Recently an economist friend confided to me that the dollar as a currency will probably pop like a balloon in about a decade. (It will not “deflate.” Deflation means completely different things when you’re talking about currencies and balloons.)
Needless to say the notion of our economy imploding ten years hence and everybody standing around in bread lines and shabby suits unsettled me. I hate standing in lines. Getting your food from a bread line would be like going to a really, really crummy amusement park where “not starving to death” is the soul attraction.
It made sense, then, to ask her what the best course of action is to prepare for financial collapse. When the Great Depression struck in the 1930′s a lot of Wall Street executives opted to kill themselves. This was considered a shrewd business tactic by many entrepreneurs, as is evidenced by New York Times editorials of that era. Door-to-door rope salesmen were largely unaffected by the market slump from October through December of 1929, but then businessmen ran out of money for nylon altogether and simply took to leaping off very tall buildings. Once the rope industry died the rest of the economy followed.
To help, President Roosevelt launched the popular Erect Tall Buildings to Jump Off of Program (ETBTJOOP), which inadvertently created enough construction jobs to end the the Great Depression. The Stimulus and Recovery Act of 2009 is largely modeled after ETBTJOOP.
But committing suicide now, preemptively, is a pretty sour idea. If your solution to hard times is simply ducking out of them, you might as well accrue as much debt as possible over the next decade buying frivolous luxury items and help trigger Ragnarok yourself. That would be fun and recklessly irresponsible; our current approach towards solving the national debt crisis is only one of those things.
My friend suggests “buying gold.” Take whatever money you already set aside for investing, and apportion ten percent of that into valuable minerals or stocks in companies which mine them. (I forgot to ask her about “blood diamonds,” but I reckon they probably fall under the same category as gold or silver. Most large global corporations which have incorporated “murdering locals” into their business strategy yield steady investment returns.) That fraction you earmark for gold hoarding won’t appreciate in value the way mutual funds and well-executed pyramid schemes do, but if the economy does collapse your shoebox full of platinum is unaffected by inflation, assuming you remember where you buried it.
This was flattering advice indeed, because she implied that I actually have money to invest in the first place. I don’t. My current “investment strategy” largely consists of dating law school students in hopes of eventually marrying someone with higher income potential than myself.
I also call up relatives periodically to ask them how much cash they plan to fork over when they die. Specifically, every few years I drive up to Alva to visit my great uncle Richard to see if they ever did find any oil on his farm. Of course, if Uncle Richard’s homestead did have a gusher spewing petroleum every which way, the man would be living on a Caribbean island right now instead of in an old folks home with a felon-style ankle bracelet necessitated by his ongoing escape attempts. So I guess I’m just wasting gas money checking up on the guy.
Don’t worry– things look promising for me in the near future. I have job interviews lined up, and next month someone is actually paying me to perform standup comedy. Once I’ve established a steady source of disposable income I’ve decided I’m going to begin purchasing small but ongoing installments of gold bullion.
In the short term, whenever I get sad I can dump it all out on my bed and think about how much gold I have on my bed.
If my friend’s dismal prognostication comes true, and in 2022 everybody is standing in line for soup or their turn to jump off the Chrysler building, I’ll have an emergency supply of Atomic Element Seventy-Nine.
Finally, in the long run, if Congress surprises everyone by fixing the deficit and enabling the US economy to valiantly trundle onwards, I will leave as inheritance to my children and grandchildren sacks of gold.
I’ll make them work for it, though. I’ll bury it all in some remote location, leaving only vaguely-worded riddles and a crude treasure map in my will. As I get older I’ll allude to the gold more and more, so that my relatives will be nice to me and visit frequently in hopes of gaining insider information. (Much like Great Uncle Richard did with that stupid oil well of his that doesn’t apparently exist.)
This isn’t so much to facilitate bonding amongst my mourning children in the wake of my demise. Rather, I’m promoting Darwinism. By incorporating a treasure map into my will, only the smartest child will managed to find the gold, thereby rewarding my cleverest sperm. Perhaps my future son will solve the riddles and map, but his niece will quietly follow him and then whack him in the back of the head with a shovel and take all the gold for herself. That’s fine– she still won the game, and I’m dead anyway, so who cares? Either way the most robust Heaton will inherit the treasure.
In the meantime, though, I should probably focus on my job search.
Photo Credits: “Bowery men waiting for bread in bread line, New York City” old-picture.com; “Worker Hanging on Two Steel Beams,” New York Public Library; “Jet-ski” CC ZeMitch (Raga photos); “Capitol” CC Rob Pongsajapan; “Gold Bullion” CC Bullion Vault; “Treasure Map 9” CC Mike Rohde; “The Grindstone,” CC Kathryn Decker-Krauth