28 July 2009

Nation State

The nation state. Interesting phrase. It is different from the state, which is ancient. The nation state as we know it is a modern invention -- also called the managerial state. The idea is that the state survives and is independent from its head. It has a life that exists outside the dictator, president, monarch, or whatever. It is also called the impersonal state, and its heartbeat is the bureaucracy, and it certainly has a genesis in the late medieval period. It is the only state anyone in the developed world has known for centuries.
Jeffery Tucker at Mises.org.

24 July 2009


Critics argue that economists missed the origins of the crisis; failed to appreciate its worst symptoms; and cannot now agree about the cure. In other words, economists misread the economy on the way up, misread it on the way down and now mistake the right way out.
The Economist on Economists.

18 July 2009

No one Saw it Coming????

I do not know anyone who predicted this course of events. This should give us cause to reflect on how hard a job it is to make genuinely useful forecasts. What we have seen is truly a ‘tail’ outcome – the kind of outcome that the routine forecasting process never predicts. But it has occurred, it has implications, and so we must reflect on it.
Glenn Stevens, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia quoted by Dirk J Bezemer of the University of Groningen. Dirk proves that the common wisdom is wrong and lists a number of economist who saw it coming. The full article is worth a read.

15 July 2009


Long gone are the days when economists thought deeply about how life actually works. Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, Anne-Robert Turgot – the great "moral philosophers" – all died hundreds of years ago. Since then, the trade has gone bad. They're all numbers guys now. An economist, of the modern variety, is a statistician...an extrapolator...and a mountebank. If numbers go up two months in a row, he predicts they will go up another one. He rarely stops to ask whether his numbers really make any sense.
Bill Bonner on Bubble Deniers.

11 July 2009

Saving or Borrowing

In 2005, Americans saved nothing. Not even aluminum foil or string. Now, the savings rate is approaching 5% of disposable income - a big turnaround.

We know from logic and experience that saving money - not spending it - is the key to getting wealthier. Saving money gives you capital. And it’s capital accumulation - in the form of factories, roads, ships, buildings, machines…and raw savings - that gives people the ability to produce more. It may take a man with a shovel a whole day to dig a decent grave. Give him capital - in the form of a backhoe - and he can bury everyone in town. That’s why capitalism works. It rewards the fellow who saves his money.

Yet every yahoo economist in the year of our Lord 2009 takes news of rising savings rates like the death of Michael Jackson. If households don’t consume, they reason, how can a consumer economy grow?

The problem is that you can’t really grow an economy by borrowing and spending.

Recent history proves it. Despite the biggest splurge of borrowing and spending in history, the US consumer economy barely grew at all.
Bill Bonner on the Great Credit Contraction.

06 July 2009

Austrian Economics

What distinguishes the Austrian School and will lend it everlasting fame is its doctrine of economic action, in contrast to one of economic equilibrium or nonaction. The Austrian School makes use of the ideas of rest and equilibrium, without which economic thought cannot get along. But it is always aware of the purely instrumental nature of these ideas.

The Austrian School aims to account for prices actually paid in the market, and not just prices that might be paid under certain never-realizable conditions. It rejects the mathematical method, not because of ignorance or an aversion to mathematical accuracy, but because it does not place importance upon the detailed description of the condition of a hypothetical and static equilibrium.

The Austrian School has never succumbed to the fatal illusion that values can be measured, and has never misunderstood that statistical data has nothing to do with economic theory, but belongs to the history of economics alone.
From the Memoirs by Ludwig von Mises.

01 July 2009

Extraordinary Evil?

Poor Bernie Madoff. The man has been ordered to spend 150 years in the hoosegow. What for? Who did he kill? A century and a half seems a little excessive for a financial crime. You could hold up three liquor stores and rape a whole convent and still not get 150 years. With a little bit of good lawyer-ing, a history of child abuse in the family, and good behavior in the big house, you'd be back on the street in 18 months.

But all the papers seem delighted. "Locked up for Life!" says one of today's headlines. The judge "threw the book at him," says another. His victims wanted him to get no mercy. The judge gave him none, imposing the maximum sentence. He is "extraordinarily evil," said the man on the bench.

Justice has been done. Right? ......

But, what is the point of keeping Madoff in prison? He represents no threat. Rather than pay $30,000 per year to keep him locked up, we suggest that he be forced to do community service work. He should be pressed into service as the next head of the Federal Reserve after Ben Bernanke's term expires in December. With Madoff in the big office, there would be no longer any illusions about what sort of bank the Fed is running.
Bill Bonner puts the evil of the century into perspective.