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Old 04-08-2009, 09:13 AM   #1 (permalink)
 
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an alternate view of the current economic crisis

i just stumbled across this article and found it to be really quite interesting.
i'll bite this as a teaser

Quote:
Abstract:

This is the first in a series of short articles we plan to write on the current crisis. Our aim in this series is threefold: to outline some of the important contours of the crisis; to situate these patterns in historical context; and to reflect on their possible causes and implications.

Since the crisis is still ongoing, such analysis can only be cursory and suggestive. But it is nonetheless useful to put our preliminary research and thoughts in writing. By spelling out what we do know (or think we know) about the crisis, we can better identify what we don’t know and need to ask.

This paper sets the stage for the series. It outlines the conventional wisdom about the cause of crisis; it describes the chronology of events; and it contrasts the pattern and magnitude of the current downturn with those of earlier episodes. The overall picture painted by this analysis is highly stylized: crises appear to come and go with remarkable regularity, their oscillations are fairly similar and they share the same order of magnitude. The whole process seems almost “automatic,” and automaticity is reassuring: it suggests that the current crisis has run much of its course and that doom and gloom will soon give way to a new upswing.

But what if this automaticity is a mirage?
the full article is here:

Contours of Crisis

i'm doing it this way in part because there are graphics in the article that help clarify it, so head to the link...

the demonstration is pretty well encapsulated in the abstract--with the question that concludes it the central point.

another way of stating it is: we are in the main seduced by the illusion of objectivity that we impute to number and that of regularity which we impute to cycle-like behaviors. consequently, the current economic crisis is understood as finance-driven, and as understandable in the context of repetitive cycles. so there's nothing particularly significant about this one beyond it's severity.

i haven't bought this line from the outset, and many of the threads i've put up about the ideological/economic crisis have been geared around seeing in it the outlines of a basic political--and (though less clearly imaged as a function of the way infotainment operates, shaped by the same illusions concerning number and "objectivity" as is demolished in the article)--social transformation.

this article tries to push through the illusions noted above and ends with this argument:

Quote:
Financial Cycles and the Reordering of Society

It is easy to fall for the aesthetic gyrations of the stock market. Their stylized cycles make them look natural. They “revert to mean,” as Francis Galton would have it. They oscillate within fairly clear boundaries. Their ups and downs seem almost automatic (at least in retrospect). Their regularities are so neat many are tempted to forget David Hume and extrapolate the past into the future.

And here lies the problem. The long-term cycles of the stock market, no matter how stylized and regular they seem, are not self-generating. They don’t just happen on their own. Each cycle has a reason, and that reason is deeply social and historically unique.

Note that, during the twentieth century, every oscillation from a bear to a bull market was accompanied by a systemic societal transformation:

*
The crisis of 1905–1920 marked the closing of the American Frontier, the shift from robber-baron capitalism to large-scale business enterprise and the beginning of synchronized finance.
*
The crisis of 1928–1948 signaled the end of “unregulated” capitalism and the emergence of large governments and the welfare-warfare state.
*
The crisis of 1968–1981 marked the closing of the Keynesian era, the resumption of worldwide capital flow and the onset of neoliberal globalization.

Furthermore, none of these transformations were “in the cards.” Most observers in the 1900s didn’t expect managerial capitalism to take hold; few in the 1920s anticipated the welfare-warfare state; and not too many in the 1960s predicted neoliberal regulation. All three transformations involved a complex set of conflicts, their trajectories were all fuzzy, and their outcomes were all but impossible to anticipate.

In other words, underneath the seemingly repetitive long-term patterns of the market lies an open-ended and inherently unpredictable reordering of the entire political economy. Although past bear markets have always given way to long bull runs, these transitions were never automatic. Each and every one of them reflected a profound transformation of the underlying social structure. And in our view, this correspondence still holds. In order for the current crisis to end and a new upswing to begin, something very big has to happen: the social structure must change.
but it makes more sense in context, so do read the article if you have the time.

the question is what you make of both parts of it---the attack on the reliance on number, on repetition and cycles in the stock market as a coherent indicator of activity beyond the stock market on the one hand, and the claim that what we're seeing is more comprehensible in terms of a longer-term **social-historical** pattern which seems to align significant economic crisis with basic social and political transformation.

if this last assessment is correct, it seems safe to say that we are really not being served at all by the dominant media apparatus, which seems incapable of structuring information about such change in ways that fits its factoid-based minimal time-frame oriented mode of presentation...

but what do you make of this?
it seems a basic challenge to how alot of folk think about what's happening around us.
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Old 04-08-2009, 04:45 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The media has the ability to explain what is happening, it always has. Each medium -- newspapers, radio, TV, etc. -- are all capable of hosting cogent discussions. Unfortunately, the ways in which public discourse as evolved over time has drastically diminished the demand to engage at anything more than an infantile level.

What we have today is all headlines and little in depth investigation.

This begs the question: was there ever much in the way of "in depth investigation"?

Given what is suggested above, the idea that nobody saw the next thing coming, I would suggest the answer is no. I would also suggest that any understanding of what happened is always backward looking... when it happens at all. As such, we will continue to muddle through with very little in the way of a "road map" just as we always have.
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Old 07-15-2009, 09:56 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm not sure if we'll be out of this one easy either, and I do think it could represent the beginning of a major change as well. Look up an article online titled "From the Subprime Crisis to the Financial Meltdown, Peak Oil the Hidden Responsible".

It would seem that what will happen is that once it starts to "recover" in full tilt, oil prices will once again surge to $150 per barrel and likely beyond, and that will just throw it into trouble again. And then prices will drop, but to a lower bottom than before. Then it will try to "recover" again, and the cycle will repeat, with the floor under the prices going up higher so each dip isn't as low as the one before... beginning a new era of volatility and instability. If we've reached, are past, or are very near to reaching "Peak Oil", then we are entering a new phase of history that I believe will eventually spell the doom of consumerism and extravagant materialism. If this is the beginning, we are in for a very long, possibly difficult, maybe even painful, but certainly very revolutionary, ride. It may be literally require revamping the entire structure of civilization itself, at least what has been built in the past 130 years from oil and gas.
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Old 07-16-2009, 03:12 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Roachboy, an off topic question, if you would so indulge me?
You present many interesting insights into economics and markets.
I'm curious as to whether you have any interest in using your insights to actually make money in the markets, and if you have been able to do so succesfully.
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Old 07-16-2009, 08:49 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlatan View Post
The media has the ability to explain what is happening, it always has. Each medium -- newspapers, radio, TV, etc. -- are all capable of hosting cogent discussions. Unfortunately, the ways in which public discourse as evolved over time has drastically diminished the demand to engage at anything more than an infantile level.
I'm not sure I totally agree with this. While it's absolutely true that the media could be more intellectually honest about the economy, I'm not sure they could really lay the entire thing out for people to digest, even if they had several 2-hour specials or an entire front page. Any meaningful overview would have to include what I suspect is the equivalent of several college level economics and history classes in order to really provide the exact reasons as to how this happened and why. Moreover, even among the more informed there seem to be disagreements about the amount of effect each of the variables had on the result. Not only that, but any true retelling of how this happened would mean exposés on many of the financial contributors and even owners of media outlets.

Right now people are blaming everyone from the Federal Reserve to Goldman Sachs to congress to capitalism. And to varying extents, they're all right and all wrong. I've seen a lot of good theories out there, such as the article above and the recent Rolling Stone article on GS. I would guess that if any news outlet really did roll up their sleeves and try to honestly lay out the whole thing, they'd have some very, very smart people speaking out and saying they're wrong even if the report ends up being well done.

Unless there's a single article out there somewhere that sums up the entire thing, and the article above seems to be missing several components that I've read about elsewhere, we're not going to have an agreement.
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Old 07-18-2009, 06:12 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I have seen several articles which I thought gave a good account of what caused the present financial crisis. One of them (I don't recall where it was) pointed out the part played by spending beyond our means both by companies and by individuals. This can not be done indefinitely, and bankruptcy follows.

Another good article was in the New York Times on June 1, 2009. The title was "In Crisis, Banks Dig In for Fight Against Rules" by Gretchen Morgenson and Don Van Natta, Jr. It pointed out how the removal of certain regulations for banks and other financial institutions several years ago opened the door for abuses such as credit-default swaps and other "derivatives" , and the government encouraging mortgage companies to make loans to people who could not afford them.

All this led to the real estate bubble, the "flipping" of houses, and the eventual collapse of house values. This explains most of it to me.
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Old 07-18-2009, 07:36 AM   #7 (permalink)
 
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eribrav: that's an interesting question to me, anyway, because it never crossed my mind to play the market. much of the way i am interested in the various constructs that we call "the economy" follows from my trying to wade into what i guess you'd call a "post-marxist" frame for radical political action. i put post-marxist in quotes because i don't really see what's taking shape conceptually as that oriented toward marx, but that's another matter. i come out of an academic background and am still a bit oriented toward producing at least some stuff in that space. so the markets i suppose i've played in are those in which types of writing circulate, and i've had some success in there. but i'm thinking about your question more as i write this. i wonder why you ask....

=========================

a subtext in the op--which i had forgotten about---is (again) the problem of ideology or conceptual framing. the cyclical metaphors the article outlines and criticizes have the effect of evacuating the present, and as a consequence eliminating the open-endedness not just of this (at best) transitional phase in the ideological framing of the various modalities of capitalism.

organizationally these changes are well advanced and if there's a fundamental problem here it is that the implications of these organizational/geographical mutations have outstripped the conceptual spaces that had been used to deal-or more often not deal---with them, to think them out, to stage implications, to work out ways to address them---so political language, which links to wider conceptual games, cannot adequately stage the social world it confronts. it can't do it. we are in a fundamental cognitive problem. it's hard for me to see much coming of it other than more problems, deeper ones.

not only are the conceptual games in trouble, but the situation is compounded not only by the specific inabilities of the media apparatus to do anything beyond repeating the problem, but all the more by the tyranny of "the normal"---the requirement that continuity be asserted and maintained at the expense of questions that would disturb it. in this you see one of the basic political functions of contemporary mass media--the dissemination of reassurance through the construction of fictions of normalcy. apparently folk have come to rely on a basic underlying narrative of continuity relative to which all other narratives are staged (you know, stories about "problems" or "crises" or "tragedies" or whatever)...and the operating of the existing socio-economic order relies on this reliance. this was one of the incoherent criticisms of the dominant media floated from the right during the earlier phases of this transition--that the problem was the disruption of these continuity stories, which was creating what it purported to describe by bumming people out. it's almost like this idiotic interpretation got traction, so now we're in this bizarre space of enforced and largely fictional normalicy.

which has paralyzed efforts to actually address what is happening.

all we've seen is half-baked stop-gap moves whose entire purpose is to enable the reassertion of narratives of continuity.

this isn't over, btw.
i really see this as the united states moving through the period of collapse of empire, a sad, pathetic dreamspace in which no-one seems capable of looking at what's happening, everyone retreats into routine and hopes that what they sense might be the case turns out not to be the case. a world of denial and unmarked disintegration.
running away from the present, running away from all forms of open-endedness...

one of the best short views of this sort of situation with respect to the centrality of stories about normalcy is in "the harder they come" in the exchange between the head of studio one and the chief of police over the latter's plan to interrupt the top 40 to make an announcement about jimmy cliff's character, that he is a Wanted Man.

a fine long performance of the implosion of empire is robert musil's the man without qualities.
have a look at it sometime.
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Old 07-18-2009, 07:38 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Note that, during the twentieth century, every oscillation from a bear to a bull market was accompanied by a systemic societal transformation:
Correlation does not equal causation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlatan View Post
Given what is suggested above, the idea that nobody saw the next thing coming, I would suggest the answer is no. I would also suggest that any understanding of what happened is always backward looking... when it happens at all. As such, we will continue to muddle through with very little in the way of a "road map" just as we always have.
There were some people who predicted exactly what happened, but nobody wanted to believe it.

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Old 07-18-2009, 08:16 AM   #9 (permalink)
Please touch this.
 
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Hahah.. they were laughing this guy off the show and he was right. Love it.
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Old 07-18-2009, 12:33 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Master_Shake View Post
Correlation does not equal causation.

There were some people who predicted exactly what happened, but nobody wanted to believe it.

YouTube - Peter Schiff Was Right 2006 - 2007 (2nd Edition)
The sad part is the people who predicted this almost exactly, still aren't being looked towards for advice in setting policy to get back on the right track.

I remember the saying about doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get different results. The debt problem that caused this isn't going to be solved by creating more debt.
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Old 07-18-2009, 03:58 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roachboy View Post
eribrav: that's an interesting question to me, anyway, because it never crossed my mind to play the market. much of the way i am interested in the various constructs that we call "the economy" follows from my trying to wade into what i guess you'd call a "post-marxist" frame for radical political action. i put post-marxist in quotes because i don't really see what's taking shape conceptually as that oriented toward marx, but that's another matter. i come out of an academic background and am still a bit oriented toward producing at least some stuff in that space. so the markets i suppose i've played in are those in which types of writing circulate, and i've had some success in there. but i'm thinking about your question more as i write this. i wonder why you ask....

=========================
I ask because I come at this from a totally different background and find your postings interesting.
I actively trade equities and options using a mix of fundamental and technical analysis.
I really enjoy reading about macroeconomics, even independent of my trading but the markets are loaded with people who largely ignore the work of academics. The general sense is that sound work comes from those who are actually in the markets and have shown that they can make money, whereas the academics get much less respect if they have never actually been involved in markets directly.
As an example, many investing and portfolio management classes are taught by people who have never actually proven they can succeed in those markets. Many of us question the value of those classes and would rather see someone learn on their feet from working at a hedge fund or trading "in the pits".
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