Daily Archives: March 1, 2017

In praise of cash

BOOK REVIEW

The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance, Author: Brett Scott.
The Curse of Cash, Author: Kenneth Rogoff.

By Brett Scott – So here I am, the tired individual rationally seeking sugar. The market is before me, fizzy drinks stacked on a shelf, presided over by a vending machine acting on behalf of the cola seller. It’s an obedient mechanical apparatus that is supposed to abide by a simple market contract: If you give money to my owner, I will give you a Coke. So why won’t this goddamn machine enter into this contract with me?

This is market failure.

To understand this failure, we must first understand that we live with two modes of money. ‘Cash’ is the name given to our system of physical tokens that are manually passed on to complete transactions. This first mode of money is public. We might call it ‘state money’. Indeed, we experience cash like a public utility that is ‘just there’.

This second mode of money is essentially private, running off an infrastructure collectively controlled by profit-seeking commercial banks and a host of private payment intermediaries – like Visa and Mastercard – that work with them. The data inscriptions in your bank account are not state money.

Rather, your bank account records private promises issued to you by your bank, promising you access to state money should you wish. Having ‘£500’ in your Barclays account actually means ‘Barclays PLC promises you access to £500’. The ATM network is the main way by which you convert these private bank promises – ‘deposits’ – into the state cash that has been promised to you. The digital payments system, on the other hand, is a way to transfer – or reassign – those bank promises between ourselves.

The cashless society – which more accurately should be called the bank-payments society – is often presented as an inevitability, an outcome of ‘natural progress’. This claim is either naïve or disingenuous. Any future cashless bank-payments society will be the outcome of a deliberate war on cash waged by an alliance of three elite groups with deep interests in seeing it emerge. more> https://goo.gl/KRlMGW

Updates from Chicago Booth

What happened to your goals?
By Alice G. Walton – The problem with big resolutions is that motivation tends to wane over time, says Chicago Booth’s Ayelet Fishbach, who studies motivation and decision making. People start out strong, but then reality sets in as they realize it’s easier to set goals than to carry them out.

Research by Fishbach and others can help people salvage failed goals, or achieve new ones.

Every endeavor has a starting point and an end point, which can be as specific as meeting a work deadline in one week or as general as losing weight. One reason many people fail to reach their objectives, says Fishbach, is that they tend to set goals that are difficult or even impossible to achieve, or too general. Making them more concrete and achievable—goals you can envision yourself completing—may yield better results.

Yet effective targets should be ambitious. As long as the goal is within reach, the more you expect from yourself, the more you’ll achieve, as people often respond to a challenge by working harder. more> https://goo.gl/drSWPY

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Updates from Georgia Tech

Four-Stroke Engine Cycle Produces Hydrogen from Methane and Captures CO<sub2
By John Toon – When is an internal combustion engine not an internal combustion engine? When it’s been transformed into a modular reforming reactor that could make hydrogen available to power fuel cells wherever there’s a natural gas supply available.

By adding a catalyst, a hydrogen separating membrane and carbon dioxide sorbent to the century-old four-stroke engine cycle, researchers have demonstrated a laboratory-scale hydrogen reforming system that produces the green fuel at relatively low temperature in a process that can be scaled up or down to meet specific needs. The process could provide hydrogen at the point of use for residential fuel cells or neighborhood power plants, electricity and power production in natural-gas powered vehicles, fueling of municipal buses or other hydrogen-based vehicles, and supplementing intermittent renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics.

Known as the CO2/H2 Active Membrane Piston (CHAMP) reactor, the device operates at temperatures much lower than conventional steam reforming processes, consumes substantially less water and could also operate on other fuels such as methanol or bio-derived feedstock. It also captures and concentrates carbon dioxide emissions, a by-product that now lacks a secondary use – though that could change in the future.

Unlike conventional engines that run at thousands of revolutions per minute, the reactor operates at only a few cycles per minute – or more slowly – depending on the reactor scale and required rate of hydrogen production. And there are no spark plugs because there’s no fuel combusted. more> https://goo.gl/h4K7fV

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Will President Trump derail the U.S. economy?

By George L. Perry – The stock market should like these economic proposals for several reasons.

Lower tax rates directly raise after-tax profits. Faster expansion from the fiscal push means higher profits. And reducing regulations cuts costs and raises profits. Banks, which are a clear target for deregulation, also benefit from higher interest rates that raise lending profits. No surprise their stocks have been the best performers in the market rally.

he impact of these budgetary policies in the longer run are more murky.

Today’s Congress is likely to give the Administration most of what it asks for. And one big risk in this is that budgetary projections will be made based on dynamic scoring that assumes the programs produce large increases in productivity growth, and so project unrealistically fast growth in the economy’s potential output and revenues.

The CBO and Finance Committee make professional assessments of these supply-side effects in estimating future budgetary impacts of tax changes. But the Administration will push for more generous estimates of future revenues that will make the tax and budget proposals more palatable at present.

This will only put off dealing with long-run budget deficits and a rising ratio of debt-to-GDP that is projected as the population ages. The adverse effects of swelling debt will be someone else’s problem at some future time. more> https://goo.gl/th1nzJ

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