04 May 2010

Why Silver?

Here is a 'thought experiment.'

In order to conduct it you have to accept a few postulates, or more properly, hypotheses, as being true without proof.

1. J. P. Morgan is the 'house bank' for the Fed and the Treasury since their forced merger with Chase Manhattan. Goldman may garner most of the high profile publicity, but when it comes to banking, financial engineering, and US economic policy, Blankfein is playing Dutch Schulz to Jamie Dimon's Lucky Luciano, metaphorically speaking.

2. J. P. Morgan, and some of the other Too Big To Fail institutions, sometimes act as an instruments of US policy. This may be an informal arrangement, a phone call. But it happens, and it involves more than just banks. It has been shown to occur with the big media, big corporations, and so why not big money? There is always a quid pro quo involved. Its simple political reality.

3. The US government has become increasingly involved in the management of the economy, from way in which it reports statistics, to the regulation of the financial sector, to the tax policy, and to what amounts to an industrial policy and of course a labor policy. While every government does this as part of their role of being a government, even if by omission, the US began to take a more planned and organized role with the creation of the President's Working Group on Markets in the aftermath of the Crash of 1987. The Exchange Stabilization Fund, established in 1934, was transformed into an opaque 'slush fund' to hand financial crises, most famously in Robert Rubin's extra-congressional actions during the Clinton Administration. What had been informal started to have a core, centralized discussion that exists without oversight. And two key money elements of this group, the Fed and the ESF, resist all attempts at outside audits.

4. From the SP futures to the outsized positions in some of the commodity markets, regulators have been consciously turning a blind eye to some very obvious market manipulation, apparent to anyone involved in the business. While this can be attributed to simple regulatory corruption and capture, in fact these things are often used for other purposes by powerful insiders and politicians. The role of the ratings agencies in support the banks and hedge funds in their various market frauda is interesting. And there is no better way to oblige yourself to the will of the authorities than to be discovered in some breach of the rules.

5. Robert Rubin introduced the policy rule that it is cheaper to head off a market dislocation by buying the futures to head off declines than it is to clean it up in the aftermath. Although this principle is now commonly attributed to a journalist and often dismissed as 'tinfoil hat' speculation I remember vividly when it was first articulated and it was by Robert Rubin. This rule or market intervention has been integrated and expanded, and is now a routine part of US economic policy decisions, again centered around the President's Working Group on Markets. It is a not always used, but it is considered a policy instrument, which is a change. Things like this are intitially proposed to be used in extremis, but like many stimulative drugs, they develop an addictive profile over time. This selective intervention had been performed by private banking pools in the past, most notably J. P. Morgan himself. But it is now firmly embedded in the hands of government.

6. Since at least 1970 the US dollar and financial system have become instruments of its foreign policy in the same way that the US military is an instrument of official policy. There are military conflicts as a means of supporting foreign and domestic policy, and there are also 'currency wars' and what can be loosely described as financial conflicts, for remarkably similar purposes. Sometimes these are overt in the form of sanctions, tariffs, and subsidies, but more often they are subtle, a means of extending political control and influence through debt and currencies, banks and ratings agencies, and supporting one's own corporations and industries.

Now that we have accepted the above for the purpose of this exercise, there comes the question, why silver? Is the United States interested in manipulating the price of silver, and therein the supply of silver in the world, and its uses?

J. P. Morgan has a strategically huge short position in silver, and is using it to 'manage' the price of the market at will. I did not bother to put that into the six postulates because it is a well documented fact, although rendered a bit hazy by official secrecy, bordering on an IQ test. If you fail to see it, try not to use too many sharp or pointed objects.

It is easier to do this with smaller markets like silver when one is using derivatives, as opposed to currencies or something as strategic as oil. I understand the gold market, because gold is a rival currency to fiat money and to the US dollar as the reserve currency. Gold is also the 'canary in the coal mine' and if you were of mindset to control things, you must control gold. Gold has a relationship with interest rates as Larry Summers attempt to prove in his paper, Gibson's Paradox.

But why silver? What strategic or monetary importance does silver have that would warrant so much attention and effort from the US government? Is there some as yet less known application for silver that makes it important? Or is silver just a convenient market to turn over to your cronies as their private sandbox, because it does not matter to you.

The most likely scenario I can imagine is that although silver lives in the shadow of gold from a monetary perspective, it has long been thought of as the 'poor man's gold,' and as monetary instrument for developing regions.

Silver has a long history as a form of currency in Latin America and in China. And although most Americans do not realize it, the US Constitution defines lawful money as both silver and gold.

The US maintains an enormous store of gold, although priced somewhat quixotically at a mythical price of around $42 per ounce, one of the largest in the world. But it has long since depleted its stores of silver bullion, and remains vulnerable to any move to include silver as a nascent currency promoted by the developing nations.

Just as a point of information, I have all of the six premises above as active 'strawmen' in my thinking. I believe there is enough evidence, quite a bit of it circumstantial and unconfirmed, that they are more probable than just possible. So I am content to keep them as data points while new information and data is processed, for and against.

I don't particularly care if anyone believes the premises or not. But they are interesting to consider for the purposes of this experiment in thought. Because the key word here is 'belief.' One cannot disprove any of it, just as one cannot prove it, yet. It takes an enormous leap of faith to believe that the government just lets things happen, and the markets are all happy hunting grounds of pristine humanitarian honesty, and the powerful and the rich do not use their influence to bend the markets to their will. And if the US is not watching out for its own interests in the world, and those of its people, well, it is just not doing its job, and it is incredibly naive to think otherwise. The efficient markets hypothesis is a load of romantically wishful delusion, and more likely propaganda for the masses.

One of the advantages of being your own person and adhering to what hard analysis has led to you conclude is that you can say what you think as long as you state why, and not care overmuch whether people wish to accept it or not, or condemn it as a conspiracy or not. The truth will out.

So, given the above premises, and assuming that few things really happen incidentally and by accident on a large scale when the government is involved, the question has to be asked.

Gold and Oil have an obvious strategic importance. But why Silver?

Early comments:

Mostly the obvious and therefore most highly probable. Its a small market and amenable to manipulation. Since the metal is necessary to industry it has its attractions even if the price rises. It is relatively neutral to government.

Quite a few think that it is a trade gone out of hand, where the shorts are effectively trapped, and cannot manage their way out of it gracefully.

One thing that has not occurred to anyone yet, which is a little bit disappointing, but perhaps too far off the subject, is this. Is it the government at the apex of the policy, the power, or is the government itself just one of the support mechanisms, a powerful member of the demimonde, for the real heart of darkness? Something to think about, but admittedly out of the purview of the thought experiment.

"The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government of the U.S. since the days of Andrew Jackson. History depicts Andrew Jackson as the last truly honorable and incorruptible American president."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt