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 By auriferous

01/01/2003  8:27PM

Without being an expert on global economies and the establishment of central banks, I would like to add a few cents' worth of my thoughts on the issue.

First off, I think that the world is full of power-hungry, rich, ruthless people. These folks are in the minority. Do they hold real power? Do they influence the daily lives of the "masses"? Do they hold sway over the courses of nations and entire populations? Probably. But as one of the "masses" myself, let me say this: my own personal economy (i.e., I go to work and get paid, with which money I am then able to purchase the things that my family and I need or want) doesn't rely directly on whether Alan Greenspan is wearing a polka-dot tie or whether the central bankers in London are having a good day or not. Sure, my job depends on the world prices of platinum and palladium to remain at a level at which the mining method that has been chosen for a tiny geological anomaly in Montana remains profitable. But you know what? If they don't and the mine closes forever, then I can go get another job. Will it be a hardship? Will the economy of the town, the state, and the country be affected? Will the miners be left with nothing? Most likely not, or at least for a relatively short time. What does it mean to say that the rich central bankers acquire that which will appreciate in value while they distribute that which does not or will not? Does it mean they are constantly investing in beachfront property and Las Vegas casinos while I am doomed to buy a new GM vehicle every year? Not in the least.

My economic situation includes, for example, a 401(k) plan. A modest way of deferring not only taxes, but also personal use of my own income. What? Am I letting some rich central banker decide the best way to invest my money? Yup. Am I concerned? Nope. "Why?", you ask. Because, frankly, that's what he does best. I would not trust him to survey my property or draft a set of civil engineering plans and I expect that he would not use me as his financial advisor. Does that make us unequal in status? Well, we're both professionals. His services are valued a little higher than mine, however. Are we both ethical people? I should hope so. But how far do ethics get you in the investment world? At best, I am asking him to predict what economic sectors will have a good year and which ones will not. How is he supposed to know for sure? He doesn't, really.

There is much to be said about whether the price of gold is being "manipulated" and to what extent. But we acknowledge that the very same valuation method is used for things like oil. That is a commodity whose price we, and most of the world, have little or no control over. Is gold different because it is a world currency and the basis for many governments' money? I would venture to say that the American economy is more dependent on price fluctuations of light, sweet crude than on gold. Anyway, what if the price of gold were "deregulated"? What if it rose back up to, say, $600/oz (assuming that a free market would even value it above about $300 anyway)? Would many of the mines in Nevada reopen? You bet. Would the Sixteen-to-One be debt free and loose of all the bonds of political strife and regulatory mire that afflict it now? No. Right now, the mine is troubled not by rich central bankers whose will becomes the guiding light of nations. No, it is troubled by a handful of lawyers and government staff who collectively couldn't agree on a place to eat lunch, let alone regulate a global economy. It wouldn't matter a whit to those people if the Whopper was sold today for a half-million dollars. They would just be pleased as punch to get their share and then stick it to the mine again tomorrow. Because they are evil-doers who would like to destroy the last remaining corporation operating a hardrock gold mine in California? No. Because that's their job, they don't have anyting better to do, that's what the governor wants, that's what 51% percent of the voting population will support, etc., etc., and because, sometimes, democracy stinks when you're in the minority.

The Sixteen-to-One has been and will be a symbol of the [revisionist] history of California and the Gold Rush. But so is the Empire/North Star complex in Grass Valley. Even the State thought so when it bought it and made it a state park. Now, publicly funded, it can demonstrate and educate for a few dollars a day. Michael Miller is getting an education from the State, too. The State is teaching him something that he doesn't want to learn. It is teaching him that most people just simply don't care anymore what exactly brought them or their ancestors to California in the first place. They don't care if the mine remains open or not. They don't care whether Mike goes to jail. They don't care whether the price of gold is $300 or $500 or $1000. Frankly, they probably don't care whether the arsenic level in Kanaka creek is above or below standard. It's the same way that they don't care where their roads, cars, computers, shoes, airplanes, forks, houses, lawn mowers, toothpaste, keys, bridges, light bulbs, space shuttles, aircraft carriers, or nickels come from. Just as long as they have them . . .

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