imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List




IMC Network:

Original Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Market Efficiency Hokum

by Stephen Lendman Monday, Aug. 27, 2007 at 5:10 AM
lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net

Debunking the myth that free markets work best.

Market Efficiency Hokum - by Stephen Lendman

You know the story triumphantly heard in the West. Markets work best when governments let them operate freely - unconstrained by rules, regulations and taxes about which noted economist Milton Friedman once said in an interview he was "in favor of cutting....under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible (because) the big problem is not taxes (but government) spending.

Friedman is no longer with us, but by his reasoning, the solution to curbing it is "to hold down the amount of income (government) has (and presto) the way to do it is to cut taxes." He seemed to forget about borrowing and the Federal Reserve's ability to print limitless amounts of ready cash the way it's been doing for years and during the current credit squeeze. Friedman further added in the same interchange "If the White House were under (GW) Bush, and House and Senate....under the Democrats, I do not believe there would be much spending."

Clearly, either the Nobel laureate wasn't paying attention or age was taking its toll late in his life. Since 2001, Democrats embraced tax cutting and overspending policies as enthusiastically as Republicans with both parties directing the benefits hugely to the right pockets. They're on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms where recipients know "free markets" work great with a little creative resource directing from Washington.

Financial Market Efficiency

In investment finance, Eugene Fama is generally regarded as the father of efficient market theory, also known as the "efficient market hypothesis (EMH)." He wrote his 1964 doctoral dissertation on it titled "The Behavior of Stock Market Prices" in which he concluded stock (and by implication other financial market) price movements are unpredictable and follow a "random walk" reflecting all available information known at the time. Thus, no one, in theory, has an advantage over another as everyone has equal access to everything publicly known (aside from "insiders" with a huge advantage). That includes rumored and actual financial, economic, political, social and all other information, all of which is reflected in asset prices at any given time.

Those buying this theory believe Milton Friedman knew best. He became the modern-day godfather of "free market" capitalism and leading exponent that markets work efficiently and best when unfettered by government intervention that generally gets things wrong. In 1958, Friedman explained it in his famous "I, Pencil" essay. In it, he illustrated the notion of Adam Smith's invisible hand and conservative economist Friedrich Hayek's teachings on the importance of "dispersed knowledge" and how the price system communicates information to "make (people) do desirable things without anyone having to tell them what to do."

Friedman's "pencil" story explained "a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on." Added to these ingredients from nature is "an even more extraordinary miracle: the configuration of creative human energies - millions of tiny know-hows configuring naturally and spontaneously (responding to) human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human master-minding." None of them working independently was trying to make a pencil. No one directed them from a central office. They didn't know each other, lived in many countries, spoke different languages, practiced different religions, and may have even hated each other. Yet, their unrelated contributions produced a pencil.

By Friedman's reasoning, this could never happen through central planning. It sounds good in theory, but how does it jibe with reality. The Soviets split the atom, were first in space ahead of the US with Sputnik 1, and developed many advanced technologies even though they were outclassed and outspent by the West overall with greater resources to do it.

In practical reality, governments, like individuals operating freely in the marketplace, can succeed or fail. It comes down to people skills and how well they do their jobs. Top down or bottom up has little final effect on the end result, but does direct what's undertaken and what isn't. Top down in Canada, Western Europe and Venezuela delivers excellent state-funded health care to everyone. Bottom up in America offers it to anyone who can pay, but if not, you're out of luck if your employer won't provide it. Forty-seven million and counting had their luck run out, and Friedman's pencil making miracle won't treat them when they'll ill.

Put another way, if "free market" capitalism works best and America is its lead exponent, why then:

-- is poverty high and rising in the world's richest country;

-- incomes stagnating;

-- higher education becoming unaffordable for the majority;

-- public education crumbling;

-- jobs at all levels disappearing to low-wage countries;

-- the nation's vital infrastructure in a deplorable state;

-- 3.5 million or more homeless and heading higher in the wake of subprime defaults;

-- the standard of living of most in the country declining; and,

-- the nation, in fact, bankrupt according to a 2006 study for the St. Louis Fed.

Clearly, something is wrong with the "pencil miracle" working for some but not for most. Friedman no longer can respond and his acolytes won't.

The Myth that Markets Get It Right and Operate Efficiently

Economist Hyman Minsky was mostly ignored while he lived, but his star may be rising 11 years after his death in 1996. Some described him as a radical Keynesian based on the theories of economist John Maynard Keynes who taught economies operate best when mixed. He believed state and private sectors both play important roles with government stepping in to stimulate or constrain economic activity whenever private sector forces aren't able to do it best alone.

It's the opposite of "supply-side" Reaganomics and its illusory "trickle down" notion that economic growth works best through stimulative tax cuts its proponents claim promote investment that benefits everyone. It was Reagan-baloney then and now, and so is the notion markets are efficient and work best when left alone.

Minsky explained it, and people are now taking note in the wake of current market turbulence. His work showed financial market exuberance often becomes excessive, especially if no regulatory constraints are in place to curb it. He developed his theories in two books - "John Maynard Keynes" and "Stabilizing an Unstable Economy" as well as in numerous articles and essays.

In them, he constructed a "financial instability hypothesis" building on the work of Keynes' "General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money." He provided a framework for distinguishing between stabilizing and destabilizing free market debt structures he summarized as follows:

"Three distinct income-debt relations for economic units....labeled as hedge, speculative and Ponzi finance, can be identified."

-- "Hedge financing units are those which can fulfill all of their contractual payment obligations by their cash flows: the greater the weight of equity financing in the liability structure, the greater the likelihood that the unit is a hedge financing unit."

-- "Speculative finance units are units that can meet their payment commitments on 'income account' on their liabilities, even as they cannot repay the principle out of income cash flows. Such units need to 'roll over' their liabilities - issue new debt to meet commitments on maturing debt."

-- "For Ponzi units, the cash flows from operations are (insufficient)....either (to repay)....principle or interest on outstanding debts by their cash flows from operations. Such units can sell assets or borrow. Borrowing to pay interest....lowers the equity of a unit, even as it increases liabilities and the prior commitment of future incomes."

"....if hedge financing dominates....the economy may....be (in) equilibrium. In contrast, the greater the weight of speculative (and/or) Ponzi finance, the greater the likelihood that the economy is a deviation-amplifying system....(based on) the financial instability hypothesis (and) over periods of prolonged prosperity, the economy transits from financial relations (creating stability) to financial relations (creating) an unstable system."

"....over a protracted period of good times, capitalist economies (trend toward) a large weight (of) units engaged in speculative and Ponzi finance. (If this happens when) an economy is (experiencing inflation and the Federal Reserve tries) to exorcise (it) by monetary constraint....speculative units will become Ponzi (ones) and the net worth of previous Ponzi units will quickly evaporate. Consequently, units with cash flow shortfalls will be forced to (sell out). This is likely to lead to a collapse of asset values."

Minsky developed a seven stage framework showing how this works:

Stage One - Displacement

Disturbances of various kinds change investor perceptions and disrupt markets. It may be a tightened economic policy from higher interest rates or investors and lenders retrenching in reaction to:

-- a housing bubble, credit squeeze, and growing subprime mortgage delinquencies and defaults with spreading contagion affecting:

-- other mortgages, and the toxic waste derivative alchemy of:

-- collateralized debt obligation (CDO) instruments (packages of mostly risky junk and other debt),

--commercial and residential mortgage-backed securities (CMBS and RBMS - asset backed by mortgage principle and interest payments), and even

-- commercial and AAA paper; plus

-- home equity loans harder to service after mortgage reset increases.

Stage Two - Prices start to rise

Following displacement, markets bottom and prices begin rising as fundamentals improve. Investors start noticing as it becomes evident and gains momentum.

Stage Three - Easy credit

Recovery needs help and plentiful easy credit provides it. As conditions improve, it fuels speculation enticing more investors to jump in for financial opportunities or to borrow for a new home or other consumer spending. The easier and more plentiful credit gets, the more willing lenders are to give it including to borrowers with questionable credit ratings. Yale Economist Robert Shiller shares the view that "booms....generate laxity in standards for loans because there a general sense of optimism (like) what we saw in the late 80s" preceding the 1987 crash that doesn't necessarily signal an imminent one now.

New type financial instruments and arrangements also arise as lenders find creative and risky ways to make more money. In recent years, sharply rising housing prices enticed more buyers, and lenders got sloppy and greedy by providing interest-only mortgages to marginal buyers unable to make a down payment.

Stage Four - Overtrading

The cheaper and easier credit is, the greater the incentive to overtrade to cash in. Trading volume rises and shortages emerge. Prices begin accelerating and easy profits are made creating more greed and foolish behavior.

Stage Five - Euphoria

This is the most dangerous phase. Cooler heads are worried but fraudsters prevail claiming this time is different, and markets have a long way to go before topping out. Greed trumps good sense and investors foolishly think they're safe and can get out in time. Stories of easy riches abound, so why miss out. Into the fire they go, often after the easy money was made, and the outcome is predictable. The fraudsters sell at the top to small investors mistakenly buying at the wrong time and getting burned.

Stage Six - Insider profit taking

The pros have seen it before, understand things have gone too far, and quietly sell to the greater fools buying all they can. It's the beginning of the end.

Stage Seven - Revulsion

When cheap credit ends, enough insiders sell, or an unexpected piece of bad news roils markets, it becomes infectious. It can happen quickly turning euphoria into revulsion panicking investors to sell. They begin outnumbering buyers and prices tumble. Downward momentum is far greater and faster than when heading up.

Sound familiar? It's a "Minsky Moment," and the irony is most investors know easy credit, overtrading and euphoria create bubbles that always burst. The internet and tech one did in March, 2000, and since mid-July, reality caught up with excess speculation in equity prices, the housing bubble, growing mortgage delinquencies and subprime defaults. Goldilocks awoke and sought shelter as lenders remembered how to say "no." This time, central banks rode to the rescue (they hope) with huge cash infusions, the Fed cut its discount rate a half point August 17, and it signaled lower "fed funds" rates ahead if markets remain tight.

Intervention may reignite "animal spirits" and work short-term but won't easily band-aid over what noted investor Jeremy Grantham calls "the broadest overpricing of financial assets - equities, real estate, and fixed income - ever recorded" with the financial system dangerously "overstretched (and) overleveraged." His view is that current conditions have "almost never been this dire," and we're "watching a (too late to stop) very slow motion train wreck." Minsky would have noticed, too.

Grantham's exhaustive research shows all markets revert to their mean values, and all bubbles burst as the greatest Fed-engineered equity one ever in US history did in 2000 but didn't complete its corrective work. In Grantham's view, lots more pain is coming and before it's over, it will be mean, nasty and long, affecting everyone. Minsky saw it earlier, studied it, and wrote about it exhaustively when no one noticed. If he were living today, he'd say "I told you so."

Federal Reserve Engineered Housing Bubble and Resultant Financial Market Turmoil

Astute observers continue to speculate and comment that the housing bubble and resultant current financial market turmoil came from deliberate widespread malfeasance aided by considerable cash infusion help from the Federal Reserve in the lead on the scheme.

Economist Paul Krugman is one of the latest with his views expressed in an August 16 New York Times op ed piece titled "Workouts, Not Bailouts." He began by debunking Wall Streeter Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's ludicrous April claim that the housing market was "at or near the bottom" followed by his equally absurd August view that subprime mortgages were "largely contained." Krugman's response: "the time for denial is past....housing starts and applications for building permits have fallen to their lowest levels in a decade, showing that home construction is still in free fall....home prices are still way too high (at 70% above their long-term trend values according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and) the housing slump (will be around) for years, not months" with all those empty unbought homes needing hard to find buyers to fill them.

In addition, mortgage problems are "anything but contained" and aren't confined to the subprime category. Krugman believes current real estate troubles and mortgage fallout bear similarity to the late 1990s stock bubble. Like today, they were accompanied by market manipulation and scandalous fraud at companies like Enron and WorldCom. In his view, "it is becoming increasingly clear that the real-estate bubble of recent years (like the 1990s stock bubble)....caused and was fed by widespread malfeasance." He left out the Fed but named co-conspiratorial players like Moody's Investors Service and other rating agencies getting paid lots of money to claim "dubious mortgage-backed securities to be highest-quality, AAA assets." In this role, they're no different than were "complaisant accountants" like Arthur Andersen that lost its license to practice from its role in the Enron fallout.

In the end, this scandal may be more far-reaching than earlier ones because so many underwriters and other firms are part of the fraud or are seeking to profit from it. At this point, it's hard separating villains from victims as, in some cases, they may be one in the same. They're all involved in dispersing up to trillions of dollars of risks through the derivative alchemy of highly complex, hard to value, packages of mostly subprime CDO and various other type debt instruments that may even end up in so-called safe money market funds unbeknownst to their unsuspecting owners.

Before this scandal ends, they'll be plenty of pain to go around, but as always, small investors and low income subprime and other mortgage homeowners will be hurt most. Krugman says this is "a clear case for government intervention," but it won't be the kind he wants. He cites a "serious market failure (needing fixing to) help (as many as) hundreds of thousands" of Americans who otherwise may lose their homes and/or financial nest eggs. Faced with this problem, "The federal government shouldn't be providing bailouts, (it should) arrange workouts....we've done (it) before (and it worked) - for third-world countries, not for US citizens." It helped both debtors escape default and creditors get back most of their money.

By providing huge cash infusions to ease credit and reignite "animal spirits," the Fed and other central banks showed they aren't listening. It proves what Ralph Nader said in his August 19 Countercurrents article called "Corporate Capitalists: Government Comes To The Rescue" that's also on CounterPunch titled "Greed and Folly on Wall Street." With "corporate capitalists' knees" a bit shaky, Nader recalled what his father once explained years ago when he asked and then told his children: "Why will capitalism always survive? Because socialism will always be used to save it." Put another way, the American business ethic has always been socialism for the rich, and, sink or swim, free market capitalism for the rest of us.

As the housing slump deepens and many tens of thousands of subprime and other mortgage holders default, vulture investors will profit hugely buying troubled assets at a fraction of their value as they always do in troubled economic times. Writer Danny Schechter calls the current subprime credit squeeze debacle a "sub-crime ponzi scheme (in a) highly rigged casino-like market system" targeting unsuspecting victims. Schechter wants a "jailout" for "criminal....financial institutions (posing) as respectable players." Krugman, on the other hand, wants a "workout" for the victims. Neither will get what he wants. In the end, as ordinary people lose out, big government will again rescue "corporate capitalism" (at least in the short-term) the way it always does when it gets in trouble. It's the "American way." It'll be no different this time.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached in Chicago at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on TheMicroEffect.com Saturdays at noon US central time.





Report this post as:

Local News

GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE A12 5:39PM

lausd whistle blower A10 11:58PM

Website Upgrade A10 3:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 1:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 11:58AM

Change Links April 2018 A01 11:27AM

Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018 M31 6:57PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 7:00PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 6:38PM

Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! M19 2:02PM

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A. M16 5:40PM

Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released M15 12:34AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups M06 12:10PM

After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video M02 11:44AM

Resolution of the Rent Strike in Boyle Heights M01 6:28PM

What Big Brother Knows About You and What You Can Do About It M01 3:30PM

Step Up As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Steps Down F14 2:44PM

Our House Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Run For Hope, April 29 F13 12:51PM

Don’t let this LA County Probation Department overhaul proposal sit on the shelf F13 11:04AM

Echo Park Residents Sue LA Over Controversial Development F12 8:51AM

Former Signal Hill police officer pleads guilty in road-rage incident in Irvine F09 10:25PM

Calif. Police Accused of 'Collusion' With Neo-Nazis After Release of Court Documents F09 7:14PM

Center for the Study of Political Graphics exhibit on Police Abuse posters F07 9:50AM

City Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Claiming Pasadena Police Officer Had His Sister Falsely Arre F04 3:17PM

Professor's Study Highlights Health Risks of Urban Oil Drilling F04 12:42PM

Claims paid involving Pasadena Police Department 2014 to present F04 10:52AM

Pasadenans - get your license plate reader records from police F03 11:11PM

LA Times Homicide Report F03 1:57PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

What does the Quran Say About Islamic Dress?? A21 4:15PM

Biodiversité ou la nature privatisée A20 11:22AM

The Market is a Universal Totalitarian Religion A20 7:14AM

Book Available about Hispanics and US Civil War by National Park Service A19 5:52PM

The Shortwave Report 04/20/18 Listen Globally! A19 4:01PM

The Republican 'Prolife' Party Is the Party of War, Execution, and Bear Cub Murder A19 11:48AM

Neurogenèse involutive A18 9:21AM

Paraphysique de la dictature étatique A16 10:13AM

Book Review: "The New Bonapartists" A16 3:45AM

The West Must Take the First Steps to Russia A14 12:25PM

Théorie générale de la révolution ou hommage à feu Mikhaïl Bakounine A14 3:30AM

The Shortwave Report 04/13/18 Listen Globally! A12 3:50PM

“Lost in a Dream” Singing Competition Winner to Be Chosen on April 15 for ,000 Prize! A12 3:48PM

The World Dependent on Central Banks A12 4:43AM

Ohio Governor Race: Dennis Kucinich & Richard Cordray Run Against Mike DeWine A11 9:40PM

March 2018 Honduras Coup Again Update A10 10:52PM

Apologie du zadisme insurrectionnel A10 3:33PM

ICE contract with license plate reader company A10 1:14PM

Palimpseste sisyphéen A09 11:23PM

Black Portraiture(S) IV: The Color of Silence...Cuba No...Cambridge Yes A09 5:32AM

Prohibiting Micro-Second Betting on the Exchanges A09 4:18AM

Prosecutors treat Muslims harsher than non-Muslims for the same crimes A08 10:33PM

Amy Goodman interview on cell phone safety A08 10:29PM

Mesa, Arizona police officer kills unarmed white man A08 9:50PM

Israeli leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes A08 9:48PM

Paraphysique de l'autorité A08 12:11AM

Two Podcasts on fbi corruption A06 10:13PM

Fbi assassins assault & try to kill DAVID ATKINS A06 7:29PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy