Daily Archives: February 9, 2021

Finance Is Not the Economy

An economy based increasingly on rent extraction by the few and debt buildup by the many is a feudal model
By Dirk Bezemer and Michael Hudson – Why have economies polarized so sharply since the 1980s, and especially since the 2008 crisis? How did we get so indebted without real wage and living standards rising, while cities, states, and entire nations are falling into default? Only when we answer these questions can we formulate policies to extract ourselves from the current debt crises. There is widespread sentiment that this crisis is fundamental, and that we cannot simply “go back to normal.” But deep confusion remains over the theoretical framework that should guide analysis of the post-bubble economy.

The last quarter century’s macro-monetary management, and the theory and ideology that underpinned it, was lauded by leading macroeconomists asserting that “The State of Macro[economics] is Good” (Blanchard 2008, 1). Oliver Blanchard, Ben Bernanke, Gordon Brown, and others credited their own monetary policies for the remarkably low inflation and stable growth of what they called the “Great Moderation” (Bernanke 2004), and proclaimed the “end of boom and bust,” as Gordon Brown did in 2007. But it was precisely this period from the mid-1980s to 2007 that saw the fastest and most corrosive inflation in real estate, stocks, and bonds since World War II.

Nearly all this asset-price inflation was debt-leveraged. Money and credit were not spent on tangible capital investment to produce goods and non-financial services, and did not raise wage levels. The traditional monetary tautology MV=PT, which excludes assets and their prices, is irrelevant to this process. Current cutting-edge macroeconomic models since the 1980s do not include credit, debt, or a financial sector (King 2012; Sbordone et al. 2010), and are equally unhelpful. They are the models of those who “did not see it coming” (Bezemer 2010, 676).

In this article, we present the building blocks for an alternative. This will be based on our scholarly work over the last few years, standing on the shoulders of such giants as John Stuart Mill, Joseph Schumpeter, and Hyman Minsky. more>

Updates from McKinsey

How capital markets keep us connected
Nasdaq’s 50th anniversary reminds us that markets should be more inclusive, share more information, inspire innovation, and bring the world together.
By Tim Koller – Fifty years ago this February 8, a UNIVAC 1108 mainframe computer blinked on in sleepy Trumbull, Connecticut. Thus was born the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation system, or Nasdaq, the world’s first all-electronic stock exchange, where securities could be bought and sold online in real time.

Well, almost.

While the network did flash “bids” and “asks” of prices, users could not actually buy or sell through their computers. Instead, dealers sat before individual Nasdaq terminals and made their trades by telephone—as they would for the next 13 years. The Nasdaq came into being not as a platform for execution but as a source of information and innovation to help facilitate trades by participants across distant locations.

In that way, Nasdaq took its cues from the first modern stock market, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange (now known as Euronext). It didn’t convene at a single or set address during its early years, nor did it actually sell stock certificates, at least in present-day terms. Founded in 1602, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange arose initially as a means for people to subscribe to, and then to sell, percentages of Dutch East India Company net profits. The selling and reselling of these interests, in an iterative series of individual, bargained-for trades, aggregated into “the market.” Trades took place wherever merchants happened to meet, at any hour of the day.

As trading proliferated, the imperative for information did, too. Prices weren’t imposed by fiat; they couldn’t be. Why part from your money or your shares if you didn’t believe you would come out ahead in the bargain? Within a few decades of its founding, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange included trades by forward contracts (already well in use in Europe and around the world for commodities transactions), selling securities short and even buying on margin. Investors understood that the value of their trade relied on the probability of future profits, which meant that the advantage tilted to the diligent, the perceptive, and the informed.

Early stock market investors (there were more than a thousand of them, right from the start) were eager to subscribe when the Dutch East India Company “went public” because, as merchants and traders themselves, they could perceive the potential for high returns. It wasn’t unusual for ships sailing back from East India to realize profits of 100-fold. It also wasn’t unusual for profits to be zero; when fleets set out from Amsterdam, Delft, Rotterdam, and Zeeland, all might be lost to weather, pirates, or scurvy. That vessels did manage to travel the thousands of miles and back was a triumph of innovation and risk taking. Pooling investments and sailing multiple times allowed more investors to create wealth. It also helped protect against losing everything in a single, misbegotten voyage. 1

Soon, stock exchanges were forming or emerging out of existing bourses across the Atlantic and Mediterranean. The more people the better. Larger markets meant greater liquidity, the opportunity to sell and resell equity interests to an ever-growing pool of investors. More markets also meant more opportunity to be closer to the action, as shipping, trade, and commerce brought continents and cultures together. more>

Updates from Ciena

Adaptive Learning is the Future of Education. Are Education Networks Ready?
Educators are increasingly leaning on EdTech and Adaptive Learning tools that personalize and improve the student learning experience. Ciena’s Daniele Loffreda details the critical role the network plays in making these disruptive new learning tools a reality.
By Daniele Loffreda – As teachers and administrators strive to improve student performance and graduation rates, they’re increasingly leveraging new Educational Technology (EdTech) to deliver a higher quality learning experience. Digital applications such as streaming video, mixed-reality, gamification, and online global collaboration enable a “learning beyond the classroom walls” environment.

However, educators are quickly realizing that even with EdTech innovations, the traditional “one-size-fits-all” approach to education fails to make the grade. Student populations are increasingly diverse in terms of culture, location, economic background, and learning styles. Educators are increasingly aware that not everyone can absorb the lesson plan in the same way, and that teaching needs to be more personalized to the individual student. To provide more personalized learning experience to students, while ensuring adherence to government performance standards, educators are turning to Adaptive Learning systems.

Adaptive Learning uses computer artificial intelligence algorithms that adjust the educational content to the student’s learning style and pace. Based upon a student’s reaction to content, algorithms detect patterns and respond in real-time with prompts, revisions, and interventions based upon the student’s unique needs and abilities. Combining Adaptive Learning platforms with predictive analytics and other EdTech applications helps to transform the learning experience for both the student and the teacher. more>

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Updates from Chicago Booth

Don’t kill a company to collect a debt
By Emily Lambert – There’s a sizable gap between what a company is worth in liquidation and what it’s worth while still operating, according to University of California at Berkeley’s Amir Kermani and Chicago Booth’s Yueran Ma. Companies going through Chapter 11 restructuring are worth about twice as much when they are going concerns rather than liquidated, they write.

The finding is part of a larger study of corporate debt, in which Kermani and Ma examine the size and composition of the debt loads held by nonfinancial companies. They distinguish between asset-based debt (issued against discrete assets) and cash flow–based debt (issued against the operating value of a company). In doing so, they wondered about companies’ cash-flow and asset values—essentially, how much more a company might be worth alive rather than dead.

It took the researchers more than a year to amass the data needed to answer the question. They hand-collected information from 387 public, nonfinancial companies that filed for Chapter 11 restructuring between 2000 and 2016, plus pulled from other databases including Compustat.

Assessing the value of assets took quite a bit of effort, Ma says. She and Kermani were able to find comprehensive appraisals that were disclosed in court cases. They also performed extensive checks using data from other sources. more>

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