Despite the millions of gold lovers around the world, including many among TFR family and friends, somehow I have never been attracted to gold’s charms. I have often wondered about the fascination, bordering on obsession, of this yellow metal in modern society. Granted, during the pre-industrial age, gold was treasured because it was a bona fide currency in many kingdoms and civilizations that passed through this world.
If you are a king of a soverign country, and you don’t have modern printing presses and secure anti-counterfeit technology, the next best thing is to fully control the metal that forms the basis of your currency. So, the kings and queens of those days loved gold not only for its durability and malleability but because they controlled its source, production and circulation among the people.
Even prior to the Bretton-Woods agreement, gold had a measurable economic relationship to a country’s wealth, value of its currency and the power it bestowed in the world. The US dollar was pegged to gold for much of the 20th century until President Richard Nixon severed this relationship in August 1971.
Unlike other metals, which have many practical commercial uses, gold has little practical use. Silver has several practical uses including your catalytic converter in your car and in oil refining; copper is excellent conductor of heat and electricity so it has both home and industrial applications. Even lead is used for pencils, soldering, paints and until couple of decades ago, in gasoline and petrol. Other precious metals like platinum and palladium also have industrial uses.
Gold, on the other hand, has been given the status of a king of all metals. It is believed to be a storehouse of value in inflationary times, but we saw how it is an unreliable and unproductive asset for those wanting to live off it. Moreover, the world’s central banks have diminished its role in recent times. But it still reigns supreme among gold bugs. Much like a king, it enjoys all the respect without doing any work!
Gold has now been put to colonial (as in colon 😊) use, for the first time in a museum open to the public. A golden toilet! What’s great about this usable exhibit is that it is both extravagant and utilitarian. Never has ‘bling’ done more than…well, just ‘bling’ing. The Guggenheim museum in New York and the creator of this usable artwork Maurizio Cattelan have replaced an actual normal toilet in a restroom with its golden substitute. Of course, it has a guard outside so your objectionable smells or sounds will not truly be a private affair there. I can understand there may be a certain sense of accomplishment of having done it on the most expensive throne, ok seat, on the planet. This will get on some people’s bucket list, for sure.
New York now has one more tourist attraction to boast. Like the ‘mile high’ club, you can now visit this New York establishment to become part of shall we say, the ‘golden reliever’ club? Finally, gold has been put to the most basic of all human uses. Beauty and practicality in one package, accessible to both the Wall Street barons and New York’s homeless living in its underbelly. Talk about boweling the playing field. This fully functional toilet, ahem…exhibit, is now waiting for your royal evacuation.
The artist has chosen to name this golden receptacle of human waste as ‘AMERICA’. While I initially felt offended, I chalked it upto another crazy artist’s creative liberty. However, he justifies his creation’s name, much like this great country, as a symbol of both expensive luxury and intense practicality – go figure.
I concede the final point to the gold bugs. Your precious metal indeed has practical use. Too bad, you can’t track this on Personal Capital.
Raman Venkatesh is the founder of Ten Factorial Rocks. Raman is a ‘Gen X’ corporate executive in his mid 40’s. In addition to having a Ph.D. in engineering, he has worked in almost all continents of the world. Ten Factorial Rocks (TFR) was created to chronicle his journey towards retirement while sharing his views on the absurdities and pitfalls along the way. The name was taken from the mathematical function 10! (ten factorial) which is equal to 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 3,628,800.