Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Book Review: Jim Rogers' Street Smarts aka Thoughts from a Southern Gentleman

Jim Rogers has had one heck of a life. From a small town in Alabama to the Ivy League to all around the world on a motorcycle, his insights are never preachy. He covers a wide range of topics, including one particularly negative anecdote about his former co-worker, George Soros. (FYI: even back in the day, consent decrees were worthless.) 
Big on commodities, Rogers promotes farming as the job of the future. He reasons food prices have been too low, and--just as in gold/silver mining or oil exploration--low commodity prices usually cause fewer producers and/or lower production, often leading to a crash. As prices and producers decline, new (and presumably more efficient) investors, seeking profits, will enter, rebalancing the supply/demand equation. At some point, prices will rebound, and the higher prices will create a snowball effect for both buyers (no longer concerned with deflation) and producers, especially if banking institutions issue loans. The alternative, a government-controlled economy, is inferior because it generally will not allow entities to failAn avowed capitalist, Rogers explains, "The cure for high prices is high prices. It always works...." "The Soviets did not have anything because nobody produced anything, and nobody produced anything because prices were set so low." 

To his credit, Rogers realizes the flaws in his own paradigm and lambasts the Federal Reserve's easy money policies. Excessive Federal Reserve economic intervention is harmful, he argues, excoriating both Greenspan and Bernanke. In Rogers' experience, capitalism provides a self-reinforcing mechanism for regeneration aka creative destruction. It's true Rogers is known as a "bear," which means he makes money when companies fail, but the characterization of bias is unfair--every hedge fund manager sells short. 
Readers interested in politics will enjoy Rogers' comments on domestic and international affairs, including details about his new home, Singapore, and his reasons for relocation. 
On the black market.
Two passages stand out: 1) "As recently as 1987 the United States was a creditor nation."; 2) "America is borrowing money to pay for military hardware that sits and rusts in the sun. The man who manufactures the hardware makes money, but after that, there is no beneficiary. The investment does not represent an ongoing source of production, the way a canal or a railroad does." 
There are too many jerks in the financial world, but Rogers seems to be one of the good guys, someone who's never forsaken or forgotten his humble Southern roots. 

Bonus: Rogers shares a lot of information on Singapore. See below for excerpts.
The "genius of Singapore": public housing programmes for all.
HDB flats in Singapore (2018)

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