Friday, I confirmed your growing suspicion that I am a lunatic — and was so from a very early age. Today, let me get to the point. Among the books I dusted off were a whole series from the ’70s and early ’80s. Remember those years? Our national confidence was not what it had once been or would be again.
Here were the titles, several of them national best-sellers: The Coming Credit Collapse (Alexander Paris, 1974); The Coming Deflation by C.V. Myers, 1976; 99 Ways to Make Money in a Depression (Gerald Appel, 1976); How to Prosper During the Coming Bad Years (Howard Ruff, 1978), and, when they didn’t come, Survive and Win in the Inflationary Eighties (Ruff, 1981), which turned out to be perhaps the most disinflationary decade in our nation’s history. Crisis Investing (Douglas Casey, 1980), which foretold economic collapse by 1983; The Coming Currency Collapse (Jerome Smith, 1980); The Great Money Panic (Martin Weiss, 1981); How to Survive and Grow Richer in the Tough Times Ahead (Thomas Holt, 1981), when in fact the market and the economy bottomed the following year and then began its more or less astonishing rise ever since.
One of my favorite titles in this genre, from 1976: You CAN Survive any Financial Disaster: Strategies to Beat Triple-Digit Inflation, Severe Depression — Even Wartime Catastrophes. Isn’t that great? The world is going to hell in a handbasket, and you can make a lot of money while it does!
One more, from 1980 — Get REALLY Rich In the Coming Super Metals Boom, where the word “really” was underlined, getting rich being a promise almost any book could make, and the word “Coming” was crossed out — because, really, who wants to wait? This one referred to strategic metals like chromium, critical to the production of stainless steel, bismuth, zirconium and so forth. The notion that paperback book buyers would in fact be able to profit from this coming boom was almost as absurd as the timing of the book itself, which appeared — surprise, surprise — at more or less the top. Anyone buying into this strategy would not have gotten rich but, rather, hosed. REALLY hosed.
(I actually met the author of Get REALLY Rich, Gordon McLendon. He was a Texan with scores of drive-in movie theaters in places like, oh, say, downtown Dallas. The drive-in business, he told me, is really just a way to warehouse land while it appreciates. By the time he died, his had appreciated considerably. This strategic metals book was just a lark, no doubt inspired by the killing he had made on strategic metals. If only he had written us this book ten years earlier, at the bottom instead of the top.)
There were other books I had not even remembered owning, some of which I consigned to a pile destined for some unsuspecting library.
It was onto this pile I was about to throw The Battle for Financial Security: How to Invest in the Runaway 80’s by someone I had never heard of named Rodger W. Bridwell — who are all these people? where did I get all these crazy disaster books? — when I noticed the blurb on the back. It was by me.
This highly readable investment guide brims with the kind of good sense and perspective that’s worth a shelf of more technical stuff. Rodger Bridwell’s outlook is admittedly bleak — ever-increasing inflation that it is too late for us to lick — but his advice most decidedly is not. No $800-an-ounce gold bullion for him . . . no howitzers surrounding isolated rural fortresses . . . no hedges against ultimate social collapse. Instead, he outlines a practical, plausible way to get rich, or at least beat inflation, by investing in, of all things — productive assets. Stocks.
This is a book I picked up with considerable skepticism and then could not put down. As neither will anyone else with a few dollars in the bank.
Whoa! Wish somebody would give me a blurb like that.
I had no immediate recollection of this book or writing that blurb. Only when I closed my eyes really tight and thought about it as hard as I could was I able to dredge up some vague recollection. Still, if I had to have blurbed one of the books on this shelf, I seemed to have lucked out by blurbing this one. The future certainly did not turn out exactly as Bridwell expected. But Chapter 8 is titled: “1980-1990: The Bull Market Decade.” And the final line of the book reads: “The time to buy and be fully invested in stocks is right now.” Better advice than most of the other books were giving in 1980.
Quote of the Day
In 1800, 75% of [an American's] working man's expenditures went for food alone. By 1850, that had dropped to 50%. Today it is a little more than 11%.~The Wall Street Journal, September 20, 1996
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