Time is nearly up for Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve who supposedly applied his scholarly knowledge of the Great Depression to steer the U.S. to safety after the financial crisis. In truth, Bernanke navigated a monetarist course that favored intensive intervention, following in the footsteps of many mainstream economists who grossly misunderstood the lessons of the Crash of 1929 and the ensuing malaise. That lesson is that when corrective crashes occur, intervention is far from the cure — it is the cause.
One of the sad narratives of the financial meltdown of 2008 and its aftermath is that it was and remains the result of unbridled capitalism. Too much freedom spoiled the economic broth. We must never tire of explaining the fallacies in the thinking of those who think the Great Recession is a clear case of the failure of capitalism. In fact, it is a quintessential example of the failures of interventionism to bring about anything other than economic destruction and relative impoverishment.
Predictions regarding the election outcome are all over the place. Dennis Gartman for instance thinks that 'Romney will win quite handily'. While this opinion may be largely informed by wishful thinking in this case, there are two interesting points made by Gartman. One concerns poll errors, and the other the Bradley (or Wilder) effect (or 'political correctness effect' - i.e., it is not motivated by racism, but by the fear of people that they might be seen as racist). Jim Cramer is taking the exact opposite view from Gartman's, expecting a 'landslide' victory for Obama. Of course Cramer wouldn't be Cramer if his forecast didn't stand out for being a bit extreme. The Princeton election consortium's latest update of the meta-analysis of the electoral vote count on the eve of the election continues to predict an Obama victory as well, but clearly the race is getting tighter. However, across the pond, it is clear that the Europeans see the election (and indeed any election it seems) very differently, highlighting their ignorance of the difference between 'total capitalism' and 'crony capitalism'.
We can blame politicians a little bit, but the bulk of the blame lies with the American people. That was kind of an epiphany for me. During the 1980s, I would occasionally have lunch with Senator Jesse Helms from North Carolina. He knew that I was highly critical of agricultural subsidies, handouts to farmers. Something Jesse Helms told me at one of our luncheons made me realize some things I had not realized until then. He said, “Walter, I agree with you 100% that these farm subsidies ought to be eliminated.” But then he asked, “Can you tell me how I can remain the senator from North Carolina and vote against them? If I do what you say, I would be voted out of office.” Applying his observation today, we can note that the biggest expenditures by the federal government are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and prescription drugs. Along with other entitlements, these expenditures amount to almost 60% of the federal budget. The beneficiaries of these programs vote in large numbers. Politicians who talk about cutting these programs are going to run into trouble. We have to get the American people, as much as politicians, to respect the Constitution.
Greed is Go(o)d? It sure seems the increasingly polarized American Society believes so. With the wealth getting even more concentrated among very few, this will cause the US big problems in future. The Elite is getting a rather skewed perception of what a CEO should be paid, and what rights they have. They are no uberperson, they are just human.
Update: Germany now officially joins the fray: Euro zone central banks have
started buying government bonds, Germany's Bundesbank said on
Monday. "We confirm this," a Bundesbank spokesman said. From Reuters.
From Market News: "The Bank of France has begun buying eurozone government bonds, a spokeswoman confirmed Monday, without giving further details." Can't have those French banks face reality now can we. 65 years after France was saved from fascist rule, America has saved its financial system again from insolvency, and instituted something else. What that "something else" is, we are not quite sure yet, but gradually we are getting a sense.
Here is a recent conversation (argument) that I, the not-famous Econophile, had with the famous Martin Wolf, the much lauded and highly awarded dean of economics writers and chief economics correspondent for the Financial Times. This time I take him on for what I thought was a pointless article about Germany and the Greeks. Win, lose, or draw?
When is a stock exchange a criminal syndicate? Here's one in Somalia that takes a unique financing approach to a dynamic growth industry: piracy.
Debt is like herpes: ignore it long enough and it just disappears on its own.