Thoughts From the Frontline, March 2014

When Inequality Isn’t

March 29, 2014

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”

–Plutarch, Greek historian, first century AD

“In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.

“There is only one difference...

China’s Minsky Moment?

March 22, 2014

In speeches and presentations since the end of last year, I have been saying that I think the biggest macro problem in the world today is China. China has run up a huge debt, and the payments are coming due. They seem to be proactive, but will it be enough? How much risk do they pose for the global system?

Inequality and Opportunity

March 16, 2014

“Nothing is more dangerous than a dogmatic worldview – nothing more constraining, more blinding to innovation, more destructive of openness to novelty.”

– Stephen Jay Gould

My letters the last few weeks on income inequality (here and here) brought more response from readers than any topic I’ve written on in the history of this letter. And there was certainly no unanimity of viewpoints. Some of you strongly agree with me; some of you aggressively disagree and think I’m full of it; and...

The Problem with Keynesianism

March 9, 2014

“The belief that wealth subsists not in ideas, attitudes, moral codes, and mental disciplines but in identifiable and static things that can be seized and redistributed is the materialist superstition. It stultified the works of Marx and other prophets of violence and envy. It frustrates every socialist revolutionary who imagines that by seizing the so-called means of production he can capture the crucial capital of an economy. It is the undoing of nearly every conglomerateur who believes he...

Black Swans and Endogenous Uncertainty

March 1, 2014

John is in Florida and feeling a bit under the weather, so this week we’re bringing back one of his most popular letters, from December 2007. In the letter he discusses the work of Professor Graciela Chichilnisky of Columbia University, one of whose key insights is that the greater the number of connections within an economic network, the more the system is at risk. Given the current macroeconomic environment, it is important to remind ourselves of how complacent we were back in 2007 and how...