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Economic Analysis

Growth

Thoughts from the Frontline

August 31, 2014

“It's said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.”

– David Brin in The Postman

“For every good idea, ten thousand idiotic ones must first be posed, sifted, sniffed, tried, and discarded. A mind that's afraid to toy with the ridiculous will never come up with the brilliantly original."

– David Brin, Orbit interview

Employers Aren’t Just Whining – the “Skills Gap” Is Real

Outside the Box

August 27, 2014

Paul Krugman and other notables dismiss the notion of a skills gap, though employers continue to claim they’re having trouble finding workers with the skills they need. And if you look at the evidence one way, Krugman et al. are right. But this week an interesting post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network by guest columnist James Bessen suggests that employers may not just be whining, they may really have a problem filling some kinds of jobs.

Unsurprisingly, the problem is with new...

A Nation of Shopkeepers

Thoughts from the Frontline

August 25, 2014

“To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people of customers may at first sight appear a project fit only for a nation of shopkeepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for a nation of shopkeepers; but extremely fit for a nation whose government is influenced by shopkeepers.”
– Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs

Outside the Box

August 19, 2014

This past week several reports came across my desk highlighting both the good news and the bad news about the future of automation and robotics. There are those who think that automation and robotics are going to be a massive destroyer of jobs and others who think that in general humans respond to shifts in employment opportunities by creating new opportunities.

As I’ve noted more than once, in the 1970s (as it seemed that our jobs were disappearing, never to return), the correct answer to...

Thinker, Trader, Holder. Why?

Things That Make You Go Hmmm...

August 18, 2014

Sometimes, just sometimes, you need to stop for a second, take a step back, and reconsider the simplest pieces of any puzzle.

David John Moore Cornwall was a real-life spy. A spook. An agent. He worked for Britain’s MI5 and, later, MI6 intelligence services.

Whilst there, Cornwall began a little hobby that, in today’s world, would be unthinkable for a serving intelligence officer: writing novels about the secret world in which he lived and worked.
 

Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere

Thoughts from the Frontline

August 15, 2014

The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.
– Albert Einstein

Genius is a rising stock market.
– John Kenneth Galbraith

Any plan conceived in moderation must fail when circumstances are set in extremes.
– Prince Metternich

I'm forever blowing bubbles, Pretty bubbles in the air
They fly so high, nearly reach the sky, Then like my dreams they fade and die
Fortune's always hiding, I've looked everywhere
I'm forever blowing bubbles, Pretty bubbles in the...

Low and Expanding Risk Premiums Are the Root of Abrupt Market Losses

Outside the Box

August 13, 2014

Risk premiums. I don’t know anyone who seriously maintains that risk premiums are anywhere close to normal. They more closely resemble what we see just before a major bear market kicks in. Which doesn’t mean that they can’t become further compressed. My good friend John Hussman certainly wouldn’t argue for such a state of affairs, and this week for our Outside the Box we let John talk about risk premiums.

Hussman is the founder and manager of the eponymous Hussman Funds, at...

Transformation or Bust, Part 2

Thoughts from the Frontline

August 11, 2014

In last week’s Thoughts from the Frontline (“Transformation or Bust”), my young colleague Worth Wray and I continued our groundbreaking series exploring the risks posed by China’s rapid private sector debt growth and its consumption-repressing, investment-heavy growth model that is quickly running out of steam. China is the true conundrum in the global economy. It is an outlier in the history of development, with no true analogues. And while there is much to be appreciative of and admired...

Money: How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy

Outside the Box

August 6, 2014

Forbes Editor-in-Chief and longtime friend Steve Forbes leads off this week’s Outside the Box with a sweeping historical summary – and damning indictment – of the “cheap money” policies of the US executive branch and Federal Reserve. Four decades of fiat money (since Richard Nixon and his Treasury Secretary, John Connally, axed the gold standard in 1971) and six years of Fed funny business have led us, in Steve’s words, to an era of “declining mobility, great inequality, and the destruction...

Transformation or Bust

Thoughts from the Frontline

August 2, 2014

China continues to be front and center on my list of concerns, even moreso than the latest Federal Reserve press release or fluctuation in the Dow (although you should pay attention). I believe China is the single biggest risk to world economic equilibrium, even larger than Japan or Europe. This week my young associate Worth Wray provides us with a keenly insightful essay on what is currently happening in China. I will admit to not having written about China very much in the past five years,...