America & Its Empire of Debt

The Wiggin Sessions

This week on TWS: Bill Bonner advances his “Modest Theory of Civilization.

Funny story: When Bill and I wrote our first book together, Financial Reckoning Day, we were sitting across from each other in the office on Rue de la Verrerie in Paris.

We’re both old school writers; passing physical manuscripts back and forth was easy. I would hit ‘print’… hand Bill the pages… he’d get out his red pen… Mark it up… hand it back to me.

When we wrote our second book, Empire of Debt … ooh la la. Things changed.

Bill was still living in Paris. I had relocated to Baltimore. Bill was also trying to manage a business in London. And had just bought several apartments in Buenos Aires.

Instead of hitting print and handing the pages to him. I hit print… Then I had to triangulate to figure out where in the world Bill was going to be next so I could Fedex him the pages.

If I knew he was going to be in Buenos Aires on such and such a date, I could send the pages there. And wait until I got his red ink scratches back.

Thing is, Bill has his own way of doing things. He would write things like “Move A to page 42.” With a circle around a couple of paragraphs.

So… I’d grab the paragraphs circled, physically cutting the paper sometimes, and look on page 42. On page 42, it might say something like “insert C1 here.”

No invectives. Just a bit of confusion. I like word puzzles, anyway.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Triangulate. Solve mystery edits. Write new stuff.

You get the picture. We were six months late on our deadline using this method.

Here’s the best part of the story. On one draft, Bill drew a red line through roughly thirty pages of material I had written on the U.S. Dollar.

To me, a red line through my work meant “cut this material.” Which, at the time, was a reasonable assumption given the conventions of copyediting those days.

I “cut” the pages, but didn’t delete them. Kept them in my swipe file. Then turned them into the book that would become The Demise of the Dollar. This book – my third – was published by John Wiley & Sons in a few months… ahead of the deadline… for a book the publisher didn’t expect.

The punchline: When Bill read the final manuscript of Empire of Debt he asked me, “Where’s that whole section I highlighted on the U.S. dollar?”

“Highlighted?! Oops. I thought you wanted me to delete it!”

Sometimes mistakes become the most unpredictable blessings.

Bill and I have both since matured enough to use electronic devices to do our writing. E-mail, it turns out, is cheaper, faster and more efficient than paper, ink and Fedex. Who’da thunk?

And get this: We even conducted this interview over Zoom! A long way from handing hard copy to one another face to face.

You can watch our conversation in full by clicking here.

Addison Wiggin

Addison Wiggin

Addison Wiggin is founder and executive publisher of Agora Financial LLC, an independent economic forecasting and financial research firm. He and Bill Bonner began writing the firm’s flagship Daily Reckoning in the midst of the tech boom and bust. It was one of the first widely distributed email newsletters on the Internet. The publication’s critical eye on finance and economics continues today. He’s also creator and editorial director of Agora Financial’s daily missive The 5 Min. Forecast.

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