2011 Silver Monthly Annual Awards

It’s almost the end of 2011, and that means it’s time to start reflecting on the year that was. Many Web sites will be announcing their “Best of 2011” awards, and Silver Monthly is no exception. This year, we decided to declare our picks for Coin of the Year, YouTube Video of the Year, Best Picture, Book of the Year, Person of the Year, Most Important Article, and Best Web Site. Agree or disagree, we hope you enjoy reading our choices.

Coin of the Year

With gold and silver in long-term bull markets, interest in precious metals and coinage is at perhaps an all-time high. Thus, there is no shortage of beautifully crafted gold and silver coins, both those issued by governments and non-government entities alike. While governments typically don’t do much of anything well, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Austria, and China all turn that wisdom upside down by striking immaculate coins each year. Private mints are no slouches, either, and while the coins they produce are more correctly referred to as “rounds” and not “coins,” we’re ignoring this technicality for the purposes of selecting our Coin of the Year.

Among the major government issues, the American Eagles are always popular. Indeed, these are probably the most liquid of all gold and silver coins, and that makes them front-runners for the award. The lesser-known but still widely accepted Canadian Maple Leafs, available in both gold and silver (as are Eagles), are almost universally lauded as the most elegantly struck of all government-issued coins. The South African Kruggerand is a timeless classic: in a time when other governments were not minting gold coins, South Africa still had a commodity-based money system, and Kruggerands, while illegal in the U.S., were the gold coins – today, they sell at some of the lowest premiums over spot, which makes them a contender. And, of course, there are the lovable Pandas produced by China, in both gold and silver, which are always favorites.

However, for Coin of the Year, we wanted to select a piece that makes a statement. An obvious choice would be the Rothbard Silver; a one-ounce silver coin baring the likeness of the great Austrian-school economist Murray Rothbard on its face. These coins were discussed in an earlier Silver Monthly article, and while they are excellent coins, their mark-up over spot disqualifies them for this award.

Rothbard, of course, was the philosopher that developed “anarcho-capitalism,” the political philosophy advocating a 100% free market with zero government interference – since there would be no government to interfere! Even non-anarchists, like Ron Paul, respect and appreciate the idea of anarcho-capitalism, as a guiding light towards less and less government and a freer and freer market. Owning a Rothbard coin helps make that statement, but our Coin of the Year goes one step further.

The year 2011 marked Somalia’s twenty-year anniversary of being without government. Numerous attempts of aggressive foreign intervention have failed to impose a state on the African nation, and while mainstream pundits and even libertarian minarchists point to the “failed state” as a reason why government is necessary, the facts tell a different story. True, Somalia is no paradise, but it wasn’t when it had a government, either! In fact, in the twenty years since Somalia has been without formal government, it has made huge improvements across the board.

In 1991, life expectancy in Somalia was 46 years. In the twenty years since the country has had no government, this has increased to 50 years – an 8.7% improvement. Critics would just point out the fact that Somalia has a “low life expectancy” without giving any context. In truth, Somalia’s life expectancy is much better without a government than it was with one, and is not bad at all for the African continent.

Another way to smear Somalia is to point out that the gross domestic product (GDP) is just $600 per person – compared to $46,860 in the U.S. However, in 1991, Somalia’s GDP was just $210; meaning that it has nearly tripled in the two decades since there has been no state occupying Somalia. All of these numbers have been adjusted for inflation.

Adult literacy in Somalia is only 38%, but it was only 24% in 1991. Infant mortality has gone down from 116 deaths per 1,000 births in 1991 to 109 deaths per 1,000 births in 2011. The birth rate has also gone down from 46 to 44; a sign of increased living standards. Somalia is clearly better off for not having a government – but all we hear about is pirates and warlords!

I’m comfortable right here in the USA. It may not be the best place in the world to live, and Somalia is certainly a heck of a lot worse, but Somalia’s problems cannot be blamed on anarchy. If anything, anarchy has improved conditions in Somalia, just as someone like Murray Rothbard would have predicted. Thus, the coin making the biggest statement for less government isn’t the Rothbard Silver, nor any of the commemorative Ron Paul or “End the Fed” coins that are produced each year: it’s the Somalian Elephant.

Somalian Elephants have been produced every year since 1999. They are minted in both gold and silver, and are billed as being part of the African Wildlife Series. In reality, these coins are struck in Munich, and, ironically, they are labeled with the name of the nonexistent “Somali Republic” – this second fact almost makes them even more desirable to fans of limited (or no) government. And, of course, the coins are beautiful. For all of these reasons, the Somalian Elephant is Silver Monthly’s Coin of the Year, 2011.

YouTube Video of the Year

Who Was the Better Monetary Economist? Rothbard and Friedman Compared. This video may not be the most exciting produced in 2011, but it does pack the best content. Murray Rothbard was the world’s greatest advocate for hard money, and here he is defended against the “slings and arrows of lesser critics.”

Best Picture

Atlas Shrugged Part I. This great film was reviewed by Silver Monthly earlier this year.

Book of the Year

Excluding the Silver Monthly-published Real Wealth; our selection is Building Wealth with Silver: How to Profit From the Biggest Wealth Transfer in History by Thomas Herold.

Person of the Year

Hard-money advocates have a higher profile now than at any time since the abolition of the gold standard. Investment professionals like Peter Schiff and Jim Rogers appear on news programs on an almost daily basis. Judge Andrew Napolitano makes the constitutional case for commodity money on Fox News. Robert Kiyosaki, the multi-time best-selling author of Rich Dad fame, tweets to more than 300,000 followers about the dangers of fiat money and why gold and silver are the real deal. But one man stands out above the rest. That man, obviously, is Ron Paul.

Ron Paul began his political career in response to the abolition of the gold standard, and he has been an unwavering opponent of fiat money ever since. For most of his career, he was a virtually anonymous congressman, talking about arcane monetary ideas that no one cared about. Now, however, he has an audience of millions; and as of right now, is the odds-on-favorite to win the Iowa caucuses. Although still a long-shot, Paul seems to have a real chance of facing Barack Obama as the Republican presidential nominee in 2012.

Politics are never the solution, as Ron Paul himself might be apt to agree. But nevertheless, Paul has the biggest voice on the issue of hard money and has turned many people on to gold and silver over the past four years. His 2012 campaign has much more momentum than it ever had in 2008 – there can be no question he is igniting the flame of liberty inside the hearts of Americans. This is what makes Ron Paul our Person of the Year.

Most Important Article

Silver Monthly produced dozens of quality works this year, but just as with Book of the Year, we can’t give this award to ourselves. That said, in keeping with the theme from the Man of the Year award, our choice for Most Important Article is a work by the Mises Institute’s Robert Murphy: Putting the Country Back on Gold.

In this article, the anarcho-capitalist PhD Murphy examines Ludwig von Mises’s proposal to re-link the fiat dollar to gold. Murphy shows why this would be a good plan, but also details the shortcomings. The government should not be involved in the production or regulation of money at all, Murphy argues, but Mises’s plan may be a second-best solution. We agree.

Web Site of the Year

Obviously, we disqualify Silver Monthly from contention here, although there is certainly no shortage of sites deserving of the honor. The Mises Institute continues to produce free-market education of impeccable quality and quantity – all for free. Kitco.com is a great site for gold and silver news and prices. Gold-Silver.com compiles news, produces excellent videos, and also serves as a resource to buy precious metals. Ultimately, however, we’re going in a different direction with our choice: Coinflation.com.

Coinflation.com was discussed at length in an earlier Silver Monthly article. The site monitors the metal-content value of widely circulating coinage, such as pennies and nickels. This indirectly illustrates how our currency is being debased, as pre-1982 pennies and even modern nickels are now worth more than their face value – which has led to Congress outlawing melting down these coins. The value of paper money is rapidly declining, which makes holding even token coinage preferable: what better argument could there be for a return to commodity-backed money?