Posts By: Michael Scott

Florentine Florin: A Symbolic Reminder of Gold’s Global Appeal

Since the dawn of civilization, precious meals like gold and silver
Statue of Michelangelo's David in front of the Palazzo Vecchiohave been used for currency and wealth accumulation, starting with the first coin dating back to around 550 BC.

Italy’s Florence has a storied history concerning money and coinage which spans thousands of years, a trend which started in 1252 with the creation of the Florentine florin (3.5 grams and 54 grains of fine gold), this being the first European gold coin minted in sufficient quantities for European commerce since the 7th Century.

With its name of fleur-de-lys deriving from the flowering iris – the badge of Florence – the florin was destined to make a mark on the international currency market, since many Florentine banks had European branches. Its staying power as a dominant currency of commerce was tied to the outgrowth of the Florentine economy and its major stakeholders, which included money-changers, silk manufacturers, furriers and guilds.

Gold Florin, FlorenceThe weight of the original 1252 florin equaled the value of one lira in the local Florentine money. Interestingly, while the florin’s gold content stayed the same, the lira experienced such inflation that by 1500, the value of one florin was seven lira.

The florin did experience competition from European rivals in terms of its economic presence. Although their coins never attained the success of the florin, the Italian city of Genoa – its most prominent competitor – also began gold coinage in 1252.

The florin’s ascendancy led to wide acceptance across Europe, serving as an engine for international commerce throughout the continent. Its role at the time in fostering global economic growth held great significance; a level of status that no doubt led to its mention in Dante’s Divine Comedy, a perennial classic that was completed in 1320.

In recognition of its growing prominence, the British government released a 2-shilling version of the florin in 1849, valued at 1/10th of a Pound Sterling. This coin remained in circulation in the British currency system until the country’s foray into decimalization in 1971. Additionally, the Dutch florin – known as the guilder – endured until The Netherland’s currency disappeared in 2002 with the advent the Euro. This signaled the end of the florin’s long and illustrious reign as the world’s practical ‘gold standard’ of currency.

Nevertheless, the florin’s endurance throughout the ages is a symbolic reminder of gold’s continuing global appeal and its impact on world economies. 

At Anthem Vault, we have long championed the spirit and staying-power of gold, ensuing from legacy currencies like the florin. Over time, gold has continually demonstrated its dominance as a transactional asset that protects and enhances wealth. This track record underscores our commitment to making gold an easy-to-buy, safe, secure and affordable element of your savings, investment and wealth-protection strategy for you, your family and for future generations.  

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Trumps Shocking Clarity on Healthcare Reform

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Frankly, I am no fan of Donald Trump, let alone any of the other candidates from either party. But having served in healthcare industry leadership capacities early in my professional career, I have to admit to being absolutely floored by Trump’s health reform plan. What I found shocking about it is that from top to bottom, it makes so much sense.

Let’s be honest, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has been a disastrous nightmare even to the scores of people who were originally rabid supporters. While a noble attempt at reform, many would agree that it has fallen short of even the most limited expectations. I will, however, give this landmark piece of legislation credit for fueling some much-needed debate about the plight of our broken healthcare system.

As many prognosticators originally predicted, Obamacare is on a course of implosion amid soaring costs, technology snafus, patient access barriers, high premiums and deductibles and lackluster consumer choices. The only beneficiaries of this are hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

Recently, I decided to take a look at Trump’s campaign website, albeit reluctantly and was stunned by his level-headed solutions to the current healthcare quagmire. Here are some of the key elements of what he is proposing, as well as my commentary on each of them:

Free Market Driven: Noted Harvard Professor Michael Porter penned a wonderful book a number of years ago, extolling the virtues of free market healthcare. Sadly, it fell on the deaf ears of our statist political system. Undeniably, free market competition has consistently delivered positive returns in terms of lower business costs while increasing quality outcomes. And, health care which is rapidly approaching one-quarter of our GDP, is BIG business.  Unlike the other candidates, Trump gets that.

Economic Freedom and Choice: Trump is very clear in his intention to abolish the Obamacare individual mandate if elected, a point upon which I strongly agree with hi. To me, restricting choice among consumers is simply un-American, because no one should be forced to purchase insurance. Free markets open the doors to the affordable, high-quality plans that consumers are clamoring for.  If the airline industry can figure this out – Southwest Airlines low fares and quality service have revolutionized this market – then the health care industry can too.

As an aside, I recently witnessed a moderately injured person get forced by police and paramedics into an ambulance ride to a local hospital. Despite his pleas to the contrary, there was some arcane law which mandated he had to go. Of course, he loudly proclaimed that he was without  health insurance due to the expense and that he would be a burden on society. No dice. He was physically lifted into the ambulance, and off he went.

The “Laissez Faire” Tao of Hayek

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Recently, I’ve become fascinated with the work of the Austrian/British economist Friedrich Hayek. In particular, I’m intrigued with how his views are closely aligned with a passion of mine, Taoist philosophy.

Hayek is the most prominent 20th century champion of a concept known as Spontaneous Order – the theory that systems, such as economic markets, naturally self-correct and function most efficiently when not meddled with. This essence is captured in the French term laissez faire which means ‘allowing things to take their own course without interference.’

Hayek went on to suggest that complex systems are best created not through design, planning or force, but via synergies facilitated among micro-elements that operate in accordance with a set of basic principles or rules. According to Hayek, this market-based spontaneous order allows things like prices to ebb and flow unencumbered through the process of supply and demand. This natural rhythm is the true essence of how the world works, when left alone.

Just the other day, I was reflecting on how these views can be applied to the art of governing. Amid all the rancor in the U.S. surrounding this election year, there appears to be little in the way of acknowledgment among our political candidates of the virtue of self-restraint. I would argue that good government requires a healthy dose of laissez faire restraint to allowing issues to naturally resolve themselves, a technique that has stood the test of time.

Contrary to the belief of many, Hayek concurred that certain structures and rules were necessary to enforce agreements and resolve disputes. He believed that the foundational patterns and order of a civil society naturally emerge when we, the actors, play by the rules. Furthermore, he argued that these rules, which give rise to structural markets, are not due to government planning but rather they ensue from a somewhat mysterious socio-cultural evolution that naturally brings the pieces together into a whole. In the end, Hayek and his counterpart, Adam Smith, supported this concept of spontaneous order not as a means of opposition to the government, but to argue against intrusively meddling with the economy.

My Three Millionaire Friends All Have This in Common

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There is an old saying that those of average means ought to take their rich friends to lunch. Having long heeded this wisdom, I’ve been privy to a great deal of sage advice from these wealth masters.

Admittedly, I was quite surprised to discover one thing in common between them – a factor they all indicated was pivotal in their quest for financial freedom.

That factor? They have all chosen to forgo the use of electronic calendars on their computers or mobile devices, in favor of paper calendars. Yes, you heard right. Harking back to the post-Internet days when desk calendar blotters and pocket planners were in vogue, these three digital Luddites have elected to turn back the clock, at least in terms of planning their daily schedules.

Now for some breaking news. I have made the decision to join them. Yep, I’m ordering my PassionPlanner today.

Back in the 90’s when I was a freshly minted entrepreneur in my Armani suits, hustling for business in Chicago, I carried around the infamous Franklin Planner, a creation of that iconic time management expert Stephen Covey. Back then, Franklin had these huge Apple-ish retail stores where enthusiasts could pick up everything from calendar filler pages to pricey leather-bound briefcases in which to house their scheduling systems. They offered seminars on how to effectively manage your personal and professional activities, replete with a simple yet effective system for assessing your A-B-C priority list.  For me, The Franklin – as it was affectionately known – was my go-to source for everything I needed to maximize my day-to-day productivity.

Fast forward to 2007 when smartphones first appeared on the scene en masse. It was at this point that all reasonably minded people began to question whether it made sense to migrate the calendar function over to our electronic devices. Given my proclivity for being an early adopter, I was among the first to make the jump. And frankly, I’ve regretted it ever since.

Do You Really Own Your Identity?

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Who Am I?

This age old philosophical question also has implications for our privacy and our freedoms. While assaults on our personal information seem to occur on a daily basis, it raises disturbing questions about who is actually in charge of our identity. In other words, do we really have control over how our identity is shaped and accessed or are we simply just puppets for third-parties who are using us for their gain. Sadly, my gut tells me that it’s the latter.

What we’re talking about here is our personal intellectual property, the data DNA vapor trail that is minted to us in the form of a  birth certificate and then a social security number.

At some point in our life trajectory, our identity falls prey to the control of the government and corporate entities. Our personal information then gets aggregated by third-parties to create a virtual representation of us. Suddenly, we as citizens begin losing control of the steering wheel.

A perfect example of this is the credit report that, through the use of questionable scoring tactics, provides a dashboard by which lenders make decisions about us. What’s included in these reports is often arbitrary. Case in point; cell phone payments, which most of us pay on time, are not included in most credit reports. That is until you become delinquent and then it does suddenly appear.

And have you ever tried to correct a credit report without having to pay for third-party help? Studies show that the vast majority of these reports have multiple – and at times, egregious -errors, all of which are stains on your online identity trail.

What continues to garner the most attention though are the unrelenting intrusions on our information privacy. Whether the result of security breaches, outside third-party snooping, identity theft or even ransomware attacks, assaults on our identity are occurring with increasing regularity.

Is Technology Killing Human Connection?

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I have been reading a book of late called Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. Frankly, it has prompted me to not only question my interactions with the world around me but also to make some changes.

Written by media scholar and M.I.T professor Sherry Turkle, the book examines how the all-consuming digital world in which we live has been an affront to face-to-face conversations, leading to a breakdown in relationships, creativity, and productivity. Having studied the role of digital technology’s impact on society for over thirty years, Turkle notes that the proliferation of texts, emails and social media chat and other forms of electronic communication have given us permission to dismiss much deeper forms of engagement; and the consequences ensuing from this, she says, are profound.

It’s for this reason that I was an early naysayer of email and other digital forms of communications back in the 80’s when the Internet was still in its initial ascendancy. Phone and face-to-face conversations had been pivotal in my life, and thus I saw no reason to migrate away from what had been working so well.

Fast forward to today, and I’m a huge advocate of digital communication. At the same time, I find myself conflicted by what I see as a lack of deep connection in human interactions these days. Much of this is undoubtedly attributed to the 24/7 access that our desktop and mobile devices afford to us on a daily basis. Symbolic of Linus’ ways in the Peanuts comic strip series, technology has become our security blanket.

In response to this trend, Turkle believes that we should reconnect with the importance of in-person encounters in our daily lives, versus turning away from it. Here, her book is replete with tons of suggestions on this front – from keeping one’s cell phone turned off and visibly out of sight during conversations with others, to invoking a device-free mandate for family dinners.