Posted Mar 27, 2023 by Martin Armstrong
QUESTION: Mr. Armstrong; Who is being irrational? The markets or the analysts?
ANSWER: That’s simple. It is the analysts. The markets are ALWAYS correct. When you have bank failures unfolding, people will withdraw money out of caution. It is the very same reason there are ancient hoards of coins. You find coins in times of economic stress and uncertainty. This is a purely RATIONAL human response to uncertainty. It consistent for thousands of years. For any analyst to claim the markets are acting “irrationally” only proves they should look for another profession.
Sir Thomas Gresham began his career in 1543 working at Mercers’ Company at the age of 24 years old. He left England for Antwerp/Amsterdam which was the financial center of the day much like Wall Street. That was where he became a merchant businessman which was where banking existed in those days. He became an agent for King Henry VIII in the Antwerp/Amsterdam market. He became a trader and in so doing, he began to observe how capital moved.
The interesting aspect was that he was called in as a sort of crisis manager as I have been during financial upheavals. In 1551, Sir William Dansell, who was King’s Merchant there in the markets, ended up putting the English Government into a financial crisis thanks to his mismanagement. The English turned to Gresham for advice since he became quite astute at trading. They adopted his proposals. It was then that Gresham proposed a very ingenious tact. He advocated a FOREX intervention to push the pound higher on the Antwerp change. His intervention proved so successful that in just a few years King Edward VI had discharged almost all of his debts. By pushing the pound higher, he was able to repay the previous debts by devaluing them.
Therefore, the English Crown sought Gresham’s advice in all their finances until Mary came to the throne in 1553. Gresham was instantly pushed aside for Alderman William Dauntsey, who lacked trading experience and quickly sent the Crown into financial stress. Gresham was called back to deal with the mess once again.
Under Queen Elizabeth’s reign (1558–1603), he continued as a financial agent of the Crown and also became the Ambassador Plenipotentiary to the Governor of the Netherlands. This was the period of civil unrest in Antwerp which compelled him to return to England in 1567. This is also when the English had the founding of the Royal Exchange to compete with the Netherlands. It was Gresham who made the proposal to build, at his own expense, a bourse or exchange. This demonstrated that Gresham was a trader and understood how capital flowed.
Apart from some small sums to various charities, Gresham bequeathed the bulk of his property (consisting of estates in London and around England giving an income of more than 2,300 pounds a year) to his widow and her heirs, with the stipulation that after her death his own house in Bishopsgate Street and the rents from the Royal Exchange should be vested in the Corporation of London and the Mercers Company, for the purpose of instituting a college in which seven professors should read lectures, one each day of the week, in astronomy, geometry, physic, law, divinity, rhetoric and music. Thus, Gresham College, the first institution of higher learning in London, came to be established in 1597.
Gresham’s Law (stated simply as: “Bad money drives out good“). He concluded this from his observations that foreign exchange back then was based on the metal content and weight of the coinage. Therefore, as debasement took place, people would hoard the old coinage of higher quality and spend the debased. Thus, the bad money drove out the good and actually shrunk the money supply in circulation.
He urged Queen Elizabeth to restore the debased currency of England. In so doing, you got to repay old debts with debased currency. Governments to this day practice that same trick. Repaying a 30-year bond today the bondholder cannot buy what the money was once worth 30 years ago. The interest does not really compensate for the loss of purchasing power over long periods of time.