Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.Spain Ignores Scotland Lesson as Catalan Independence Referendum Could Spark Civil War - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Used Car Buying From UK Dealer Top Tips, CarMotion.co.uk Real Customer Experience - N_Walayat
3.Spanish New Civil War Begins as Madrid Regime Storm Troopers Quell Catalan Independence Rebellion - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Virgin Media Broadband Down, Catastrophic UK Wide Failure! - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Are the US Markets setting up for an Early October Surprise? - Chris_Vermeulen
6.The Pension Storm Is Coming To Europe—It May Be The End Of Europe As We Know It -John_Mauldin
7.Stock Market Crash 2018; Will it Prove to be Another Buying Opportunity - Sol_Palha
8.The Profoundly Personal Impact Of The National Debt On Our Retirements - Dan_Amerman
9.Stock Market as Good as it Gets; Like 2000 With a Twist -Gary_Tanashian
10.1987 Stock Market Crash 30th Anniversary Greatest Investing Lesson Learned - Nadeem_Walayat
Last 7 days
Stock Investors Ignore What May Be The Biggest Policy Error In History - 20th Oct 17
Gold Up 74% Since Last Stock Market Peak 10 Years Ago - 20th Oct 17
Labour Sheffield City Council Employs Army of Spy's to Track Down Tree Campaigners / Felling's Watchers - 20th Oct 17
Stock Market Calm Before The Storm - 20th Oct 17
GOLD Price Creates Bullish Higher Low - 20th Oct 17
Here’s the US’s Biggest Vulnerability in NAFTA Negotiations - 20th Oct 17
The Greatest Investing Lesson Learned from the 1987 Stock Market Crash - 20th Oct 17
Stock Market Time to Go All-in. Short, That Is - 19th Oct 17
How Gold Bullion Protects From Conflict And War - 19th Oct 17
Stock Market Super Cycle Wave C May Have Started - 19th Oct 17
Negative Expectations, Will the Stock Market Correct? - 19th Oct 17
Knowing the Factors Affect your Car Insurance Premium - 19th Oct 17
Getting Your Feet Wet In Crypto Currencies - 19th Oct 17
10 Years Ago Today a Stocks Bear Market Started - 19th Oct 17
1987 Stock Market Crash 30th Anniversary Greatest Investing Lesson Learned - 19th Oct 17
Virgin Media Broadband Down, Catastrophic UK Wide Failure! - 19th Oct 17
The Passive Investing Bubble May Trigger A Massive Exodus from Stocks - 18th Oct 17
Gold Is In A Dangerous Spot - 18th Oct 17
History Says Global Debt Levels Will Lead to Another Crisis - 18th Oct 17
Deflation Basics Series: The Quantity Theory of Money - 18th Oct 17
Attractive European Countries for Foreign Investors - 18th Oct 17
Financial Transcription Services – What investors should know about them - 18th Oct 17
Brexit UK Vulnerable As Gold Bar Exports Distort UK Trade Figures - 18th Oct 17
Surge in UK Race Hate Crimes, Micro-Racism, Sheffield, Millhouses Park, Black on Asian - 18th Oct 17
Comfortably Numb: Surviving the Assault on Silver - 17th Oct 17
Are Amey Street Tree Felling's Devaluing Sheffield House Prices? - 17th Oct 17
12 Real-Life Techniques That Will Make You a Better Trader Now - 17th Oct 17
Warren Buffett Predicting Dow One Million - Being Bold Or Overly Cautious? - 17th Oct 17
Globalization is Poverty - 17th Oct 17
Boomers Are Not Saving Enough for Retirement, Neither Is the Government - 16th Oct 17
Stock Market Trading Dow Theory - 16th Oct 17
Stocks Slightly Higher as They Set New Record Highs - 16th Oct 17
Why is Big Data is so Important for Casino Player Acquisition and Retention - 16th Oct 17
How Investors Can Play The Bitcoin Boom - 16th Oct 17
Who Will Be the Next Fed Chief - And Why It Matters  - 16th Oct 17
Stock Market Only Minor Top Ahead - 16th Oct 17
Precious Metals Sector is on Major Buy Signal - 16th Oct 17
Really Bad Ideas - The Fed Should Have And Defend An Inflation Target - 16th Oct 17
The Bullish Chartology for Gold - 15th Oct 17
Wikileaks Mocking US Government Over Bitcoin Shows Why There Is No Stopping Bitcoin - 15th Oct 17
How to Wipe Out Puerto Rico's Debt Without Hurting Bondholders - 15th Oct 17
Gold And Silver – Think Prices Are Manipulated? Look In The Mirror! - 15th Oct 17

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

3 Videos + 8 Charts = Opportunities You Need to See - Free

The Catfish, Your Savings and Japan's Gold Coin Giveaway

Commodities / Gold and Silver 2011 Dec 08, 2011 - 02:45 AM GMT

By: Adrian_Ash

Commodities

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleDon't be greedy, or a giant catfish might force you to spew out your savings...

UNLIKE us – who are so smart today – ancient folk in ancient times used to believe the oddest things about how the world worked.

The Japanese, for instance, long thought that earthquakes were caused by a giant catfish, shuffling and shifting whenever the great god of Kashima forgot to keep his foot on a heavy stone which held the beast down, deep beneath the coast of Honshu. Honoring the Kashima shrine, some 80 miles north-east of what was then Edo (modern-day Tokyo) was therefore a good idea. Because tectonic upheaval, causing death and destruction, was a sign that the god was neglecting his duty.


November 1855 saw Kashima skip town, or so legend soon had it, leaving the god of fishing in charge of the stone and the catfish. What a mistake! The Great Ansei Earthquake killed 7,000 people at a stroke, and many more in the days and weeks after.

But it wasn't all bad...

"Don't be greedy!" one of the laborers urges his mates in this popular print, Mr.Moneybags launches forth his ship of treasure. "You'll regret it if you save this money and an earthquake comes.

"Better go and spend it at the brothels and keep it circulating."

The Kashima shrine itself was damaged in March 2011's catastrophe. But the poor idiots of old-time Japan would still find a silver lining. Although some of the hundreds of namazu-e (catfish pictures) from 19th-century Japan show the beast captured and beaten – or even committing hare-kiri to say sorry – he also became a folk hero to laborers and shopkeepers, because he forced the wealthy to spend money on repairs and rebuilding.

Think of it as a divine take on Bastiat's "broken windows" parable. Knocking things down is good for society (or so society says), since the glazier is paid and then spends that money in turn. Earthquakes are great for production, because they force cash out of locked chests into the pockets of carpenters, plasterers, bricklayers and masons – just the right type to keep it circulating again.

"For Edo residents," one scholar explains, "the earthquake of 1855 was an act of yonaoshi, or 'world rectification'." In print after print, catfish shake or squeeze wealthy old hoarders who vomit or shit out gold coins, quickly scooped up by dancing laborers eager to spend it on booze, noodles and trips to what's now known as Soap Land.

"Like typhoon-season floods and dry-season fires," notes another 2011 look back, "earthquakes and tsunamis were understood as corrections of temporary imbalances in the vital force perpetually flowing through the world (known in Japanese as ki and in Chinese as qi). Periodic eruptions of natural violence released pent-up force and kept both nature and human society healthy by renewing them...Confucian philosophers as well as ordinary people believed that the economy followed the same principles. Just as ki flowed continuously in nature, money should be kept moving in the economy too, not allowed to stagnate and foster greed. For this reason, many people viewed capital accumulation distrustfully. Nature, they believed, censured it."

Could anyone hold such a medieval view of economics today? Not outside a central bank or university, you might think. But greed is central to our depression's mythology. From there, the attack on capital accumulation can't be far off. And it's ironic that to help keep money moving after the terrible earthquake and tsunami which hit Honshu this spring, Tokyo is now offering gold coins to investors buying its reconstruction financing bonds. On the minimum ¥10 million investment ($150,000) needed to qualify, however, Japan's reconstruction bonds pay 0.05% per year without the coin, and a barely less miserly 0.3% with it if gold stays at today's prices by the end of 2014. So the net effect is still to shake down Mr.Moneybags – otherwise known as Japan's diligent household savers today.

Anyone calling this special half-ounce commemorative gold coin an "incentive" might sound like they need to raise money themselves to buy a calculator. But it's not the first promotional effort tied to Japanese government bonds. Word reaches us here at BullionVault that special flyers – posted by door-drop in Tokyo – have recently been advertising government debt straight through the mailbox. As for coupons and premia, the Nomura brokerage is already offering its retail clients free shopping vouchers if they buy JGBs and lend to the government, too.

"The wealth of the realm belongs to the realm," wrote Confucian scholar and advisor Yamaga Soko – who also developed the Samurai code of chivalry, bushidoin the mid-17th century. "It is not the wealth of a single person. Well should it circulate."

Now compare and contrast French politician and essayist Claude Frédéric Bastiat writing 200 years later. "What would become of the glaziers, if nobody ever broke windows?" he asked in his famous parable of 1850, paraphrasing the "vulgar" mob who applaud the shards of glass on the street. Yet it is the shopkeeper needing to get his window fixed, "the shoemaker (or some other tradesman), whose labour suffers proportionably by the same cause...who is always kept in the shade...who shows us how absurd it is to think we see a profit in an act of destruction." It is also the tradesman who stands for the capitalist, the diligent drudge minding his business. Shaken down like old Tokyo's Moneybags, he can only watch in horror as his money – his treasure – is launched forth to common approval.

Here in the early 21st century, Occupy Wall Street think they know just who to choke with a catfish. "Hey, Paulson, you can't hide, we can see your greedy side!" chanted the self-declared 99% at the hedge-fund manager in October, little caring that his fund has halved in value in 2011-to-date. The echo-chamber of TV news and financial blogs reckons the entire system is run by greedy bastards anyway. No doubt they're right, but even before the crisis blew up, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke long ago blamed Asia's savings glut for building imbalances in the global economy.

So how to shake cash from the hoarders? A Tobin tax on financial transactions looks a good start, even though retirement savers will end up paying, of course, as their pension-fund managers pass on the cost. Capping bank dividends only hurts savers again, because their income depends on such yields. Setting interest rates at zero aims to scare (or at least hurt) them for not spending money today. So too does printing more money, as Japan's modern-day Moneybags know only too well.

"Your key financial asset, your medium of exchange – money – is also a savings vehicle (a store of value) and a safe asset (a unit of account)," explains Berkeley professor Brad DeLong. So "if an excess demand for financial assets is seen to cause a collapse in production and employment" – especially money hoarded in money, rather than being spent on new windows and brothels – "then it would seem immediate and obvious that generating an excess supply of financial assets would cause a revival."

Immediate and obvious like a giant catfish making the rich puke gold coins, perhaps. Forcing a revival of spending by flooding the market with cash still hasn't worked in Japan, but it has led to door-drops and vouchers to try and find new loans for the State. And further to DeLong's proposal, our key financial asset and means of exchange is now something else, too: money is first and foremost a credit, held on deposit rather than hoarded in sock drawers at home. And being a credit, rather than tangible property, the vast bulk of money today is already out of the savers' control.

Today's Mr.Moneybags is by definition a lender. Indeed, his money's already been lent out with gusto. The old miser has no choice; cash on deposit is owed to him, he does not own anything inside the bank's vaults. On the bank's balance-sheet, his savings are deemed "liabilities", while on the other side of the ledger sit the banks' "assets" – the loans it has made, using Moneybags' cash. If the old miser (aka retiree or saver) withdraws all his cash, some debtor somewhere must repay their loan. And debt forgiveness is already being talked up – whether for governments in Europe or over-spent US consumers.

So blame greedy hoarders if you like. Just watch for the mob gathered round your broken windows, ready to choke you with a metaphorical catfish.

By Adrian Ash
BullionVault.com

Gold price chart, no delay   |   Buy gold online at live prices

Formerly City correspondent for The Daily Reckoning in London and a regular contributor to MoneyWeek magazine, Adrian Ash is the editor of Gold News and head of research at www.BullionVault.com , giving you direct access to investment gold, vaulted in Zurich , on $3 spreads and 0.8% dealing fees.

(c) BullionVault 2011

Please Note: This article is to inform your thinking, not lead it. Only you can decide the best place for your money, and any decision you make will put your money at risk. Information or data included here may have already been overtaken by events – and must be verified elsewhere – should you choose to act on it.


© 2005-2017 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Catching a Falling Financial Knife