Theory versus Statistics, Financial Economics Edition. "You can almost here the lament of this quant that the real math theory has been dead since 1980, and that it has all been applied and statistics ever since. It’s like Fischer Black was Kool Herc and Myron Scholes was Afrika Bambaataa, and they’d all go plug in their computers into lamp posts and do martingale representations in the streets and at house parties. And, of course, it was all ruined in 1979 when it went commercial." A response to The Last Temptation of Risk by Barry Eichengreen.
Limited Purpose Banking -- for lending, investing, etc. -- Turn all financial firms into mutual funds: "All mutual funds would break the buck with one exception: cash mutual funds. These funds would strictly hold cash and be valued at $1 per share. Owners of these funds would write checks against their balances and never have to worry about a bank run. Fractional reserve banking and the FDIC would be history." [previously] [more inside]
The second most powerful United States Senator admits, "And the banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place." [more inside]
Keynes & Marx thought "that productivity would grow sufficiently to allow our needs to be met with very little labour," and that humankind's biggest preoccupation in the future would be leading lives of comfortable (or comparative) leisure. Obviously, that has not yet come to pass. But why?** Yochai Benkler (previously), for one, is working on it... [more inside]
The new monetary standard: Copper.
[MLYT] Peter Schiff gives a talk to the Western Regional Mortgage Bankers Association, describing exactly the ongoing economic meltdown. (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). The catch? The talk was given in 2006. Listening to his bullish counterpart in parts 6-8 is a real scream. [more inside]
The separation of the ownership of a business from its management is one of the defining characteristics of the modern capitalist system. But ongoing failures of corporate governance, particularly in banking, have called into question these structures. Is there a better way? Secretive UK private bank C. Hoare & Co. has a solution that works for those customers it chooses to accept. [more inside]
A philosophy professor takes on the financial system. Or perhaps that should read - a philosophy professor's take on the financial system. Daniel Cloud, teacher of philosophy at Princeton University and a founding partner in two hedge funds, makes the case in a recent opinion piece that "... complicated explanations about derivatives, regulatory failure, and so on are beside the point. ... The truth is that ... models are most useful when they are little known or not universally believed. They progressively lose their predictive value as we all accept and begin to bet on them."
The recession has hit the theatre world (and the arts scene in general) very hard - but some argue that theatre practitioners aren't doing themselves any favours when seeking funding. The main question insufficiently addressed is "who is the funding for?" - hint: it's not about you. Approaching theatre as a product isn't working, not when MFA acting programs don't often allow its graduates to earn enough to earn back their debt. So now the question is: how can the economics of theatre be changed?
The Fed's Public Private Partnership Program, promises to clear down as much as $1T worth of "legacy assets" from banks balance sheets. Globally, equity markets responded positively. But what about assets held off balance sheet? [more inside]
Matt Taibbifilter: Among other things, the GAO report noted that the entire OTS had only one insurance specialist on staff — and this despite the fact that it was the primary regulator for the world's largest insurer! This week's MeFi stories have generally failed to explain the reasoning that caused the recession, even though Jon Stewart was basically on the mark. Now, Rolling Stone's only reporter lays it all out The Big Takeover, a typical combination of zealous snark and the overlooked, damning facts needed to clear up a ridiculously complicated story.
British academics Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett believe they've discovered the underlying cause of all modern society's ills: inequality. In their book, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, they explain how health and social problems follow a strikingly similar pattern, being closely correlated with income distribution (pdf). To spread the word, they've founded The Equality Trust
Quit Lying About Roosevelt! "Amity Shlaes, the GOP's Great Depression philosopher-queen, couldn't be more dangerously wrong." [Via]
Everybody knows the economy and thus the markets move in cycles. Economic expansion naturally leads to contraction, driven by credit and business cycles. But are economic booms followed by busts inevitable? [more inside]
The Axis of Upheaval: A special report on the coming age of instability.
With orders for new aircraft down, the private jet industry is launching a PR onslaught and a website to counter all the bad press surrounding greedy executives flying private jets. Lo and behold, two financial columnists expressed strikingly similar views on the subject. Members of Congress, who love to catch a ride home on a contributor's private plane, are helping out too.
Peter Wallison, an economist who arguably predicted the housing crash and bailout in 1999 explains his current views on the crash: "Other players...played a part" but "...government policy over many years--particularly the use of the Community Reinvestment Act and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to distort the housing credit system-- underlies the current crisis."
Just ahead of a re-election referendum in Venezuela (scheduled for February 15), The Chávez Administration at 10 Years: The Economy and Social Indicators [PDF][Via]
Picture a three-guy trading floor. They would call a carrier,... [and] manually move trunks in and out of route by issuing SQL commands against the Veraz's Oracle database.... Let me write that out for you: One ass-hat residential customer with a 20yo telephone with four extra buttons did thirty million dollars in damages in less than one night. Anyways, that's how the company went bankrupt... and about 6000 or so people ... all got laid off.
The Bad Bank Assets Proposal: Even Worse Than You Imagined -- the administration appears intent on building another black swan. This is political capitalism. [via]
Playboy has hired Duff McKagan to write a weekly finance column. His mission? 1) To educate. 2) To bring down The Man. [via Fimoculous]
When welfare benefits the rich, and starves the poor: Despite soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis in decades, 18 states cut their welfare rolls last year, and nationally the number of people receiving cash assistance remained at or near the lowest in more than 40 years. [more inside]
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank gave a bank, whose capital ratio equaled only 1.88% of assets at the bank, versus a desired level of about 6%, TARP money after heavy lobbying. Frank inserted into the bill a provision to give special consideration to banks that had less than $1 billion of assets, had been well-capitalized as of June 30, served low- and moderate-income areas, and had taken a capital hit in the federal seizure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (WSJ link) [more inside]
Economist Bryan Caplan is author of the best contemporary critique of democracy and democraticness (previously), and therefore the person I'd most like to visit Singapore and share his thoughts. He recently took a trip to this quasi-democracy lauded for both its pro-growth policies and its strong, competent government (and criticized for its repression and its draconian penal code). The trip to what is in some ways an economist's utopia allowed Caplan to think about the implications of his own writings, and the validity of Churchill's dictum on democracy. Here's what he had to say: [more inside]
Was market speculation behind this year's rise in crude oil prices? Earlier this year, prices topped $100/bbl, the highest seen since the oil crisis of the late 70s/early 80s. By July 2008, the price of crude oil reached a record high of $144/bbl, costing US consumers between $4-$5 per gallon at the pump. [more inside]
President Obama's plan for American Recovery and Reinvestment [pdf] might be thought of as TARP round two [1,2] -- instead of hiding the bodies, this one's preparing the ground for a big tent or the economic equivalent of war. There are critics and detractors (cramdown nation ;) left and right, natch, but also conservative supporters and progressive defenders to save or create
three four million jobs; hooray! [more inside]
In these difficult economic times, what's a museum to do? Is an art collection a financial asset or a trust to be held in perpetuity? These questions are being raised by The National Academy in New York's recent sale (or "deaccessioning" in museum lingo) of two important paintings for $15 million to shore up its finances, first reported by Lee Rosenbaum's ArtsJournal blog. The museum's director told The New York Times that it was the only way for the 183-year-old academy, which runs a chronic operating deficit, to survive. The Association of Art Museum Directors censured the Academy and called on its members to suspend any loans of art to the institution. New York lawyer Donn Zaretzky's ArtLaw Blog has become ground zero for a fascinating debate involving art critics, museum directors, financial bloggers and others.
Every year the Strategy Team at Saxo Bank, a Danish virtual bank, publishes a list of ten black swan class market events. Some of the more dramatic possibilities Saxo advance for 2009: crude trading down to $25 a barrel causing severe social unrest in Iran, the S&P 500 falling to 500, Chinese GDP approaching zero and several member states dropping the Euro. The complete 2009 list is here and for completeness their 2008 [ .pdf ] , 2007 [ .pdf ] and 2006 lists [ .pdf ] are also available. [more inside]
The cover of a major financial publication warns: If you're holding U.S. Treasuries, GET OUT NOW! [more inside]
Why Wall Street Always Blows It, and why we're always to blame, as told by banished securities analyst Henry Blodget.
Braess' paradox and the price of anarchy [PDF]: "We had three tunnels in the city and one needed to be shut down. Bizarrely, we found that car volumes dropped. ... We discovered it was a case of Braess' paradox, which says that by taking away space in an urban area you can actually increase the flow of traffic, and, by implication, by adding extra capacity to a road network you can reduce overall performance." [more inside]
"Modern Christmas is like primitive Keynesianism, a short-run-oriented economic experiment that has been tried and found wanting." Economist James S. Henry weighs in on "Why the Grinch has it right."
10 out of 13 million tracks available for purchase online didn't sell a single copy. Jut how Long can that Tail be, after all? Is the length of the tail mentioned in the article down to piracy or the state of the music industry as a whole? Is it possible to make a profit or break even on a niche website based on sales alone, and not on advertising revenue?
A blow-by-blow analysis of Wachovia's demise, as told by the bank's local paper, The Charlotte Observer.
History Repeats Itself in Different Hues -- a readable Q&A data dump comparing the economics and policy responses of 1990s Japan and current events
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the award-winning book The Black Swan, (previously), was interviewed recently by Charlie Rose: A conversation about economics with Nassim Taleb (as well as Time Magazine.) Taleb is more pessimistic than Nouriel Roubini, (previously, previously) who thinks that the total sum for this current global meltdown may be somewhere between 10-20 Trillion US dollars.
Search for an Rx - We asked Johns Hopkins administrators, physicians, and researchers about the health of a system Americans rely on to keep them healthy. Afterall, an ounce of prevention... [more inside]
"a story of great potential overwhelmed by a genius for acts of pointless economic self-destruction"
People with a keen strategic sense maintain a well-diversified hoard of coins and painstakingly build alliances with local shopkeepers or bank tellers, conspicuously proffering coins for one purchase or deposit in the hopes of being indulged when they're short of change at some point in the future. Argentina's coinage problem. [more inside]
The Compleat ÜberNerd: a fascinating series of blog entries detailing the nitty-gritty behind the mortgage industry by Calculated Risk's "Tanta." If you're curious about automated underwriting systems or the ins and outs of mortgage servicing or if you just enjoy some Mortgage Pig Excel art, Tanta was the blogger for you. Tanta, otherwise known as Doris Dungey, passed away on Sunday morning (NYT obit, CR obit).
What to Do. 2008 Nobel Laureate in Economics Paul Krugman on what to do about the economic crisis. [Via]
Depression 2009: What would it look like? "Lines at the ER, a television boom, emptying suburbs. A catastrophic economic downturn would feel nothing like the last one." [Via]
Tangible evidence of deflation? The prices of commodities, houses and a wide range of consumer goods have collapsed, with observers predicting continued declines. While many point back to The Great Depression as an example of damaging deflation, the recession of 1920-1921, a frequently overlooked period in economic history, is perhaps the best example we've got of a deflationary wave similar to what might now taking place. [more inside]
The Fed cut 100 bps. BOE cut 150 bps. ECB cut 50 bps. India, Vietnam, The Czech Republic, Switzerland, Denmark, South Korea and other nations have all cut interest rates in recent weeks, with many Central Banks cutting more than once. The G20 is now discussing the possibility of further, coordinated interest rate cuts. As interest rates globally plummet, we are observing what some analysts are calling "The Race to Zero". [more inside]