Sunday, 4 September 2011

Professors and Stock Markets don't mix

The (securely tenured) economist Robert Shiller seems to need some help in understanding stock market movements. In the New York Times he tries to explain the recent stock market volatility. But if he - or anyone else - thinks that this volatility was anything particularly exceptional he should just have a look back and he will find that the Cuban Missile Crisis of President Kennedy's stand-off with the Steel Industry in the early sixties also caused sharp sell-offs in the stock market. In the big picture a drop of 15 or even 20 per cent is nothing out of the ordinary. Any investor worth his salt knows that markets tend to decline more rapidly than they rise and if anything should be glad that he is offered the opportunity to acquire shares at much reduced prices.

Poor Advice - we need to freshen up economist gene pool

When a former economic adviser to Ronald Reagan claims that the US debt amounts to $211 trillion one has to wonder who ever believes a word uttered by a representative of that 'science'. Adding up all future entitlements and other spending to arrive at this gargantuan number is the same as adding an individual's expected lifetime spending and declaring that he was 'in debt' by the resulting amount. The number would not be pretty - not for anyone past or present. This type of facile calculation forgets completely that the spending would (hopefully) be paid for by future earnings. To forget the income (or tax) side of the equation is a mistake that no serious economist should ever make. It produces good (and alarmist) headlines only.