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Hyperinflation?

Hi all,

from all the finance and economics books I have read so far I have come across a little portion of history on some of the world’s case studies of hyper inflation.

From the hyperinflation in Germany in the 1920s (Weimar Republic) to the currency collapse of Zimbabwe in 2008s. Currencies collapse when too much money is printed and circulated and then ultimately the people lose faith in the value of the currency, causing the drop in the purchasing power.

All our countries are exposed to inflation (i.e. increase in price of goods/services), and in some countries the central banks are instructed to keep inflation within a healthy range.

  • In the EU this healthy range is considered to lie within 0% – 2%
  • In South Africa, an emerging country, the range is somewhat higher at 3% – 6%

The reason why there is a strong focus for central banks to institute monetary policy that will curb inflation is a direct result of the significant debt crises that our parents/grandparents had to go through in the 1970s (or even earlier) and inflation was getting out of hand.

I thought I’d share this interesting article that I came across from a Kitco News report, where the guest discussed that they collected data from multiple different countries to measure the hyperinflationary rates.

  • What this rate tells one is the amount of time it took for the currency in circulation to be doubled, thus reducing the purchasing power by half

It’s called the Hanke-Krus Hyperinflationary Table.

If you wish to determine what the rate of inflation of your own country is you can look at the CPI (consumer-price index) or another index that is published monthly/quarterly/annually by a body of the government. However, some private individuals have criticized that this rate is not accurate and have therefore calculated the rate they believe is a more reflective rate. The reason for the distrust is because the goods & services in the CPI basket were sometimes changed and thus no longer provide a comparable amount.

If you like to track the impact of inflation yourself, this is how you can do it:

  • Make a list of every good and service you use on a regular basis (i.e. specific foods, beverages, fuel, electricity meterage, etc.) and include a picture so you remember to use the same brand
    • i.e. you create your own basket of basic goods and services
  • Every time you go shopping and include some of those goods and services on the list, you add the price and quantities bought to determine the price p/unit.
  • Do this weekly/monthly/quarterly until you reach a year
  • Then you can compare for yourself what the true inflationary impact was for you
    • The CPI may be a good indicator, but our baskets are different and therefore the inflationary impacts for all of us may be different

This will require a little more admin from your side, however, it will provide you with cold hard data that was collected from your own side and not a statistician.

013-2021 Frey

Title: Frey

Author: Melissa Wright

Hi all,

today I lead you back into the fantasy genre with a tale amongst the elves.

From the start you catch on pretty quickly that the main character is different from her elven peers and that she is treated as an outsider, yet it is difficult to grasp why exactly.

Her peers are able to do magic from a young age, yet she is now in her teens and is not really able to, and so she was assigned a separate tutor to teach her at her own pace. It’s not that she can’t do magic, but it’s as if she has a mental block that wants to keep her from being able to reach her full potential.

Eventually she does something that makes the council think she is engaging in dark magic, and they want to sentence her to death. Being 15 years of age (and elves can live for hundreds of years) she would not like having it being cut short right now, so she manages to flee from the council.

She travels with another elf who was a friend of her tutor and they travel to the north, though why they are heading there remains a mystery until the end. On their way they meet up with some of her companion’s friends as well as resistance from the council, who wish to take her back for judgement.

On her way north she has more and more episodes where she faints or simply struggles to keep going, that doesn’t become clear at first, but as they progress to their final destination it becomes much clearer who she truly is and why someone wanted to block out her past.

Summary:

A nice story in the fantasy genre, but remains a teen/young adult story. The frequent block outs that the character has makes it sometimes difficult to follow how the story goes on, but in the end it comes together.

For this book I have allocated a rating of 3.7/5

Have a good one!

012-2021 The Mystery of Banking

Title: The Mystery of Banking

Author: Murray N. Rothbard

Hi all,

this week marks a second book of the Rothbard series.

The first book talked about how money came into existence and then how a government’s intervention can cause the quality of money to deteriorate.

This version talks about how the banking sector works and how modern banking in the 19th and 20th century panics were a result of the works of banks. However, it doesn’t just give the history of the American banking sector, but also gives an intro on how every day people could do something against a central bank’s inflationary efforts.

Practically, it is an advocate of hard money.

It covers the following topics and therefore offers the reader a broad insight into a variety of topics of money so the reader may familiarize themselves very well with money:

  1. Money: It’s importance and origins
  2. What determines prices: Supply and Demand
  3. Money and overall prices
  4. The supply of money
  5. The demand for money
  6. Loan Banking
  7. Deposit Banking
  8. Free Banking and the limits on Bank Credit Inflation
  9. Central Banking: removing the limits
  10. Central Banking: determining the total reserves
  11. Central Banking: the process of bank credit expansion
  12. The Origins of central banking
  13. Central Banking in the United States I: the origins
  14. Central Banking in the United States II: the 1820s to the Civil War
  15. Central Banking in the United States III: the national banking system
  16. Central Banking in the United States IV: the federal reserve system
  17. Conclusion: the present banking situation and what to do about it

Even before money came into the picture antiquity communities would apply barter to trade amongst each other. The worth of something was determined by the available quantity and the size of the demand for it.

Today, even with fiat currency and technology, the process of determining supply and demand is not significantly different than before. However the medium we use to ‘barter’ (exchange) has made trade much more efficient.

Before modern banking took hold people would use gold and silver coins in their daily transactions. However, carrying them around or having them at home exposed them to being stolen and therefore people would leave the coins with smiths and receive a receipt to collect their gold whenever they wanted. Later, people would trade these receipts instead of collecting the coins and then engage in trade because these receipts were accepted to be true. However, to make more money some smiths would issue more receipts/gold and then retrieve their returns before the original owners reclaimed their gold. This practice would expand until people didn’t trust the receipts and would then reclaim their gold, only to find out that there wasn’t enough gold in storage.

  • This could be identified banking/ central banking in its infancy

How we think banking works:

The general understanding that we grow up with about banking is that a bank will take some people’s money and give you an interest rate for borrowing it to them. Then, that money is lent to someone else at a higher rate and the bank makes their money from the difference in interest rate.

Also, we believe that there is a fixed quantity of money in existence and therefore just leaving your money in the bank will retain its value. Your money is safe and you can reclaim it at any time.

How banking really works:

Banks take your money and sometimes offer an interest rate, but occasionally also charge a negative interest rate (i.e. punishing you that you have money in your account and not spending it in the economy). The bank doesn’t hold enough reserve money in the bank to pay holders back when they want it but have issued a majority to borrowers. They might hold 40%, 20%, 10%, 5% or even less of actual cash and the rest was issued out to borrowers. Effectively, they say that your money exists, but the money lent out also exists and therefore have created new money.

More money means more currency supply is chasing the same quantity of goods in circulation, which results in prices increasing.

How central banking works:

The Central Bank is the sole issuer of the currency that may be used for trade in the economy. Other banks need an account with them and deposit some assets with the so they may acquire some of the currency. The banks need to hold a certain % of reserves on hand for all the money that was deposited with them. The other % is issued out. By promising that your account holds the deposited funds, but having actually lent that money to someone else it has created new money so that both exist. When banks aren’t trusted people will engage in a bank run, whereafter the central bank will create the new currency to fulfil the peoples demands for money. Through this process more paper currency is created for the fractionally-reserve-currency that was newly created (i.e. bailing out the bank that didn’t have enough cash on hand).

How real money is removed from circulation:

  • At first, the economy starts with sound (gold & silver) money.
  • Then people start depositing their money with a bank and receive a receipt that confirm their paper currency is redeemable in gold. To support this move it is advertised that paper money is more convenient and it is patriotic to support your banks and government.
  • Once people are happy with accepting money over gold, propaganda is sent out that money is the currency of the country not gold or silver and people therefore only associate currency with being real money not gold (i.e. they accept xx dollars, and don’t ask what the price is i.r.t. gold).
  • Once this is accepted as general practice the bank (central bank) engages in inflationary printing, which causes prices to increase. People accept that there may be a shortage or that it simply costs more to acquire some goods, but don’t compare what the prices of the goods are in relation to gold and thus don’t realize that there is more money in circulation that has reduced their purchasing power.
  • Next the redeemability of currency to gold is cut off and is advertised as being unpatriotic.
  • People have now lost the link to gold (real money) and those in charge of the printing press can print as much as they need to finance the projects they wish to bring out.

(roughly this way is explained how we move from quality money to quantity money)

Who gets this new money created through fractional reserve banking?

If new money is created and distributed to each holder for their proportionate share we would know that each unit of paper was less valuable, however you received your proportionate share so that your purchasing power in absolute hasn’t changed.

However, this is not how this is done in real economies. When new money is created the government may use the new money and spend that money on goods and services at its pre-inflation prices, before the rest of the economy catches on there is more money. Once the rest find out there is more money than supply (i.e. the demand for their goods has gone up at their current price) they will increase their selling prices to make a higher profit (or increase prices because their goods are more expensive from their suppliers). This ripples to the end consumer who has the same amount of money as before, except that they can now buy less than before.

Effectively, the only winners are those that have created the new money because they can spend it on products and services at their pre-inflationary level before the rest. Further, salaries do not grow at an equal pace as inflation and therefore this inflation is a hidden tax.

What happens when there is too much currency?

When people realize their money is buying less and less every year (or month or week, depending how quick the printing press is moving) people will consider putting their money into assets that are outside of the financial system (i.e. buying stocks or a home, etc.) so that they can get rid of the currency.

Consequently those prices rise significantly and we move into a bubble.

Who has caused inflation?

Some may argue that people have caused the inflation of asset prices because all at once everyone wants a piece thereof. However, the ultimate cause is the one who sent more currency into circulation. They have added more money supply than was necessary and bought some goods/services for themselves. The markets have simply reacted to the new money supply.

What to do?

The best way to protect your wealth is to understand how the financial system works and then recognizing whether your economy is currently at the stage of inflation or deflation (seldom) and then make a plan into what assets you could hedge yourself in if this would get out of hand so that the excessive money printing doesn’t cause you to lose your wealth.

Best way to enhance your education is to read up and learn from those who teach ways to improve your wealth.

Summary:

Great insight into the origins of money and banking and how central banking has developed throughout the centuries, specifically in America. The author also gives examples to explain how the process of banking works and why the inflationary banking practices (i.e. fractional reserve) are a symptom of the business cycles in our economies. All that is written above was what I learnt from the book and how my earlier thinking of banking was not up to date. The rating for the book is set at 4.6/5

Happy reading!!! šŸ™‚

011-2021 Learn like a Polymath

Title: Learn Like A Polymath (How to teach yourself anything, develop multi-disciplinary expertise, and become irreplaceable)

Author: Peter Hollins

Hi all

Today’s book is dedicated to everyone who wants to add to their skillset, or even become irreplaceable in a world where automation risks putting more and more people at risk of losing their jobs, due to being unwanted when machinery can replace our jobs.

The historical method that was used to determine whether someone was intelligent was ‘school-smart’ , learning from reading and hearing from the teacher, and remembering. Some were good at learning this way, whereas others were not able to recollect the information as well, and were considered unintelligent. Today’s equivalent of determining whether someone is intelligent or not is the standard IQ test.

However, because we are all unique, we learn things in different ways. It is because of this that when we are taught in our own unique way that we can become properly educated.

Two theories were brought forward to explain how each one exhibits a different intelligence.

Theory 1 was provided by Howard Gardner, in which he explains that each person has different intelligences they are good at, and due to this, the person learns new things differently than someone else. The categories of intelligence he brought were:

  • linguistic intelligence
  • logical-mathematical intelligence
  • spatial intelligence
  • bodily kinesthetic intelligence
  • musical intelligence
  • inter-personal intelligence
  • intra-personal intelligence

Theory 2 held a more biological explanation which focused more around how your brain is developed. To be more intelligent in one area was argued that one part of the brain was developed to a greater extent than the average person. This in turn lead to the idea of being right-brained or left-brained. This theory practically would then be more of genetic reasoning, and would suggest that our history is fixed, and cannot be altered.

The book, however, argues that both theories are wrong because there isn’t enough data to support these theories. He further argues, that anyone of us can learn to become polymaths, by following some of the tricks he explains in the book.

-> At this point, if you feel that this is a rip off, and just another guru trying to take money from your pockets, I do not judge you at all. After all, there are many scam artists out there, and to make this assumption is therefore perfectly reasonable.

However, the steps that he presents are actually quite simple to apply, and they make sense why you should follow them in that order, because they try to make learning as easy and personal as possible for the reader. Not to mention, there aren’t many of them, so that makes it even easier to work with.

Before we step into it, the main requirements that anybody needs to develop the skill of becoming a polymath is broken down into two things:

  • willingness to learn new and different things
  • putting in time and effort that is required

Admitting these two points from the start is essential as it will keep you on track when the going gets tough, since you remind yourself that you are reading and learning these new things because they are for the betterment of your life.

Polymaths are people that aren’t specialized simply in one area of profession (eg. accountant, tax professional, physician, dentist, etc.). Rather, they have built up an arsenal of knowledge in different lines of work/profession/academia/other, and utilize their knowledge in all these to deliver better results than one who only knows the one profession.

They therefore have breadth, depth and integration.

  • Breadth refers to a wide range of professions/information of which they know something
  • Depth refers to knowing a little more than just a little, and having read up on the topic so you could give a presentation about it
  • Integration refers to being able to apply the whole spectrum of knowledge and deliver unique results

(Keep these factors in mind when we jump into the steps)

Step 1 – Choose the different areas you want to achieve expertise in. They should be distinct from each other, but not too distinct, and should bear some relevance to your profession. (eg. You are an accountant, and want to learn more about the law, and therefore choose to more about business law, and ethics, and not something like physics that you wouldn’t apply in your day-to-day activities)

Step 2 – Start by establishing some breadth, which involves gaining some superficial knowledge.

Step 3 – Now, add some depth to those broad categories, by reading up on the different topics.

Step 4 – After becoming much more acquainted with the different topics, you will likely realize the topics are too vast for now, and then should decide to specialize on specific areas within those areas. (eg. For business law, you decided to focus on contract law since that is what you might be facing in a more supervising position, and for ethics you keep the scope the same as before)

Step 5 – The next step, is integrating what you learnt in such a manner that you remember it, which is called “transfer of learning“.

  • he gives six ways in which this transfer of learning can take place

The means of transfer of learnings that I enjoyed to learn about, which I relate with the best were the following:

  • Metacognition – where you talk (in your head) and consistently ask yourself questions to understand how this new topic relates to another topic you have recently come across
  • Vary the ways in which you consume the media you use to learn – where you learn history best by watching youtube series, and learn maths best by doing examples, and learn a new language by speaking to people
  • Problem-based learning – where you start with the problem at the core, understand all the facts relevant to the problem, and then come up with a solution best to solve the problem
    • PBL is used most frequently with medical students where they are presented with an ill patient, then learn what their symptoms are, ask further health-related questions, and then come up with a best method of treatment.

This and much more is offered in the book in the hope that you will also use these tricks of the trade and enhance your skillset to become a valuable polymath.

Summary:

The book provides a simple and easy-to-use approach to help the reader build up their knowledge base and thus become more skilled and valuable as an employee. It is short enough, and provides good examples to explain each aspect of the topics described. The book thus was rated 4.65/5

The method I enjoy is by reading a broad range of books from different genres, which is the method my uncle suggested to me, and I couldn’t agree more with him today than before that it has become so much more necessary to build up our skillset in the modern age.

Happy reading! šŸ™‚

010-2021 Why Gold? Why Now?

Title: Why Gold? Why Now? (The war against your wealth and How to win it)

Author: E.B. Tucker

Hi all,

In these unprecedented times we come to hear more doomsday messages that the financial system as we know it will collapse, that the government is no longer what it once was and wants to attain more and more control over our daily lives, and one way you can protect yourself is to build up some reserves outside of the system, by means of gold and silver.

Maybe we see and hear more of these messages because we take time to watch the videos on YouTube (more so than in times when the economy is not going through some difficult obstacle), or maybe there just appear more videos during difficult time. Whatever the case, whether you act on them or not, they can be entertaining, and provide you more perspective on how you can consider changing your financial planning.

I have read a few of these books, and always learnt something new in the process.

Here’s my take on this book:

  • The book is split into three sections (1. Why Gold, 2. Why Now, and 3. The Ultimate Gold Handbook)
  • Section 1 is split into 9 chapters and talks about some history of gold, with specific emphasis on its place in the USA history.
  • Section 2 is split into 9 chapters as well and explains the current state the American government is currently in, and where the author believes it might be heading in the coming years.
  • Section 3 closes of with 10 chapters to give the reader some insight into different aspects on gold that every reader should become familiar with before starting off positioning themselves in gold. Meaning, you shouldn’t just buy it because someone tells you to, but research what there is to know so you don’t pay too much, but rather position your overall portfolio to include an appropriate amount that is feasible for you.

What you will learn from the first section of the book is that whether in the ages of the Romans, or the modern day America, people seem to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. The government is formed by the people with sound money, and money is in limited supplies. Governments become stronger and want to spend more on projects, but are restricted by the limited money supply. Thus, they resort to devaluing the currency (in Roman times they achieved this by clipping the coins, und using the clippings to make more coins; or, they melted the coins, mixed another metal with it, and produced a larger volume of coins, and deemed them to be sound coins. In modern times countries simply print more pieces of paper, thus reducing the purchasing power of all the other paper money in circulation).

Today, governments have also printed a lot of currency, and with the pandemic have printed even more. This printing of money is based on the Modern Monetary Theory presented by John Maynard Keyes, who suggested that when people hoard money (due to difficult times) the rest of the economy is suffering. To alleviate this suffering the government should print money, and bring it into circulation to ease the pains.

It may work for a short period of time, and I believe the intention may have been from Keynes that the government should subsequently remove the excess currency once the economy is stimulated again. However, when the printing only continues, it actually inflicts more pain, because it makes everyone’s remaining currency worth less and less.

With gold, this is not possible, because gold cannot be manufactured as fast as currency, and therefore keeps people and governments in check so growth is stable.

In the second section the author notes that world economies are heading more and more towards cashless societies. Meaning, we won’t see paper currency or physical coins, but only make transactions via our mobile devices and cards. For the author this is quite disturbing because when we give up cash, we give over control over our funds. Those who control the network connections (governments can attain this control) will have access and control over our money, and there’s nothing we can do.

The specific topics he goes in to are negative interest rates and FedCoin.

  • If all our money is electronic and we don’t spend enough money, the banks can simply charge negative interest rates (i.e. we pay the bank for holding our money and not spending it) and we cannot withdraw it to avoid these charges
  • With FedCoin the government would be able to see all the transactions we make, and we would no longer have the privacy we would have with cash
    • This has the upside that terrorism could much easier be traced
    • However, if they can see all transactions we undertake, it could change the way taxes are levied (i.e. taxes could now be charged much more easily on all transactions, and not just those we would do in the store, which means the taxing system could be abused)

These are the worrying messages the author wishes the reader to understand, and therefore sets the argument for all of us to take up gold into our portfolio while it is still permitted.

Section three closes off by giving a lecture on different things every beginner should know about when they are considering to position themselves into raw materials. It talks about the kinds of coins he would suggest, that you can also consider mining stocks, and what to look out for, amongst other things.

Summary:

All in all, I believe it is a good intro for someone that wants to learn more about what this investment class is about, but everyone should still read up a little more themselves to learn more on the history of money to get more insight how money works, and where it is heading in modern economies. For this reason I believe a rating of 4.45/5 is the rating I would allocate to this book.

Happy reading!

009-2021 Matefinder

Title: Matefinder (the Matefinder series)

Author: Leia Stone

Hi all,

this is a teen/young-adult fiction that I picked up accidentally when I browsed through the library for some new fiction books to change the genre on my list up a bit.

It’s a story about a girl who is human, then has an accident, and is changed to become a werewolf, and joins a werewolf pack.

  • Sounds familiar to twilight, but I enjoyed this one a little better because here we have some action between werewolves and vampires, so maybe this might interest you to pick it up šŸ™‚

Every wolf has a special skill that is unique to them, and one of the skills (the rarest of them) is the one that the main character of the book receives from the spirit world. The ability to find another wolf’s mate.

However, this ability is not limited to the wolves, but can help the vampires as well in another way, and therefore the vampires are after this girl.

This is only book one to the series, and is written quite nicely, and quickly so the story progresses well, and you want to keep reading because chapters end in such a way that keeps you wanting more, and also with intrigue what could happen next, now that you have discovered something new to the character.

Summary:

A decent fiction book that keeps you on your toes at the end and during each chapter. It promises to be a good distraction from any series or movie you could otherwise be watching. However, the writing style could take some improvement. For this reason I give the book a rating of 4.0/5

Happy reading!

008-2021 The Spartan Way

Title: The Spartan Way (Eat better, Train better, Think better, Be better)

Author: Joe De Sena

Hi all,

this week I have an exciting new read for you.

It’s called ‘The Spartan Way’ and was written by the author who has also started the popular obstacle races for Spartan runners.

In this book he discusses the 10 Spartan principles you should apply in your life for any achievement you wish to make. Whether it is for work, your health, or something else, these steps can be applied in multiple areas of your life. However, to gain the ultimate benefit, try and use them to enhance your health, as living a more healthier life can have good repercussions on different aspects of your life as well.

The Principles are the following:

1…Self-awareness (knowing yourself)

Before you start anything you should have a clear idea of where you wish to go. You should know whether what you are doing will bring you towards the direction of your goal. Otherwise, you will simply wander aimlessly around.

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger called these people floaters since they don’t have direction in their lives.

Also, before you can use any of the other principles, you need to have this principle in place, because it lays the foundation for all the others.

He also calls this principle “finding your True North” (i.e. your calling/purpose).

2…Commitment (be dedicated)

Only once you have discovered what you want to dedicate your life towards can you take the next step and make plans to achieve your life’s purpose.

A dream is only something you wish to achieve, but never materializes. A goal is long term and has some plans in place to achieve those goals. However, once the goal is achieved, you need to find yourself another goal. A life’s purpose is forever, and therefore requires effort to be continuously fulfilled.

3…Passion (for your purpose)

When you are doing something you feel truly passionate about it will come a lot easier to you to make time to do something that helps you achieve that purpose. Every moment you spend on working on it won’t feel like work, and you won’t become demotivated after a couple of hours.

Having a passion for your True North makes achievement much easier.

4…Discipline (practice diligence)

Because you will start something new in your life, you might become demotivated in the beginning to continue due to other problems you are facing on a daily basis. This is where you need to enact inner discipline to stay focused, and not become distracted.

5…Prioritization (put your house in order)

Since every goal and plan will require time and effort, and we are already busy with many things, this may result in us not making plans to incorporate plans to achieve our purpose properly, and eventually we lose interest.

To avoid this you need to set a schedule, to determine what are all the tasks in your life that you need to do, then fit in time for your purpose somewhere so you don’t find an excuse not to follow through on it.

A tool the author makes available is the Eisenhower Matrix below. Use this to allocate all your different tasks, and make a plan so your purpose also features high on the list.

6…Grit (push your limits)

You may have started implementing your purpose in your schedule, and are pursuing it, but then life will throw multiple curve balls towards your way. They may come in many forms, and they will always come, you cannot avoid them.

Such obstacles may tempt you to no longer dedicate some of your time to some tasks, because now this obstacle is more important.

However, don’t let this temptation hinder you in any way, but see it as just another task that needs to be dealt with, and keep going to pursue your purpose.

7…Courage (face your fears and failures)

Most things we do in life are to reduce the amount of adversities we can come across. If we could, most of us would eliminate them entirely, and live a comfortable life.

However, when you reduce your exposure to face adversities, you don’t learn how to deal with it when you come across it. Therefore, the author urges you to step outside your comfort zone and face adversities, try new things.

8…Optimism (look for the positives)

We are wired for instant gratification. That’s why most of us give up early with new tasks when we don’t see the positive results in the short run. This may reduce our willingness to continue with doing what we did to achieve our purpose.

Here willpower becomes extremely important, because even though you don’t see the results yet, you need to motivate yourself to keep going. That’s where a strong passion for the goal comes in handy.

However, if you want, you can also include some external motivators, like doing the exercise with your friend so they inherently motivate you to show up at the gym because they will be there and you wouldn’t want to let them down. Another way could be to keep track what you have already achieved and measure your progress, and identify if you are on track or if you need to make some adjustments so it fits your plan once again.

9…Integrity (act honestly)

A Spartan acts honourably.

The purpose you are working to achieve is your own. Whether you achieve it or not, that is entirely up to you. You are only accountable to yourself.

  • If you tell people you did a 10 km run, but never did, you will have to live with the fact that you never did your life.

So don’t lie, be true to yourself, and work to stay on track to achieve your goal, and life’s purpose.

10…Wholeness (live as a Spartan)

If you achieve and live your purpose you will experience a wholeness, transformed into someone completely different because you are living the true Spartan Way.

Summary:

The book provides a very good step-by-step guide what is understood with each Spartan principle, how this is to be achieved, why this is important to you, and how others have exercised this principle themselves.

I must admit that it is probably one of the best books that doesn’t try and sell a quick-fix, but truly wishes to help the reader to transform their lives to their ultimate best forms. For this reason the book will receive a rating of 5/5

Happy reading, and stay safe!!! šŸ™‚

007-2021 The Social Contract

Title: The Social Contract

Author: Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Hi all,

yet another week has passed and were already moving into territory of closing off another month of the year.

The book I have for you today was something that was written in 1762, and was one of the manuscripts that was used by the French Revolutionaries to motivate their actions to stage the revolution that followed in 1789.

Take the title of the book, think about it for a moment, and then say what you think the book is about. If it is something around the lines of your “contract” with the society in which you live then that’s a pretty good guess.

Even though we haven’t physically signed a contract with anyone, or even the government that we will do certain things, and in return the government will do certain things, the fact that we live in a country that is not currently undergoing a revolution is a good indicator that the rules that were set in place are satisfactory for both parties to live by.

But how did we come to this point?

Well, let’s go far back in history. Really, really, really far back to an age where societies lived in small groups of hunter-gatherers. There, the individuals were very self-sufficient, and could take care of themselves. Everyone would have all the skills to take care of themselves. However, it would be time-consuming to perform every single task on your own (catching food, collecting water, washing, building your home and making reparations, keep a fire going, collecting wood, and watching over camp during the night for predators), and therefore peoples would group together so that their probability of surviving would increase. Since your group is bigger, it would be inefficient for everyone to do everything, and therefore people were allocated to perform certain tasks in which they were good at (in economics this is specialization).

  • Inherently, you have agreed to follow some rules that everyone has agreed to and will abide by so that you may continue to live amongst the tribe.

This is a primitive society, yet the concept is the same when you increase a population size or even look at a modern civilization.

The book is split into four parts:

  • Part 1 considers the principles behind a just civil state
  • Part 2 describes the state, and relays the relations with its elements
  • Part 3 considers the government and its various forms
  • Part 4 considers ways in which the government can strengthen itself from inside

It is quite a tricky book to read, but ultimately the topic it wishes to address is whether the civil state can be so constituted that its members do not lose that which is their right by birth, their freedom.

  • The problem is to find a form of association which may defend and protect the whole force of the community the person and property of every associate, and by means of which each, coalescing with all, may nevertheless obey only himself, and remain as free as before.

When there exist three different wills (desires) in a society (1. individual will, 2. will of all, and 3. general will) what measures can you introduce to make the life in society most beneficial to all that they do not feel that they have lost their freedom, and would not consider moving away from the society so they may exercise their freedom as they once did?

For students of political philosophy, this is something I would recommend them to include as background knowledge. For someone that wishes to understand what the relation between a state/government and its people should/could be, this book gives some insight into that as well.

We all wish to retain our freedoms, yet sometimes we are requested to give some of that freedom away in exchange for the implementation of a particular law that promises to make our lives better. However, with everyone having a different will, it is difficult to find those changes you wish to introduce that everyone will accept.

Summary:

Interesting book for some insight into the topic what the relation between a people and a state should be, how a state is created and what its purpose should be. It is somewhat tricky to understand how all the chapters come together, but overall is an insightful read. I give it a rating of 3.8/5.

Enjoy your weekend! šŸ™‚

006-2021 The Storm before the Storm

Title: The Storm before the Storm (The beginning of the End of the Roman Republic)

Author: Mike Duncan

Hi all,

I know this one took a while, but it was worth the wait.

After watching the series “Hidden Secrets of Money” from Mike MaloneyI became intrigued to learn more and understand why the Roman Empire came to an end. It had lasted for decades, even centuries, yet it came to an end. Why?

To answer this question I sought out to find a few different books, and then choose one as a good starting point. This one was well rated, and was therefore the starting point.

First off, the Roman story started on 21st April 753 BC. The first king was Romulus who founded the city of Rome. From there Rome was a small kingdom among many others, and remained such until 509 BC when it was overthrown by the Senators so that the kingdom could instead be ruled as a Republic by the people, and not a king. From here, Rome would grow its power and territory for almost 500 years when it have been completely changed to become a Empire, ruled once again by one single man, and not the people as a Republic.

The families that could trace their lineage back to the senators of the Roman king Romulus by custom and law controlled all political and religious offices and were called patricians. All other families, no matter how powerful were shut out of powerful positions and were called plebeians. For the next few decades the two classes would have regular conflicts, which became known as the Conflict of the Orders. However, Roman politics was largely defined by the networks that the Roman families established. These were client-patron networks whereby families of different classes had established their ties to one strong family, which then strengthened that family’s position, and also their network.

Further, they didn’t have a written-down conduct or law, but rather unspoken rules of social and political conduct. They surrounded themselves with unwritten rules, traditions and mutual expectations, collectively known as mos maiorum.

As they gradually started to show themselves as a force to be reckoned with they started to become involved in more and more conflicts with other people in surrounding tribes and communities. Thus, they started to be in conflict with the Samnites (communities in the South of Italy) from 343 BC, which became known as the Samnite Wars, and lasted until 295 BC, wherafter they became the masters of the peninsula. When they had conquered their first opponents, the next were about to give them trouble. The Carthagians (from North Africa) had expanded their territory to Sicily (island off the coast of Italy) and were expanding across Spain, and likely wanted to expand even further. However, the Romans were in fear of being run by a king once more, and therefore couldn’t let this threatening force overtake them. So, for the next hundred years the two forces would be in constant conflict , which would become known as the Punic Wars. The most notorious challenger from Carthage would be Hannibal, and who would only be finally conquered in 202 by Scipio Africanus.

After Hannibal was sorted, they took over the Spanish territory (Numantine tribes) and established it as a Roman province, next to Sicily and Corsica. Being a Roman province meant that the country would be run by itself, but the Romans provided administrators to run clerical jobs, and collect taxes.

After conquering Greek city states and Macedonia, one scholar Polybius was taken as hostage to become a teacher of Greek to one notorious Roman (Publius Scipio Aemilianus) and received a front seat to see how this political system of the Romans succeeded where other kingdoms rose and fell.

  • They didn’t have a monarchy, but instead had two individuals who were in charge (called consuls) and who only served one year terms each. Both had the power to veto any decision that their colleague made, which reinforced to limit the power of one man.
  • They didn’t have an aristocracy, but had a Senate, to act as a council of the State. They numbered 300 old men, and were advisors to the consuls.
  • Their democracy element could be found in their Assemblies.
    • Centuriate Assemblies, which elected the senior magistrates
    • Tribal Assemblies, which elected the junior magistrates
    • Plebeian Assemblies, which elected the tribunes, and could only be filled by Roman-born citizens.
  • The reason this system worked well was because the assemblies had the power to enact new laws that were presented to them by the consuls.

By the mid-200s a new distinction emerged, and the prior distinction of patrician and plebeian had fallen away. This new distinction was between nobile and novus homo. A family that could trace their roots back to a previous consular would be known as a nobile, and everyone else novus homo.

To ascend to powerful positions in the political sphere, the path of honours (ie. “cursus honorum”) an individual needed to work in different roles of government, and advance in roles to become eligible for the higher position.

  • First was the position of quaestor, who were tasked with the Republics finances, accounting, and record-keeping (ie. junior magistrate). Acting as an assistant to a senior magistrate. Every year the assemblies would elect 10 quaestors.
  • Second was the position of aediles, who were in charge of public works and games. Usually they would take out large amounts of debt to finance large spectables and enhance their political career. The assemblies usually voted in four aediles per year.
  • When a former quaestor or aediles reached his 40th birthday, they would be allowed to run for praetor, and thereby would cross the border from junior to senior magistrate.
  • Finally, after having completed these roles, an individual would become eligible to stand for consul, who was elected once a year with a co-consul.

The wars that the Roman Republic faced in the coming years were from within their borders as well as outside their borders. From within, the struggle was mostly caused by the politicians wishing to enhance their familial powers or to undo the wrongs done by previous corrupt politicians.

The wars include among others:

  • 146 BC Carthage and Corinth are sacked
  • 135 BC – 132 BC, the First Servile War (war caused by the slaves on Sicily on their Roman lords)
  • 134 BC Numantia tribes (Spain) and King of Pergamum (Asia) dies and benefactors Rome as heirs, kingdom in the east
  • 125 BC, Italian citizenship is proposed to be given to all Italian citizens, and a revolt from Fregellae is ended by sacking the Italian city
  • 117 BC Jugurtha (Kingdom in North Africa)
  • 113 BC a Cimbri tribe arrives in northern Gaul (modern day France) and wishes to find territory to occupy, and they clash with a Roman force
  • 112 BC Rome declares war on Jugurtha
  • 109 BC Return and demand territory, and end in a further conflict
  • 108 BC King of Jugurtha pledges allegiance with another kingdom in an effort to fight off the Romans
  • 104 Second Servile War on Sicily
  • 102 Cimbri, Teutones and Ambrones battle with the Romans for territory to settle, and the Romans finally achieve their first victory over these tribes that marks the end of this struggle
  • 98 King Mithradates IV from the Black Sea has power struggle with a neighboring kingdom over a border struggle
  • 91 BC – 88 BC Social War (Romans between other Italian cities)
  • 83 BC – 82 BC Social War (Roman between Italian cities)
  • 81 BC Sulla reforms the Republic constitution to its former state
  • 80 BC, Sulla retires his dictatorship and soon after dies.

Sulla tried to restore the Republic to the position that the Senate could control the Republic once more as it had done before. But, this domination was soon going to undergo reform once again. The reason was that the problems of the Republic were due to the powers the Senate had accumulated had only increased. Sulla had restored them their former power, believing that this was the right balance of power. However, it was this one-sided level of power that had actually caused the imbalance in society. The former balance of power between Senate, consuls and assemblies had now shifted more towards the senate alone.

Finally, 49 BC it would be Julius Ceasar who crossed the Rubicon river, after having managed to seize control of all Gaul, and took full dictatorial control. in 44 BC he would be murdered by the members of the Senate, and the next leader would assume the role of dictator. Formally, the Roman Republic ceased to be a Republic and now was the Roman Empire.

Summary:

Compelling and very interesting how the events shaped how the Republic was gradually shaped to become an Empire. All of the events considered individually are not enough to reach any conclusions of what the Republic has become, but the whole events clearly direct the path to the empire’s own destruction. Very well written, and the accounts all follow in chronological order, so the reader can follow all events well. The book definitely deserves the rating of 5/5.

If you wish to brush up on some history, specifically history to understand how a country slowly suffers to end up in shambles, then this is a great source to read up on.

You can also follow the author’s podcast to learn more.

Until later, happy reading!

005-2021 The origins of Money

Title: The Origins of Money

Author: Carl Menger

Hi all,

On my journey of exploring and discovering the history of money, I have come across this few-page read, and have caught one singular message that I will add to the archives.

The best definition I have come across of what money is is the following:

  • a medium of exchange
  • a unit of account
  • store of value
  • portable
  • durable
  • divisible
  • fungible

This definition can be obtained from the Youtube series ‘Hidden Secrets of Money’ from the Mike Maloney series.

The question the book tries to answer is why gold and silver were chosen as the ultimate form of money. Throughout history money has taken many shapes and forms and natural resources, but in the end gold and silver have come to dominate the most widely-accepted form of money, and this has been the case for approximately 2.500 years.

So why gold and silver?

The book doesn’t give a direct answer, but it does give the argument that when barter was the main form of trade, every trader had a saleable good, and wanted to exchange this for another good that he currently desired. However, the seller of that good didn’t necessarily want your good, so no direct exchange might be possible. Therefore, you would need to find someone who would exchange their good for yours, until you finally got that one good the initial trader wanted to receive in exchange. This is a very inefficient process as it may be time consuming. Therefore, one means to quicken trade was to exchange your goods for other goods that are deemed more saleable (accepted/desirable) than most other goods and therefore you could use that ultimate good and exchange it for most others.

That ultimate good became gold and silver, and gradually become shaped into blocks and coins that were much more tradeable.

Summary:

Another book I read this year (What has Government done to our Money) is a better read than this because it goes into much greater depth on the history of money, and how gold and silver became the ultimate form of money from all the predecessors. Therefore, this book only attains a rating of 2/5.

Happy reading!