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Month: November 2020

Soapbox: £394 billion for the health of the nation?

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Back in 1720 the South Sea Bubble finally popped. The South Sea Company was formed to consolidate the national debt of the UK – £9 million, which now seems a risibly small amount but is about £20 billion in today’s money. All holders of this debt (which the government had no means of paying) were required to surrender it to a new company, the South Sea Company, which then allocated them shares to the same nominal value, on which the government promised to pay 6% annual interest. Of course, it quickly defaulted on this promise – governments tend to do that.

The bonds representing the debt were tradable on the open market after the company floated; it issued more debt and by 1719 the total debt owed was £50 million (£1.23 trillion in today’s terms). To cut a long story short, speculating frenzy broke out (along plenty of dubious share allocations to friends of the government) in shares, which rose from £128 per share in January 1720 to £1,000 in August that year. The bubble burst, as all bubbles must, to the ruin of thousands; by the end of September a share was back down to £150.

One of the most important lessons of the South Sea escapade is that one can never trust the pledges of governments or their nominated advisers, who throughout history turn out to be too chummy with government. We have seen this chumocracy at work this year. According to a National Audit Office investigation into government procurement during the Covid-19 pandemic, by the end of July more than 8,600 contracts had been awarded relating to the pandemic, valued at £18 billion; £10.5 billion were awarded directly without any competition. The lack of transparency in handing out lucrative contracts is said to be because government needed to work “at pace”. To which one can only say “less haste, more speed”.

Biggest fall in GDP for 300 years

Rishi Sunak, the UK government’s boss of all things money (i.e. the Chancellor) told Parliament this week in his ‘spending review’ that the country this year would see its gross domestic product (GDP) fall by 11.3%, the biggest drop in 300 years – which put me in mind of the South Sea Bubble.

The government, said Rishi, has racked up £394 billion so far, (which is currently 19% of GDP, the highest in peacetime) – more debt is to come on unbudgeted borrowing, the costs of dealing with the economic disaster of shutting down the economy to prevent the transmission of Covid-19.

 

According to the Office of Budget Responsibility the government will have to find £20 to £30 billion in spending cuts or tax rises to balance revenues and spending by 2024, when the next general election is due to be held.

 

 

In my opinion, this has been a cack-handed mess in which the Conservative Party government – like many others – has been captured by sentimentality, ignored scientific opinion that does not accord with the dominant narrative, and has accumulated debts that our grandchildren will be paying back.

Hence my view that the UK government, like many others, has saddled us with a broken economy without sufficient justification. The Office for Budget Responsibility argues that “the coronavirus pandemic has delivered the largest peacetime shock to the global economy on record. It has required the imposition of severe restrictions on economic and social life…” It has certainly ‘resulted in’ but it is debatable that it “required”. By 2025, according to Rishi, the economy will be 3% smaller than he predicted in March this year. Unemployment in Britain will rise to 7.5% in the second quarter of 2021, equivalent to 2.6 million people without a job.

Only one answer

There is only one answer to mendacity and foolishness which is imposed on one – and that is to avoid it if at all possible. The consequences of Rishi’s well-intentioned (and what is the road to hell paved with?) largesse is that we or our descendants will be faced with diminished lives pretty soon, as tax cuts and/or spending cuts are forced upon us by a government trying to pick its way through this rubble.

It’s at this point that I’m happy to confirm that I will continue to use my Glint card and app. I know that the gold price is down about 11% from its August level, but it’s still up by more than 18% since the start of the year.

Not that Glint cards are just about saving in gold – they are much more useful than that. The gold on your Glint card is an alternative to fiat money and it can be used to spend on all types of goods. When the world so obviously is in the hands of politicians who are free and easy with money which is not theirs, you need to take back what is yours – and take as much control over your life as possible.

After all, governments make promises which they later break – such as the Conservative Party government’s promise not to cut its spending on foreign aid, which Rishi also tossed out the window. On your banknotes is the statement “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of…” Ask yourself – how watertight is that promise?

Around the campfire: No more turkeys, please

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Celebrating Thanksgiving with my US friends via Zoom this year was a weird experience. In my own family ‘bubble’ the turkey seemed to lack a bit of the savour of previous years; but at least it was Covid and chlorine-free.

As I toasted transatlantic buddies with a glass of Malbec – bought with my Glint card obviously – the chat turned to how this strange year has been for people. The US has had more than 21% of the world’s Covid cases and 18% of Covid-related deaths, a total of 258,000 so far. Many are mourning.

Thanksgiving was very unusual for most North Americans this year – about half of them down-scaled their celebrations, 70% of them staging a Thanksgiving with fewer than six people compared to 48% last year; at least whole-turkey prices were cheaper, by about 7% to $1.21 per pound, the lowest price since 2010, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Thanksgiving was started by the remnants of the 102 religious separatists who left England in 1620 aboard the Mayflower, and established a small and struggling economy in what became the US. In 1621, they held a celebratory feast to give thanks for having survived scurvy, starvation and other troubles, their survival aided in part by a Native American, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe. It’s about sharing and demonstrating gratitude for what we have.

From the semi-spiritual to the more material. Today is ‘Black Friday’, when consumerism traditionally goes bonkers, when people show they want more, more, more. Last year, the biggest spenders in the US were millennials aged 24-35 who spent on average almost $450; American shoppers spent $5 billion in a single day. UK shoppers are expected to spend £750 million today. Retailers tempt consumers by holding out the prospect of sale prices, yet these so-called ‘sales’ this year are often around for longer than just a single day.

Consumer spending drives most economies, not least those of the US and that UK. Consumer spending – or the lack of it – is one reason why economies all round the world are in such a dire predicament.

Everyone likes to find a bargain. But the biggest bargain of this year may be the simplest – just to have survived the pandemic and the economic meltdown that has resulted. For which we should all give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving for yesterday, try not to go too ‘Black Friday’ crazy today, be prepared for Cyber Monday and I’ll see you next week with some exciting news about Glint it!.

Until next week,

Jason

Around the campfire: From Stable Volcanos to Volatile Cryptos

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Just got back from a brief family break in the Canary Islands, the strip of volcanic outcrops close to North Africa’s west coast. Deciding where to go to catch some sun and warmth before the winter sets in is a bit of a nightmare right now but it seems you don’t have to quarantine after visiting these islands. Thank heaven for small mercies.

Being volcanic, although now largely dormant, these islands were perfect places for the formation of veins of gold. Hot mineral-bearing fluids flowed along zigzag cracks, the fault lines, undergoing rapid depressurisation and producing tiny veins of gold in the quartz.

Aztecs thought that gold was the “sweat of the sun”, a neat metaphor. Gold was probably more likely a result of the collision of two neutron stars, which flung out materials at colossal speed. Or it may have been through nuclear fusion in deep space and the resulting explosion of supernovas, with the debris from that bombarding the surface of the earth, with molten iron sinking into its core and taking with it the vast majority of the planet’s precious metals. It’s thought that there are enough precious metals in this core to cover the Earth in a four-metre thick layer. Too deep, too hot for exploration.

Gold is not created by human hands. Unlike paper currencies, or cryptocurrencies, gold cannot be created and its value does not depend on a promise from anyone, be they a government, central bank, or coder.

Plenty of money-substitutes have been spawned over centuries, such as dollars, pounds, euros, francs and others. These are all based on credit and are best understood as ‘debt-currencies’, forced into circulation by legal tender laws.

The next such debt-currency to arrive will be the central bank version of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin – there are more than 1,600 of these cryptocurrencies and the list is constantly growing.

The sheer plethora of these competing privately-developed cryptocurrencies is one of the reasons why they will never come to be universally accepted as a means of exchange or a store of value. For that to happen one of them must come to the front and dominate, crushing the competition. That’s unlikely to happen – too many individuals have too much ego wrapped up in promoting their own version.

A second reason why cryptocurrencies are unlikely to displace gold as money is that digital currencies are already being captured by central banks, who are rapidly developing their own CBDCs (Central Bank Digital Currencies). The very reason why one wants to avoid government and central banks’ control is now being adopted by those same governments and central banks. CBDCs will be a version of fiat money – legally enforced but subject to the same pressures as paper notes.

Bitcoin launched in 2009 and remained around a few dollars for its first few years. It rose to more than $17,000 in late 2017, fell to $3,212 a year later and is close to $17,000 again today. Bitcoin was always and remains today a gamble (as do other cryptocurrencies), and might become subject to tougher regulatory interference in the future, as CBDCs become more ubiquitous – governments will show little tolerance to competing financial instruments.

A final reason why gold, a natural substance, will win out in the alternative-to-fiat-money-race is volatility. If you want to be fairly certain of how much ‘value’ you own, Bitcoin is not useful, because it has been and still might be too volatile. And while it’s perhaps a pack ‘leader’ it certainly is not alone.

 

 

Until next week,

Jason

Soapbox: The petulance of power

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“Politics and the fate of mankind are formed by men without ideals and without greatness…”: Albert Camus

When the Labour government of Prime Minister Harold Wilson took office in the UK in October 1964, the country faced a fiscal deficit (an excess of government spending over revenues) of £800 million. It was around that time that Wilson is believed to have coined the phrase “a week is a long time in politics”.

It sure is, as Manuel Merino – interim President of Peru for six days until Sunday 15 November, when he resigned on TV after massed protests – can testify. Merino had taken over the presidency after Peru’s Congress had ejected the previous President, Martín Vizcarra for his alleged “permanent moral incapacity” – Vizcarra is accused of taking big bribes, which he denies. If “permanent moral incapacity” were a justification for ejecting all and any politician, who would escape?

By November 1967, the financial pressures on the UK had become overwhelming and the then Chancellor, James Callaghan recommended that Sterling be devalued. Two days later it was devalued by 14.3%, taking it from an exchange rate against the US dollar of $2.80 to $2.40, and interest rates were raised from 6.5% to 8%. Wilson notoriously weaselled his way out of this bad news on television, mendaciously telling the British public: “That doesn’t mean, of course, that the pound here in Britain, in your pocket or purse or in your bank, has been devalued”.

Fifty-six years later and the conditions of the British economy – a relatively weak export sector, a trade deficit in goods (around £23 billion in the second quarter of this year) – are pretty much the same, except that today no-one talks in terms of millions. It’s all billions – such is the erosion of value.

 

 

Shortly after that devaluation the UK’s application to join the European Economic Community (now the European Union or EU) was blocked (for the second time, the first was in 1963) by the President of France, Charles de Gaulle.

Less than six weeks from now the UK is due finally to leave the EU, with or without a trade deal. Opinions are sharply divided as to whether the lack of a trade deal would be more damaging for the UK or for the EU. In truth, leaving without a trade deal would harm both sides, and not just financially.

Decline and fall

President Donald Trump kept revolving doors’ manufacturers in business; the Brookings Institution calculates that his so-called “A” team – the most influential positions within his executive office – has had a turnover of 91%. So far he has not yet conceded office, yet even China has congratulated Joe Biden on winning the presidency. Clinging to office is starting to look petulant.

Petulance is a trans-Atlantic sickness. One reason for turning to gold as money is because politicians, the class of people who manipulate fiat currencies to serve their own ends, can be whimsical; they are fallible creatures, wrapped up in their own ambitions, desires, jealousies and other permanent moral incapacities.

Witness this week’s teacup-tornado in No 10 Downing Street. A wrangle over who would get the job as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief of staff (and boy, does he need one) led to the walkout and/or dismissal of the two men most closely identified with a hardline position on the UK’s departure from the EU. These two – Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain – were unelected advisers but are reckoned to have masterminded Johnson’s victory in the last general election. In his blog, Cummings wrote in May 2018 that “the wiring of power in Downing Street is systematically dysfunctional”, possibly his most prescient comment.

Recriminations have already started. A leak (picked up and widely reported) that the Cain/Cummings camp had a nickname for Johnson’s latest squeeze, Carrie Symonds (also unelected but undoubtedly influential on Johnson), calling her behind her back “Princess Nut Nuts” for her supposed interference in government. Accusations of misogyny have necessarily followed. This is decline and fall with a vengeance.

Gold is not petulant

The capacity of politicians, who are swayed by personal tastes as much as national “higher” interests, for petulance is as great as it is for any of us.

The need for “good” government – for government that takes rational decisions that are unemotional and not swayed by the Twittersphere – has rarely been more urgent than at a time of global pandemic.

Whether it be how the UK leaves the EU, or how the US intends dealing with its own deep internal divisions, the time for petulance should be over. But because our political leadership – be it in Beijing, Brussels, London, Minsk, Moscow, and still in the US – shows very little indication of developing maturity, it is as well to think about buying some gold, which is utterly impervious to blandishments or bluster.

Around the campfire: Shubh Diwali

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It’s time for me to wish all my Indian friends and clients a wonderful Dhanteras – which this year falls today, 13 November, and a very happy Diwali, or Shubh Diwali in Hindi.

Diwali is the annual festival of lights and kicks off with Dhanteras, which is actually two words, Dhan meaning wealth and Teras which means 13th day. The Indian goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is traditionally worshipped on Dhanteras, along with the god Ganesha, the god of knowledge and the god Kuber, another god of wealth.

It’s no surprise therefore that this time of year is a traditional gold-buying season for billions of Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and others across the world. Wealth and knowledge – the two things go together and find their natural joint home in gold.

Over many years Indians have accumulated some 25,000 tonnes of gold. In India, an average monthly per capita expenditure on gold and jewellery is about Rupees 494 (about $7) in urban households; It’s around half that in rural areas. This accounts for nearly 23% of the households’ durable purchases.

Why is gold-buying so associated with Dhanteras and Diwali? According to Hindu folklore there once was a king named Hima, whose son was predicted to die on the fourth day of his marriage. Hima’s daughter-in-law saved her husband from dying by preventing the god of death, Yamaraj from entering her house. She did so by placing a lot of Diyas – a small oil-lamp made from baked clay – plus a heap of gold jewellery and silver coins at the door. The strong light coming from the glittering jewellery and the bright Diyas blinded Yamaraj who couldn’t take Hima’s son’s life. It is therefore believed that buying gold and silver jewellery can protect you and your family members against any ill will, and will bring good luck, wealth, and prosperity to the house. The most auspicious time to buy gold during Dhanteras is held to be between 6:42 am and 5:59 pm.

I think the most auspicious time to buy gold is all year through – although I would say that, wouldn’t I? But this year’s Dhanteras coincides with a recent (and probably short-lived) fall in the price of gold, so gold-buyers can pick up a bargain.

2020 will be remembered as the year of the virus but also as the year of the lockdown. Lockdowns have been imposed the world over, and they certainly will cut people’s ability to handle, look at and buy physical gold this Dhanteras, although the All India Gems and Jewellery Domestic Council (GJF) is hopeful that as much as 70% of last year’s business will be done this year, and others are hopeful that business could be almost normal.

This year, I have a suggestion for anyone looking to buy or give gold who doesn’t want to go through the tedium of shopping either on-line or face-to-face. Through Glint it! (not available in the US as yet but soon will be) it makes sending gold to your friends and family easy-peasy. And remember – at Glint, your gold is legally allocated to you. It’s not paper, it’s not crypto or ‘backed-by’, or a credit note; it is real gold, kept in a Brinks vault in Switzerland. Brinks is insured by Lloyds of London and their policy covers the replacement value of Glint client’s gold as held in their vault.

So your gold is real, it’s safe, it’s yours. It is the very best way of connecting wealth with knowledge.

See you next week, happy Diwali!

Jason

Soapbox: A Tale Of Two Victories

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Is there cause for an outbreak of jubilation this week? Certainly, there is one piece of news which brought joy to many, the announcement of what has been greeted as a “breakthrough” vaccine candidate against Covid-19, which its developers claim is “more than 90% effective in preventing” the virus in trial participants. The gold price reacted to this news by dropping almost 5%, its steepest drop in more than seven years. That was less good news. Even so, the gold price has risen from where it was a year ago by almost 25% in Sterling terms, and by nearly 28% in US dollars.

 

 

The second bit of good news, if you are a Democrat supporter, is that Joe Biden surpassed the 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency of the US.

All that needs doing now is to inoculate 7.8 billion people and watch Joe Biden unite a deeply divided nation. While the first will take many months and a globally-coordinated logistical effort that makes the Moon landing look like a cakewalk, the second is beyond hope. The vaccine needs to be approved by regulatory authorities as not just effective but safe; it requires storage until just before use, at minus -70C (-94F)ᵒ; and the magical figure of 60% or more herd immunity will not be achieved on a global basis very fast, given that doses are unlikely to be available for more than 20% of the world’s population. Pfizer, one of the partners in this vaccine, is also alleged to have a reputation for publicity-seeking.

We are still deep in the Covid-19 wood.

Democracy at work

In a parallel wood, Joe Biden got the Electoral College but the Democrats failed to achieve the predicted landslide – he took 50.8% of the popular vote while Trump garnered 47.5% (and independents the rest). The popular vote doesn’t matter – in 2016, Hillary Clinton got more than 65 million popular votes against Donald Trump’s almost 63 million, but Trump got 304 of the Electoral College and therefore won. This time Trump won more than 71 million of the popular vote, against Biden’s more than 76 million – respectively the second-highest and highest popular votes in US history.

Even more staggering is the cost of the election, at around $14 billion for all parties combined, more than twice what the candidates spent in 2016 and almost seven times higher than the parties spent in the 2004 election. Each vote this time cost $94.25, almost 89% more than in 2016. Who says inflation isn’t already here?

Biden and Kamala Harris, his running-mate, are due to be inaugurated on 20 January 2021. Biden has said that it’s now time for America to “unite and heal” and “to come together as a nation”. The wood that surrounds Joe Biden, who will become the 46th President (and at 78 the oldest ever sworn into the office), is so thick it will defy all emollient phrases.

Trump is loathed by just about all mainstream media, which is now depicting him as a bad loser for failing to concede the election and for vowing to contest it on several fronts. William Barr, the US attorney-general, has issued a memo to all US attorneys authorising them to investigate possible instances of electoral fraud in the presidential poll – although evidence of such fraud has yet to be discovered. This kind of behaviour is regarded as unseemly, bitter and reeking of sour grapes.

Biden ran for the presidency twice before so this is third time lucky. He withdrew from the race in 1988 after admitting he plagiarised a speech by the then leader of the British Labour Party, Neil Kinnock. Early in his Senatorial career he sided with southern segregationists in opposing court-ordered school bussing to racially integrate public schools. Early career-embarrassments such as these get overlooked in the torrent of Donald Trump’s misdemeanours.

Biden’s overflowing plate

When and if Biden and Harris take up residence in the White House they will find their international and national plates to be overflowing. Relations with Russia and China (neither of whose leaders have yet congratulated Biden) are under severe strain; reinvigorating Nato will take some effort; an anxious UK, just over one month away from a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, eagerly hopes he will look kindly on it; restoring harmony with the European Union should be less of a challenge. He inherits a national debt of $27 trillion and a US federal budget deficit of more than $4 trillion, with a debt to GDP ratio of 128.13%. These problems would tax a President who really had the backing of the country.

The UK’s political class frequently likes to refer to the “special relationship” between the UK and the US. This probably has more of the status of a sentimental myth than anything to do with realpolitik. For now, if Biden is serious about “healing” his disunited country he has enough to focus on by trying to get the US out of its own particular Covid-19 crisis (more than 10 million cases and almost 250,000 deaths). And after that, he needs to work out ways of getting more jobs for Americans. His platform promised a lavish spend on all kinds of goodly works – which he will do his best to follow, if only to secure a second term for the Democrats. Spending money the US does not have, more borrowing is ahead – and the 5% gold price drop this week will retrospectively seem like a modest blip.

Around the campfire: No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die…

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One of my favourite movie stars, Sean Connery, is no more, alas. On the news of the latest national lockdown in England, I felt the need to watch something familiar and comforting – I just had to refresh my memory of Connery by digging out the DVD of one of his first Bond movies, Goldfinger, in which his task is to find out how the crooked bullion dealer Auric Goldfinger, played by Gert Fröbe – the producers wanted Orson Welles but he asked for too much money – smuggles gold bullion across countries’ borders.

The movie’s treatment of women dates it horribly but despite that it has a tremendous narrative drive with gold centre stage, and the inimitable Connery smoothing his way out of all kinds of death traps.

The film was made in 1964 and back then it was a criminal act for US citizens to own or trade gold anywhere in the world. This ridiculous legislative handcuff on individual freedom dated from 1933 but began to be relaxed in 1964, when Goldfinger came out.

Goldfinger shows the extent to which people went to trade gold at those times. Goldfinger always travels with his Rolls-Royce Phantom III, hiding some gold in secret compartments and melting the rest to incorporate into the car’s bodywork. The demoniacal plot of Goldfinger is to break into Fort Knox in the US and render radioactive the gold stored there. Fort Knox, officially called the United States Bullion Depositary, holds 4,578 tonnes of gold, roughly 3% of all the gold ever mined and is second only to the Federal Reserve’s more than 6,000 tonnes of gold held in an underground vault in Manhattan.

The world has moved on in so many ways since 1964 – holding gold is no longer criminal.

Of course, Goldfinger is thwarted by Bond but not before another iconic gold moment, the discovery of a naked, dead and gold-paint-covered Shirley Eaton, who played Jill Masterson, Goldfinger’s assistant, splayed face-down on a bed.

The world is a very different place today from 56 years ago – for one thing anyone can own gold without risking getting a criminal record. And thanks to the digitisation of our lives owning and using gold in daily life is simplicity itself, thanks to Glint.

And if the US dollar is losing its position as the world’s reserve currency, the US at least has plenty of the dollar’s successor – gold.

See you next week,

Jason

Soapbox: Democracy paralysed

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As  I write this, the outcome of the US election is tilting towards a win for the Democrats, with 264 Electoral College votes for Joe Biden and 214 for Donald Trump – 270 such votes are needed to win. The polls which concluded that Joe Biden was going to sweep aside Trump and score a triumphant and conclusive victory have been proved wrong – as they proved wrong in 2016 when they predicted Hillary Clinton would get into the White House. The way the US state Ohio goes is normally the touchstone; since 1944, Ohio has voted for the winner in every presidential election but that of 1960 in the Nixon versus J.F. Kennedy contest. But this time Ohio, which Trump has won, appears to have called it wrong.

Trumpism will live on

Trumpism is a much bigger and deeper phenomenon than anyone liked to credit. The “venal cretin” (as the New Republic dubbed President Trump) has a tremendous popularity in the heartlands of the US despite all his dubious personal attributes. His well-documented notorious behaviour towards women (does anyone now remember Stormy Daniels?), his low payment of taxes, his graceless behaviour and obvious lack of empathy, his impeachment – the list of his alleged immoral and possibly illegal activities has obviously unaffected his popularity among millions of US voters. The mainstream mass media – which has opposed him long before he publicly humiliated Hillary Clinton – has clearly failed to represent this underswell of opinion. A survey by the Pew Research Centre in August this year found that 38% of Americans approved of Trump’s performance and that 59% disapproved. It said “an average of 87% of Republicans have approved of Trump’s handling of the job, compared with an average of just 6% of Democrats. This 81-percentage-point gap is far larger than the partisan division in average ratings for Obama (67 points) and Bush (58 points) during their presidencies”. But for all his personal peccadilloes, Trump has touched something in millions of American people. And contrariwise millions have voted for Biden but perhaps not positively but out of loathing for Trumpism.

Let the shouting commence

President Trump said in the early hours of Wednesday that he had beaten Joe Biden – a remarkably premature announcement given that millions of postal ballots had yet to be counted – and added: “We are going to the United States Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. It’s a very sad moment. And we will win this, and as far as I am concerned we already have”.

The final outcome of the election will now be determined in the courts, possibly in the Supreme Court. Back in 2000, the Supreme Court case Bush vs. Gore intervened in that presidential election and decided on a technicality – the infamous “hanging chads” – and assisted George Bush to become the winner. Does the court’s highly controversial ruling in that case have application in the Trump versus Biden election? There will be hundreds of lawyers rubbing their hands at the prospect of a drawn-out legal wrangle over this. And with the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court’s bench, Trump knows he can rely on an in-built conservative majority in the court.

Democrat voters will in any case be deeply disappointed that they have failed to wrest control of the US Senate. This means that even if Biden breaks through the wall of opposition he currently faces he will be unable to pass much of his promised legislation. Even if Trump loses, the Republican Party is thus a winner in one sense. It can block all the “liberal” and high-spending policies that Biden espouses.

 

Lame duck presidency

No-one wants to see a continuation of the kind of violence that has plagued parts of the US during the past 12 months. Yet serious commentators are now pondering if the US is ungovernable. It is very difficult to imagine American streets being crowded with hordes of people showing their happiness at whatever happens to resolve this election.

All that this election has firmly established is what we have long sensed – that America is a deeply divided nation, divided along racial, ideological, economic and perhaps even moral lines. However this ends, it will dissatisfy millions, and the potential for mayhem is more nakedly present than perhaps at any time since 1861. This paralysis is not just a threat to democracy; it is also a threat to the US dollar’s world dominance as the universal reserve currency. In these conditions, gold has a propensity to thrive, as American society’s fissures prove resistant to healing.