Saturday, March 24, 2007

Grand Illusion

But dont be fooled by the radio
The TV or the magazines
They show you photographs of how your life should be
But they're just someone else's fantasy

'The world is awash in liquidty.' You hear this claim a lot right now. 'Liquidity' is often offered as the primary cause of bouyant asset prices around the globe. But REAL liquidity is cash driven and relatively stable. Instead, bid/ask spreads have narrowed due to debt and leverage (e.g., the yen carry trade). Speculation driven by leverage is fickle and can reverse in a heartbeat when debtors get fearful.

Leverage creates the illusion of liquidity. As long as folks are willing to speculate with those borrowed funds, then financial asset prices are supported. But if risk seeking behavior turns risk averse, then the 'liquidity' will rapidly vanish.

The real issue seems related to how long collective risk seeking behavior will last. History suggests that market groupthink is prone to reversals--often with little warning.

Friday, March 16, 2007

No Quarter

It's early fall
There's a cloud in the New York skyline
Innocence...dragged across a yellow line

Terrorists of the 9/11 variety are perhaps the worst kind of enemy because they:
  1. are willing to die in order to destroy us
  2. have demonstrated capacity for doing so in a big way
  3. wear no marker

A difficult enemy to deal with--particular because they wear no marker. Conventional diplomacy with foreign countries is ineffective since terrorists are dispersed rather than affiliated with national governments.

Seems as if two primary strategies exist for dealing with this threat. Reactive mode--beef up defense and wait for the enemy to strike again on your home turf. Proactive mode--go abroad to hunt down and destroy the enemy.

Because of the potential damage that can be done on a return attack, it's difficult for me to see the wisdom in being reactive. A proactive strategy will never be totally successful, since you'll never eliminate all the enemy. But you're pressuring them (like a boxer who won't let his opponent get a breather) and creating distance between your home and them.

Neither option is what I would consider 'good'. But given the nature of this enemy, a proactive strategy seems 'less bad.'

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Big Sleep

I'll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
--The Who

There is plenty of evidence that liberty is dwindling in the US. Rising debt (debt reduces freedom), coercive taxation (theft of property), and government tracking systems (less privacy) are some of the symptoms. When problems arise, we increasingly look to the government (or outside countries) for assistance (see Mr Practical's example).

If we are to reverse this trend, we need to understand why we so willingly forfeit the freedom claimed by our founders over 200 years ago. What is causing our Big Sleep? Problems are much easier solved when the root cause is understood.