The Disconnect

It was 31 years ago, on Monday October 19th 1987 that the world discovered a new problem. It started as an anticipated stock market crash in Hong Kong, the result of a fairly obvious bubble. But it did not stop there. Within hours, exchanges opened up in the morning already down and panic pushing them lower, all around the world.

It was eventually blamed on “program trading” or automatic sell-offs directed by computers. Circuit breakers were put in place to stop it, and that was that. But it was the first sign that equity markets had become truly global and had much less to do with global conditions than everyone thought.

The lessons from this are much deeper than program trading, but they are much harder to learn.

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Trade Deficits – Bad?

The nearly permanent US trade deficit is getting a lot of attention. Surely, it’s a bad thing to send so much money outside the US when it could be providing jobs to American workers, yes? The problem largely goes without saying, and is never actually discussed.

But are trade deficits really that bad? As with most things in economics, the short answer is no but the long answer is yes. Let’s discuss.

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Fighting Back?

Difficult time appear to cal for action, but they demand first and foremost character and judgment. Unfortunately, Sen Elizabeth Warren failed spectacularly at demonstrating both.

Her desire to take a new approach to countering bullying and nonsense in public discourse is understandable, but it takes a lot more than a cute gimmick. Worse, her inability to navigate the delicate issues of race and identity have demonstrated that Democratic leadership is still generally clueless about this topic and will continue to only make things worse.

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Standard Time

On 4 November the United States will go through the ritual of changing over to Standard Time.  Spring water, fall down, as the saying goes – or something like that. It always seems perfectly ridiculous to think that somehow we “save” an hour when all we’re really doing is moving it around.

It’s even worse if you have friends or colleagues in Europe, which make the change a week earlier, on 28 October  For one week there will be six hours between St Paul and Frankfurt instead of the usual seven.  Next week it’s back to normal.

All this messing with the clocks only proves how artificial the whole idea of time is.  Perhaps we’re better off with one time across the globe.

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Coming Out Even

Barataria has long joked that economics is just sociology with a way of keeping score. Like most jokes, that’s an exaggeration with a kernel of truth at the heart of it. Where we should all be interested in fairly circulating wealth in a way that provides a good life for everyone and raising capital to get things done, people naturally want to know who is “winning” instead.

The stock market is the best, or worst, example of this. Where it should concentrate on raising capital for corporations, it is instead a kind of sporting match. Like any sport, it can be bet on. With the betting comes attempts to game the system which can work in the short term before it all eventually returns to the mean.

That is pretty much all that is happening right now, aside from attempts to game the overall economy with poorly considered deficits and trade wars.

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Patriot – Get Out And Vote

I first ran this piece ten years ago, and update it for every election.

Election Day is not a national holiday, at least not in the traditional sense. But it is the one day that our nation asks something from all of us, even if it’s just a few minutes. If you follow Calle Ocho through Little Havana in Miami on Election Day, you’ll see a long line houses with the red white and blue of US and Cuban flags stretching off into the horizon. Families sometimes come together across generations, as with any holiday, before they go off to vote. Cuban exiles in Miami are a people that know what it means to be free because freedom and good times are often best measured against their opposite.

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Columbus Day? Not So Much.

October is a good month for holidays in North America.  At the end of the month we have the collision of the Celtic Samhain with the Aztec / Spanish Dia de los Muertos which swirled into Halloween.  But in the middle is the difficult holiday, the one where we celebrate the connection of this continent with the rest of the world.  And the three brother nations of this continent have their own ways of marking it.  This is a repeat from 2011, updated.

To our North, in Canada, the first Monday after October 12th is  Thanksgiving, this year on the 13th.  To our South, in Mexico, the 12th is  Dia de la Raza.  Our brother nations here in North America have found things to celebrate in the early days of Autumn, but here in the USofA we have nothing but the pseudo-holiday Columbus Day – something we’ve tossed over our shoulders and given up on.

This may be a measure of our ability to get anything together.

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