Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year-end recap

Moral: Wherein we look at the year using a worldview that started in August and reiterate the theme that the Marines could run finance better than any that we've seen so far. Sorry, Ben.

--- Foreword

As the Time article said, "There aren't easy solutions" when extolling the virtues of Big Ben. Did we ask for it to be easy? One thing to consider is the influence of technology and computation. Ben's study of what went down in the 1930s is admirable, from an academic sense. But, does his view look at the major differences?

No. He does not seem to allow that common sense can say a lot about the economy or how we expect it to be. That is, being labeled as a 'nerd' implies several things that are not common sense. For instance, he says that he is outraged; where is there any argument about ethics which seems to be a topic antithetical to 'fat cat' thinking?

--- Word

Let's look at a little tale that offers some message to the theme.

Ever notice how some who have taken to the technology of the cell phone have given it a ubiquitous role? That is, we see people all over chatting to someone other than those in the immediate surrounds. In fact, much of this behavior can be consider extremely rude under an older (and more likely more etiquette'd) framework.

Then, once the thumbs got into their punching mode as technology developed, we saw people with their eyes glued to some little screen while they conversed with others, again outside of where they are physically, or while they played games or while they did any number of other apps whose cardinality is increasing rapidly.

And, many of the zombies attached to the one-eyed monster have taken to doing their thumbing thing while being propelled through space in a vehicle (weapon) and in doing so have lost sight of a major principle, defensive driving. Wrecks, with the suffering of many innocent victims, have resulted.

Now, what does that mean for the economy? Well, is it not in the crapper after a wreck? You see, the advent of mathematics, modeling, and computational prowess which was brought forth into the economy by the Sons of Samuelson have created some type of mirage that deflects from seeing properly. Focus on this mirage (house of cards or any other metaphor can work here) as the principal key to control is so problematic that it's very disconcerting to the aware observer. To boot, it was the best and brightest who were taken in; except, their focus on self-gratification was probably reinforced early. We sort of do that in the modern culture.

Any who might have urged caution stood the chance of being labeled as being short-sighted via innumeracy. Ah, the model is the reality according to the brains (map-territory problem, folks). It seems that the Fed, for one, must be laboring under such type of delusion. Yes, Ben, you.

Need we remind them that they put us on the hook, as taxpayers, for toxic instruments of unknown quantity and potential harm?

We all know that talking to those who drive and text about their risky behavior falls on deaf ears, as they have all sorts of arguments, including some diatribe about being more intellectual and forward (progressive). Same goes for those who are caught up in the pandora's box that has been unleashed with modeling and computation. You see, it has lined a bunch of pockets (thanks, quants); is not that what the economy is for?

Now, the need is not to step back and actually be like the world in 1930. And, Ben re-playing those dynamics is short-sighted. No, we must keep going forward. Yet, one has to think that taking over the banks in late 2008 would have been better than feeding our money to the fat cats. These are the people who screwed up the world with their machinations. They really have not been making it any better this year.

But, questions arise, such as, who would be doing the taking over? Well, consider this. That suggestion is no more silly than expecting Ben and his buddies know how to moderate things with their few parameters and instruments created on the fly. Pushing string, indeed.

--- Afterword

Well, plenty of words have been expressed this year, in all types of media, about these issues. In all that, some of the arguments have made a whole lot of sense. Trouble is that Ben is on the hot seat, undergoing pressures that prevent proper reasoning. Yes, any incessant hot-seat experience has reactions, physically, psychically, and more.

Of course, the strain on Ben is nothing compared to that on those who were sucked into the game in which they ended up indentured for now and into the far future. So, not only have savers been sacked, and mocked, the whole economy has been hollowed out (thanks, America Prospect). And, this in 2009?

Ben, you need to consider the advances that have come about in the past 20 years that have allowed an one-sided state of affairs. You buy off the shelf. Ever compare your couture with those with the Milan'd, and other, suits? Do you somehow feel superior to those who have to exhibit such demonstrations of excess and conspicuous consumption?

Or, do you not notice? If that is true, then there's hope!

But, as said before, monks, and marines, could do a better job of running finance and the economy. Except, we must remember what lead to the atrocious conditions at Walter Reed, and other facilities, due to the officer, and political, class letting deterioration run rampant for so long while they lived in the lap of luxury.


12/29/2012 -- Summary - 2012.

01/03/2011 -- Ah yes, now there are demands. The question remains: what growth other than the pockets of these types?

01/01/2011 -- We have two last posts of December under our belt.

01/02/2010 -- More states now have laws prohibiting (or limiting) driving while texting (dwt). Why did it require legal action? Common sense ought to have been enough, yet the appeal of the abstract and computation (sirens abound in the domains) are very strong.

Modified: 12/29/2012

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Health care

Moral: Wherein we consider an important part of the economy. Might one call some aspects as bait and switch?


We've said that various medical metaphors can be used for the economy. Well, let's look at the thing itself.

For one, we have doctors making oodles of money. Okay, they pay good bucks and energy to get to play the role. So, some type of reward is to be expected.

Yet, one retired from being head of an insurance and HMO group with 800M (thereabouts) collected in his coffers. We have the whole gamut of insurance fat cats raking in the dough, many times by not paying claims.

We can use one example, in the bait-and-switch area of Medicare Advantage Plans (MAPs). You see, for those who are not of the age to care, many use what's called a Medigap Plan (MG). These, essentially, make up some of the 20% that Medicare does not pay which, by the way, can amount to a whole lot in certain situations. So, the MG doesn't have frills but can be a life saver. With the MG, the insured pays a separate premium (apart from the Medicare premium).

Sometime in the 00s (aughts), there was a new scheme to allow an insurance company to handle Medicare for an individual, provide a few benes, and then act as the prime insurer. That is, they billed Medicare. The idea was that they could make money, in fact, they could charge more to Medicare than could than those using MG.

Well, an analyst characterized the thing this way: But tens of billions of Medicare dollars funneled through insurers also pay for extras that never reach beneficiaries: multimillion-dollar salaries, executive retreats in Hawaii, Scotland and Cancun, and massive expenditures on marketing to lure more customers to the privately administered Advantage plans that serve as an alternative to government-provided Medicare.

Those going with the MAPs could get things like eyeglasses, dental, exercise plans, and more which are not available to the MG group since these things are not paid by Medicare. But, in many case, when a real need developed for the MAPs, necessary care was not there, similar to those things that we heard could happen with HMOs.

Well, those who could afford the premiums were much better off, medically, with the MG. Now, that, of course, ignores how the doctors, and other providers, feel about the situation. As, along with the MAPs advent came decreases in what Medicare paid doctors, and other providers, for care. Consider that payments were 50% less on the MG side due to cuts in reimbursement for treatment.

So, that brings up another thing to look at. We have a major shift in the country where the future look of health care is being defined and debated. Personally, there is no disagreement with PhilG's notion of health care being a right. Arguments otherwise do not consider near zero. Except, there are issues of costs which would abate if the notions of personal wealth for providers and insurers were less extreme.

Also, many naysayers (con universal health care) seem to not consider human dignity and seem to favor a worldview in which the 'fat cat' and 'best and brightest' (read banker) are some type of epitome of human existence deserving of endless benes from the rest (indentured servants, essentially) of humanity. The favored few, and elite, supported perpetually by the rest.

Naturally, this discussion leads to what government might have in terms of roles.


01/03/2010 -- In the post about Economics and Medicine, please follow link to the Goldhill article at the New Yorker. Insurance is for risk management, not care. Goldhill suggests a different approach (actually, from Herzlinger) that would separate out the insurance aspect and that would allow us to manage our health care, with assistance as required. Was this even looked at in the recent debates about universal health care?

Modified: 01/03/2010

Bankers IV

Moral: Wherein given that it's the year-end, everyone wants to reflects on what was and what might have been. Trouble is, it's a decade cusp, to boot, so figure that the reviews, of many types, will continue. Bankers are only one of several topics to cover.


Ah, bankers made it big over the decade, the fat-cat variety anyway. Those too big to fail, that is; all sorts of littler (and some not so little) banks failed.

Who are these bankers? Well, they are those Ben loves to help. Evidently, so does Obama despite his 60 Minutes little bit of rhetoric. Supposedly, bankers are the heart of the economy which doesn't exist, by the way. How? Oh, they move the money, thereby causing trickle down to the mere citizen.

By the way, did they stage their heart attack in order to screw the taxpayer? Why are they necessary?

Those are a couple of a very large set of good questions that could be asked.

So, bankers began their role as the bean counter and money exchanger. In the former role, they provided some type of security, except the bad guys were always good at riffling the safe. Too, what they took in and gave out was very much fluid (money, itself, an issue) due to political exigencies. Ben knows all about these issues. In the latter role, the banker learned how to play off differences (a type of arbitrage) between their clients and their monies. Also, they excelled at leveraging using that which is described by the grand old notion of multiplier effect (ultimately, we were all gab standard'd). Again, this thing is central to Ben's history.

So, in various ways, bankers became central. Yet, they lost their honesty. It became more important to get hugely monied so as to allow enormous bonuses and to support lavish lifestyles. The lowly saver was sacked way back. Remember, it was more important to allow the best-and-brighest a loose leash.

Not only are they central, some are considered too big to fail.

Have we lost sight of the utility aspect? Did we allow ignorance of near zero to eclipse a proper evolution of the function?


12/02/2010 -- Banking is a utility (but we also need plumbers - a few, not an army).

04/16/2010 -- Rotten to the core. Does not have to be!!

Modified: 12/02/2010

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The uber-Nerd

Moral: Wherein we take a new look at Ben, our main nerd, who is not into the cult of personality as was his partying predecessor.


Yes, this comes from the Time Person of the Year article which does paint him in a better light than many might suppose. To wit, he wears off-the-shelf suits, doesn't party like King Alan, says that he is outraged by the 'fat cats' benefiting from his largese (sheesh, Ben, show some understanding of moral harzardness and jawbone about it, at least), owns a small Ford, and more.

Yet, Ben has to know that he is clumped into the elite set by his position and to realize that this position has questionable necessity. Why? As we've seen this past year, it's mainly casino capitalism that has benefited from his actions, though Ben says that he feels for main street.

How about this? Let's stop the financial games and then restart with monks/nuns (yes, those who have taken the vow of poverty) keeping the playing field level. Think that is idiotic? Well, according to how the Time describes Ben, he's close to that anyway, except the longer he has the trappings of power, the less like the ideal personality he'll become.

By the way, Congress is not without fault. Let's impose term limits there and get away from the professional politician (see Zen Koan for the day). Errors by the common citizen are much less burdensome than what those in power currently impose on the folks.

So, where did Ben go wrong beside apologizing to Milton Friedman? Well, he is, at least in part, a son of Samuelson. That is, given his time of academic introduction, he could not but be influenced. Mind you, this is no criticism of Paul Anthony. His work predated the mess that computation has wroth.

And, we've only seen the beginnings.

Back to Ben. He ought not have gone below 1.0 in his slamming of the savers. Granted he showed creativity, but going off willy-nilly (oh, theoretics, without a proper hypothetical and test framework - sorry, folks, that sham of a stress test was pure spin, do you not think?) with instruments that are piled on a heap (whose dimensions we do not know) of toxic assets laid on the populace by the best-and-brightest was throwing good money after bad.

Tsk, tsk, Ben. You know that those at the top, who you interact with more than the lowly, have essentially mortgaged us (yes, the US) to outsiders while 'hollowing out the country' (thanks, American Prospect) through financialization (ah, such a purty concept yet mostly flim-flam) and globalization (as we've said, another form of colonizing with a new form of colonialist).

Enuf, for now. But, congratulations, Ben.


01/27/2012 -- Ben will continue to sack the savers; he must love the ca-pital-sino.

09/02/2010-- The FED just had their hoe-down.

01/07/2010 -- We need to look at capitalism, closely.

01/06/2010 -- Poor Ben, getting grief and criticism.

12/30/2009 -- Tech Ticker responds to their mailbag, one of which says that Timmy et al bailed out and then talk tough.

In the Time article, we have this quote from Henry, "I shudder to think what the world would be like if Ben hadn't been running the Fed ..." (italics added) Yes, Henry, it was on your watch. But, no, we do not know and cannot now, due to the bailouts which confounded the issues beyond understanding. The article goes on "but there would be far more joblessness, foreclosures and hunger were it not for Ben Bernanke." (italics added) Oh, give me a break. Of course, this is journalism at its best, so what ought we to expect?

Modified: 01/27/2012

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Econony II

Moral: Wherein we consider several issues related to an economy, now that we know that there is not that which is referred to as 'the' economy.


We all know that there was a recent downturn. It got Ben panicked. He, Timmy, and others have been allowed to experiment like mad this past year. How long will it take to deconstruct and analyze all the madness that resulted thereby?

Even Goldman Sachs seems to have taken notice, especially given the public's reaction to the best-and-brightests' shortfalls, in particular not knowing about several things, such as the concepts of on the behalf of, near zero and much more.

J. Bradford DeLong and Stephen S. Cohen have a book out now that will be of interest (The End of Influence: What Happens When Other Countries Have the Money).

Well, we need to think about how we (some) will need to live in a scaled-down manner. PhilG used $2,000 per day as an example of wealthy living, albeit this was being spent to house (alleged) terrorists. Many survive on pennies. PhilG's view is used here in that he has proposed his economic recovery plan that we'll be using from time to time here in the discussions.

Of course, people have looked at frugality at lot as blog space shows. Actually, many live it. We know that 'fat cat' ville is the exception, not the rule.

Savings are an important part, as Ben needs to learn. Of course, 'what does that say about debt and equity?' is something to discuss.

We'll continue this later but, for now, start to think about a sandbox and a change in worldview that will allow realization of the near zero as the best that we can get. Too, how did the 'hype' related to the house of cards get such traction with economists?


09/27/2010 -- Capitalism is for the good of us, let's bring that forward.

01/03/2010 -- More news on Goldman Sachs as the uber example of 'not on the behalf' comes to fore regularly. It'll need to be a separate subject at some point. Thanks to McClatchy: Nov 1, 2009 & Jan 3, 2010 (update). Goldman has to respond, of course.

Modified: 09/27/2010

Grandsons of Samuelson

Moral: Wherein, we remember Paul Anthony Samuelson, the Nobel-winning, and highly influential, Economist.


Business Week (12/26/09 & 1/4/10) asks, 'did the followers go astray?' which references a forthcoming paper, Sins of the Sons of Samuelson (PDF at WellesleyDavid Colander and Casey Rothschild).

As the adage goes (Biblical origin), the sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons. Well, hopefully, the next generation can take a re-look, even if it is done autodidact'dly.

It has been said before that we're suffering from the over-exuberances that computational prowess brought forth and sustained over the last part of the 20th and the early part of the 21st centuries. Perhaps, we can now take an assessment and be a little wiser going forward (idiocies abound, even those of a highly mundane nature). And, it's not an issue of which side of the pond anymore with the rising of those over the bigger pond being a much larger factor.

In this case, perhaps, we can exonerate Mr. Samuelson and blame the followers. Computation is much different than in his day. That Quants have run wild is only loosely associated with his work.

He, though, is one who worked to get the genie out of the bottle. Can we get it back under control?

Well, we'll continue to consider these types of question, especially as we all share the pains when the economy is malfease'd.

Remarks:   Modified: 01/15/2015

12/29/2009 -- Is the uber-Nerd a son? Also, Paul Krugman says that the 00s were a big zero; well, let's introduce him to near zero. The sons need to realize that gains must have a substantial basis, as in being 'real' and beyond mere model-mania.12/15/2012 -- Coase, on the subject.

02/10/2010 -- We could probably use the auto (and recent events) as a way to characterize the concepts of the blog. Of course, we have the value versus quality mis-think as part of the problem. Business Week reports that Toyota was asking suppliers for a 10% cut. Well, such scrimping would have an effect, even if it was only in looks. However, cutting into the life of a system may appear smart but, actually, relies on the same unstable basis as does a lot of economic thinking.

05/07/2010 -- Out of control, essentially, and not healthy for the backbone.

05/25/2010 -- Who will (or can) lead out of the morass?

01/27/2011 -- The chimera shines.

05/28/2011 -- Lemons problemdark pools, ... Oh, so much to look at! Avatars, too.

03/23/2012 -- Renewal of the idea (and related energies) via Cooper and CiE.

12/03/2013 -- In a Fortune talk with Larry Summers, there is a mention that he is a nephew of Samuelson. So, that is great to know, as it'll allow some discussion of gene/meme issues (actually, the blogger has been working this topic in another milieu; Ben's thoughts on the failings of meritocracy ought to bring it back to fore here). Too, Larry was in charge when the Glass-Steagall restrictions were relaxed so that the big boys could then play wildly and mess up our banking system. Thanks, Larry. Good to know that he was one of the players in that bad choice. You see, the pusher of rationality had a bit of irrationality; well, was that not a sign of the times?

12/06/2013 -- If only Ben would put a shot across the bow. He's helped the chimera unfold in unhealthy ways. He could, at least, say a mea culpa.

02/26/2014 -- Acknowledgements for Lucio Arteaga.

01/15/2015 -- At last, a series that will establish the basis and extensions, as required. We are going to go back to some simple and come forward to the modern, complicated economy. Why? My long chain of ancestors (inherited via Prof. Lucio Arteaga) is one motivation.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bankers III

Moral: Wherein one has to question if there is such a thing as an honest banker upon whom the consumer can rely and to ask this question seriously.


So, we may not have 'The Economy' but do have some economic reality to contend with. For instance, we know that there is the utilitarian role for banks that is necessary in a modern society. Then, there's the whole thing of banks being creative, misusing financial engineering, and then getting into trouble.

We also all know how the taxpayers are always bailing out the system and losing in the game, though the vast majority of those taxpayers have to scrape by on next to nothing in order to support the 'fat cat' (thanks, President Obama) lifestyle of the best and brightest.

What can be so hard about this stuff, folks? Where has gone common sense? Actually, in light of the current season, where has gone human decency in business?

Actually, in retrospect, we probably ought to have just nationalized these financial entities, straightened them out, and then re-started the game with better oversight. We'll be looking at that further, through time (hopefully, in a hypothetical sense only).

But, for now, let's just re-iterate some of the types of malfeasance that we see with banks. All of the below is paraphrasing but can be sourced easily by web searches.
  • Big pay and bonuses - especially is this grating when one entity (actually several) would have been bankrupt without our assistance. Why then the pay for them? Do they not know that both bond holders and equity stackholders have lost oodles due to their manipulations that aren't any better morally than old Madoff's fun and games?
  • Picking on the little folk - we all know about the $35 fine for a $10 overspending (those who push payday loans - $15 for $100 -- love this story). However, how about banks trying to rook widows ought of their due. What? Yes, manipulating the situation in order to keep money that may be in IRAs (and CDs) and that was left by the woman's husband for her.
  • Hovering like vultures (over the dead peasant) - okay, that animal provides a prime role in clean up, however when did the Insurance industry get so crazy as to allow banks to hold life policies (from the 02/09 time frame, needs to be updated) for someone who does not even work for them any longer? Of course, it's not just banks, as there seem to be many financial minds that want to pick the bones of the hapless dead.
  • Mortgage morphing - how about a bank (okay, a mortgage handler, yet of the same ilk) selling out to a 'shark' when the mortgagee is undergoing the trial by using a loophole in the Treasury wording? Here's an example. Home sold in the 300K. Now worth 99K. Sold for 78K to a shark who then is foreclosing. If the firm can take that loss, why not give the homeowner a new mortgage at an intermediate value? Like 150K, or so? Near zero says only close to win-win, but this would be a good example.

02/12/2013 -- We ought to have nationalized these guys' playground.

12/02/2010 -- Banking is a utility (but we also need plumbers - a few, not an army).

05/14/2010 -- Oh yes, smartest guys in the economy.

01/22/2010 -- Bankers IV. Plus, Lordly Prince.

12/21/2009 -- Never easy: Redos failing + underwater'd + some walk + should they? + can they?

Modified: 02/12/2013

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Economy I

Moral: Wherein the comment of "it's the economy, stupid" may be seen as stupid in itself. What are those 'things economic' about which we need to speak?


As the index in the title implies, this'll take a while, just like with the consumer, as we'll be looking at things in depth and from a first principles perspective. Some of these things will be roles and resources. But, first, a few musings are in order.

Earlier, an issue of The Atlantic offered several gems, one related to China's growing role and the other to Paul as CEO. There are some other articles from that same issue that relate to the theme.

For one, given that we're hearing about fiction in finance in a public forum, we have to give a nod to the old, bearded guy, namely Marx, he who never left. Hitchens, in his article, suggests that Marx did not believe in 'the economy' as an organism. Many might be surprised to note that their own concept assumes such; do we not like to attach human meaning to collectives, beyond that of the players, to wit our legal proclivity to award the corporation with personhood?

So which is it? The abstracted view of game theory or a more biologically oriented metaphor that applies here? Well, we'll be showing that it's a little of each.

Aside: Wiki has a nice overview which we'll be getting back to from time to time. As John Cassidy in the New Yorker wrote, Marx's "books will be worth reading as long as capitalism endures."

As well as look at what this thing is, we'll need to address: whose economy is it? Capitalists (fat cats, etc.)? The best and brightest? Game players? Bankers? Consumer? Oh yes, that final as this class is given a debt load of gigantic proportions and of no generational limit.

So, we can skip 'the economy' and talk things economic, like money and a whole bunch of other things.

Another article is titled Macroegonomics (needs no explanation) with the images of Alan and Big Ben figuring prominently. This is worth the read to get another overview of the recent problem. Of course, remember that instability is not a priori bad. In fact, some types of flight manage to exploit the dynamics. It's the 'ego' in the gab standard that may be the underlying problem.

04/27/2010 -- Need to add the political set of truths, such as cat and mouse.

01/27/2010 -- Yet, the notion persists. What is one to do?

12/24/2009 -- Economy II.

12/15/2009 -- Requiem for the dollar (WSJ) and responses.

Modified: 09/27/2010

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Consumer III

Moral: Wherein the consumer's role, as an economic sink, is not sustainable with endless increases in debt applied toward unlimited accumulation of stuff, a lot of which is of questionable quality. That 'junk' has taken on some panache with the financial folks is problematic; for the consumer, it ought not be at the start of the consumption chain (junk begets junk).


This post's contents are partly motivated by articles in an issue of the Atlantic (April 2009) that has been under a 'to read' pile for a few months. In particular, there was cover article, One World, Under God , that appeared to relate to thoughts on globalization. Then, there were articles about China and India who are, and will be, the largest consumer players just from a size of the population perspective.

Why? The consumer set's cardinality is vastly huge. Now, let's recall that the consumer part of the economy is not just about 'stuff' and its accumulation, which is not sustainable. That is, analysis shows that the recent upbeat in consumerism in the US was paid for by borrowing. One large creditor was, and is, China and its population who sacrificed for our sake, albeit not by choice but by government decree.

As Fallows said in his article, same issue: "Two years ago, ..., I described an economic symbiosis in which Chinese workers assembled many of the world’s products—while ... America or other rich countries got the lion’s share of the financial returns. It is the announced policy of the Chinese government, and of many Chinese companies, to keep more of the rewards in China. ... Outsiders can rightly criticize the Chinese government ... no one can criticize its ambition to increase the rewards for its people’s work."

For Americans, there will be one thing that we can learn from watching China over the next few years (decades). What? Given that we've allowed the capitalistic ideology to descend to its lowest level by allowing the best-and-brightest (oh, we're to thank them with bonuses? - rake backs, please) to lead us on the perdition path of casino capitalism.

We must now endure the consequences, part of which will be that another ideology (ah, Marx never left) will have the greater economic hand.

Sheesh. Nixon opened the door. Crazy materialism, and more, took it off the hinge. Get used to it, folks.

We, the populace, can still benefit from the coming changes.


12/13/2011 -- McKinsey report shows that households hold over 40% of the world's wealth. Hence, the consumer as the major influence on the economy. Now, consider that the household wealth collection (using income in the U.S. as a proxy) is skewed to a very small bunch.

11/16/2010 -- A recap of sorts.

09/26/2010 -- Capitalism is for the good of us, let's bring that forward.

01/07/2010 -- We need to look at capitalism, closely.

12/19/2009 -- We ought to build things to create jobs.

12/10/2009 -- China is big enough to stand on its own consumership.

Modified: 12/13/2011

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Consumer II

Moral: Wherein the consumer needs resources to perform the role. From whence comes these? Wages (implies jobs), Returns, Rents, Debts, ...


As said before, there's lot to the topic. If people didn't consume, what would drive the economy? Well, we can discuss that at another time (Todo #1). Throughout this post, other topics are identified for further attention.

In the meantime, we can recall Maslov's contribution to the subject, via his hierarchy. The most basic consumption is for health and welfare, including housing, food, and such. Then, all sorts of discretionary things stack up after that.

Which brings up this question, can a subdued consumption pattern sustain a happy life? An associated question is, can one stay within one's means and be happy? Does this not lead to a certain degree of independence? (Todo #2).

Many possible variations exist to the theme of consumption, but, a topic to cover now, since Washington is heavy into these discussions due to the large unemployment rate, concerns jobs. As, without jobs, with what do we consume?

As an aside, wage is generally the major factor for labor and can spawn interminable discussions. However, the model ought to consider, too, 'rent' as it may apply to labor, within the context of a society. Seems that the best-and-brightest have already figured this out. This needs further discussion (Todo #3).

Now, one factor in US job availability is globalization, now the new colonialistic scheme. Recently, PhilG's blog mentioned that even Sikorsky is making things abroad, and they're heavily defense oriented (mind you, paid by taxpayer dollars). That is, the US Defense has farmed out oodles of work. In particular, Sikorsky has producing plant in China.

Looking at the post, and the comments, sort of motivates this post, as the issue of outhousing is still very much open (Todo #4).

There has been a lot of talk about how US consumers have gone too far, to the point of massive debt and to thinking that their houses were ATMs. (We need to look at those who lure the consumer into debt, too -- see this piece found at Philg's.). Okay, we have more savings being reported, now over the past year, which bears some discussion (Todo #5). Yet, it is reported, too, that other countries save more, in particular we hear China and India mentioned.

Well, we must consider that China and India differ from the US in many cultural ways that are very important. For one, neither of these nations can claim a ‘dream’ for its people (no matter how tenuous this might seem in reality for most US citizens). Or, in other words, who is beating down the door to move there in droves? Too, in the case of China, the government is forcing the savings. How many trips have there been to China, on the part of the US, to talk them into letting their people spend?

Oh yes, American business people are beating down the doors. Are these not the new colonialists?

Both countries have cultural and social problems that bear attention. A Business Week article mentions a police officer in India, living under a bridge. He's quoted as saying that a swank hotel won't even let them use the toilet.

The US may not be perfect, however we do have some things going for us. Labor, those who are now without jobs, do have rights such as those mentioned in the Constitution. One problem right now is that the upper classes, supposedly those favored in the Capitalist's view, are very good at diminishing the rights of Labor and, at the same time, in arguing why their take (sometimes, outright thievery) is that which the law condones. (Todo #6).

So, as old man Ford is quoted as saying, we need to pay the workers in order to have them buy stuff. Of course, in his day, 'stuff' was not inferior, throw away, imports (Todo #7).


12/13/2011 -- McKinsey report shows that households hold over 40% of the world's wealth. Hence, the consumer as the major influence on the economy. Now, consider that the household wealth collection (using income in the U.S. as a proxy) is skewed to a very small bunch.

12/09/2009 -- Cannot sustain the consumer with debt.

12/04/2009 -- Frugality as a way to riches.

Modified: 12/13/2011

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Consumer I

Moral: Wherein the consumer is the sink for the economy. It's an important function, release of pressure.


Earlier, there was a post on a missing link, namely the financiers. Well, actually, even though labor was mentioned before, we have not addressed the consumer part of the macro equation (notice the 'consumption' line on the bottom of the graph).

For one thing, we'll look at the consumer as part of the GDP equation: GDP = C + Inv + G + (eX - i M) Here, we have the GDP being defined as an expenditure-based function of private consumption, business investment, government spending, and the net of exports and imports.

Before proceeding, we need to consider that the GDP has many downfalls, and other methods have been proposed, such as the Genuine Progress Indicator.

In any case, we know that there are many people (growing population) who consume which has an impact on the economy. For the US the past few years, personal consumption has been the largest part of the GDP with a side-effect of a growing debt basis per capita. It makes sense, since people are abundantly there, that the economy would have a human focus. We can say that without even referring to t-issues. Though, fat cats are antithetical to a proper economic model.

How can there be consumer expenditures without wages and rent? That latter is mentioned in the context of arguments about minimum wage. People are due rent just for being here (hey, hold the mud slinging - Marx did have one thing right -fictitious capital! Indeed!).

We'll have a lot to cover, hence this is Consumer I. Who knows how many post there'll be?

For starters, this little picture of Big Ben and his saver sacking ways is from today's Tech Ticker's talk with Howard Davidowitz. There are several things that old Howard says that are right on.
  • Our debt strategy is turning the buck into toilet paper. See image and Tech Ticker discussion. What good is the buck for the consumer if it has no value?
  • Davidowitz lists some current issues: houses are not there as ATMs any longer, unemployment is deep, personal bankruptcies are on the rise, and more.
We'll get to those issues and more, including jobs. For that, the issue is really rent (though, we may need another concept - due to the bias of prior use and connotation limits), more so than wage. How was that not every discussed (something to research)?


01/27/2012 -- Ben will continue to sack the savers; he must love the ca-pital-sino.

12/13/2011 -- McKinsey report shows that households hold over 40% of the world's wealth. Hence, the consumer as the major influence on the economy. Now, consider that the household wealth collection (using income in the U.S. as a proxy) is skewed to a very small bunch.

12/09/2009 -- Cannot sustain the consumer with debt.

12/03/2009 -- We'll have a chain of posts related to the Consumer part of the economy.

Modified: 01/27/2012

Monday, November 30, 2009

Our basis

Moral: Wherein, we see that humans can differ quite a bit as we can observe by looking at the wide variety of human opinions. There are many explanations possible.


Yet, at the basis for human endeavors, such as that which economics claims as its domain, there is consciousness that has defied any definition via scientific means. Oh yes, there are plenty of theories and wishes. The fact is, folks, that the issue is open and will remain so (t-issue). We can gather the facts as we see them, within our neuropeptidergic limitations and attempt understanding. Too, the operationalistic methods can say 'who cares?' and proceed almost nonchalantly. From this, we get workable methods, many times, of which none ever achieves the silver bullet status (not for very long, that is, and why this need?).

So, we can't have some nice theory about rational agents when the underlying basis is unknown (essentially underdetermined, let's say). That is, any constructionist's model ought to have some sound basis, unless incompleteness is accepted as the reality.

That is one reason why the law comes into play so strongly as mathematics has no hold on the overall perspective. Oh yes, again, we see phenomenal advances, yet do not many of these produce more negative side-effects than benefits? That is the reality behind near-zero, in a sense. We have never had a true accounting.

The clever, and we ought to give them some credit for this (tongue-in-cheek, folks - ah, is this risk management or tranching?), have excelled at keeping themselves from having to endure the consequences related to bad side-effects. Think about it. For example, all sorts of modern methods (lean, etc.) can push problems out to sub-contractors (be it by globalization, in some cases, or otherwise).

What are we to do? Well, it does turn out that the computational can be a tool for intelligence and coherency, if we use it correctly. In terms of the context of this blog, 'correctly' would entail all sorts of things, some of which the financiers, and the best-and-brightest, may find antithetical to their interests.

These themes will continue.

Aside 1: As a reminder, there are three blogs using a different viewpoint. Some issues, such as this one, seem to relate across these viewpoints. Hence, look for more material on truth engineering and 7oops7, as the discussion continues.

Aside 2: One thing that will come to fore is that the advance of abstraction in the recent centuries has had both a good and a bad side. We can use the world/earth dual for a brief explanation. Expect that this topic will be more thoroughly covered as we go along here. So, we know that the earth is round (the sphere is a close approximation, yet precise measurement will detail lopsidedness) in this day and age when the Space Station runs around the earth on a fairly short cycle, comparatively. But, too, we know that the world is flat, essentially is it so when one overlays reality with insights from Hilbert (yes, analog of the Hilbert space). Though, since Da Vinci, we've known about perspective and vanishing lines, within the measure on any person, or personal interactions, we have a very large, and orthogonal space. Even relativity didn't get rid of xyz and time. Wait, what gives here? There are many abstractions that we can superposition over ourselves and our lives. Yet, these are all limiting constructs to what 'being' actually is.

Aside 3: And, folks, what has more being than money? Ah, not so, many will argue. Just conjecture a realm in which money does have more substance than we've thought about (yes, economists limit us), and this realm is only partly computationally supported. Mostly, it's that thing that Ben, and buddies, are trying to inflate. Keynes' notion of animal 'spirits' does not go far enough. So, that realm will be described further.


03/23/2012 -- Renewal of the idea (and related energies) via Cooper and CiE.

02/27/2012 -- This post was a continuation of Our Basis, concerning just how shaky is our perceptual being (from certain views).The 01/01/2012 Remarks (below) points to work by an Eastern European. A recent Atlantic article looks at protozoan influences that may need more of our attention. It's significant that the underlying work was done by a lonely scientist in an Eastern European situation. Western culture has much thanks to offer that part of Europe who bore the brunt of waves of onslaught through the past 1000 years.

01/01/2012 -- Recently ran across the work of Kazimierz Dabrowski. We need to pay more attention to his theory on development. Yes, CEOs (and other takers) as immature (seriously, so). 

08/03/2011 -- The relationship to economics is important.

04/03/2011 -- Need to look at some background.

10/28/2010 -- Warning, train wreck ahead. What train, I had asked? Yes, there is already a wreck, despite the inflated market (those who lost big are still behind).

01/22/2010 -- We need to balance an awareness of the soup that controls synaptic activity with the fact of the wiring aspect. The use of 'neuropeptidergic' mostly reminds those who may have perfect wiring (or think that they do) that their cognitive function is more than can be be modeled by electrical circuitry.

01/06/2010 -- Poor Ben, getting grief and criticism.

12/29/2009 -- Time calls Ben an uber-Nerd.

12/28/2009 -- Ben was named the Time Person of the Year. Nice. We can't call him 'King' as we saw with Alan's 'cult of personality' reign.

12/15/2009 -- Requiem for the dollar (WSJ) and responses.

12/08/2009 -- Consider current CEOs in relation to Paul. Not fair? Well, these guys/gals have set themselves upon some supposed plane that is above the rest of us.

12/01/2009 -- The consumer as focus.

Modified: 03/23/2012

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Risk and rationality

Moral: Wherein these two concepts play heavily in economics, and finance, in several ways. So, they are worthy of some attention.


First, let's look at a couple of recent media offerings. On the print side, today, McClatchy Newspapers provided some words about how gambling laws might help dampen the effects of the games related to derivatives. Earlier, on the tele, I glimpsed an ad for an investing class where the theme was a clever take on the differences in risk taking, that was observed, between male and female students. Now, this latter has been discussed in several forums, but Laura's take is worth a read.

So, we are reminded that 'casino capitalism' has been allowed to become the basis for the economy, for reasons that we'll be looking at in depth. Too, those who may see that near-zero is the reality are pushed aside for several reasons, of which gender is only one.

Both of these topics are extremely important to our future, risk and rationality. About 'risk' we can say a lot, especially that it is inherent in life, to wit, the monies paid by the big boys to manage it. That the idea has been pushed to the limits of rationality needs some discussion.

Somehow, we hear this inane spiel about the rewards going to those who take the risk. Ah, yes (gains go to the pocket; failures are bailed out and mitigated). That nonsense goes back to the argument that getting out of bed is risky. Well, staying in bed is risky, too. Risk, in this sense, ought not be the focus as risk always is there. Okay, perhaps, some notion about managing risk's effects is appropriate, yet, a real accounting of the types of pain is what needs our attention. It has never been done right.

Oh, things are great? Millions are out of work and without any meaningful life? The fat cats bask in their bonuses, even thinking that these are appropriate? And, those working buy junk from China, assuming that they have money? Extremest luxury for the smallest few is accountable as progress in what sense? (a small sampling of thousands of possible questions, by the way)

Economics, in the classical sense, stressed 'rationality' from its beginning. Well, we can, and will, go into the etiology of that notion. For now, just be aware that economics getting biological (to wit, neuroeconomics) portends that some fundamental changes are coming. Too, we are only at the start of the computational influence. There is a whole lot we'll learn, even to the point of getting an appreciation for innumeracy (is not idiocy!).

When one considers ourselves, what is a rational view founded upon? That is, do we really know which neurotransmitter mix is optimal? Is that why we stress the mental IQ and associated performance (hey, isn't that what's behind the best-and-brightest labeling?) measures?

Or, is rationality tied to mathematical prowess (some economists seem to think so)? Well, can that be done on other than a quasi-empirical basis (think borgs)? Oh, are mathematics and its ilk (er, practitioners) any less subject to influences of the neuropeptidergic nature of ourselves than the rest of humanity (think mole hills)?

Well, to be fair, the argument is usually couched in terms of rational self-interest. However, underdetermined-ness is an important concept to consider in this context that is not easily tossed aside.

So much to discuss.


12/06/2013 -- If only Ben would put a shot across the bow. He's helped the chimera unfold in unhealthy ways. He could, at least, say a mea culpa.

03/11/2012 -- We need to update this, especially with a nod to Alan M. Turing.

11/21/2010 -- Three years ago, it was said: Computational foci raise miraculous need. Still applies.

02/10/2010 -- We could probably use the auto (and recent events) as a way to characterize the concepts of the blog. Of course, we have the value versus quality mis-think as part of the problem. Business Week reports that Toyota was asking suppliers for a 10% cut. Well, such scrimping would have an effect, even if it was only in looks. However, cutting into the life of a system may appear smart but, actually, relies on the same unstable basis as does a lot of economic thinking.

12/01/2009 -- The consumer as focus.

11/30/2009 -- Neuropeptidergic limitations are only one consideration for our basis.

Modified: 12/06/2013

Friday, November 27, 2009


Moral: Wherein this group has not been mentioned specifically, yet. So far, we've had posts about Labor, Economists, Quants (these work for the Financiers), Educators, Bankers (who can be confused for Financiers), and Investors.


Perhaps, it is time. We can start, slowly, with a look at related subjects, such as TARP, and then go into other matters. This topic will be more thoroughly covered, as time progresses.
  • See The Baseline Scenario on testimony given to Congress, lately, about TARP. Notice, in particular, the reference to the April, 2009 article in The Atlantic. What is ironic is that some actions being pursued in the US would be frowned upon by the IMF (et al) if it were the action of a developing country.
  • See Wall Street vs America (the Municipal Squeeze) in Business Week (11/30/09). Example. The issue cover had a rampaging bull running amok amongst the people. Their lesson, the Streeters, could be this: you guys aren't any different than the rest of us, except for some type of conscience disadvantage-ment. Somehow, filthy lucre smells wonderfully under your noses.
  • Bookstaber is going with the SEC. Great! Let's get them money guys/gals in line. Or, can we? Rick was a participant but learned an unusual lesson (see prior bullet). He, at least, knows the issues related to computing.
  • Why do these people think that their manipulations (supposedly innovative) help us? (yes, how have the physicist's (quants) helped these bozos?)
  • Roubini on the coming unwinding. The doctor of doom says it right about Fred/Fan.
  • Is this time different? Well, when will we put these players into their own sandbox to isolate their shenanigans from those of us who are more rational?
  • How do economists figure into the mess?
  • How markets fail. Like the concept of 'reality' economics; versus spitting in the wind.
  • Do morals matter? Ah, way so, even beyond concerns relating to homo economicus.
The list is shortened, but the topic will recur.


12/06/2013 -- If only Ben would put a shot across the bow. He's helped the chimera unfold in unhealthy ways. He could, at least, say a mea culpa.

12/10/2009 -- More roles include the consumer and the economy.

11/29/2009 -- Risk and rationality.

Modified: 12/06/2013

Monday, November 23, 2009


Moral: Wherein the radio voice said this am, as I was driving to a meeting, says that the market values were up since investors were happy about the housing sales numbers. Well, who are these investors?


We keep hearing bearish opinions about the current state of the market and expect things to go down, at some point. Jumping on the train now will mean taking a certain bath; or a rational view may say that this decline is inevitable due to the nature of the markets now.

Investors? We could look at Wiki's definition which is nice. It does not include speculators, explicitly. Why bring up speculation? Well, Minsky's insights, for one thing. One cannot seem to have investments without the gaming aspect coming to play (casino capitalism).

Well, we know that these investors aren't the little mom and pop types. So, what gives?

Also, we know that there are efforts to put constraints on some of the worse enablers, namely OTC trades. To get some idea of the froth from speculation, Gensler estimated that a "$50 tank of gasoline can support $750 to $1,000 in derivatives contracts."

Ah, is this investment?


Well, today, the following day, the DOW bounced down then up and then down. Ah, so we have profit takers? Those are the epitome of investors?

One thing to note is that some investor types are really programs. Oh, I know, people are behind the programs, yet computation seems to take on a life of its own. Or, it will do so as time goes along; that is inevitable. And, on some days, there is a big push in volume right before the markets close.

Is that evidence of some move by program? So many questions. How can we build an economy on such gaming?


And, we're to the pre-holiday mindset. Tech Ticker has an interesting review of how we compare to a year ago.

So much to read, including a never-ending list of blogs.


12/10/2009 -- More roles include the consumer and the economy.

11/27/2009 - Roubini on the coming unwinding.

Modified: 12/19/2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Econ blogs

Moral: Wherein earlier mentions (Miscellany) are extended further.


With something as important to our general welfare, and as non-simple, as economics, blogging may perform several roles, such as bulletin board, discussion center, library, and much more.

Of course, we mustn't forget Wikipedia's potential for supporting a live economic framework, in spite of the dismal nature of the subject.

The following is a list of blogs that will be updated regularly.

Related viewpoints.
Regular columns.

07/30/2013 -- See econfuture| Future Economics and Technology.

03/04/2010 -- Added in columns which appear regularly.

Modified: 07/30/2013

Monday, November 9, 2009

The big chimera

Moral: Wherein we need a series that can be done as an independent, and honest, assessment of the practices, based upon the usual market ideology, that we can observe without any inside information and that we can analyze because they use modern, computationally-supported frameworks that have had applicability in all the modern advances including the marvels behind ubiquitous computing and other major engineering systems.


As mentioned before, recent review of the changes that have occurred these past couple of decades shows mind-boggling improvements, yet many of the supposed advances that have been implemented, albeit there were probably many more hair-brained notions never put into place, were suspect, as recent un-foldings of the whole financial scenario have shown. We're in a situation where no one knows what is good and what might be bad in all these schemes just as we do not know how many, and of what possible pain, are the toxic assets that have been shoved under the table. Things froze because those who do the playing know just how suspect are their practices; we, the taxpayers, had to bail them out in order for the game of musical chairs to begin again.

That the FED threw oodles of money at the problem to loosen liquidity has only made the problem worse, and it is more than just an issue of moral hazards.

Of course, some financial schemes stunk to high heaven (Madoff gave us new definitions). Yet, there is no axiomatic basis from which to found a proper view on either side, even though finance did lure many trained engineers and scientists into the game that has been coined as casino capitalism. Methods, of a quasi-empirical nature, can be established and, in fact, are essential to the health and safety of our economy.

That we have time to explore these options must be emphasized, as no train of any substance has left the station. We need to take the time to get this right.


We can proceed in discussing markets as the train the drives things. Or, so one ideology might go. The trouble is that we think of concrete things being sold when we think of the market. At one time, a share had some definition and value. But it is not true now that anything real is processed in the financial markets, for the most part. Just like the gab standard founds our money, these markets mainly push ephemeral entities whose value is a matter of resolving issues related to highly abstracted models and the interpretations of associated rules that are legal, operational, and strategic. And, all this is done under layers of algorithmic mishmash.

What has evolved in the markets is a chimera supported by high-speed computing and algorithms whose potential impact no one has a real handle on. Oh, of course, some are filling their pockets, but the game is near-zero (in fact, it has been nothing but negative for the US taxpayers). Trouble is, as well, that those with numeracy skills have the roles in keeping this chimera going. For some reasons, we don't have any notion of fiduciary duty or of ethics.

Given the fact of innumeracy (which is not idiocy, by the way), the whole population is not served by the methods that have evolved. No way. In fact, the whole claim of best-and-brightest is a form of hubris, suggesting that what we have now is incredibly fantastic.

No, it is not. Rather, it's a house of cards of the most flimsy manner that has been pushed upon the unsuspecting public through the failings of several, especially lawmakers who ought to know better. Proper analysis will show that the markets need to be dampened which action will have several looks.

That some are making money in the current scheme, actually many, yet it's only a small subset, may suggest that things are fine. Well, it is not; the extreme imbalances between Wall and Main Streets, about which there is much clamor, is real, folks. And, it has been greatly exacerbated by computational advances of the past couple of decades.

Since it's rather complicated, we'll amber about while trying to keep some coherence. We can use two players to juxtapose a balance. The first would be Goldman Sachs whose recent overview (of the market structure, pdf) needs to be discussed. Actually, it is nice that they were so open with itemizing the important financial concepts and in explaining their side.

We need to look at ECN, dark pools, alternative trading systems, and much more. As an aside, the definition of the dark pool raised flags immediately as being a means to thwart natural market purposes. We'll have to look at the history of this thing.

The second player will be BATS Trading of Lenexa, KS. Why? They are relatively new and are not located near any other of the major players. Also, they offer an alternative system that has been successfully applied by traders. BATS has their own index which will be interesting to watch in comparison to those updated every day in the media (DOW, et al).

We'll have an old firm and a new one. The latter can serve as an example of what an open economy allows, that is, new entities to enter with a new game plan.

The intent is not to be anti-market. Rather, that which is called casino capitalism must be deconstructed so that we can allow a better approach to the 'market' and its majesty. These things, by the way, ought to be run in a non-profit mode (ideally, by monks who took the vow of poverty - some of those have a lot of numeracy).

Note: This is an introduction. Next up will be the start of the analysis and discussion. However, some thought will need to be put to (this view of, pdf) liquidity. Here's the deal. Okay, using the metaphor of blood, we do want flow. Yet, there are other phases (gas, solid, ...). Besides, the blood carries things, such as nutrients, defense cells, etc. There is something amiss, as what we're seeing is large outflows to bonuses and to supporting lifestyles that are far removed from any ever seen by Main Street. Hang on, as we're going to look from the basis forward. Whose basis? Good question. But, consider this. Cash flow, real liquidity, is only one concern of management. Some type of imbalance has been allowed to come forward where money churning (and froth) is seen as of real value. 'Why?' and 'how?' are the questions. That 'liquid' state, desired by finance, seems to not have any natural analog (remember, we cannot get perpetual motion).


03/15/2015 -- Finally, getting around to the pending business.

12/15/2012 -- Coase, on the subject.

10/05/2012 -- Yes, yes, chimera it is.

03/11/2012 -- We need to update this, especially with a nod to Alan M. Turing.

04/03/2011 -- Need to look at some background. Too, tranche and trask.

03/16/2011 -- On the rise of the professional politician (will there ever be the citizen polico? that is, those who do not salivate when a buck is passed beneath the nose) toward robber barony. The M & Ms are apropos. As well, need to bring in Schervish's viewpoint.

10/28/2010 -- Warning, train wreck ahead. What train, I had asked? Yes, there is already a wreck, despite the inflated market (those who lost big are still behind).

05/25/2010 -- Who will (or can) lead out of the morass?

05/07/2010 -- Out of control, essentially, and not healthy for the backbone.

01/07/2010 -- We need to look at capitalism, closely.

01/03/2010 -- More news on Goldman Sachs as the uber example of 'not on the behalf' comes to fore regularly. It'll need to be a separate subject at some point. Thanks to McClatchy: Nov 1, 2009 & Jan 3, 2010 (update). Goldman has to respond, of course.

11/29/2009 -- Risk and rationality. As well, we'll need to go further into innumeracy.

11/27/2009 - Roubini on the coming unwinding.

11/20/2009 -- Societe Generale is getting negative?

11/10/2009 -- Glass-Steagall, again. Why not? Also, more on the gab standard.

11/10/2009 -- A floor guy (Chicago) reported on firstbusinessx today that GS was a big buyer yesterday. Was this on the behalf of? Or, is it to keep the boosting going? This type of buying, no doubt, has a floor to staunch any bleeding if things move downward which they are expected to do.

11/09/2009 - Forgot to mention securitization, which definitely requires computational support in its current form, as something to look at closely. It is more problematic than many think, and actually is more of an example of flim-flam than most. So, expect in depth analysis. Ah, structured finance, the bane of our existence, it seems.

Modified: 03/15/2015