Dear Mr. Berko: We’ve been reading your column for 25 years while we lived in Wilmington, and when we moved to Durham we had the Wilmington paper sent to us because we did not want to miss your column.
But it wasn’t necessary because we found your column in the Durham paper, too.
Now I have three questions:
(1) How come on any given week the columns in the Wilmington paper are not the same columns in the Durham paper?
(2) We have a young son who is a college junior and doesn’t understand the concept of inflation. Can you give us a simple explanation of inflation that he can understand?
And (3) he is a business student and good at accounting, finance and with computers. He’d like to work on Wall Street when he finishes. Can you give him any suggestions on how to pursue a position with a Wall Street firm? — D.N., Durham, N.C.
Dear D.N.: The Wilmington Star-News’ loss is the Durham Herald-Sun’s gain. I write three columns a week, come rain or come shine.
The reason the columns in Wilmington may differ from the columns in Durham on the same week is simple. Many of the overworked and underpaid editors (and I’m not being kind) don’t have space to publish three columns so they select one or two they like best for that week’s publication. And it’s reasonable that the editors (or their assigns) differ on their choices.
I look at today’s crop of kids and worry that at some point, we must give them the reins to guide this country into the future. So far, we have prevailed, but I don’t like what we are seeing. However, a wise man once said, “Be kind to your children because they are the ones who will choose your nursing home.”
Use this fictional story as an example: During the time of Julius Caesar, gold coins were minted, some of which carried the image of Lativa, Caesar’s “second wife.” Each coin weighed one troy ounce of gold and was two-thirds the size of our $20 gold pieces. And each lativa (that’s what the coins were called) would buy an acre of wheat.
One day, a shopkeeper — whose name history tells us is Reducius Shavius — took a sharp knife to the coin’s circumference, reducing the size of the lativa by 5 percent, collecting the shavings in an ivory box. After months of shaving thousands of lativas (few people noticed because the reduction was so slight), Reducius accumulated several pounds of gold that he melted into ingots.
Soon, others in the realm began to reduce the size of the lativas and, at some point, most lativas were reduced in size by 50 percent. And the coin, for all intents and purposes, was worth less. They were worth so much less that farmers demanded 2 lativas for an acre of wheat. Hence, the first debasement of the currency and the first recorded incidence of inflation. (And now you know why coins have crenellated edges.)
Meanwhile, Queen Lativa was so incensed at the debasement of her coin, she had Reducius Shavius beheaded. That was the first time in history a person was executed for causing inflation.
I don’t know of a Wall Street firm that would hire your kid, so when he finishes college insist that he join one of the branches of the armed services and apply to officer candidate school. The armed services will give your kid a chance to develop his interests, the wherewithal to apply his skills, plus six years of maturity and certainly an opportunity to earn an advanced degree, which they will pay for.
And when your kid finishes his tour of duty he will be way above the fresh-faced college grads who are floundering in the job market. Today, colleges pass out worthless four-year degrees (takes most kids six years to finish) like Halloween candy. And today, most corporations don’t want to waste time training a wet-behind-the-ears kid who hasn’t an iota of real-life experience.
Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.