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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Thoma’

What is the Role of the State?

What is the Role of the State?

Courtesy of Mark Thoma at Economist’s View

When I teach the History of Economic Thought, one thing we focus on is how views on the role of the state have changed over time. It has a natural cycle to it, with eras such as the highly interventionist Mercantilist years followed by Physiocratic and Classical views stressing minimal government intervention. This is followed by a rebound in the other direction, and so it goes with a Keynes followed by a Friedman in the 50s, a rebound back to Keynes in the 60s, to classical ideas following the experience of the 70s, and so on, and so on. We are involved in the same debate, and a smaller version of the grand historical lurches in each direction, yet again today:

What is the role of the state?, by Martin Wolf: It is … a good time to ask … the biggest question in political economy: what is the role of the state? This question has concerned western thinkers at least since Plato (5th-4th century BCE). It has also concerned thinkers in other cultural traditions… The perspective here is that of the contemporary democratic west.

The core purpose of the state is protection. This view would be shared by everybody, except anarchists… Contemporary Somalia shows the horrors that can befall a stateless society. Yet horrors can also befall a society with an over-mighty state. …

Mancur Olson argued that the state was a “stationary bandit”. A stationary bandit is better than a “roving bandit”, because the latter has no interest in developing the economy, while the former does. But it may not be much better, because those who control the state will seek to extract the surplus over subsistence generated by those under their control.

In the contemporary west, there are three protections against undue exploitation by the stationary bandit: exit, voice … and restraint. By “exit”, I mean the possibility of escaping from the control of a given jurisdiction, by emigration, capital flight or some form of market exchange. By “voice”, I mean a degree of control over, the state, most obviously by voting. By “restraint”, I mean independent courts, division of powers, federalism and entrenched rights.

This, then, is a brief background to … the problem, which is defining what a democratic state … is entitled to


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Is the Unemployment Problem Cyclical or Structural?

Is the Unemployment Problem Cyclical or Structural?

Courtesy of Mark Thoma, writing at CBS MoneyWatch

a young man lying on a sofa holding a glass of wine

As I noted in a previous post, economists define three types of unemployment: frictional, structural, and cyclical:

Frictional unemployment is defined as the unemployment that occurs because of people moving or changing occupations. Demographic change can also play a role in this type of unemployment since young or first-time workers tend to have higher-than-normal turnover rates as they settle into a long-term occupation. An important distinguishing feature of this type of unemployment, unlike the two that follow it, is that it is voluntary on the part of the worker.

Structural unemployment is defined as unemployment arising from technical change such as automation, or from changes in the composition of output due to variations in the types of products people demand. For example, a decline in the demand for typewriters would lead to structurally unemployed workers in the typewriter industry.

Cyclical unemployment is defined as workers losing their jobs due to business cycle fluctuations in output, i.e. the normal up and down movements in the economy as it cycles through booms and recessions over time.

In a recession, frictional unemployment tends to drop since people become afraid of quitting the job they have due to the poor chances of finding another one. People that already have another job lined up will still be willing to change jobs, though there will be fewer of them since new jobs are harder to find. However, they aren’t counted as part of the unemployed. Thus, the fall in frictional unemployment is mainly due to a fall in people quitting voluntarily before they have another job lined up.

But the drop in frictional unemployment is relatively small and more than offset by increases in cyclical and structural unemployment. One of the big questions right now is whether the US economy is suffering, for the most part, from structural or cyclical unemployment. If it’s cyclical, then there’s a good chance that government intervention can help. If it’s structural, i.e. a decline in automobile production and manufacturing more generally, a decline in home construction, and a decline in the financial industry all of which free workers that need to be absorbed elsewhere in the economy, there’s less that can be done and some do not think that government can do much at all about this type of problem (though as I…
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Never Let the Threat of a Manufactured Crisis Go to Waste

Never Let the Threat of a Manufactured Crisis Go to Waste

Courtesy of Mark Thoma, Economist’s View 

There’s been a lot of speculation about the motives of the Austerians — those who want to begin balancing budgets now because they believe that’s what markets want. For example, Paul Krugman attributes it, in part, to

moralizing and posturing. Germans tend to think of running deficits as being morally wrong, while balancing budgets is considered virtuous, never mind the … economic logic. “The last few hours were a singular show of strength,” declared Angela Merkel … after a special cabinet meeting agreed on the austerity plan. And showing strength — or what is perceived as strength — is what it’s all about.

But there is another argument based upon the notion of "never let a crisis — or the manufactured threat of one — go to waste." This is an opportunity to "starve the European Beast" in the eyes of many European conservatives, and there are those who are using the "that’s what markets want" argument as cover for an ideological agenda:

The spectre of laissez-faire stalks Britain, by Jeremy Seabrook, CIF: The relish with which David Cameron announced that our whole way of life would be affected for years by impending cuts, and no one in the land would be exempt from the asperities about to be inflicted, suggested to many that he and his fellow cabinet-millionaires will probably weather the coming storm better than the rest of us.

His parade of Margaret Thatcher, who resembled nothing so much as a faded kabuki performer, outside 10 Downing Street, was also highly symbolic. It was a redemptive moment, the "ultimate" triumph of policies she advocated (but did not entirely follow) 30 years ago. It exhibited the qualities of purification ritual, reversion to a more severe form of capitalism; and in the process a transformation of nanny state into stepmother state.

Nick Clegg’s pious assertion that cuts would be fair and compassionate was at odds with Cameron’s gusto, which is familiar enough in Conservative rhetoric: Cameron confronting an overweening state, which will be shrunk so the private sector might flourish once more. When he said the effects of his policies would be felt for decades to come, he meant something more than a mere diminution of the structural deficit. He admitted as much… 

While cutting back big government may appear a


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On kleptocracy and the sense that we have a one-party system

On kleptocracy and the sense that we have a one-party system

Matt TaibbiCourtesy Edward Harrison at Credit Writedowns

As a writer, Matt Taibbi is a lot more vitriolic than I am. He curses, makes some pretty over-the-top personal attacks, and divines a policymaker’s intent where I don’t think he can. But, this goes mostly to style.  Substantively speaking, he has a lot to say and we should take notice. 

I wanted to highlight a piece he wrote yesterday called Fannie, Freddie, and the New Red and Blue. The crux of his argument is this: The partisan rhetoric is on full display in the dust-up over the unlimited liabilities coming from Fannie and Freddie thrust upon taxpayers on Christmas Eve. This rhetoric is not just beside the point, it is specifically designed to obscure the point, namely that both Democrats and Republicans, private industry and the government are culpable in the shambles our economic system has become.

Taibbi says:

Over the Christmas holiday a nasty thing happened: Tim Geithner’s Treasury Department decided to lift the cap on aid to the Government-Sponsored Entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, apparently in response to Obama administration fears that the two agencies would become insolvent. The cap was raised from $200 billion on each and government backstopping of the mortgage market will apparently now extend into infinity for at least three years, through 2012.

The move has already inspired a mini-firestorm, with several outlets delving deeply into the recent history of the GSEs and uncovering some disturbing new facts…

Sometimes I’m amazed at the speed with which highly provocative information like this GSE business can be converted into distracting propaganda in this country…

What worries me is that we’re… starting to see fault lines develop, where one side blames the government while another side blames Wall Street for the messes of the last two decades…

Everyone was involved in the mortgage scam. At the lender level the deceptions were myriad; liar’s loans, fraudulent income documentation, negative amortization loans, HELOCs, etc. The rush to get as many loans written as possible and then get those hot potatoes moved to the next sucker in the line was furious and extended from coast to coast, sinking one lender after another in Ponzoid debt and indictments….

Everyone had a hand in the bubble,


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Mark Thoma: Libertarians and populists are against Bernanke

Mark Thoma: Libertarians and populists are against Bernanke

Courtesy of Edward Harrison at Credit Writedowns

Mark is right that time is not on Chairman Bernanke’s side. If you saw the Ron Paul video earlier today, you can see what’s happening. I don’t have a strong view, although I believe most of the other bloggers are against.

Reminder: This is what Mark wrote about the Chairman’s being re-appointed in June.

Bernanke, Summers, or Yellen? None of the Above?

I’d reappoint him. If forced to choose between Yellen and Summers, I’d choose Yellen.

Question: are these still the alternatives if Bernanke is not confirmed?

(video embedded above)

See also Bernanke’s nomination approved by Senate banking panel from the BBC

 


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Zero Hedge

Ukraine "Truce"? Tanks Are Rolling In Poland As NATO Plans Permanent Eastern European Bases

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by Tyler Durden.

With Ukraine, Germany, and France all expressing their concern this morning about "conflict escalation" between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukraine military, the so-called "truce" appears to be hanging by a thread of semanticism (despite OSCE's please for respect of the cease-fire and the demarcation line). Today's triple whammy of 'escalation' appears more focused on the non-Russian side as first, France begins sending tanks into Poland; second, Ukraine shifts its tanks to the front-line; and third - and potentially most inflammatory for Putin - NATO has confirmed plans to create permanent command centers in Eas...



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Phil's Favorites

Obama "Engages In Envy Economics": Proposes Offshore Profit Tax To Fund Public Spending

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Just as AAPL stock hits record highs and single-handedly rescues Q4 earnings from the doldrums, it appears President Obama is bringing his own brand of 'middle-class-economics' Robin-Hood-iness to crush the 'wealth generating' machine that has served America's 1% so well for so long.

As AP reports, The White House plans a six-year half a trillion dollar public works program financed with a one-time mandatory tax on profits that U.S. companies have amassed overseas. Under current law, profits only face federal taxes if they are returned, or...



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All About Trends

Mid-Day Update

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To learn more, sign up for David's free newsletter and receive the free report from All About Trends - "How To Outperform 90% Of Wall Street With Just $500 A Week." Tell David PSW sent you. - Ilene...

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Chart School

RTT browsing latest..

Courtesy of Read the Ticker.

Please review a collection of WWW browsing results.Date Found: Friday, 16 January 2015, 09:55:47 PM

Click for popup. Clear your browser cache if image is not showing. Comment: Volatility Is back across all asset classes. Price discovery reverting to the mean.

Date Found: Saturday, 17 January 2015, 04:18:13 PM

Click for popup. Clear your browser cache if image is not showing. Comment: US Velocity of money, historic lows. $4.8 trillion on Fed balance. None of it getting to the masses. Deflation is at the door.

Date Found: Sunday, 18 January 2015, 10:44:09 PM

Click for popup. Clear your browser cache if image is not showing. Comment: Gold teasing...



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Sabrient

In the News: An ETF Rush to Bet on Insiders

Courtesy of Sabrient Systems and Gradient Analytics

(ETFTrends.com by Todd Shriber): "Betting on insider buying is again proving to be an efficacious strategy as the Direxion All Cap Insider Sentiment Shares (NYSEArca: KNOW) has been noticeably less bad than the S&P 500 to start 2015. Add to that, investors are warming to the merits of KNOW's insider sentiment strategy." [Editor's note: KNOW tracks the Sabrient Multi-cap Insider/Analyst Quant-Weighted Index (SBRQAM)]. Read article

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Market Shadows

What Would You Do?

What Would You Do?

Courtesy of Paul Price

Suppose you had the technical ability and raw materials to print up counterfeit dollars, euros or yen that were identical to the real things. Assume you could spend them as fast as you could create them with no fear of any repercussions.

Would you prudently print up only as much fresh currency as you needed for your current lifestyle? Would you create just a bit more than that to help relatives or those in need?

It is most likely you’d have your printing press running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Becoming the richest person in the world would confer great power upon you.

You could rationalize this action because you plan to use the money for good purposes. Imagine the warm feeling you’d get by giving every person in America one million do...



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OpTrader

Swing trading portfolio - week of January 26th, 2015

Reminder: OpTrader is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

 

This post is for all our live virtual trade ideas and daily comments. Please click on "comments" below to follow our live discussion. All of our current  trades are listed in the spreadsheet below, with entry price (1/2 in and All in), and exit prices (1/3 out, 2/3 out, and All out).

We also indicate our stop, which is most of the time the "5 day moving average". All trades, unless indicated, are front-month ATM options. 

Please feel free to participate in the discussion and ask any questions you might have about this virtual portfolio, by clicking on the "comments" link right below.

To learn more about the swing trading virtual portfolio (strategy, performance, FAQ, etc.), please click here ...



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Digital Currencies

Jitters After Bitcoin Exchange Suspends Services

So as I was saying yesterday (Bitcoin: The Biggest Clown Show In History?), Bitcoin has several obstacles on the path to potential success as an alternative currency. But I forgot to mention hacking and theft at Bitcoin exchanges and other technical problems. This is related to the lack of government backing and the fact that the value of Bitcoins is based entirely on confidence.  

Jitters After Bitcoin Exchange Suspends Services 

By 



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Pharmboy

2015 - Biotech Fever

Reminder: Pharmboy is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

PSW Members - well, what a year for biotechs!   The Biotech Index (IBB) is up a whopping 40%, beating the S&P hands down!  The healthcare sector has had a number of high flying IPOs, and beat the Tech Sector in total nubmer of IPOs in the past 12 months.  What could go wrong?

Phil has given his Secret Santa Inflation Hedges for 2015, and since I have been trying to keep my head above water between work, PSW, and baseball with my boys...it is time that something is put together for PSW on biotechs in 2015.

Cancer and fibrosis remain two of the hottest areas for VC backed biotechs to invest their monies.  A number of companies have gone IPO which have drugs/technologies that fight cancer, includin...



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Stock World Weekly

Stock World Weekly

Newsletter writers are available to chat with Members regarding topics presented in SWW, comments are found below each post.

Here's this week's Stock World Weekly.

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Option Review

SPX Call Spread Eyes Fresh Record Highs By Year End

Stocks got off to a rocky start on the first trading day in December, with the S&P 500 Index slipping just below 2050 on Monday. Based on one large bullish SPX options trade executed on Wednesday, however, such price action is not likely to break the trend of strong gains observed in the benchmark index since mid-October. It looks like one options market participant purchased 25,000 of the 31Dec’14 2105/2115 call spreads at a net premium of $2.70 each. The trade cost $6.75mm to put on, and represents the maximum potential loss on the position should the 2105 calls expire worthless at the end of December. The call spread could reap profits of as much as $7.30 per spread, or $18.25mm, in the event that the SPX ends the year above 2115. The index would need to rally 2.0% over the current level...



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Help One Of Our Own PSW Members

"Hello PSW Members –

This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible.  Feel free to contact me directly at jennifersurovy@yahoo.com with any questions.

Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts.  After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.)  Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-get-shadowfax-out-from-the-darkness-of-medical-bills-/126743

Thank you for you time!




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