Why in the name of the good one, should bonds be going down on news that the taper will be reduced by 25%. By how much are interest rates affected by an additional 25 billion of liquidity a quarter or so. None of my books on liquidity preference versus expectations seem to think it should be anything like it is. What a tendency to supine submission we mortals have.

Tyler Cowen writes: 

That is exactly my feeling. I have been asking this question for about two months now and nobody has a good answer for me…

It's as if only the current flow matter and the stock of liquid assets somehow fades into irrelevance. Strange.

Rocky Humbert writes:

Excuse me, gentlemen, But can either of you please explain the raisson d'etre for any investor (i.e. someone who buys and holds to maturity) to have purchased a 10 Year TIP at a non-trivial negative real yield — and which has been the case since QE started in earnest.

I submit that your perceptions of befuddlement may be due to price anchoring/recency bias — and that a previous dislocation due to fed interventions is finally being corrected. Investors are now sensibly demanding a positive real return on their fixed income investments. Sensible, unless we are in a persistent deflation. But if a persistent deflation is in the card, the stock market's nominal earnings expectations are horribly wrong.

I further note that bank CD rates are not rising with market rates. To me, this is a potentially ominous conundrum with the following potential explanations: (1) There's little demand for loans. (2) Bank capital rules are limiting their purchase of marketable securities. (3) Banks are funding their loans with overnight excess reserves. (4) Volker rule-type fears are limiting participation. (5) Banks have been told that short-rates won't rise for a really long time.



 One has to admit that Smith is the perfect exemplar of the regression fallacy with the luck being ephemeral and the skill a constant expectation. Whenever he plays and hits some lucky shots, the Knicks are sure to try to give it to him the next game and lose as the luck vanishes. What a terrible player he is, almost as bad as the other regression fallacy, Robinson, who at 4'10 likes to fight with all the bigs and is guaranteed to lose for Chicago. They should have special brands on people like that in Basketball and life so they could not cause continued damage. The forecaster who is hot is generally like that. The regression fallacy tintype should be distinguished from the useful idiot. People like Kaufman and "you know who" would be on this. I "got a little list".

Tyler Cowen writes:

I say Miami beats Memphis in six, which is OK for NBA ratings.

Smith simply isn't any good in the playoffs when others are playing real defense. The preferred model is that some individuals have zero or negative productivity in key situations.

Plus Jason Kidd woke up one morning and was 56 years old, all of a sudden.



Scott Brooks writes: 

Looking at this strictly from the "what is best for the NBA" perspective:

What the NBA wants is a NY/Miami and OKC/SA semi-final.

Then a Miami/OKC final…..although SA would be alright too as they have Duncan. However, OKC has just a bit more star power right now, so I give OKC the edge.

And with all due respect to NY…….. Even though NY has the more attractive population base, Miami just has too much star power (and a pretty good population base).

A Memphis/Indiana final would be a disaster….but the good news is that even if Indy can get past NY (which is very possible), they ain't getting past Miami.



Suppose there were 2 people in an economy. And they traded. The second lost a lot. The other did not. A central bank bought the asset that the second had to make him whole. The Treasury then spent the amount of the loss on better environmental things for government buildings. The money to pay for this would come from the first person in current taxes. What would happen? The total spending would not change as the second would have spent the money he was taxed or invested it with someone who would. The incentives of the second would decrease to zero so that there was no effort to improve any more. The situation would not be much different for 10 traders. The incentives would be ruined for the winners. The spending of the winners on voluntarily exchanged things would be replaced by political wasteful spending by the government. The economy would not grow. Jobs would not be created. Why is this not a reasonable model of what's happening now and what happened during the 30's when FDR tried similar government works?

T.K. Marks writes:

A creative academic sort might counter with a disingenuous application of Ramsey Theory, positing that unduly reducing the number of elements in the set strips it of the properties from which the desired outcome will emerge. According to such an approach, reducing the system to only 2 or 10 traders (i.e., dynamics easy to understand) would inherently alter the palliative effect of intervention models. Models which can only work on vast systems of millions of traders (i.e., dynamics extremely difficult to understand).

If somebody can sit before some House subcommittee on something-or- another and manage to keep a straight-face, the above can actually be pulled off. As a matter of fact, variants of it happen all day long in Washington.

"…Ramsey theory, named after the British mathematician and philosopher Frank P. Ramsey, is a branch of mathematics that studies the conditions under which order must appear. Problems in Ramsey theory typically ask a question of the form: "how many elements of some structure must there be to guarantee that a particular property will hold…"

Phil McDonnell writes: 

Rocky [see post below] makes some good points but at some point finesses the concept of (some?) politically wasteful spending into all government spending is wasteful. Personally I would posit that some government spending is always wasteful but not all is. On the other hand most government spending is uneconomic. I say this based on the fact that if the activity was economic then the private sector would probably have already done. it.



 I offer the following question only because I would appreciate some constructive criticism.

Free markets work well for short term investments, such as publicly traded commodities and equities. The free market falls down in long term investments because they lack liquidity and price discovery for investments lasting 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years.

How is a utility to finance capital improvement projects under such circumstances? I'm finding every investment organization I've talked to is unwilling to participate in a US deregulated power market asset because they cannot hedge their investment.

Today, few are financing power plants in deregulated regions because there is no bankable offtaker. The result is few power plants are being built in these areas.

What is the Austrian School's take on this challenge?

Henry Gifford responds:

As for deregulated electricity markets, I think what is currently called "deregulated" is different from what I think of as free market. I will use the California deregulation as an example.

When California deregulated the electricity markets, they formed three new state government agencies, one with monopoly power to sell electricity at the wholesale level. I have no idea what the other two did. The agency signed long term sale contracts with local utilities, and bought electricity from both in-state and out of state (California is a net importer) suppliers on the spot market or on short-term contracts. I repeat - they signed short term purchase contracts, and signed long term sale contracts for set prices. The agency made a few billion dollars of profit in a few years, as buyers were barred by law from buying from anyone else (remember, I am describing deregulation), and the state bought for a lower price than they sold for.

The inevitable happened - short term prices rose above the prices they had contracted to sell for. The state government did the inevitable: they passed price control laws, barring their suppliers from selling at a price that would be unprofitable for the state government (remember, I am describing deregulation). Out of state suppliers refused to sell at the lower prices, so the California governor asked the president to pass price controls for suppliers outside of California. The president did not do this. Meanwhile, suppliers went unpaid. I repeat - the state agency did not pay for what they had bought. Instead of paying, the state demanded to first investigate their allegations of "unfair profits" while the bills went unpaid. As out of state suppliers who were owed money were getting investigated, they refused to sell power to the state, and the lights went out. (repeat: I am describing deregulation). This gave deregulation a bad name for a generation, spawned the usual anti-freedom documentaries, and because the arrangement was called deregulation, free markets were also given a bad name. But, I don't think a government monopoly is a free market, and have never met anyone else who does. Instead, people just keep calling it deregulation and saying deregulation doesn't work, and the free market doesn't work, including many people who know the deregulation involved formation of monopolies, price controls, etc.

Now if you reread the description above, and think of the position you would be in if you were a producer of electricity in California, or were considering becoming a producer, or financing a new power plant, your lack of enthusiasm would be understandable, but have nothing to do with failure of what I think of as free markets, long term or short.

The statement that free markets fall down in long term investments is I think inaccurate. Lack of liquidity is priced into investments that are difficult to sell.

 I don't know what "price discovery" is. Real Estate is rather illiquid, but prices for most transactions are a matter of public record, and advertised prices for comparable properties are always available.

I would invest in an electricity producing plant in California if I thought the price was right. With some looking I would tell you what that price would be, which I think indicates there is no lack of price discovery for long-term investments.

Gary Rogan writes:

 It seems in retrospect that combining regulated rate utilities with unregulated power assets is asking for trouble. It's the same kind of trouble as defined benefits pension obligation funders eventually always have to face: when you promise something definite far into the future but the source of funds for your promise is indefinite, this has to blow up sooner or later for many participants. Nothing is ever really guaranteed and some percentage of attempts to make such promises will either run out of money or will have to ask the government for help. Some bonds in the "real world" become worthless, and some insurance companies promising life-time annuities go belly up.

There must be a long and complicated history of how natural regulated monopolies came into existence, but I bet they were accepted too easily. The real cost of energy cannot be projected too far into the future, and in what I would consider a "fair" world nobody would be guaranteed any particular rate of return, and anybody would be allowed to compete for the end customer's business, with property access rights of course being in private hands is so historically determined. Investments in new sources of power would only be made when the benefits were outrageously obvious or the investors were unwise. Even the wise investors would of course sometimes striker out. That's free market, and that's what delivers an ever increasing standard living. That said I will always look for monopolies to invest in where I can find them at reasonable prices. You have to somehow deal with the unfair world.

Tyler Cowen adds:

Maybe political risk is the worry.

If the market is pricing a Monet painting, or a forest, it seems quite well to account for the services yielded decades into the future…


Resources & Links