History of gold

March 31, 2009

Good stuff on the history of gold in the 20th Century: here and here.

It's funny.  If you could go back in time and tell everyone involved in the debates – about gold during these earlier eras – that gold in 2009 would be selling at close to $1000, it would be clear to them which side of the debate had the better argument – the side that wanted to maintain monetary ties to gold.  Yet now, everyone thinks otherwise.

The more history I read the more often I come across the same phenomenon.  A debate emerges and one side says that if A happens B will happen (B being something everyone at the time agrees is bad).  The other side says that if A happens B will not happen.  The latter side wins and A happens.  B then follows in short order.  Yet, when we look back on things, we all side with the latter side and consider the proponents of the former side absurd.  Being right seems to have nothing to do with popular and being considered correct in the eyes of mainstream history.


Review of "The Duke’s Children" by Anthony Trollope

March 31, 2009

With the end of this book, I end the entire Palliser Novel series.  This one wasn't my favorite.  I thought the love stories were much flatter than those of the other novels.  Nevertheless, I'm sad to see it end.

Since the novels revolve around politics, I'll end with a little on that.  It appears that the futility of conservatism against liberalism was evident in Trollope's day (first paragraph is from a letter to the Duke from his son):

He says that, if there were no Conservatives, such Liberals as you and Mr. Monk would be destroyed by the Jacobins. There is something in that. Whether a man is a Conservative or not himself, I suppose there ought to be Conservatives.
The Duke as he read this made a memorandum in his own mind that he would explain to his son that every carriage should have a drag to its wheels, but that an ambitious soul would choose to be the coachman rather than the drag.

Yet perhaps we also see a paradox of liberalism.  The Duke – who was a Liberal Prime Minister – sees his children grow up to be somewhat disappointing.  None of them have any sense of duty – the sons also seem borderline worthless.  He sees his ideals dying and yet the death of these ideals is a logical consequence of his political views.  Uniquely among the 7 Trollope novels I've now read, children seem to end up happy after marrying against the advice of their father.

I'm not sure what it all means – besides that Trollope, a Liberal, had a much more nuanced view of politics than the average intellectual of our day – but I'll present it for thought.

Review of "Egil’s Saga"

March 31, 2009

I enjoyed the book – as I have the other sagas I've read.  I don't think I have much to add to this, so I'll leave it there.

More fascism

March 31, 2009

Our economic policy (Republican and Democrat at this point) is very similar to Mussolini's.  But we shouldn't call them the same thing because Hitler did some bad stuff.  Seriously, that's the argument.

Chinese economy

March 31, 2009

From Foreign Policy:

The story from the Great Depression has an uncanny echo in current debates about international economic leadership, with the United States playing the role of Britain — the exhausted debtor economy — and China taking the place of the United States as the world's largest creditor. But if China is the America of this century, can it do a better job than the United States did in the 1930s? The way in which the emerging superpower takes to this role will determine in large part how the world will emerge from the downturn and the shape of the new global economic order that will follow.

Leaving aside some historical quibbles I have with the author's account of the Great Depression, I think this is an interesting subject to think on.  From the perspective of a free-marketeer who believes in small government (let's limit this discussion to economics for now), it's not at all clear to me that following China is worse than following the US.  At this point, both systems have nationalized financial sectors.  So, I am cautiously optimistic about the prospect of a more Chinese financial system.

Total cost of bailout update

March 31, 2009

With breakdown by Agency


March 30, 2009

It's time to call it what it is:

President Obama has done something far more serious. He has already, in less than 100 days, moved the U.S. economy further towards fascism. Sean Hannity and other critics keep criticizing Obama for his socialist leanings. But the more accurate term for many of his measures, especially in the financial markets and the auto market, is fascism.

An explanation of the auto bailout

March 30, 2009

It's as good as anyone else's explanation

Market manipulation via AIG

March 30, 2009

Great post from – the wonderfully named – Mr Durden.  I wouldn't be as sure as he is that AIG decided to do this alone.  My guess would be that the government pushed AIG to do this.  The government is already using Fannie and Freddie to manipulate the mortgage market, why wouldn't they use AIG to manipulate the OTC derivative market?

Deflation and inflation

March 29, 2009

In the FT:

Economists of monetarist and Keynesian persuasions disagree about many things. However, they are currently united in their views on inflation. They see the risk of deflation as being far greater. This conventional wisdom is reflected in extremely low yields for government bonds in Europe and the US. Yet a resurgence of inflation may be closer than many believe.

I'd be willing quite a bit on big inflation in the near future, despite the fact that all branches of mainstream economics suggest otherwise.  It will be to see how mainstream economists justify continuing to believe in their theories after they are proved wrong yet again.