April Fool’s Day 2014: A Unique Opportunity

Hello world!
Prankster in Chief speaking here. Each year, my thoughts drift away thinking of a funny prank for April Fool’s Day. So for this year’s edition, I was thinking about drawing a lot of attention. How can one make the national news and the international press? So for this year’s prank I was thinking of calling on a very large group of people to help out. People all around the world! Hang with me.
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Refuting Geert Wilders

The day before yesterday, local elections dominated the day in the Netherlands. Election night culminated rather unfortunately with a display of xenophobic rhetorics by the leader of the Freedom Party PVV, Geert Wilders. In the Hague, mister Wilders spoke to his supporters (video on the right), with whom he celebrated their re-election in the Hague; one of only two cities where his party campaigned. Mister Wilders victoriously proclaimed that three questions define the principles of his party. He asked his followers to answer three questions that clarify the principles of his party:

“The first question is. Do you want more or less European Union?”, to which the crowd chanted: “Less. Less. Less”. Wilders continued: “The second question is. Maybe even more important. Do you want more or less PvdA”? [*], to which the crowd responded  in a similar fashion. And then he voiced the third question: “The third question is. And we may not say this because criminal complaints are filed against you. And maybe there are public prosecutors of D’66 [**] who prosecute you. However, the freedom of expression is a great good. We have said nothing what may not be said. We have said nothing that was not true. Thus I ask you. Do you want, in this city and in the Netherlands, more or less Moroccans? The crowd chanted: “Less. Less. Less.” Mister Wilders gloated, sensing that his choice of rhetorics had paid off, and welcomed the crowd’s more than enthusiastic response by adding: “we will arrange that”.

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Dr. Zijlstra’s Legacy and the 21st Century Renaissance of Gold

If you read the series of analyses by Dr. Jelle Zijlstra, one of the world’s most informed central bankers of his era (1967-1981), you have read a little over half a “modern book” on the historical backgrounds of the international monetary framework and the reasons for the Bretton Woods framework to collapse. My selection of translations portrays a great similarity to the extent that the essential point is repeated again and again and which is most eloquently described in Zijlstra’s autobiography of 1992: “Gold as the monetary cosmos’ sun”.

Here are my thoughts on why his analysis is highly relevant to today’s financial crisis.

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Nationalized ABN Amro offers fool’s gold

In March, Dutch nationalized banking giant ABN Amro send its trading clients a letter explaining that they have changed the conditions for precious metals trading. In their letter [1], the bank explains that they will no longer deliver physical precious metals (gold, silver, platinum and palladium), that they administer prices slightly differently, and that they have found a new custodian. ABN Amro suggests that clients do not have to do anything, stating “we will administer and manage your precious metals holdings in the new manner”.

Of course clients do not have to do anything, but given the new conditions [2], this is hardly advisable or prudent. Investors with precious metals holdings with ABN Amro are potentially facing fatal risks.

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Aaron Swartz, rest in peace

Last night, I read the very unfortunate news about the suicide of 26-year old Aaron Swartz. Although I am not sure if I should bring this under people’s attention, I genuinely think Aaron’s story needs our reflection, silent or otherwise.

In case you have not heard about Aaron’s story, here’s a link to Harvard’s prof. Lessig reflecting on Aaron’s unfortunate decision to end his life.

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Analyse: de gouden standaard, de goudwisselstandaard en de euro

De aanleiding voor een uitgebreide analyse over de gouden standaard, de goudwisselstandaard en de euro is gevonden met een onjuiste veronderstelling van professor Bas Jacobs van de Erasmus Universiteit. Hij verwijt Europese politici te snel te willen bezuinigen. Zijn kritiek is echter onterecht. Aan de hand van de uitleg van de Franse econoom Jacques Rueff gaat deze analyse in op de verschillen tussen de gouden standaard en de goudwisselstandaard. Rueff, zo zal blijken, wijst op de cruciale rol die de Amerikaanse dollar speelde bij de totstandkoming van de Grote Depressie.

Professor Bas Jacobs uitte onlangs kritiek op de euro: “De euro lijkt te veel op de gouden standaard”. Jacobs gebruikt echter een argument tegen de gouden standaard die betrekking heeft op de goudwisselstandaard. De auteur op basis van wie Jacobs zijn conclusie trekt, en ik zal eerlijk bekennen dat ik dit werk van de auteur niet ken, is Peter Temin. Hij schreef het boek “Lessons from the Great Depression” en zou dus één en ander moeten weten over de oorzaken van de Grote Depressie.

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Kapitaalpassiviteit

Deze column verscheen op 23 december 2011 op MarketUpdate.nl.

Eén van de belangrijkste economische vragen wordt door deze crisis ondergesneeuwd. Dat is hoe de reële economie ervoor staat? Het financiële geweld is nu eenmaal alles overheersend. De reële economie wordt door het gevoerde monetaire beleid ondergraven: het zorgt voor een misallocatie van middelen.

Het mes snijdt aan twee kanten
Wat produceert een huis? Het is wellicht een ongebruikelijke vraag, maar als u er een antwoord op probeert te vinden dan komt vermoedelijk uit bij immateriële zaken. Bijvoorbeeld woongenot. Maar de vraag is relevant vanwege iets anders; want waar investeren wij ons kapitaal in en waarin niet?

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Valse Sirenen

Deze column verscheen eerder in de Nieuws-Flash! van 1 juli 2010.

De Griekse schuldencrisis lijkt voor veel criticasters van de euro, met name vanuit de Angelsaksische hoek, als een rode lap op een stier te werken. Niet alleen is Griekenland failliet; het is vooral het bewijs van een euro die gedoemd is om te mislukken. De hele situatie met Griekenland en de Europese schuldencrisis doen mij denken aan de Griekse mythologie. Europeanen worden vanaf alle kanten gelokt door Sirenen die, erg aantrekkelijk en met een verlokkelijke zang, hun slachtoffers trachten te verleiden zodat zij met hun schip te pletter slaan tegen de rotsen.

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Dr. Zijlstra’s Final Settlement: Gold as the Monetary Cosmos’ Sun

Originally posted on April 29, 2012 on MarketUpdate.nl and GATA.org.

Whenever I am in Amsterdam, I go to a bookstore and browse the second-hand shelves in the economics section. Recently I found two books by Dr. Jelle Zijlstra: “Dr. Jelle Zijlstra, Conversations and Writings” (1979, second edition) and “Per Slot Van Rekening” (1992, fifth edition). The latter title is a Dutch figure of speech that may be translated as “The Final Settlement.”

Jelle Zijlstra was a renowned Dutch economist and one of Holland’s finer statesmen. Early in his career in 1948, shortly after World War II, he became a professor, specializing in the velocity of money. By 1952 he was appointed minister of economic affairs, then Dutch treasurer from 1958 to 1963 and again from 1966 to 1967. During his last term as treasurer he led the Dutch Cabinet as prime minister as well until 1967, after which he became president of De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB). While president of the Dutch central bank he was appointed as the president of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) as well, positions he held until his resignation in 1981.

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