Every week, I like to pass along some of the most interesting and entertaining stories happening in the unconventional investing world.
The sorts of stories that go great with a quiet morning, some form of drink — preferably warm and fragrant — and a little time and space to let thoughts unfold.
Relax, read, enjoy.
No Good Deed…
A few times in these pages, we’ve covered the cutting-edge legislation coming out of California.
The massive western state likes to push the envelope. Use its enormous financial might to influence the rest of the country (much like Texas). Shape the national debate and take firm stands.
Of course, that means we witness the law of unforeseen consequences in action more often than not.
Take California’s recent Uber law — a bill aimed at barring companies from taking advantage of gig-economy workers. Basically, if you work more than a certain amount for a company, they are required to provide you full employee benefits.
Ah! But here come the unintended consequences. To make this law, you have to define gig — or freelance — employees. In doing so, you wind up capturing plenty of people the law wasn’t crafted for. Freelance writers, for instance.
So California tried to fix this issue by making a special rule for freelance writers: If you write more than 35 articles a year for any one publication, you must be given all the benefits of a full-time employee.
Only one problem — the California legislature clearly has no idea how the freelance writing economy works.
With the proliferation of internet sites, shorter and shorter attention spans and journalism budgets getting tighter by the day, it’s not unusual for a freelancer to write something like 10 items a week — for as little as $25 each. (I’ve seen lower rates, but we’ll go with the number from this article.)
There are similar issues for all sorts of other freelance gigs as well. But — no matter what the potential problems may be — this law goes into effect Jan. 1.
The Beginning of the End?
I’m a sucker for big, challenging ideas.
So when I saw a professor proclaiming we’re living through the end of capitalism, I had to take a look.
Now, capitalism has been very good to me — and to humanity in general. Without capitalism, we probably wouldn’t have space travel… or computers… or the ability to feed over 7 billion people, for that matter.
But there’s no doubt we’re living in an age that highlights some of the worst aspects of capitalism.
Inequality is greater than it was during the Gilded Age, with CEOs outearning average workers by a factor of 278. And that gap is widening since last decade’s financial crisis.
U.S. income mobility stinks. Our highly capitalist society, counterintuitively, is one of the most class-based and static.
And of course — with most Americans unable to afford a $500 surprise — it’s fair to say our system has some kinks to work out.
Is capitalism on the way out? Doubtful. Even the “replacement” in this article is more of a tweak than a wholesale change.
But it never hurts to look outside your comfort zone and see what other thoughts are going on out there…
Every once in a while, you’ll find something exciting — or a spark for your next great idea.
Blame the Monkey’s Paw
I don’t know what’s going on — no one knows what’s going on — but it sure looks like someone, or someones, are manipulating the markets.
Or to put it more properly — there’s a person or group that seem to be using insider information to make an absolute killing in S&P e-mini trades.
This article highlights three very suspicious trades — huge, market-moving trades — that came just before market-moving news. Each trade netted a fortune — well over $100 million in two cases and about $1.8 billion in the third.
Now, the sources of the market-moving news are different in each case, so it’s hard to imagine just who is placing them. (Unless it’s an intelligence-gathering organization like Russia’s GRU, perhaps?)
But it sure looks like someone isn’t playing by the rules. One trader on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange said what is pretty apparent to anyone paying attention — there’s some hanky-panky going on.
Keep an eye on this story. Right now it’s a grand mystery. But at some point, it’ll come to light.
And then we’ll find out how big a deal it really is.
All That’s Old Is New Again
There was a time when American rye whiskey was just as popular as American bourbon.
And then rye’s fortune hit the skids. It was considered a cheaper, worse alternative to bourbon… and it paled in comparison to the glitz and glam of Scotch or Irish whisky.
But those days are gone. Thanks in part to a resurgence of interest in the sorts of cocktails that made the ’20s roar, rye is having a moment.
It’s quickly becoming one of the more popular spirits out there — it certainly has enjoyed some of the fastest appreciation in terms of price.
Whether rye — generally a young spirit — will prove as profitable a collector’s item as other types of whiskies is yet to be seen. But the early returns are promising, with some popular ryes more than doubling in price over the course of a year or two.
It’s not a bad idea to pick up a couple nice bottles of rye now, before prices really take off. It might be a little speculative at this point — but odds are good you’ll look back very happily at this purchase in a few years.
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth
P.S. Rye sometimes isn’t easy to find — at least, isn’t easy to find at a collectible, investable grade. That’s changing slowly… but in the meantime, our team has found a great spot where you can purchase fine rye online — along with many other famous flavors of whiskey. Check out the selection at The Whisky Barrel — our favorite purveyor of this popular spirit.
Ryan Cole is the editor-in-chief of Unconventional Wealth. He’s been covering the alternative investment space for nearly a decade and writing about finance and investment for almost 20 years.
Ryan has walked the walk for years, living a very unconventional life. He’s led snowmobile tours through the mountains of Colorado, settled in Japan for five...