The Economic Time Bomb

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Financial experts are a dime-a-dozen. Practically anyone writing about business has a guaranteed formula for success in the market. Somehow, these self-proclaimed authorities cannot restrain themselves from revealing their secrets to all and sundry. Harry Browne is different. He makes no claims to have the master key that will unlock the door to riches. In fact, he thinks that no one can predict the future of particular investments.

He bases his advice on application of basic economics, not on hunches or arcane mathematics. Browne strongly supports the free market and believes that government interference with the market is bound to fail. He argues, for example, that an “unfavorable” balance of trade is a myth: Americans should welcome foreign goods, since consumers will benefit from their low prices. Taxes drag the economy down and should be lowered, not raised.

Browne emphasizes three weak points in the United States economy likely to produce a crisis. Deficit spending drives out efficient production and replaces it with boondoggles. The Federal Reserve Board acts erratically, sometimes increasing the money supply at an inflationary rate, other times cutting back too sharply. The banking system is very weak, and many savings and loan institutions will probably go under in the next few years.

To adjust to the expected downturn, Browne recommends that investors should not put all their eggs in one basket. Instead, people should divide their permanent portfolios into four parts--stocks, bonds, gold, and cash. Browne also offers a variable portfolio for those who like more risk with the possibility of greater returns.

Browne’s book is written in clear, easy-to-follow English. He presents a well-argued case for his point of view. Even readers who disagree with his economics will find Browne’s position provocative.