Chockablock with History

ON THE WINE DARK IONIAN SEA – We drove from Palermo to Agrigento, thence to Syracuse and finally Catania. This was a quick visit to Sicily, not enough to learn very much.

Sicily is complex. It deserves time. If we had more, we would rent an apartment and get to know it better. But now we are on a ship, headed to the Greek island of Santorini.

 

mediterranean

 

mediterranean 2Mediterranean views…

Photo credit: fmh

 

We’re back-tracking the route perhaps used 2,800 years ago by the Greek settlers who colonized Sicily in the eighth century B.C. They set up shop at Syracuse and spread all over the island. A few decades later, they were fighting for their lives against the Carthaginians

Then, in 264 B.C., it was the Romans who aimed to take over. It was the nearly 50-year-long battle against the Romans that displayed the full range of the classical era’s greatest genius – Archimedes.

 

Roman_conquest_of_ItalyWhen Rome conquered Italy – shortly after sending Phyrrus of Epirus (yes, that Phyrrus) packing, the Romans started their first war with Carthage, which at the time controlled most of Sicily, but had been weakened considerably by Phyrrus’ Sicilian excursion (Phyrrus wanted everything, and got nothing in the end). Rome finally managed to grab Sicily in the 2nd Punic war in 218 BC – click to enlarge.

 

A stone fortress sits at the edge of the Isola Ortigia, guarding the entrance to Syracuse’s harbor. To take the town, the Romans had to dislodge the Syracusans, including Archimedes, from the fort. It wasn’t easy, because Archimedes invented novel machines – such as “the claw” and the “heat ray.”

“The claw” was mounted on a giant crane. It reached over the walls of the fortress and lifted Roman ships up out of the water, dropping them so they broke up on the rocks. The “heat ray” consisted of a series of mirrors that focused the sun’s rays on the Roman ships’ sails, causing them to burst into flames.

 

$_57The claw of Archimedes in action at Syracuse, 264 BC. The contraption was used to hook and overturn attacking Roman ships.

Image by Giulio Parigi

 

Recent tests have found it difficult to reproduce Archimedes’ results, making us wonder if the reports of his genius were not exaggerated. Despite Archimedes’ innovations, the Syracusans lost the battle after a two-year siege.

According to legend, Archimedes was so lost in his thoughts, pondering the significance of circles, that he didn’t even notice the Roman soldier who advanced to kill him. Sicily is chockablock with history. And prehistory. If we were in the mood for it, we would take the time to dig deeper into it.

 

archimedesAs the story goes, one fine morning in Syracuse, Archimedes was busy drawing circles in the sand and thinking about new death-ray machines he could build to foil Rome’s invasion plans, when a Roman soldier entered his abode and thoughtlessly stepped on his drawings. Archimedes was not pleased and complained, upon which the brute killed him. Archimedes reportedly told him: “μὴ μου τοὺς κύκλους τάραττε!” (Mē mou tous kuklous taratte!). The Roman soldier probably didn’t understand him. Archimedes should have said “Noli turbare circulos meos” – who knows, if he had done that, he might have lived.

 

A Better Life

Houses are cheap in Sicily’s forgotten mountain towns. Food and wine are cheap too – and plentiful. We’ve been wondering about how we could live better on just $500 a month. And our briefpériple in Sicily reminded us of how taste and style figure so largely in what is “better.”

An apartment in the town of Piazza Armerina, where you could dine on the plaza… hear the bells of Sant’Anna… and discover Sicilian culture, history, and the unique Lombard dialect – would that be better than living in a motor home in a Walmart lot?

 

piazza armerinaThe village of Piazza Armerina in Sicily.

Photo via esplorasicilia.com

 

It depends. Our aim is to live better. An obvious way to live better is to live in a better place and eat better. Of course, “better place” can mean a lot of different things to different people. Some will want to live near the sea; others will want to live in the mountains. Some will favor the suburbs; others will prefer city life.

De gustibus non est disputandum, as the Romans said. You can’t argue about tastes.

 

A Simple and Easy Idea

But one idea seems simple and easy. At least to us. In theory, it must be possible to buy small farms in many parts of the U.S. for just $30,000. If so, we could buy one if we could save $500 a month for five years. Or financed at 5% – this is only about $150 a month.

But when we looked to see what we could find for that price in West Virginia, we found almost nothing of interest. Most everything that was interesting (to us) was about $150,000.

 

virginiaAn old farmhouse in West Virginia

Photo credit: Bud or Dell

 

So, either we already have some capital available… or that idea won’t work. Even if we saved $500 a month for five years and used that money for a down payment, assuming we could get something for $130,000, that would leave us with a $100,000 mortgage. Too much for a $500-a-month budget.

But if you can swing the purchase, then you have an environment that you can control. Many of the small farms you will find are isolated. Many are surrounded by natural beauty. Many have old farmhouses that can be fixed up to match your tastes. (It helps if you are handy!)

 

Trading Up

Put in a wood stove and fireplaces for heat. Build a greenhouse onto the main house for heat and food. Plant a garden. Create an orchard. Make sure you have an Internet connection and learn to preserve food by canning, drying, and freezing. Raise a pig. Keep a cow. Bees. Rabbits. Chickens. Buy an old pickup truck.

You will develop calluses. But they may be happy calluses – the kind you get from doing things that you like doing. Property taxes on the little farms we looked at were only $300 to $500 a year. Some come with free natural gas. Almost all have substantial timber. Your food and utility costs could go down to almost zero.

Would your quality of life go up? Or down? In our imagination, it could take a big leap upward. No more planes to catch. No more Terminus Nord in Paris. And say goodbye to the Charlotte Street Hotel in London.

Oh, and cruise ships in the Mediterranean? No chance. In exchange, we get a life of quiet labor and calm routine. Like Diocletian, who gave up power in Rome to grow cabbages in Split, we think we might be trading up.

 

diocletian-palace-split-croatia1Emperor Diocletian’s retirement den in Split.

Photo credit: Armand Rroshi

Image captions by PT

 

The above article originally appeared at the Diary of a Rogue Economist, written for Bonner & Partners. Bill Bonner founded Agora, Inc in 1978. It has since grown into one of the largest independent newsletter publishing companies in the world. He has also written three New York Times bestselling books, Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Messiahs and Markets.

 

 

 

Emigrate While You Can... Learn More

 


 

 
 

Dear Readers!

You may have noticed that our so-called “semiannual” funding drive, which started sometime in the summer if memory serves, has seamlessly segued into the winter. In fact, the year is almost over! We assure you this is not merely evidence of our chutzpa; rather, it is indicative of the fact that ad income still needs to be supplemented in order to support upkeep of the site. Naturally, the traditional benefits that can be spontaneously triggered by donations to this site remain operative regardless of the season - ranging from a boost to general well-being/happiness (inter alia featuring improved sleep & appetite), children including you in their songs, up to the likely allotment of privileges in the afterlife, etc., etc., but the Christmas season is probably an especially propitious time to cross our palms with silver. A special thank you to all readers who have already chipped in, your generosity is greatly appreciated. Regardless of that, we are honored by everybody's readership and hope we have managed to add a little value to your life.

   

Bitcoin address: 1DRkVzUmkGaz9xAP81us86zzxh5VMEhNke

   
 

One Response to “A Simple Recipe for Living Better for Less (Not for Everyone) …”

  • wmbean:

    Can one achieve happiness and quality of life on $500 a month? Well, that assumes one can define quality of life in a way that allows one to achieve it. I think you glossed over a couple of points in your posts. What should be obvious is that living in metropolitan or urban areas, including suburbs, requires a sufficient income stream to cover the expenses of living in that area. One need not buy property, a house, apartment, so long as one can afford the rent and the other expenses of living in that situation.

    The other point is that in order to live in the “country” or more rural areas, one must make an investment in a property asset. Small towns with populations under ten thousand have few rental units available and as one might surmise, the going rate is determined by the demand. Hence, while one may need a reduced income stream in a small town, one still needs the minimum asset investment.

    What does this mean to those individuals who may fine their investments greatly reduced and income streams severely curtailed? It is too expensive to stay in the city and yet the asset based entry to rural living may be too high a barrier. And the more individuals swo seek the return to the rural areas the higher that demand will push asset prices. Existence comes before quality of life.

    You have provided many with some food for thought.

Your comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Most read in the last 20 days:

  • How to Survive the Winter
      A Flawless Flock of Scoundrels One of the fringe benefits of living in a country that’s in dire need of a political, financial, and cultural reset, is the twisted amusement that comes with bearing witness to its unraveling.  Day by day we’re greeted with escalating madness.  Indeed, the great fiasco must be taken lightly, so as not to be demoralized by its enormity.   Symphony grotesque in Washington [PT]   Of particular note is the present cast of characters. ...
  • The Strange Behavior of Gold Investors from Monday to Thursday
      Known and Unknown Anomalies Readers are undoubtedly aware of one or another stock market anomaly, such as e.g. the frequently observed weakness in stock markets in the summer months, which the well-known saying “sell in May and go away” refers to. Apart from such widely known anomalies, there are many others though, which most investors have never heard of. These anomalies can be particularly interesting and profitable for investors – and there are several in the precious metals...
  • Business Cycles and Inflation – Part I
      Incrementum Advisory Board Meeting Q4 2017 -  Special Guest Ben Hunt, Author and Editor of Epsilon Theory The quarterly meeting of the Incrementum Fund's Advisory Board took place on October 10 and we had the great pleasure to be joined by special guest Ben Hunt this time, who is probably known to many of our readers as the main author and editor of Epsilon Theory. He is also chief risk officer at investment management firm Salient Partners. As always, a transcript of the discussion is...
  • What President Trump and the West Can Learn from China
      Expensive Politics Instead of a demonstration of its overwhelming military might intended to intimidate tiny North Korea and pressure China to lean on its defiant communist neighbor, President Trump and the West should try to learn a few things from China.   President Trump meets President Xi. The POTUS reportedly had a very good time in China. [PT] Photo credit: AP   The President’s trip to the Far East came on the heels of the completion of China’s...
  • Business Cycles and Inflation, Part II
      Early Warning Signals in a Fragile System [ed note: here is Part 1; if you have missed it, best go there and start reading from the beginning] We recently received the following charts via email with a query whether they should worry stock market investors. They show two short term interest rates, namely the 2-year t-note yield and 3 month t-bill discount rate. Evidently the moves in short term rates over the past ~18 - 24 months were quite large, even if their absolute levels remain...
  • Is Fed Chair Nominee Jay Powell, Count Dracula?
      A Date with Dracula The gray hue of dawn quickly slipped to a bright clear sky as we set out last Saturday morning.  The season’s autumn tinge abounded around us as the distant mountain peaks, and their mighty rifts, grew closer.  The nighttime chill stubbornly lingered in the crisp air.   “Who lives in yonder castle?” Harker asked. “Pardon, Sire?” Up front in the driver's seat it was evidently hard to understand what was said over the racket made by the team of...
  • A Different Powelling - Precious Metals Supply and Demand Report
      New Chief Monetary Bureaucrat Goes from Good to Bad for Silver The prices of the metals ended all but unchanged last week, though they hit spike highs on Thursday. Particularly silver his $17.24 before falling back 43 cents, to close at $16.82.   Never drop silver carelessly, since it might land on your toes. If you are at loggerheads with gravity for some reason, only try to handle smaller-sized bars than the ones depicted above. The snapshot to the right shows the governor...
  • Heat Death of the Economic Universe
      Big Crunch or Big Chill Physicists say that the universe is expanding. However, they hotly debate (OK, pun intended as a foreshadowing device) if the rate of expansion is sufficient to overcome gravity—called escape velocity. It may seem like an arcane topic, but the consequences are dire either way.   OT – a little cosmology excursion from your editor: Observations so far suggest that the expansion of the universe is indeed accelerating – the “big crunch”, in...
  • Claudio Grass Interviews Mark Thornton
      Introduction Mark Thornton of the Mises Institute and our good friend Claudio Grass recently discussed a number of key issues, sharing their perspectives on important economic and geopolitical developments that are currently on the minds of many US and European citizens. A video of the interview can be found at the end of this post. Claudio provided us with a written summary of the interview which we present below – we have added a few remarks in brackets (we strongly recommend...
  • Inflation and Gold - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Reasons to Buy Gold The price of gold went up $19, and the price of silver 42 cents. The price action occurred on Monday, Wednesday and Friday though so far, only the first two price jumps reversed. We promise to take a look at the intraday action on Friday.   File under “reasons to buy gold”: A famous photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson of a rather unruly queue in front of a bank in Shanghai in 1949 in the final days of Kuomintang rule. When it dawned on people that the...
  • Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      A Different Vantage Point The prices of the metals were up slightly this week. But in between, there was some exciting price action. Monday morning (as reckoned in Arizona), the prices of the metals spiked up, taking silver from under $16.90 to over $17.25. Then, in a series of waves, the price came back down to within pennies of last Friday’s close. The biggest occurred on Friday.   Silver ended slightly up on the week after a somewhat bigger rally was rudely interrupted...
  • How Uncle Sam Inflates Away Your Life
      Economic Nirvana “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon,” economist and Nobel Prize recipient Milton Friedman once remarked.  He likely meant that inflation is the more rapid increase in the supply of money relative to the output of goods and services which money is traded for.   Famous Monetarist School representative Milton Friedman thought the US should adopt a constitutional amendment limiting monetary inflation to 3% – 5% per year, putting...

Support Acting Man

Top10BestPro
j9TJzzN

Austrian Theory and Investment

Archive

350x200

THE GOLD CARTEL: Government Intervention on Gold, the Mega Bubble in Paper and What This Means for Your Future

Realtime Charts

 

Gold in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Gold in EUR:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Silver in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Platinum in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

USD - Index:

[Most Recent USD from www.kitco.com]

 

 
Buy Silver Now!
 
Buy Gold Now!
 

Oilprice.com