The Motorola Hint is an earable, not a headset http://t.co/3G4UPmOfv6 a wireless earbud to control your smartphone— Stowe Boyd (@stoweboyd) September 5, 2014
Gov. Jerry Brown, during last night’s gubernatorial debate with Republican rival Neel Kashkari, talking about a law that would make California the first state to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. (via latimes)
An algorithmically curated Twitter will look more like television - Zeynep Tufecki http://t.co/naGW8hGV1K What advertisers like— Stowe Boyd (@stoweboyd) September 5, 2014
The Economist reviews Martin Wolf’s The Shifts and the Shocks: What We’ve Learned—and Have Still to Learn—from the Financial Crisis, and shows a centrist going rogue. The world economy has not healed itself following the last bust in 2008 because the systemic issues have not been addressed: there is too much of a reliance on banks and too little effort into making our financial systems resilient. Wolf seems to have seen through the fog of confusion arising from the crash of the economy, and he sees we are in the postnormal, where everything has changed.
The Economist, The world economy: How to fix a broken system
Mr Wolf’s proposals stem from an exhaustive assessment of the origins and contours of the crisis, which make up the bulk of the book. Plenty has already been written on this; “The Shifts and the Shocks” contains little that has not been said elsewhere. Mr Wolf’s contribution is comprehensiveness and a piercing logic in piecing the disparate elements together. He weaves the macroeconomic and financial elements of the crisis, its origins and aftermath, into an all-encompassing analysis. Along the way he demolishes many of the popular explanations—such as that the mess was due to greedy bankers or to loose monetary policy—as too simplistic.
The result is convincing and depressing; there are no quick fixes. The origins of the crisis lie in the revolutionary changes in the structure of the global economy and finance in the 1990s and early 2000s (these are the “shifts” of the book’s title). The macroeconomic shift was the emergence of a “savings glut” as countries from China to Germany saved more than they invested, pushing down real interest rates. Both at a global level and within the euro area financial innovation and freer capital mobility transformed these excess savings into huge cross-border capital flows, sending asset prices and credit soaring and, in the process, creating an inherently fragile financial system. Unfettered finance transformed the savings glut into a credit bubble. And in both cases the bursting of that bubble worsened the savings glut, as households, companies and governments in Europe slashed their spending.
Mr Wolf argues that the post-crisis recovery has been feeble because too many policymakers failed to understand this dynamic. Rather than accepting that bigger fiscal deficits would be the natural counterweight to private thrift, politicians pushed for austerity. Far too little emphasis was put on restructuring unpayable debts. At the same time, the underlying causes of the savings glut have, if anything, become stronger as deeper factors such as rising inequality have kept overall spending weak. Larry Summers, a Harvard economist, has argued that the rich world faces “secular stagnation”. Mr Wolf also believes that weak demand is here to stay. So, too, is the fragility of finance. Despite “manic rule making” he argues that banks are still a powder keg, with insufficient capital, and are liable to wreak havoc when they blow up.
This grim assessment leads Mr Wolf towards radicalism, both in macroeconomic and financial reforms. His more moderate suggestions include requiring banks to hold vastly more capital and the creation of insurance schemes that allow emerging economies, the most plausible engines of demand, to import capital safely and sustainably. But moderate change may not be enough. Pushing his analysis to its logical conclusion, he argues that the only way to deal with today’s underlying problems—a fragile financial system and a secular weakness in demand—may be to move away from bank-based credit altogether and rely on permanent budget deficits financed by central banks. Forcing banks to match their deposits with safe government bonds would reduce the risks of bank crashes and encourage a healthier reliance on equity finance. Permanent money-financed deficits would, in turn, provide a safer way to sustain spending than private-asset booms and busts. If done responsibly, they need not cause inflation.
Radical to admit that the financial markets are not self-regulating. The next step is to move control of the financial system out of the hands of those who make money by manipulating financial markets.
There are some things too important to run by wagering.
Oliver Richenstein, Putting Thought Into Things