Jonathan Bauman worked for Schiff Gold in New York City. Jonathan Bauman | Courtesy

While many Hillsdale stu­dents may dream of living and working in New York, few New Yorkers would con­sider leaving their office on Madison Avenue to go to school in south-central Michigan. But that’s just what sophomore Jonathan Bauman did after his second year working in New York as a junior broker.

In the summer of 2015, Bauman had just grad­uated high school and was ready to enroll at Florida State Uni­versity in the fall when his brother asked him about working with him at Schiff Gold, a gold broker in New York City.

“My brother was doing very well, and the company was growing and wanted to hire on more junior brokers,” Bauman said. With the ref­erence of his brother, Schiff hired Bauman and he started in August to train for a year, making close to 200 calls a day.

Bauman found success in his position as a gold broker and was pro­moted. For seven months longer he worked at Schiff, which he said helped him develop many valuable skills.

“I learned dis­ci­pline,” Bauman said. “Those out­bound calls build grit. When you call 20 people in a row and 19 say no, it makes you tougher.”

On top of that, Bauman said, he learned about the industry.

“I learned a lot about gold and finance, because gold, while not a financial asset, is always dis­cussed in the context of invest­ments. The reason why someone would want gold is a question of financial eco­nomics.”

But the daily routine even­tually got to him, he said, and soon he started to look for some­thing more.

“You wake up in the morning, bolt to the subway, and the whole time you’re not cog­nizant of anyone around you. You put in your time and you do your job, and then you’re too tired to do any­thing beside just go home, put on Arrested Devel­opment, and call it a night,” Bauman said.

Living in New York, while a great expe­rience, even­tually became a lim­iting force to his aspi­ra­tions.

“I’ve always loved to learn, and it’s hard to learn broadly when you work in a spe­cific job. When I was working, I learned a lot about finance and about how the spe­cific industry works, but I didn’t learn about phi­losophy, or even German,” Bauman said. “When you work for 10 hours a day, you may not have the mental energy to study some­thing you like, and Hillsdale offered the chance to be inten­tional about edu­cation in a com­munity that’s aimed at a spe­cific purpose.”

So, with all that he had come to learn about gold and its place in the financial sphere, Bauman became inter­ested in Hillsdale.

“That’s a huge reason I came to Hillsdale,” Bauman said. “After learning about financial eco­nomics, I wanted to learn eco­nomics at Hillsdale.”

In fact, the owner of the gold bro­kerage, Peter Schiff, is known among the eco­nomics department.

“When I visited Hillsdale, I talked to Dr. Steele and Dr. Pon­gracic and they knew who Peter Schiff was,” Bauman said.

His stance in financial markets make him well suited to be known by lib­er­tarian-minded econ­o­mists, according to Bauman.

“He gives rec­om­men­da­tions on where the market is going to go. One of his biggest things he called was the 2007 financial crisis, where he put $10 to 20 million on a trade that shorted housing,” Bauman said. “Since then, he’s become a famous con­trarian.”

Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Eco­nomics Charles Steele, who is lib­er­tarian-minded, became aware of Schiff because of the financial crisis.

“He has a good under­standing of eco­nomics,” Steele said. “He was spot-on in pre­dicting the 2007 recession and 2008 financial crisis, when others, such as econ­omist Arthur Laffer, got it com­pletely wrong and were caught entirely off guard.”

He said while there’s no spe­cific lib­er­tarian stance on gold, many lib­er­tarians like the idea of gold because it exists outside gov­ern­ments.

“Lib­er­tar­i­anism holds indi­vidual liberty as the highest political prin­ciple, so of course lib­er­tarians are quite wary of giving gov­ern­ments much power. Many of us don’t believe the gov­ernment should be given the power to control the money supply,” Steele said. “Hence there’s often lib­er­tarian support for com­modity money, such as gold.”

While somewhat reverse, Bauman’s path actually follows a logical track toward where he’s at now. Gold trading is nat­u­rally a con­trarian-style asset, according to Bauman, meaning that it’s a hedge against the financial markets. Because gold brings with it a lib­er­tarian approach to eco­nomics, many people in the field are likely to believe in that strain of eco­nomics, which Hillsdale’s eco­nomics department teaches so well.

For example, Hillsdale’s patron econ­omist Ludwig von Mises ended up on this side of the argument sur­rounding mon­etary control.

“Mises argued the rel­evant question isn’t what will be money, it’s whether market par­tic­i­pants or gov­ernment decide what is to be money,” Steele said.

Though the eco­nomic angle is what excited Bauman about the college, he said his passion for learning took him away from eco­nomics and toward the study of German.

While on campus, the skills he learned at Schiff trans­lated well into his ability to connect with his peers, as junior Jackson Frerichs recalls. Frerichs, who served as pres­ident of the Hillsdale College Invest­ments Club, spent an evening in August talking to Bauman about gold in the context of per­sonal investing.

“What I dis­tinctly remember besides him being per­sonable and fun to hang out with were his reasons for buying gold instead of bitcoin as a capital preser­vation as opposed to seeking a high return on investment,” Frerichs said.

From Tal­la­hassee, to New York, to Hillsdale, and, for the spring/summer term, to Saar­brucken, Germany, Bauman said he’s happy with where the journey took him.

“FSU is nothing like Hillsdale,” he said. “It’s much more my dream school than what FSU could have been.”