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

Dollar Struggles; More Losses Likely Before Better Demand is Found

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by Marc To Market.

The US dollar fell against most of the major and emerging market currencies for the second consecutive week.  The combination of market positioning, weak confidence that the Fed will hike rates this year, and the rise in some industrial commodities seemed to be the main drivers.  Technical considerations warn of scope for additional dollar losses in the coming sessions.  

Among the major currencies, the Australian and New Zealand dollars did best.  Both appreciated by about 4% against the greenback. The RBA signaled no strong urgency to cut rates again, and New Zealand drew succor from a recovery in milk prices.  

The yen was the weakest of the majors. It los...

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Bernanke's Balderdash


Bernanke’s Balderdash

Courtesy of David Stockman

The US and world economies are drifting inexorably into the next recession owing to the deflationary collapse of commodities, capital spending and world trade. These are the inevitable “morning after” consequence of the 20-year global credit binge which has now reached its apogee.

The apparent global boom during that period was actually a central bank driven excursion into the false economics of household borrowing to inflate consumption in the DM economies; and frenzied, uneconomic investing to inflate GDP in China and the EM.

The common denominator was falsification of financial prices. By destroying honest price discovery...

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Market News

News You Can Use From Phil's Stock World


Financial Markets and Economy

Bond Funds Have Been Borrowing to Boost Returns (Bloomberg)

For more than two decade, Bill Gross did the seemingly impossible, according to Bill Gross.

Drug that rose 5,000% hasn't come down in price (CNN)

Remember the drug used by cancer and AIDS patients that skyrocketed from $13.50 to $750 a pill? Well, the price has yet to come back to earth.

The company still has not cut the price below $750 even thoug...

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Kimble Charting Solutions

Free Premium Trail Offer & Free Webinar Viewing Available Now!

Courtesy of Chris Kimble.


Ryan Detrick and I produced a webinar this week, covering some new indicators we created, which we shared publicly for the first time.

We also shared two new Buy & Hold indicators we created, as well as two short-term trades, that look goo...

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Chart School

Bulls Keep Buying Into The Close

Courtesy of Declan.

Good stuff for bulls as resistance levels get ticked off on the advance. There breathing room for many indices and a chance for consolidation. Nit pickers could point to light volume, but it would be hard for buyers to be coming in here given the sequence of gains.

The Nasdaq 100 still remains tagged to resistance. Can it break tomorrow or will sellers make an appearance. All I know is yet another short trade of mine is stopped out. I should add, I haven't touched my investment account. I would be looking to buy if I had the funds available.

The S&P made a decisive push past its 50-day MA. Next resistance is up at 2,044. Tech...

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All About Trends

Mid-Day Update

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

Click here for the full report.

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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Whitney Tilson On LL, EXACT, And Martin Shkreli


Whitney Tilson On LL, EXACT, And Martin Shkreli

Courtesy of Value Walk

1) The shares of one of my largest short positions (~3%), Exact Sciences, crashed by more than 46% yesterday. Below is the article I published this morning on SeekingAlpha, explaining why I think it’s still a great short and thus shorted more yesterday. Here’s a summary:

  • The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force’s Colorectal Cancer Screening Draft Recommendation issued yesterday is devastating for Exact Sciences’ only product, Cologuard.
  • I think this is the beginning of the end for the company.
  • My price target for the stock a year from now is $3, so I shorted more yes...

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Sector Detector: Searching for solid support in the face of global headwinds

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

Courtesy of Sabrient Systems and Gradient Analytics

Uncertainty about the health of the global economy led investors to flee U.S. equities during Q3, primarily driven by worries about China's growth prospects and the Federal Reserve’s decision to not raise rates. Sure, there are plenty of real and perceived headwinds, but on balance it seems that a recession here at home is not in the cards. And when you consider sentiment and the technical picture, it appears that a continuation of Friday’s bounce is in store. The question remains as to whether the seasonally strong Q4 will be able to propel the bulls through levels of resistance that have built up.

In this weekly update, I give my view o...

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Swing trading portfolio - week of October 5th, 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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Baxter's Spinoff

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

Baxter Int. (BAX) is splitting off its BioSciences division into a new company called Baxalta. Shares of Baxalta will be given as a tax-free dividend, in the ratio of one to one, to BAX holders on record on June 17, 2015. That means, if you want to receive the Baxalta dividend, you need to buy the stock this week (on or before June 12).

The Baxalta Spinoff

By Ilene with Trevor of Lowenthal Capital Partners and Paul Price

In its recent filing with the SEC, Baxter provides:

“This information statement is being ...

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Mapping The Market

An update on oil proxies

Courtesy of Jean-Luc Saillard

Back in December, I wrote a post on my blog where I compared the performances of various ETFs related to the oil industry. I was looking for the best possible proxy to match the moves of oil prices if you didn't want to play with futures. At the time, I concluded that for medium term trades, USO and the leveraged ETFs UCO and SCO were the most promising. Longer term, broader ETFs like OIH and XLE might make better investment if oil prices do recover to more profitable prices since ETF linked to futures like USO, UCO and SCO do suffer from decay. It also seemed that DIG and DUG could be promising if OIH could recover as it should with the price of oil, but that they don't make a good proxy for the price of oil itself. 


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Watch the Phil Davis Special on Money Talk on BNN TV!

Kim Parlee interviews Phil on Money Talk. Be sure to watch the replays if you missed the show live on Wednesday night (it was recorded on Monday). As usual, Phil provides an excellent program packed with macro analysis, important lessons and trading ideas. ~ Ilene


The replay is now available on BNN's website. For the three part series, click on the links below. 

Part 1 is here (discussing the macro outlook for the markets) Part 2 is here. (discussing our main trading strategies) Part 3 is here. (reviewing our pick of th...

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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 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.

Thank you for you time!

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About Phil:

Philip R. Davis is a founder Phil's Stock World, a stock and options trading site that teaches the art of options trading to newcomers and devises advanced strategies for expert traders...

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