Tag Archives: economics

Worst decision in the history of the state

I’m going to stick my neck out and make a prediction. I believe that if you ask this question in 5 years time the answer will be NAMA as a catch-all term for the taxpayer support of dysfunctional banks. NAMA fuels the nightmares of the public’s imagination. The amounts are staggering. Effectively Anglo has already cost over 12Bn and could cost another 10Bn. These are just estimates remember. NAMA requires a recovery in the property market to avoid the “fire-sale” losses Lenihan fears in an immediate wind-down.

To say that we could need another 10Bn is like saying that it might be a fine day on March 30th next year. The variables are arguably too complex to give a good prediction. This is partially why Lenihan is so vague about the period in which the promisory note backing the recapitalisation is payable. He just doesn’t know. It assumes a solidity to the rest of the loan book and the Irish economy which appears difficult to justify given what’s transpired over the past 18 months. Ireland Inc’s actual exposure is only limited by the size of the loan book and depositor base. We cannot legally compel depositors to stay with the bank, no matter how tempting the lock-in interest rates are. Continue reading

Rabbite-ing on

Harry McGee crafts a reasonable article in today’s Irish Times about G.Lee’s double resignation from Irish politics this week. It’s pretty easy to imagine that Lee was shut out in a petty squabble with Bruton over who was the economics top dog. Stupid and embarrassing if you consider the state of the country’s finances. However, if there’s one quote from the article that really got my goat it was this from Pat Rabbitte.

“The calling of intelligently interpreting economic data and relaying it successfully to the average citizen is a different one from writing a prescription for where we are going wrong and what we are doing about it,”

Pass me a sick bag. What a load of patronising toss to suggest Lee wasn’t up to the job but, amazingly, seasoned politicians like himself are. If Rabbitte actually believes that he, his Labour party, or anyone else in the Dail is engaged in writing “a prescription for where we are going wrong and what we are doing about it” then he’s delusional.

Someone should buy him a copy of Anthony Sweeney’s Banana Republic for christmas.

Banana Republic
Banana Republic

Unfortunately, at least one generation of Irish children will understand how delusional he is and how they are being failed, not just by the government, but by the Dail itself. Lee seemed to be the only person in the Dail vocally suggesting that cuts would only worsen the economic situation without stimulus. This didn’t fit entirely with FG orthodoxy so they didn’t take the policy on board. What a burden it is to have 2 economists in the one party when in the midst of an economic crisis. What a sorry lot FG are. The hardest thing about Irish politics seems to be the back-stabbing, character assassinations, petty jealousies, side-deals and keeping track of all of the above. Little time left to serve the people.

Still, George Lee _was_ a bit naive. He could have prepared for political life by referring to the online Merriam Websters dictionary.

Main Entry: pol·i·tics
Pronunciation: \?pä-l?-?tiks\
Function: noun plural but singular or plural in construction
Etymology: Greek politika, from neuter plural of politikos political
Date: circa 1529
1 a : the art or science of government b : the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy c : the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government
2 : political actions, practices, or policies
3 a : political affairs or business; especially : competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government) b : political life especially as a principal activity or profession c : political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices
4 : the political opinions or sympathies of a person
5 a : the total complex of relations between people living in society b : relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view <office politics> &lt:ethnic politics>

He may have noticed 3b and realised what he was in for…

boom/bust cycle

Insightful short documentary by Fred Harrison about the boom bust nature of economics and his analyses determining an 18 year economic cycle. Well worth a look.

The simple facts of the matter are that booms and busts are unstable situations exploited for profit by banks and other financial organisations. Banks and bank-employed economists tell punters bullshit fairy-stories about how every recession is different to further the goals of companies profiting from market instability. Unfortunately, complex mathematics and better technology provider the veneer of risk management for what is, essentially, more risky than a poker bluff. This is discussed at length in the Black Swan.

Sometimes quants and economists they get it badly wrong by incorrectly managing risk. It is unfair to suggest this is done entirely consciously as the economic shibboleth is reinforced in many economists minds throughout their college years. Those unwilling to take risks cannot progress. So we see a darwinistic system in place whereby those bankers moving the most money (traders, hedge funders etc.) are the ones most genetically and culturally oriented towards risk taking.

Building an economic and regulatory system on pseudo-“free” market instantaneous valuation of assets (particularly housing) will always produce the same disastrous results. Rolling averages are much more desirable as they protect the valuation of assets of the majority of people. Free marketeers claim this reduces liquidity and risk capital, stifling enterpreneurship. This is mistaken based on a persistently re-inforced view that industry is best funded using asset-backed leverage. i.e. the current banking system. It’s an entirely circular argument. Geoists make a convincing argument that asset-derived income and leverage fundamentally distorts economies and leads by-purpose to market instability. They argue that land taxes should be applied to discourage businesses based solely on the acquisition and leasing/sale of natural assets such as land and minerals. On the face of it, there’s a lot of merit to this suggestion. Milton Friedman saw the value of such taxes as they neither distort economic activity nor excessively burden the labour market. Pretty much exactly what’s happened in Ireland over the past few years.

In many ways the current recession is so bad and so potentially hazardous for international trade BECAUSE we managed to “inflate away” the obvious symptoms of previous recession. These being price falls, unemployment etc. The key to understanding this is to understand what inflation really is. As Peter Schiff points out we often misunderstand the cause/effect of inflation. We’ve had about 3 recessions since the great depression and subsequent war and each one was “fixed” by combinations of printing money and quantitative easing perpetuating what Schiff calls a “phony economy”. Indeed more than the Information Age this could rightly be called the Inflation Age. We’re seeing the culmination of a over 50 years of inflationary delusions coming home to roost.

The doctrine of this wild speculation of the past ~18 years has been “too big to fail”. America’s stimulus package is based on their close economic relationship with China and the belief that both economies are too big to fail. Remember that Chinese workers don’t have pension plans and so invest their savings in Chinese and international markets which are largely reliant on the US remaining the dominant consumer economy. Equally the US is reliant on investment from oil-rich Arabs, Europe is reliant on China as a manufacturing engine and the US as a consumer. Globalisation leads to increasingly internationally entangled economics. Not saying that’s a bad thing, just that it is.

This recession is compounded by environmental factors such as peak oil. Ireland with NAMA debt on board may not leave recession before the initial effects of peak oil hit the economy further. For the global economy to exit this recession the traditional way (through economics brinksmanship like quantitative easing) we may enter a period of hyper inflation to cover the severe losses of the past few years and the effects of peak oil on heating, industry, power generation etc.

The globalised world market resembles a Ponzi scheme that is exposed every 18 years or so but keeps going regardless. In many ways an economically disastrous 2010 for the US, EU and China might force world leaders to reevaluate the economic status quo and negotiate new international accords to improve matters. I often feel we need a new Bretton Woods..

Thanks to a friend on the David McWilliams blog site for making me aware of the documentary.