these obligations is essential for Woollies to remain in business…thereby enabling us to buy the basics in life.
If you believe the scaremongers, Woolworths (and all the other major corporations in Australia) should seriously consider ‘kissing goodbye’ to its cash holding.
Can you see where I’m going with this? Without the means to settle accounts, the dominos begin to fall and the whole system collapses…trust and confidence is gone.
It’s just implausible to think the corporates will meekly allow this to happen.
Look at the mining industry’s concerted (and successful) campaign against Swan’s mining tax.
Boy oh boy what sort of campaign would be unleashed by corporate Australia if their very existence was threatened by the total confiscation of the lifeblood of their businesses?
And on a micro level, I presume the bank accounts of those who deal in precious metals will also be emptied to re-capitalise the banks.
So how do they settle up when someone wants to cash in their gold? By offering to buy it back with gold?
Perhaps corporate Australia will be spared and only personal deposit holders (the quiet Australians) will have their accounts confiscated to re-capitalise the failing bank/s.
Good luck with that.
Any politician who thinks they can spin that to a very angry public is in serious need of psychiatric assessment.
The notion of government allowing matters to descend into these farcical scenarios is even beyond my cynical and distrusting imagination.
While government may say ‘we won’t use taxpayer money to bail-out banks’, just remember that taxpayers are also deposit holders and voters.
What was said in times of relative calm and reflection, can easily be unsaid in times of crisis…something like ‘due to unforeseen and extenuating circumstances, we, the government, have invoked emergency measures to guarantee the savings of all Australians’.
Politicians doing a backflip with a double twist is far more believable than the concept of them letting the system fall into a state of utter chaos.
The one sure thing you can count on with politicians is…self-interest.
Not all that different really to those who stir up unnecessary fear with scenarios that are only slightly less plausible than an Elvis sighting.
Editor, The Rum Rebellion
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