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Did Cocaine Fuel the Financial Bubble? April 17, 2013

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The controversial former drug tsar David Nutt told the London Sunday Times this weekend that cocaine-using bankers with their “culture of excitement and drive and more and more and more … got us into this terrible mess”.

Nutt, who was sacked for claiming that ecstasy was as safe as horse riding, told the Sunday Times that abuse of cocaine caused the financial meltdown.

“Bankers use cocaine and got us into this terrible mess,” he told the paper adding that the drug made them “overconfident” and led to them taking more risks. Nutt, who is professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College, claimed that cocaine was perfect for a banking “culture of excitement and drive and more and more and more. It is a ‘more’ drug”

There were also lots of stories about some of the big swingers in New York enjoying a line or 10 of an evening. Bernie Madoff’s office was apparently known as “the North Pole” such were the gargantuan quantities of “snow” to be found there and most bankers are aware of the published allegations that Jimmy Cayne (former CEO of Bear Stearns) had an anti-acid medication bottle that was filled with cocaine.

Scarface!!!!!!!!!!1Dr Chris Luke, an A&E specialist based at Cork University Hospital, Ireland, who has studied the effects of cocaine on bankers, has stated that “prominent figures in financial and political circles made irrational decisions as a result of megalomania brought on by cocaine usage”. He concludes that “people were making insane decisions and thinking they were 110% right … which led to the current chaos.”

Greed, selfishness, ignorance and ruthlessness also played their part, of course, but I think it would be foolish not to see the role that the drug played in creating the bubble.

Did cocaine use by bankers cause the global financial crisis? | Business | The Guardian.

Balancing the 3 Types of Innovation November 25, 2012

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efficiency innovations are liberating capital, and in the United States this capital is being reinvested into still more efficiency innovations. In contrast, America is generating many fewer empowering innovations than in the past. We need to reset the balance between empowering and efficiency innovations.

America today is in a macroeconomic paradox that we might call the capitalist’s dilemma. Executives, investors and analysts are doing what is right, from their perspective and according to what they’ve been taught. Those doctrines were appropriate to the circumstances when first articulated — when capital was scarce. But we’ve never taught our apprentices that when capital is abundant and certain new skills are scarce, the same rules are the wrong rules.

It’s as if our leaders in Washington, all highly credentialed, are standing on a beach holding their fire hoses full open, pouring more capital into an ocean of capital. We are trying to solve the wrong problem. The author presents solutions at the end of the article

via A Capitalist’s Dilemma, Whoever Wins the Election – NYTimes.com.

Is U.S. Economic Growth Over? Faltering Innovation Confronts the Six Headwinds October 3, 2012

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The analysis links periods of slow and rapid growth to the timing of the three industrial revolutions (IR’s), that is, IR #1 (steam, railroads) from 1750 to 1830; IR #2 (electricity, internal combustion engine, running water, indoor toilets, communications, entertainment, chemicals, petroleum) from 1870 to 1900; and IR #3 (computers, the web, mobile phones) from 1960 to present. It provides evidence that IR #2 was more important than the others and was largely responsible for 80 years of relatively rapid productivity growth between 1890 and 1972. Once the spin-off inventions from IR #2 (airplanes, air conditioning, interstate highways) had run their course, productivity growth during 1972-96 was much slower than before. In contrast, IR #3 created only a short-lived growth revival between 1996 and 2004. Many of the original and spin-off inventions of IR #2 could happen only once – urbanization, transportation speed, the freedom of females from the drudgery of carrying tons of water per year, and the role of central heating and air conditioning in achieving a year-round constant temperature.

Even if innovation were to continue into the future at the rate of the two decades before 2007, the U.S. faces six headwinds that are in the process of dragging long-term growth to half or less of the 1.9 percent annual rate experienced between 1860 and 2007. These include demography, education, inequality, globalization, energy/environment, and the overhang of consumer and government debt. A provocative “exercise in subtraction” suggests that future growth in consumption per capita for the bottom 99 percent of the income distribution could fall below 0.5 percent per year for an extended period of decades.

via Is U.S. Economic Growth Over? Faltering Innovation Confronts the Six Headwinds.

Everything You Think You Know About China Is Wrong September 1, 2012

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For the last 40 years, Americans have lagged in recognizing the declining fortunes of their foreign rivals. In the 1970s they thought the Soviet Union was 10 feet tall — ascendant even though corruption and inefficiency were destroying the vital organs of a decaying communist regime. In the late 1980s, they feared that Japan was going to economically overtake the United States, yet the crony capitalism, speculative madness, and political corruption evident throughout the 1980s led to the collapse of the Japanese economy in 1991.

Could the same malady have struck Americans when it comes to China? The latest news from Beijing is indicative of Chinese weakness: a persistent slowdown of economic growth, a glut of unsold goods, rising bad bank loans, a bursting real estate bubble, and a vicious power struggle at the top, coupled with unending political scandals. Many factors that have powered China’s rise, such as the demographic dividend, disregard for the environment, supercheap labor, and virtually unlimited access to external markets, are either receding or disappearing.

The current economic slowdown in Beijing is neither cyclical nor the result of weak external demand for Chinese goods. China’s economic ills are far more deeply rooted: an overbearing state squandering capital and squeezing out the private sector, systemic inefficiency and lack of innovation, a rapacious ruling elite interested solely in self-enrichment and the perpetuation of its privileges, a woefully underdeveloped financial sector, and mounting ecological and demographic pressures.

 

via Everything You Think You Know About China Is Wrong – By Minxin Pei | Foreign Policy.

China’s Cash Crunch August 20, 2012

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At first glance, that proposition seems preposterous. After all, the People’s Bank of China, the central bank, held $3.24 trillion of foreign currency reserves at the end of the first half of this year. Yet foreign currency, no matter how plentiful, has limited usefulness in a local currency crisis. In any event, the PBOC’s foreign currency holdings are almost evenly matched with renminbi-denominated liabilities that were incurred to acquire all those dollars, pounds, euros, and yen. As a result, the central bank cannot use the reserves without driving itself deep—actually, deeper—into insolvency.

When shops close to avoid predatory officials, we know China’s coffers are almost empty.  And to make matters worse, the country’s financial problems will be harder to solve now that the country’s balance of payments has turned negative.  The net outflow in the second quarter of this year was the first since 1998.  The country’s reserves also dropped in Q2.  We should not be surprised: there was perhaps $110 billion of capital flight during that period, and the gusher outflow looks like it continued in June.  Chinese citizens are losing confidence fast.

No developing country has ever escaped a major financial crisis.  The People’s Republic of China is about to have its first one now

via China Is Running Out Of Money – Forbes.

No free beer when frugal Swiss get their say July 21, 2012

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Swiss research shows that giving citizens a direct say over how their taxes are spent leads to lower public debts, more cost-efficient services and even less tax evasion. “Because Swiss citizens feel they can control politicians’ spending through referendums, they are more prepared to give the government money and have a more positive attitude towards the state,” said Daniel Kuebler, co-director of the Centre for Democracy Studies in the northern Swiss town of Aarau.

To be sure, direct democracy is not the only driver of the Swiss success story. The country’s neutrality, bank secrecy, liberal labor market, low taxes and stable government have all played their part in drawing investment and driving growth. But the system has forced politicians to be more frugal than elsewhere.

In the United States, direct democracy is frequently blamed for the fiscal mess in California, where a 1978 referendum known as Proposition 13 changed the state constitution to ban increases in property taxes in line with inflation. Supporters say the measure put a sensible limit on state spending, but opponents say it warped the property market to benefit the rich, forced other taxes up and made it impossible for towns to keep pace with the cost of public services. This year, three Californian cities filed for bankruptcy in the space of weeks.

Kuebler said Switzerland’s referendums, which allow voters to overrule spending decisions by the legislature, do a better job of encouraging fiscal responsibility. “You might think that direct democracy would lead to greater public spending because anyone can put forward an initiative, for example, proposing free beer for all,” said Kuebler. “But it would never have a chance, because the preference of Swiss citizens is fiscally conservative and not redistributive.”

via No free beer when frugal Swiss get their say | Reuters.

Trends In The Spread of Civilization May 3, 2012

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In his latest book, Civilization, The West and the Rest, the economic and financial historian Niall Ferguson argues that Western civilization’s rise to global dominance over the past 500 years was due mainly to six killer apps, as he calls them: competition, science, rule of law, modern medicine, consumerism, and the work ethic.

While “the Rest” lacked these concepts, they might not for much longer, as emerging markets are quickly catching up. Someday, they could even surpass the West. (On May 22 and 29, PBS will air a program based on Civilization.)

What made the West unusual was that risk takers were not only rewarded but honored, whether in science, exploration, or in trade. Spreading across the Atlantic from Europe is an anti-risk culture that manifests itself in two ways. One is the welfare state, designed to remove risk from your life by guaranteeing you an income from the cradle to the grave. That’s great because it means that nobody is starving in the streets for want of work. But it isn’t great if you create poverty traps and disincentives, so that people in the bottom quintile never work, which is the case in much of Europe.

The other way in which the anti-risk culture manifests itself is with the manic regulatory mentality that tries to prescribe rules for every eventuality, including the tiny, tiny risk that an asteroid will hit this building. Regulations that protect from every eventuality end up being paralyzing because the more things are proscribed, the more the ordinary entrepreneur has to be afraid that if he doesn’t comply, he will get sued.

via Is America Becoming an Anti-Risk Welfare State? – Barrons.com.

Who owns America? Hint: It’s not China January 29, 2012

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Geopolitics.
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Here’s a quick and fascinating breakdown by total amount held and percentage of total U.S. debt, according to Business Insider:

  • Hong Kong: $121.9 billion (0.9 percent)
  • Caribbean banking centers: $148.3 (1 percent)
  • Taiwan: $153.4 billion (1.1 percent)
  • Brazil: $211.4 billion (1.5 percent)
  • Oil exporting countries: $229.8 billion (1.6 percent)
  • Mutual funds: $300.5 billion (2 percent)
  • Commercial banks: $301.8 billion (2.1 percent)
  • State, local and federal retirement funds: $320.9 billion (2.2 percent)
  • Money market mutual funds: $337.7 billion (2.4 percent)
  • United Kingdom: $346.5 billion (2.4 percent)
  • Private pension funds: $504.7 billion (3.5 percent)
  • State and local governments: $506.1 billion (3.5 percent)
  • Japan: $912.4 billion (6.4 percent)
  • U.S. households: $959.4 billion (6.6 percent)
  • China: $1.16 trillion (8 percent)
  • The U.S. Treasury: $1.63 trillion (11.3 percent)
  • Social Security trust fund: $2.67 trillion (19 percent)

So America owes foreigners about $4.5 trillion in debt. But America owes America $9.8 trillion

via Who owns America? Hint: It’s not China – Global Public Square – CNN.com Blogs.

The Difference Between the Israeli and Greek Wailing Wall October 8, 2011

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Wailing Wall in Israel

Greek Wailing Wall

E-Trade Baby Hit By the Market August 13, 2011

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Why China Still Buy US Debt August 9, 2011

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The People’s Bank of China (PBoC) accumulated its forex reserves by borrowing yuan from the Chinese people. The U.S. dollar assets and yuan liabilities are roughly balanced on the central bank’s balance sheet. If the U.S. government is addicted to debt, so is China’s.

The purpose of that precarious balance sheet is to subsidize exports by keeping the yuan’s value low and deferring inflation. An economy like China’s that is enjoying rapid productivity growth would normally see rising real wages and hence benign inflation that would increase the cost of its exports. Because that process has been stopped, China’s exporters remain competitive across a range of labor-intensive products such as shoes and garments in which the country no longer has a true comparative advantage.

Were the PBoC to stop buying U.S. Treasurys and other dollar assets, the result would be an immediate increase in the yuan’s value. The losses on U.S. investments as the yuan slowly appreciates are one part of the cost for the export-subsidy policy.

In the short term Chinese threats to stop buying U.S. debt are empty, since there are no other asset markets deep and liquid enough to absorb the purchases needed to keep the yuan stable. Were China to buy euros or yen in sufficiently large quantities, it would soon run into a protectionist backlash in Europe and Japan as those nations ran trade deficits. The U.S. willingness to run a persistent trade deficit is key to the dollar’s status as a reserve currency.

via Review & Outlook: China’s Debt Addiction – WSJ.com.

China Has Divested 97 Percent of Its Holdings in U.S. Treasury Bills June 17, 2011

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China has dropped 97 percent of its holdings in U.S. Treasury bills, decreasing its ownership of the short-term U.S. government securities from a peak of $210.4 billion in May 2009 to $5.69 billion in March 2011, the most recent month reported by the U.S. Treasury.

Treasury bills are securities that mature in one year or less that are sold by the U.S. Treasury Department to fund the nation’s debt.

Mainland Chinese holdings of U.S. Treasury bills are reported in column 9 of the Treasury report linked here.

Until October, the Chinese were generally making up for their decreasing holdings in Treasury bills by increasing their holdings of longer-term U.S. Treasury securities. Thus, until October, China’s overall holdings of U.S. debt continued to increase.

Since October, however, China has also started to divest from longer-term U.S. Treasury securities. Thus, as reported by the Treasury Department, China’s ownership of the U.S. national debt has decreased in each of the last five months on record, including November, December, January, February and March.

via China Has Divested 97 Percent of Its Holdings in U.S. Treasury Bills | CNSnews.com.

Cut Here. Invest There December 26, 2010

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Borrowing billions more from China to give ourselves more tax cuts does not qualify. Make no mistake, President Obama has enacted an enormous amount in two years. It’s impressive. But the really hard stuff lies ahead: taking things away. We are leaving an era where to be a mayor, governor, senator or president was, on balance, to give things away to people. And we are entering an era where to be a leader will mean, on balance, to take things away from people. It is the only way we’ll get our fiscal house in order before the market, brutally, does it for us.

To survive in the 21st century, America can no longer afford a politics of irresponsible profligacy. But to thrive in the 21st century — to invest in education, infrastructure and innovation — America cannot afford a politics of mindless austerity either.

The politicians we need are what I’d call “pay-as-you-go progressives” — those who combine fiscal prudence with growth initiatives to make their cities, their states or our country great again. Everyone knows the first rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging. But people often forget the second rule of holes: You can only grow your way out. You can’t borrow your way out.

via Cut Here. Invest There. – NYTimes.com.

The Scariest Unemployment Graph I’ve Seen Yet July 20, 2010

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The median duration of unemployment is higher today than any time in the last 50 years. That’s an understatement. It is more than twice as high today than any time in the last 50 years.

via The Scariest Unemployment Graph I’ve Seen Yet – Business – The Atlantic.

Our Hidden Inflation June 3, 2010

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Government statistics are about the last place one should look to find inflation, as they are designed to not show much. Over the last 35 years the government has changed the way it calculates inflation several times. According to the Web site Shadow Government Statistics, using the pre-1980 method, the Consumer Price Index would be over 9 percent, compared with about 2 percent in the official statistics today.

While the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, this doesn’t even take into account inflation we ignore by using a basket of goods that don’t match the real-world cost of living. (For example, health care costs are one-sixth of G.D.P. but only one-sixteenth of the price index, and rising income and payroll taxes do not count as inflation at all.)

Why does the government understate rising costs? Low official inflation benefits the government by reducing inflation-indexed payments, including Social Security. Lower official inflation means higher reported real G.D.P., higher reported real income and higher reported productivity.

via Op-Ed Contributor – Easy Money, Hard Truths – NYTimes.com.

Forget Greece: Europe’s real problem is Germany May 22, 2010

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Germans look at the current crisis and blame their spendthrift Mediterranean neighbors for using the cover of the euro to rack up public and private debts that they now cannot support. They blame hedge funds and other speculators for making a bad situation worse and profiting from other people’s misery. And they are furious that they are being told by their leaders that they have no choice but to bail everyone out.

What Germans won’t accept is that they wouldn’t have been able to sell all those beautifully designed cars and well-engineered machine tools if Greeks and Spaniards and Americans hadn’t been willing to buy those goods and German banks hadn’t been so willing to lend them the money to do so. Nor will they accept that German industry was able to thrive over the past decade because of a common currency and a common monetary policy that, over time, rendered industry in some neighboring countries uncompetitive while generating huge real estate bubbles in others.The danger of Germans misunderstanding the causes of the current crisis is that it leads them, and the rest of Europe, to the wrong solutions.

via Steven Pearlstein – Forget Greece: Europe’s real problem is Germany.

When Will the Present Change the Mistakes of the Past? May 16, 2010

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The author outlines the post-depression social contract and the gradual breakdown of that model. In the private sector, an example would be the breakup of the AT&T phone monopoly, which opened up the Market to the introduction of cell phones and the internet. But not every industry rose to the International challenges of Globalization and hence the Detroit automotive debacle, brought-on by the recent near-depression. The author wonders what Crash will it take to get Governments to change from their WWII model. The recent close-call (assuming that the Sovereign Debt Crisis doesn’t unravel) has shocked many of the welfare-state proponents to face the unsustainability of their historical model.

American Challenges: The Blue Model Breaks Down – Walter Russell Mead’s Blog – The American Interest.

Relax, We’ll Be Fine April 6, 2010

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The U.S. is on the verge of a demographic, economic and social revival, built on its historic strengths. The U.S. has always been good at disruptive change. It’s always excelled at decentralized community-building. It’s always had that moral materialism that creates meaning-rich products. Surely a country with this much going for it is not going to wait around passively and let a rotten political culture drag it down.

via Op-Ed Columnist – Relax, We’ll Be Fine – NYTimes.com. (more…)

The Rising Sovereign Debt Crisis March 16, 2010

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Bond giant PIMCO spoke of a “sovereign debt explosion” that has taken the world into uncharted waters and poses a major threat to economic stability. “Our sense is that the importance of the shock to public finances in advanced economies is not yet sufficiently appreciated and understood,” said Mohamed El-Erian, the group’s chief executive.

Mr El-Erian said most analysts are still using “backward-looking models” that fail to grasp the full magnitude of what has taken place in world affairs since the crisis. Some 40pc of the global economy is in countries where governments are running deficits above 10pc of GDP, with no easy way out.

Italy has to refinance 20pc of its entire debt – the world’s third largest after Japan and the US – tapping the bond markets for a total €259bn this year. Belgium has to roll over 22pc of its substantial debt.

via Eurozone could risk ‘sovereign debt explosion’ – Telegraph.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner March 15, 2010

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At first, some people on Wall Street feared that the Obama Administration was simply seeking a pretext for taking over embattled firms like Citigroup and Bank of America, as liberal Democrats had urged. But Geithner was resolutely opposed to such an option, at least at that stage. He and Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, intended to use the stress tests to bolster banks’ finances rather than nationalizing them. “That would have been a deeply transforming policy mistake,” he said to me. “The country would have suffered for decades. We’d have spent hundreds of billions of dollars more that we didn’t need to spend, and would have been stuck in those institutions for years.”

In fact, some commentators agreed that the Treasury and the Fed were being too tough on banks.  One of these skeptics was Richard Bove, an analyst at Rochdale Securities, who has been following the financial industry since 1965. He has since changed his mind. “Geithner recognized that the system needed overkill on security and soundness to rebuild the confidence that was lacking,” he said. According to Bove’s calculations, U.S. banks now have more capital as a percentage of assets than in any year since 1935. “He built in that safety and soundness throughout the industry. As time goes on, I’m getting more and more respect for him.”

Between March 9th and May 7th, when the results of the stress tests were announced, the Dow rose by almost two thousand points, and the spread between AAA and BAA bonds—a reliable indicator of financial distress—fell sharply

Read more: via Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner : The New Yorker.

How America Can Rise Again February 23, 2010

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Is America going to hell? After a year of economic calamity that many fear has sent us into irreversible decline, the author finds reassurance in the peculiarly American cycle of crisis and renewal, and in the continuing strength of the forces that have made the country great: our university system, our receptiveness to immigration, our culture of innovation. In most significant ways, the U.S. remains the envy of the world. But here’s the alarming problem: our governing system is old and broken and dysfunctional. Fixing it—without resorting to a constitutional convention or a coup—is the key to securing the nation’s future.

via How America Can Rise Again – The Atlantic (January/February 2010).

How Wall St. Enabled Unsustainable European Welfare States February 19, 2010

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For all the benefits of uniting Europe with one currency, the birth of the euro came with an original sin: countries like Italy and Greece entered the monetary union with bigger deficits than the ones permitted under the treaty that created the currency. Rather than raise taxes or reduce spending, however, these governments artificially reduced their deficits with derivatives.

In 2001, just after Greece was admitted to Europe’s monetary union, Goldman helped the government quietly borrow billions, people familiar with the transaction said. That deal, hidden from public view because it was treated as a currency trade rather than a loan, helped Athens to meet Europe’s deficit rules while continuing to spend beyond its means.

Instruments developed by Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and a wide range of other banks enabled politicians to mask additional borrowing in Greece, Italy and possibly elsewhere.

In dozens of deals across the Continent, banks provided cash upfront in return for government payments in the future, with those liabilities then left off the books. Greece, for example, traded away the rights to airport fees and lottery proceeds in years to come. Critics say that such deals, because they are not recorded as loans, mislead investors and regulators about the depth of a country’s liabilities.

via Wall St. Helped Greece to Mask Debt Fueling Europe’s Crisis – NYTimes.com.

Rap Video Boosts Economist’s Book Sales February 18, 2010

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Friedrich Hayek, Nobel-prize winning economist and well-known proponent of free markets, is having a big month. He was last seen rap-debating with John Maynard Keynes in the viral video above, (in which Hayek is portrayed as the sober voice of reason while Keynes overindulges at a party at the Fed). His 1944 book, “The Road to Serfdom,” provided the theme for John Stossel’s Fox Business News program on Valentine’s Day.

Hayek, who died in 1992, is also reemerging as a bestselling author. A new edition of Hayek’s seminal book, “The Road to Serfdom,” was published in March 2007 by the University of Chicago Press as part of a series called “The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek,” for which I serve as editor. For over a year-and-a-half, the book sold respectably, at a clip of about 600 copies a month.

But then, in November 2008, sales more than quadrupled, and they haven’t slowed down since. What’s more, the Kindle edition went on sale in late May 2009 and is now the best-selling book that the University of Chicago Press has offered in that format. This would be a pretty good sales record for a contemporary author, but it is nothing short of amazing for a book originally published in 1944, and by an economist, no less.

via The secret behind the hot sales of “The Road to Serfdom” by free-market economist F. A. Hayek – Short Stack.

Don’t Get Giddy About China February 14, 2010

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There is a Russian proverb that says our fate plays out on the exact path we take to avoid it. This is the story of China in a nutshell. Policy makers have accumulated forex reserves in large part to avoid a balance of payments crisis, and yet the massive reserve accumulation has meant a parallel accumulation of high-powered money and an epic credit expansion over not just the past year, but over the past four or five leading to dangerous asset and credit bubbles manifesting throughout China’s real economy and financial markets.

Chinese policymakers appear to be trying to spur private consumption by building out social safety nets. While better social safety nets are an important and positive development, the fundamental answer for policy makers to improve the allocation of capital (and in so doing to shift China Inc. away from its export/production orientation to a more sustainable consumption driven model) is only going to come from a combination of four key policy initiatives, in order of importance:
·         Interest rate liberalization
·         Exchange rate regime liberalization
·         Major reform liberalization in the service sector, especially in financial / banking sector, which is currently dominated by state players.
·         Liberalization of rural land ownership rules.
None of these is likely to happen soon, unfortunately, given the political reality – even in a one-party country like China – that it is difficult to implement tough-medicine reforms during a period of global economic stress, and this is especially true for President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao as the country gets closer to its next leadership transition cycle in 2012.

If I am wrong about the bearish scenario for China above, I think it will be because I am too optimistic. A possible worst-case scenario is that the bursting of China’s credit bubble leads to a second-wave global credit crisis and a freeze in global financial markets no matter what the People’s Bank of China or the US Federal Reserve does to reflate markets – and we get a classic global liquidity trap scenario and a major debt-deflation Great Depression redux.

via Asia Sentinel – Don’t Get Giddy About China.

Economic View – For Much of the World, a Good Financial Decade January 2, 2010

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Steady economic growth is an under-reported news story.

In a given year, an extra percentage point of economic growth may not seem to matter much. But, over time, the difference between annual growth of 1 percent and 2 percent determines whether you can double your standard of living every 35 years or every 70 years. At 5 percent annual economic growth, living standards double about every 14 years.

Putting aside the United States, which ranks third, the four most populous countries are China, India, Indonesia and Brazil,all had over 5% annual growth. Even Africa, as a whole grew at moer than 5% most years.

via Economic View – For Much of the World, a Good Financial Decade – NYTimes.com.

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