Category Archives: Free markets and their discontents

Media Giving Corporate Executives a Free Pass on Their Value Extraction

Executive rentiers and their media lackeys are invoking the canard that they can’t find decent investment opportunities. The truth is that they’ve exhausted the first and second lines of value extraction, that of labor-squeezing and disinvestment, and aren’t prepared to accept the lower but still attractive returns of taking real economy risks.

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Who Wins in the Financial Casino?

I received a message last week from a savvy reader, a former McKinsey partner who has also done among other things significant pro-bono work with housing not-for-profits (as in he has more interest and experience in social justice issues than most people with his background). His query:

We both know that financialization has, among so many other things, turned large swaths of the capital markets into a casino

Here’s my thought/question: is there a house?

The common wisdom is that the ‘house wins’ in casinos.

So, who or what was really the ‘house’?

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Bill Black: The New York Times’ Coverage of EU Austerity Remains Pathetic

Yves here. Bill Black shellacks a New York Times article that gives a big dose of unadulterated neoliberal propaganda supporting austerity. To give you a sense of the intellectual integrity of this piece, it including citing a Peterson Institute staffer without cluing readers in to the fact that the Institute has what is left of the middle class in its crosshairs.

Black stresses that one of the major lies behind the continuing for more, better hairshirts for long-suffereing Europeans is that the explosion in debt levels in Europe was the result of overly-generous social safety nets. In fact, as in the US, the tremendous rise in government debt levels was the direct result of the crisis. Tax revenues collapsed due to GDP whackage (and the costs continue as GDP is well below potential). And any economist worth their salt will also say that social safety nets ameliorated the severity of the damage, that those automatic stabilizers increased government spending when it was needed most, at the depth of the implosion, and prevented a spiral into a much deeper downturn.

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Are Advanced Economies Mature Enough to Handle No Growth?

Economists occasionally point out that societies generally move to the right during periods of sustained low growth and economic stress. Yet left-leaning advocates of low or even no growth policies rarely acknowledge the conflict between their antipathy towards growth and the sort of social values they like to see prevail. While some “the end of growth is nigh” types are simply expressing doubt that 20th century rates of increase can be attained in an era of resource scarcity, others see a low-growth future as attractive, even virtuous, with smaller, more autonomous, more cohesive communities.

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Burger King the Latest to Jump on the Corporate Tax Inversion Bandwagon

A number of corporations have engaged in corporate tax “inversions” this year, which typically involves a large U.S. company merging with a smaller counterpart in a lower-tax country abroad, then moving the corporate billing address to the lower-tax country to reduce the overall tax burden. The actual headquarters and the executives go nowhere, but the nominal address changes so the company can avoid U.S. tax rates. A number of corporations in the pharmaceutical space have pulled this off in 2014, but it took the drugstore giant Walgreen to flirt with the idea (through a merger with the Swiss company Alliance Boots) for the non-financial press and the public to really catch on. Outcry actually stopped Walgreen from going through with the inversion; they merged with Alliance Boots, but kept their headquarters in the U.S. Clearly, it was easier to rally public scrutiny to a consumer-facing brand attempting to skip out on America while still using the public resources afforded any company selling their wares here.

Now, the same coalition that stopped the Walgreen inversion will get another chance with Burger King:

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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, the Whale Oil Blog, and International Organized Crime

A new book is causing a stir in New Zealand. It’s called “Dirty Politics“. From the blurb:

Early in 2014 Nicky Hager was leaked a large number of email and online conversations from Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil blog. Many of these were between Slater and his personal allies on the hard right, revealing an ugly and destructive style of politics. But there were also many communications with the prime minister’s office and other Cabinet ministers in the National Government. They show us a side of Prime Minister John Key and his government of which most New Zealanders are completely unaware.

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Ilargi: Say Bye to the Bubble

Yves here. Only with the fullness of time will we know whether Ilargi’s “the end is nigh” headline will have coincided with the crack that signaled the sell-by date of the officialdom-induced post crisis rally. But Ilargi makes more interesting points than simply, as many done, point out that the bubble party has to end and the unwind is not likely to be pretty.

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The Forgotten Financial Panic of 1914, and the Eternal Recurrence of Short-Term Thinking

This week marks the 100th anniversary of a nearly forgotten yet critical moment in global finance. As the looming outbreak of World War I appeared more and more imminent when Austria made an ultimatum to Serbia in the last week of July 1914, the resulting fear in global markets set off a massive financial panic. Investors, fearing unpaid debts, pulled out of stocks and bonds in a scramble for cash, which at this point in history meant gold. The London Stock Exchange reacted by closing on July 31 and staying closed for five straight months. The U.S. stock exchange, which witnessed a mass dumping of securities by European investors in exchange for gold to finance the war, would also close on the same day, for about four months. Britain declared war while on a bank holiday. Over 50 countries experienced some form of asset depletion or bank run. Here’s an incredible statistic: “For six weeks during August and early September every stock exchange in the world was closed, with the exception of New Zealand, Tokyo and the Denver Colorado Mining Exchange.”

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