Money

Why the Extremes Are Gaining

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” —“The Second Coming” by W. B. Yeats Homo sapiens have lived on the earth for, let’s say, 350,000 years (since we separated from homo erectus). For 349,800 of those years, humans were desperately poor, diseased and ignorant. In the last 200 …

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The Rest of the “Great” Democracies

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” —“The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats Last week we observed that our own mother country, the United Kingdom (redubbed the Dis-United Kingdom) is crumbling before our very eyes. But the DUK is hardly alone. Let’s take a quick look at …

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Britain’s Dis-United Kingdom

“The risk is that moderates will be squeezed out as right and left inflame politics and provoke each other to move to the extremes.” —The Economist Last week we took a look at the Big 3, that is, the three biggest democracies in the world not counting the U.S. What we found was that, once …

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A Tour of the World’s Crumbling Democracies

“Around the world, radicalization is making coalition and consensus much harder” —Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times Last week I discussed the abdication of the political middle in the U.S. in favor of radical leftist, rightist and populist ideas. Instead of (as in the past) fringe ideas playing the role of informing public debate and …

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The Middle Abdicates

“I think the West has forgotten what democracy means.” —Vera Lengsfeld, holder of the Federal Cross of Merit, Germany’s highest civilian honor Roughly a million years ago I sat down one day and, in a fit of pique, wrote a long essay entitled, “The Essential Liberal.” That essay was published in a journal headquartered in …

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The Investment Policy Statement

“Te Kaitiaki Tãhua Penihana Kaumatua õ Aotearoa.” —The New Zealand Super Fund, in Mãori The final strategy Te Kaitiaki Tãhua Penihana Kaumatua õ Aotearoa follows (at least for purposes of this series of blog posts) is to create and follow religiously an investment policy statement (IPS). The Super Fund—switching back into English—calls its IPS a …

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Responsible Investing

We are observing how one of the world’s most successful investors—the New Zealand Super Fund—manages its capital, and considering whether we might not mimic some of what the Fund has been doing. The idea is to improve our own returns both on an absolute basis and on a risk-adjusted basis. Here are two more strategies …

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Are You Really Able to Think and Act Long Term?

Investing like the New Zealand Super Fund is surprisingly easy—in concept. In practice, of course, it’s devilishly difficult. Otherwise, we’d all be rich. To see why this is the case, let’s examine some of the key features of the Super Fund’s investment approach. Thinking and acting long term. We pointed out last week that merely …

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Invest Like the Super Fund

“Hi, I’m Joe and I just turned eight. I love playing with my Grandpa. Grandpa always has time to play with me. He says that’s because he is retired and gets his ‘super’ or pension payments from the Government.” —New Zealand Super Fund Explained (from a short animation on the Super Fund website explaining the …

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Hong Kong Will Mean China’s Demise

“China’s disintegration is now under way.” —Arthur Waldron, Lauder Professor of International Relations, University of Pennsylvania Following the Tiananmen Square fiasco, Beijing “knew” a few things it hadn’t known before. Beijing knew that offering its citizens modest economic and personal freedoms was dangerous to the health of the Communist Party. When you offered such freedoms, …

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The Waning Mao-Xi Dynasty

“Without democracy, China will rise no farther.” —Jiwei Ci, University of Hong Kong The history of China is long and violent and, more than anything else, it is an endless story of history repeating itself. Dynasty follows dynasty, beginning in 1250 BC with the Shang Dynasty and ending with the Mao-Xi Dynasty, which is still …

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It Turns Out Hong Kong Is Different

“‘One country, two systems’ was always little more than a useful fiction, but… China has shown just how unrealistic the idea ultimately was.” —Rodger Baker, Stratfor As my longest-suffering readers know—I have been saying it since 1997 and putting it in writing since 2003—the Chinese Communist Party is doomed. I’ve written about it in two books …

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The Brits Blew It in Hong Kong

“[China] looks increasingly like it has reached a dead end.” —Frank Dikötter, Professor, University of Hong Kong As we learned last week, from 1898 until 1997 Britain owned two of the three regions of Greater Hong Kong—in perpetuity—while China owned the third region, subject to a 99-year lease to Britain. Yet, in 1997, all of …

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In China, the Unraveling Begins

“It is time for the United States to stand up to China in Hong Kong.” —Elizabeth Warren Just for fun, let’s go back to 1842, which is when China “lost” Hong Kong. Most Westerners seem to think that the Brits had a 99-year lease on Hong Kong, that that lease terminated in 1997, and that …

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A Liberal Approach to Business

Because you study anything and everything at a liberal arts college, you might say that it resembles an episode of Seinfeld, the observational comedy show about nothing. And because nothing really prepares you for a business career, the liberal arts might make the best choice. Late one night in 1992, my father phoned, asking me …

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The Worst of All Possible Worlds, Conclusion

“How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways. I loathe thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach… I loathe thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose, I shall but loathe thee better after death.” —What Browning would say about Fedecbboj (central …

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Stop the Insanity!

“We recall not too long ago when extraordinary monetary policies were reserved for recessions or financial panics.” —Lead editorial, The Wall Street Journal Whenever I pull out the long knives for our friends at Fedecbboj (central bankers at the Fed, the ECB, and Bank of Japan), some of my gentle readers inevitably send me notes reading more or …

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The Worst of All Possible Worlds

“Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possibles. [All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.]” —Voltaire, “Candide” In the novella “Candide,” the cockeyed optimist Dr. Pangloss attempts to imbue his young mentee with Pangloss’s own incurable optimism. Candide does his best to remain hopeful, but as he travels …

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A Few Disastrous Examples of Government Overspending

“History is the most humbling of subjects.” —Wilfred M. McClay, Woodrow Wilson International Center As I’ve noted, the central thesis of Modern Monetary Theory is that a government that borrows in its own currency can never default because it can simply keep printing money to pay its debts. Hyperinflation, says MMT, can’t happen because as …

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A Closer Look at the “Panacea”

People whose political opinions put them well to the left of the center of American opinion will naturally find themselves sympathetic to many of the policy proposals put forth by the Democrat Presidential candidates. People well to the right of center will naturally be hostile to those policies. But almost everyone, including those in the …

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Modern Monetary Madness

When I think about MMT—Modern Monetary Theory—I visualize an odious miscreation squatting in its squalid swamp for decades, waiting only for an opportunity to erupt from the scum and devour the world’s economies. Okay, maybe I should be taking my meds… MMT’s main postulate, and it’s only raison d’être, is that a government that borrows …

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Pittsburgh: Buy, Sell or Hold?

We’ve asked a group of the region’s leading financial experts to give their opinion on the following question: “If the Pittsburgh region were an investable security, what changes, if any, would you want to see before you advised your clients to invest?” Their answers follow. Linda Duessel, Federated Investors: Pittsburgh already is a “buy.” It’s …

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