Hell and the University of Texas endowment
Are your investments underperforming? Feeling bewildered? Join the giant club of confused Americans who self-direct their portfolios. Maybe we should look to the Lone Star State to regain our financial swagger.
No, I'm not talking about Texas Governor Rick Perry. Forbes magazine reported last April that the University of Texas endowment held $1 billion in gold. An endowment holding gold? On the surface, that sounds absolutely crazy. Most non-profits rely heavily on endowments to generate investment income to fund operational expenses or charitable priorities like scholarships. Gold doesn't generate any interest or dividends or provide equity in a company.
While the University of Texas was getting into gold, one of the world's great currency speculators, George Soros, was getting out. "The biggest asset bubble (overpriced investment) is gold," he said. Yet, another great investor, John Paulson, who generated $20 billion betting against subprime mortgages, made a multi-billion dollar wager on the soft metal. Meanwhile, Warren Buffet and his sidekick Charlie Munger were sidestepping the shiny substance. "Gold really doesn't have any utility. I'd bet on a good producing business to outperform something that doesn't do anything," Buffet said. Munger added, "[T]here's something peculiar about an asset that will really only go up if the world is going to hell.
Maybe Munger is on to something. Do you feel like you're living in investment hell? Apparently the University of Texas does and it doesn't want to burn. The Bible speaks of money in terms of weight. "For example," Rousas Rushdoony wrote, "David gave to Ornan for the place (the future location of the Temple) six hundred shekels of gold by weight (I Chronicles 21:25); in other words, the payment was made in terms of a specified weight of gold." For much of American history, money was based on a weight of gold or silver. By rejecting a historical understanding of money, the United States has created an investment environment akin to investment hell. By the way, Munger is wrong. Gold is not peculiar. Gold is sound money and its price is moving as expected vis-à-vis paper money. Today's paper money is peculiar.
What does this mean for you? Let's consider again the University of Texas. Apparently, it understands the status of today's financial world and it's protecting itself by putting five percent of its holdings in gold ... and gold has gained 25 percent since last April. The world's monetary system is going to hell and the University of Texas is trying to keep its endowment from going there as well.
Lee Wishing is the administrative director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.