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Firearm ownership is synonymous with liberty for many. From totalitarian China to the quasi-socialist Europe, there is a clear absence of privately-owned firearms (not even the British police carry sidearms). Why? Well, the government wouldn't want people accidentally shooting themselves, would they? Then they'd have to go to the free hospital, probably need extensive physical therapy and a disability check for the rest of their lives. Besides, weapons represent power. Not universal power, but certainly the power to do violence. In most of the world, national governments want to own the monopoly on violence, along with other forms of power.
Then, we have Switzerland. It's as European as it gets. Folks, this place has four national languages. It's virtually shoulder-to-shoulder, literally and metaphorically, with the likes of Germany or France. Yet in Switzerland, buying a rifle is like buying a pair of pliers at the hardware store. Next door, in Germany or France, simply saying you want to buy a gun is likely to land you on some agency's watch list.
So what separates the Swiss from the socialists? Do they, as a people, have some special abilities with firearms that other Europeans don't? Hardly (although the nation has taken an awful lot of Olympic medals for marksmanship).
Here's the difference: The Swiss don't pretend their government is a parent.
Eurasia Review 's Claudio Grass has interviewed gold industry insiders and discovered an interesting tidbit: Ordinary Swiss citizens are making personal gold investments in growing numbers. And it's easy for them, because a handful of the world's most renowned gold refineries are based in Switzerland. Valcambi, Argor-Heraeus, Produits Artistiques Métaux Précieux (PAMP) and Metalor Technologies are all on the LBMA's Good Delivery list, and their bullion is in high demand worldwide.
What's their motive, though? After all, the Swiss government (along with the rest of the world's leaders have assured its residents that things are getting better, the economy's improving and the decades-high inflation we're seeing is merely a transitory blip.
Based on Grass's interviews with Swiss citizens, well, they simply considered the government's track record on claims like these. Then they decided to take their financial futures into their own hands.
Because economic power is another type of authority governments vastly prefer to hoard for themselves. And that's fine, if you believe your government will be a good parent. If you believe everything your government tells you, and government's acts are all for your own good.
If you don't? If you believe that a government is made up of people, just people like me and you, who all have their own lives and concerns and struggles, who are most of all fallible, what do you do?
That's what investing in physical precious metals is about. Those who owngold bullion or silver coins have an incredible advantage during an economic crisis or any other kind of disaster. Black swans appear. Last year happened (and demand for physical gold and silver sent premiums skyrocketing). Hyperinflation may hit.
Regardless of the type of crisis, when one does occur, the bullion investor will find themselves on much more solid footing. The more gold to stand on, the better.
It's exactly this kind of personal responsibility that governments don't like and will often outright attempt to strip from their own citizens. Official mint programs aside, the government doesn't really want you to buy bullion. It would much rather have you purchase bonds so that you can hold their debt, get a little interest for doing so or, these days, pay for the privilege. Bonds are the perfect example of an alleged safe-haven investment that only lacks, well, pretty much every qualification for true safe-haven status.
This is why portfolio managers handling heaps of cash have begun embracing gold in record numbers while government promises keep stretching and stretching. Presented with the choice between a Treasury bond with a negative after-inflation yield or a gold American eagle , which would you buy? Which is more likely to retain its value in the next decade?
Don't misunderstand: I do not believe that, in order to be a good citizen, you must own a rifle and a stash of gold bars. I do not believe that gun owners, gold bugs and silver stackers are bad citizens. Rather, my point is that individuals who opt to take responsibility for their own personal safety and economic security into their own hands are doing just that. They're taking personal responsibility. They aren't relying on unelected bureaucrats to always have their best interests at heart.
The Swiss understand this. They know very well the next crisis might break out this year. And it might not. Exactly how much it worries you probably depends on exactly how much physical precious metal you can lay your hands on.