One of the things many people are probably thinking about right now is whether to convert whatever cash they may have into something valuable. Or – better put – convert it into something of enduring value.
Which cash may not be for much longer. More precisely, for who-knows-how-much-longer. It is not improbable that the $1,000 you have tucked away today will be much less valuable a month from now.
It might be value-less two months from now.
This can happen when the value of money is a function of how much of it is printed – and the related willingness of people to accept it as valuable in exchange for things of value.
I touched on this a week or so ago in my article about buying things like tires, brake pads, oil and filters today – because they might not be available tomorrow or they might cost twice as much tomorrow.
This can – it has – happened. Many of us remember reading about people pushing wheelbarrow loads of German Marks to the bakery – not to buy the bakery. To buy a loaf of bread. Before it took two wheelbarrows to buy it.
Fungibility is key in a meltdown of the value of printed money subject to inflation – at the whim of those who control the money. You may possess the physical notes. But they possess the ability to render them value-less by papering the country with a literally infinite hurricane of them.
They can make as much paper money as they have paper. The ones you have quickly become as valuable as the paper and ink they’re printed with.
And tools and supplies. Ammunition. Firearms. Vehicles. Food – and the things you may need to supply yourself with more of it when none of it is available anymore. Or when the paper you’ve got doesn’t exchange for much or any of it anymore.
These things are both valuable as such – as well as not under the control of forces completely out of your control. You have control of the physical items you’ve stored away. Other people will always value things like tools and supplies and food. They are fungible – meaning, they can be exchanged on a value for value basis.
Money,of course, operates on just the same principle but it’s a principle that’s undermined by fiat money – paper money.
Because it can be printed in any amount, any time. It is fungible and variable as well as inherently ephemeral. A sturdy diesel tractor that can plow a field and which doesn’t need anything much beyond the fuel it consumes (and which you can grow, if need be) can be worth its weight in gold or silver, depending on just how bad times get.
Silver and gold are less ephemeral than fiat currency, of course. Their value cannot be inflated to the degree that the value of paper money can be, because you can’t just print gold or silver.
But its value, as such, hinges on what you can swap it for. If people need ammo or tractors – or tools or food . . . well, you can’t eat gold or silver and bars of the stuff don’t fix much.
When – if – civilization re-asserts itself in the aftermath of a tsunami of barbarism, specie – gold and silver – is a much better (because much less susceptible to theft-by-inflation) basis for fungible currency. But in the near term, neither might buy much if people don’t regard them as valuable – as such.
It might be good to stock up on the things people will always value – even if civilization doesn’t come unglued. Things like ammunition and firearms and tools and so on may be worth less after you buy them – and it turns out you didn’t need them. But there is much less chance – no chance, really – that they will ever be worthless.
You will always be able to sell them – or trade them – for other things of value. Perhaps not as much value as what it took to acquire them in the first place. But much more value than nothing.
And that might be worth a lot.