Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Was Nobody Wealthy Before 1980?

Thanks to John Mauldin for sharing Dylan Grice's The Language of Inflation. Brice enlivens his critique of the Great Credit Inflation with examples of changing word usage as charted by Google's Ngram Viewer.

The term "wealth management," for instance, surged in the 1990s. Before that, memories of the Great Depression made people wary of flaunting their wealth. Besides, it wasn't good form.

Today, "wealth management" often has little to do with real wealth or real management. Grice illustrates with a story:
[W]e attended a lunch recently in which one … “wealth manager” was promoting his services to those around the table. An Italian gentleman claimed to be relieved to have finally found someone who could help him. “At last!” He gasped after the banker’s pitch, “I could really use some help managing my family’s wealth. We own vineyards and a processing plant in Italy, some land and a broiler farm in Spain, some real estate scattered around Europe and the Americas... We are fortunate indeed to have such wealth, but managing it all is increasingly challenging. Can you help?” 
The poor banker looked forlorn. Of course, he didn’t mean that kind of wealth, the old-fashioned, productive kind of stuff. He meant the modern, papery, electronic kind. The stuff that blinks at you all day from a screen.
Grice offers food for thought, although I can't get my head around his reference to"no inflation over the last thirty years." Do I pay more than twice as much today because everything is more than twice as good?

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