Thursday, January 30, 2014

Expert Opinion

The experts' opinions diverge
On whether to taper or surge;
You may go to your death
While holding your breath
For consensus to fin'lly emerge. 

Over the last day I read a couple of thought-provoking essays on the nature of economic expertise, and how to take the expert opinions we are constantly reading. The Guardian's US finance & economics editor Heidi Moore reminds us that it's as much of an art as a science.  Says Ms. Moore: "Here's the problem: Even the experts don't agree on where the economy has gone. Some believe it's improving. Some believe the evidence is thin."  Of course, "the economy" is big and complex, so it's no wonder. 

Economist Chris House, in his Order Statistics blog, points out that even Nobel laureates may have true expertise in only a narrow field, so one must keep that in mind when listening to an international trade expert expounding on, say, behavioral finance. 

Let the reader beware!

Heidi Moore (The Guardian): Rumors, the US Economy & 2014: What You Need to Know

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Paranoid Plutocrats

At times one encounters the views
Of a few with a billion to lose,
Who imagine a threat 
From the left-leaning set
Like the Nazi pursuit of the Jews. 

Despite holding fast to the reins
Of the Congress and capital gains,
"Our wealth," they will say,
"May be taken away,"
Which reality scarcely explains.

The proportion of income that went
To the point oh oh oh one percent
Has been higher in fact
In the age of Barack 
Than the last GOP president. 

If you're rich and you fear persecution
To compare to the Final Solution,
A more accurate view
May classify you
As a bag that is suited for douchin'.


Retired billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins provoked scorn and derision this week with his comments that the rich in this country face a potential wave of persecution comparable to the Nazi Kristallnacht. This was the opening act of the Holocaust in 1938, when uniformed thugs smashed, burned and looted Jewish businesses and institutions in Germany. 

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Perkins sought to "call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany's war on its 'one percent,' namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.'"

Many institutions of capitalist success rushed to distance themselves from Mr. Perkins, including his old venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which appeared ready to excise the name of one of its founders. 

However, before dismissing Perkins' words as the rant of some crank, it may be appropriate to recall some of the almost-as-paranoid remarks made by American billionaires before and during the 2012 election. For more perspective on the persecution complex of the plutocracy, see the thoughtful essay by Josh Marshall in Talking  Points Memo. 

Here, until I learn how to embed links in the mobile version of Blogger, are the links referenced above:

Steven Schwartzman's comparison of higher taxes on private equity with Hitler's  invasion of Poland:

Josh Marshall's attempt to explain Tom Perkins' paranoia:

Tweet from Kleiner Perkins in response:

Thursday, January 16, 2014

En (La)Garde Against Deflation

Said Lagarde, of a threat that dismayed 'er:
"There's a danger that prices may crater. 
We're conditioned to fear
That things become dear
But deflation's the risk that is greater."

"With deflation, the instinct is human
To save and cut back on consumin',
But though disciplined ways
Are worthy of praise,
They prevent the economy's boomin'."

"To all of those countries who plan
To avoid the malaise of Japan:
Forget all the rules
Of conventional tools,
And stimulate now, while you can!"

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