Re: More On Graeber

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In the Silicon Valley on the peninsula below San Francisco, groups of computer software engineers in large capitalist corporations (IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and so on) quit their jobs. They leave well-paid positions as hired workers. They explain that they detest being told what to work on and how to work by supervisors and executives. They reject work in suits and ties, in arid corporate buildings, etc. They insist that such conditions stifle their creativity, their work productivity, and their physical and mental well-being.
After quitting, small groups often gather with their laptop computers in someone's garage. They form a new enterprise with rules of strict equality. All decisions about what to work on and how to work are made collectively.

http://rdwolff.com/content/economic-crisis-socialist-perspective


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 6:42 AM
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Graeber, on Twitter, sourced the Apple claim to his memory of a lecture by Richard Wolff.

Scholarship!


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 6:44 AM
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SAP was founded by five ex-IBM'ers with IBM's own software. That's the closest example (must be pronounced S - A - P. The SAP CEO once famously cancelled a large American customer's order after the customer insisted on calling it "sap.")


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 6:46 AM
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1: Hah -- there it is. The fact that Graeber used that as sourcing for a fact (regardless of the garbling) looks awfully slapdash to me, but that's definitely where it came from. Thanks for finding it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 6:47 AM
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Rossman:
At Unfogged there's a review (and a very funny comments thread) pointing out that the following sentence contains six factual claims all of which are incorrect

That comment thread wasn't all that funny. I'm not sure whether I can trust anything that Rossman writes now.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 6:58 AM
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So, I was just on r/aww at reddit, and I think I might have made a lot of new friends. Not that I would ever leave you guys. You guys are THE BEST111!!!!


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 7:00 AM
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I love you guys a lot. I used to think I liked neb best but now...I STILL think I like him best! BECAUSE I LOVE JEWISH PEOPLE!!1!


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 7:03 AM
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the following sentence contains six factual claims all of which are incorrect.

Hey, it contains at least one correct factual claim ("in Silicon Valley").


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 7:08 AM
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but our major geostrategic rival against whom a post-GWOT DOD is orienting its strategic doctrine.

Village Kool-aid. If DoD is all preparing for a major war against China, they are insane, but we don't have to join them. This guy lacks credibility. Mainly the Pentagon keeps the sea lanes open and the resources flowing the directions we want.

It was after the 1997 Asian Crisis that the developing countries started really building their SWFs. The IMF (US tool) smashed them.

After 30 years in power, President Suharto was forced to step down on 21 May 1998 in the wake of widespread rioting that followed sharp price increases caused by a drastic devaluation of the rupiah.

Tribute or defensive measure? Same difference.

This stuff is tough, especially with the really sophisticated bullshit, but you can simplify:who's rich? who has the guns? Empire.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 7:11 AM
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Krugman can't even be trusted on this stuff, although that doesn't mean you shouldn't read him. K buys into the Ricardian free trade nationalism is so 19th century everybody will play fair not power politics and if they don't not his fault.

So China should join the community of non-protectionist nations like...Latvia, Greece, Italy, and Spain?

For fifty (500?) years Empire has played the neo-liberal game of sure we will loan ya billions can't pay up sell us your copper mines and kill your social programs and yeah we will help hold the peasants down.

This isn't a conspiracy? It's an ideology. Is there a difference?

Graeber and Michael Hudson and Chomsky are much closer to the truth than this guy or Krugman.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 7:24 AM
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SAP was founded by five ex-IBM'ers with IBM's own software. That's the closest example (must be pronounced S - A - P. The SAP CEO once famously cancelled a large American customer's order after the customer insisted on calling it "sap.")

As opposed to its universal name among accountants below CFO/FD level left with trying to cope with a half-arsed implementation - 'that piece of shit that costs us a fortune in consultants'.


Posted by: Richard J | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 7:27 AM
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Yggles ontopic

The talk coincides with the implementation of a regulation announced in October that aims to clean up Chinese television by restricting networks to offering no more than two "overly entertaining and vulgar" programs per week. That kind of strategy strikes me as unlikely to succeed, but I would welcome more robust efforts by the PRC to strengthen the quantity of cultural outputs that are up to international standards. I really enjoyed Red Cliff, for example, but we just don't see that many Chinese war epics.
...hilarious

Zhang Yimou started making The Road Home and Raise the Red Lantern but finally got his shit together with blockbusters like Hero and House of Flying Daggers. I mean, int'l box office, the market, proves what is really good, doesn't it? And of course you can decorate your Burger King in the local style.

We are Empire, so can barely see it.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 7:42 AM
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'that piece of shit that costs us a fortune in consultants'.

Story from an SAP employee:

"They had 200 consultants over there, fired them all, and hired one guy from SAP who knew what he was doing. It was amazing."


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 7:46 AM
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SAP was founded by five ex-IBM'ers with IBM's own software. That's the closest example (must be pronounced S - A - P. The SAP CEO once famously cancelled a large American customer's order after the customer insisted on calling it "sap.")

Lucky escape there.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 7:50 AM
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Maybe military tribute is overstated but the connection between U.S. military dominance and the dollar's reserve currency status is fairly clear. And this status definitely contributes to the desire of our trading partners to amass large stockpiles of dollars in part, as Bob points out, to serve as a defensive measure.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 7:53 AM
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Iran Oil Bourse!!


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 7:54 AM
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From the point of view of the ruling party in China, it's hard to imagine a better propaganda vehicle than Hero.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 7:55 AM
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15: Right, but the level of analysis described is at the same college sophomore level that Graeber decries when it comes to anthropology.

Being the reserve currency is basically bad (or at best neutral) for the US. It's a result of American military power, but it's not a positive result of American military power. Most of the world's drug trade is carried out in US dollars, as well, but that doesn't do Americans much good either.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:01 AM
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15: Can you elaborate on why being the reserve currency is neutral or bad? I ask because I'm used to hearing that it is a good, but the details are too difficult to explain.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:08 AM
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And this status definitely contributes to the desire of our trading partners to amass large stockpiles of dollars in part, as Bob points out, to serve as a defensive measure.

This is one of those absurdly simple arguments that it's embarrassing not to be able to follow, but I never could follow this one. How does the fact that we owe lots of money to China defend them against our military power? We won't use our military in ways that displease China because we are afraid that... and then I get stuck. I suppose we might worry that they won't lend us more money, but the money they've already lent us seems to me to be in some sense more their problem than ours.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:12 AM
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20.last: yes, exactly.


Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:20 AM
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20: I think simply threatening to sell off US Bonds is an effective negotiating stick. If the market is flooded with cheap existing US bonds, it is harder for the US to borrow more money by issuing more bonds, because they have to compete with all the nearly identical investments already out there.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:21 AM
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I suppose that comes down to how hard they could flood the market in comparison to the appetite for US debt in the rest of the world.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:25 AM
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The US did something like that to the UK during the Suez crisis. Being much smaller, the UK had more to lose, I suppose.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:28 AM
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If the market is flooded with cheap existing US bonds, it is harder for the US to borrow more money by issuing more bonds, because they have to compete with all the nearly identical investments already out there.

If the market is flooded with cheap existing US bonds, our borrowing costs (interest rates) would rise dramatically, unless those sales were offset by increased purchases by the Fed (in an effort to stabilize interest rates), which of course they would be.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:29 AM
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20-22: I wasn't thinking of it as a defense against our military power, and don't think of it that way. (Although the interdependence of U.S. international corporations and Chinese cheap labor probably is such a defense, that is more indirectly related to dollar stockpiling). A dollar stockpile is a defense against the threat of global capital flight into dollars that can occur because the dollar is the safe haven currency. Think the Asian currency crisis in the late 90s -- local businesses owed lots of money to international lenders, when doubts arose about economic well-being in those countries then the currencies crashed and lenders wanted dollars, enormous recessions ensued.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:29 AM
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20: I think simply threatening to sell off US Bonds is an effective negotiating stick.

It seems unlikely that China would actually do this, because it would cost them dearly when the value of their remaining bonds crashes.

I think having China hold our debt does have its merits - it gives them an interest in the success of the US economy.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:32 AM
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18-19: being the reserve currency is supposedly bad because it is hard to lower your currency's value when you want to export more. It may also be easier for other countries to manage their currency's value for greater export by stockpiling your currency as the market for the reserve currency is so vast and liquid. But being the reserve currency gives you enormous autonomy in your fiscal and monetary policy and normally guarantees you borrowing rates as low as you want.

Given that we have managed to lower the dollar's value significantly at various times, and looking around at examples over the past couple decades of local economies being devastated by international currency markets and losing control over their own economic policy, it seems to me that the good outweighs the bad.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:34 AM
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18-19: being the reserve currency is supposedly bad because it is hard to lower your currency's value when you want to export more.

Planet Money tells me this is happening with the other reserve currency, the Swiss franc.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:35 AM
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Charles de Gaulle was horribly irked about the U.S.'s reserve currency status. I assume he must be right that it was a huge net plus for the U.S. He was one of the few world leaders who could wear a pillbox hat without looking silly.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:38 AM
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Most of the world's drug trade is carried out in US dollars, as well, but that doesn't do Americans much good either.

The American government is not especially interested in doing Americans good. Every big player has his own motives, and they work together or compete with one another in shifting coalitions, but the general welfare is not a variable in their calculations. This is by and large true of the big players in business in finance, the ideologues and publicists in the think tanks, the top strategic planners, the intelligence services and the military, and the people who run the federal reserve.

Elections, universities, and the free media are the mechanisms which were supposed to keep the US from reaching this state (which is not uncommon in world history), but most elected officials, almost all of the media, and much of the university have been recruited to the imperial project.

The American people are a cow which must be kept docile and productive. We're just one of the raw materials they need for their plans.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:42 AM
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26: That, I can follow, thanks!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:45 AM
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19: It's neutral in that it makes US imports cheaper, but exports more expensive, so the effect is mixed. It's bad in that foreign hoarding of US Treasuries has seriously distorted the US economy away from actually making shit, and towards financial speculation.

20: It's defensive not against US aggression, but against global markets. It's easy for a country to devalue its currency -- just print more. It's harder for a country to increase the value of its currency. They have to take money out of circulation. This means either taxes, or they sell assets for currency (which they retire). US Treasuries function as a big stockpile of assets they can sell if the value of their currency plunges.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:46 AM
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It's hard to tell what Chinese economists are/were thinking. I imagine the Asian currency crisis left an impression, and I'm not sure they're immune to the appeal of autarky. On the other hand, they have perfectly good domestic political reasons for subsidizing exports, and I don't know how they'd go about gracefully winding down their position if they wanted to.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:48 AM
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DeGaulle wasn't sharp on economics. His thing was gloire. He didn't care whether being the world's reserve currency was a good thing or a bad thing economically, he just didn't like Americans getting the gloire.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:48 AM
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Gloire and really sharp hats.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:49 AM
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The economists I read are pretty unanimous that the Chinese expect to lose money on their loans to the US. They're keeping the dollar high so that America will import their cheap stuff and they can build up their industry at the expense of ours.

Someone explained awhile back that the exorbitant reparations Germany paid after WWI were actually good for German industry. Not for the German people, who were the ones who paid the price, but for the export industries. By the 1930s they had rebuilt their industrial machine at the expense of an enraged populace. The Chinese people are paying the same kind of price now; Chinese industry is booming, but Chinese wages have not kept pace. Since Chinese wages started so low in about 1990, the people haven't noticed yet, since they've seen some increase.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:54 AM
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Being a reserve currency has a negative impact on exports, but I think that effect is swamped by the increase in domestic consumption caused by the massive subsidy that the rest of the world gives us by way of interest rates significantly lower than they would otherwise be.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:54 AM
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Zhang Yimou started making The Road Home and Raise the Red Lantern but finally got his shit together with blockbusters like Hero and House of Flying Daggers.

IIRC Zhang Yimou basically sold out and started making big budget pro-Empire stuff like Hero rather than small scale slightly subversive stuff like Raise the Red Lantern, not because of the international box office but because that's what the party and the studios told him to do. He hasn't done many Stories of Qiu Ju recently, has he. I am surprised you didn't know this, bob.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:55 AM
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39 is basically my understanding, although Zhang Yimou has clearly always been interested in doing bigger-budget pictures (Shanghai Triad was made while he was still in his art film period).


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 8:59 AM
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38: This is why now that interest rates are extremely low we are enjoying a consumption boom unprecedented in our history. Long will the profligate consumption of 2008-2011 be remembered as a golden time for fast living.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:00 AM
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I think this was one of bob's trademark "random statements of nonsense designed to bait people into exhibiting what he considers snobbery".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:00 AM
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The economists I read

I suspect this is not exactly a random sample.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:06 AM
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43 wasn't actually intended to disagree with 37. I have no idea whether the Chinese expect to lose money on their loans to the US.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:10 AM
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From what I understand of Chinese domestic lending, it's not unprecedented...


Posted by: Richard J | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:12 AM
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consumption boom unprecedented in our history

The US is still paying off the housing boom. Unwillingness to acknowledge how deeply in the hole US banks are is what's responsible for the current aberration (keeping interest rates low but not much lending). The consumption boom is the relatively low rate of abandonded homes and bankruptcies, both of borrowers and banks.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:19 AM
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39: I read Bob as being ironic -- "got his shit togther" = got with the propaganda program.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:19 AM
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So, perhaps horribly over-simplifying, being the 'reserve' currency means your currency is considered the most likely to hold its value in a crisis, kinda like gold in the olden days. One good thing about that is that a crisis is less likely to ruin your economy. Also, imports are cheaper. The bad things are that you'll erode or lose your manufacturing base because exports are more expensive, and your money-making activities will come more and more from finance stuff - loaning, borrowing, speculating, and charging fees for transferring money, and some day the world may figure out that you are simply being a leech, and not really providing any value, and your house of cards comes falling down.

Methinks the articles that I have read that proclaim that being a reserve currency is good for reasons too complicated to explain come are written by those speculators and their lackeys. It is good for *them,* at least in the short term, so they want to convince the rest of us it is a universal good.

Damn. And once again I come back to the idea that this will take blood to change.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:19 AM
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A dollar stockpile is a defense against the threat of global capital flight into dollars that can occur because the dollar is the safe haven currency.

Does this just mean that the Chinese buys US debt for the same reason everyone else does, because the dollar is the global reserve currency?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:22 AM
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The economists I read are mainstream center-left. As far as I know, it's pretty much a truism. A high dollar depresses exports and increases imports. China wants to build up its industry. At some point the shit will hit the fan, and presumably they are prepared to make adjustments. Everybody knows that things can't go on, that's the reason for the deficit hysteria. There's just no agreement about what will happen next and what the response will be. I expect disaster, but my reading of the situation and proposed response are different than those of the deficit hawks and gold bugs who also expect disaster.

What I expect China to do is just to write down the debt and stay on course. This doesn't mean that they won't use it toi pressure the US in some way.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:22 AM
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50 seems very uncontroversial given what I read.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:24 AM
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I expect them to use it as a tool to get more of the remaining oil.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:26 AM
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48.1: sounds generally right to me.

49: the complexity comes from thinking about how the international financial regime of free capital mobility and floating currency values limits the domestic economic autonomy of countries that want to participate in the world economy, and the role a reserve currency stockpile can play in addressing that. As Tripp said, the same issue appeared in the gold standard era with the desire to have a gold stockpile to protect your currency.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:27 AM
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41: This is why now that interest rates are extremely low we are enjoying a consumption boom unprecedented in our history.

Interest rates still aren't low enough in the face of the current economic mess, because they can't go below zero. But if they were higher, thing would be far worse, (see, for example, what happened after the European Central Bank decided to jack up its interest rates last April.) Without our reserve currency status, things like losing our AAA credit rating would have raised interest rates enough to bump us into another full-on recession, which already almost happened anyway.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:30 AM
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52: Oh, yeah, oil. Is oil the new gold? Is oil being priced in dollars one thing that helps us remain the world's default currency?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:31 AM
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Oh, and I'm slow, but I get there - and does the US government (and hence our military) do the bidding of the speculators in order to keep the US petrolBuck the world's default currency?

And something something the trilateral commission and International corporations?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:33 AM
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I expect disaster

Oh please. The US is one of a handful of places that can design effective machinery or do effective chemical engineering and build to precise tolerances. Chinese jet engines are terrible, the ability of Chinese research is not yet very impressive. If the winds change so that the chain of outsourced partners fail, building factories that make memory chips and motorcycles here is not going to be difficult. Places in the US that have real pain now (Detroit, Pheonix) have not suffered unrest, why think that a nationwide bout will be worse?

I thought that fashionable paranoia was about Third Wave, which is genuinely influential.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:39 AM
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Ways to think about US Military Dominance. Think Rome.

1) Deterrence, yeah, world cop. But not only keeping Burma from invading Thailand, the larger point is to keep Burma from ever building up the military capable of invading Thailand. What does this mean?

2) Counter-nationalism. A military is, has been, a key ingredient for building domestic solidarity and internal cohesion. So Papandreou is kinda Greek, even though he hasn't ever lived in Greece much, and all the int'l creds will be useful in talking with the IMF and World Bank. And what do I care if the company I work for is based in Paris or Tokyo.

3) No military Keynesianism. It is a lot easier for a country to tax its billionaires for tanks and slip some money and multipliers to schools and roads. At least in most countries. Your military elite is by nature nationalistic and loyal. My rough guess is that the lack of military spending makes it easier for foreign investors and int'l technocrats to come in and take over. That would even be ok if we had an world republic instead of Empire and local oligarchs.

4) Holding the peasants down. National Soldiers are great for domestic repression until they aren't, when they become the only counterforce capable of Revolution. And the soft tools of domestic control are getting better all the time. I keep telling y'all to bring back the draft.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:40 AM
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54: The last sentence is not at all clear. Japan lost its AAA status a long time ago, with apparently no effect on interest rates. But let's suppose that the dollar wasn't the reserve currency, and a decrease in the credit rating caused foreign investors to buy less Treasuries. This would ease the demand for dollars, which would cause the value of the dollar to fall, which would boost exports and employment. The effect could easily overwhelm the effect from increased borrowing costs.

I think the clear experience of the last 30 years is that there's nothing particularly good about an influx of foreign capital. A flood of foreign capital led to the Asian crisis, for example. The US has seen two gigantic speculative bubbles. Every euro country that saw a large influx of external capital has gotten killed over the last 3 years. Being the reserve currency means that the US will see these kinds of influxes whenever people attempt to hold dollars.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:49 AM
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LW: My standard for disaster isn't stupid disaster movies and video games. Detroit strikes me as a disaster already. Detroit x 50 would strike me as a huge disaster, and that seems quite possible. 5 years of 9% unemployment would have been regarded as a disaster once; now we've renormed, and it might be 9% for 5 or 10 more years. We have the highest percentage of our population in jail of any country in the world; I call that a disaster, and that will probably get worse. Over the last several decades education has both become more necessary to get a job, and much, much harder to finance; it seems to me that a lot of colleges will disappear and college education will become more of an elite thing. Jobs have gotten worse over the same period, with stagnant pay and decreasing benefits. Almost no new workers have pension plans any more, and there's a powerful movement afoot to degrade social security and medicare. People will be a lot worse off.

The disaster I expect is just an intensification of things that I've noticed already happening. It's been gradualistic so far but at some point I expect a breaking point. Is that what you disagree about?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 9:51 AM
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60 is reasonable-- I'd say painful rather than disastrous, myself. The US has recovered from worse and so have other countries. But things could well get worse here before they get better, and I'd rather they didn't.

59. Foreign capital also helped Korean living standards change very quickly after 1954, and has by and large been good for the old Ostblock since 1989. It would be nice to keep the benefit without the cost, but I don't know that anyone has a recipe for that. There are some obvious improvements available even now, I'm not arguing for status quo, just saying that capital controls have a huge downside in very hard times.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:00 AM
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Glad you liked it but a minor correction, I work at UCLA. (My degree is from Princeton).


Posted by: Gabriel Rossman | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:00 AM
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59: I agree, although I really wish people would start qualifying "good' with the phrase 'good for whomever it is good for.'

I think the US is much less politically stable than it once was, mostly due to the corrupting influence of money. Those making the money are getting more and more power, and the current course is unsustainable, although the US is huge and we've got a huge treasury to loot, so it will take awhile.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:01 AM
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57: You seem to buy into a model of national competition that is analogous to corporate competition. Under a good set of economic institutions it shouldn't diminish U.S. well-being if China becomes more productive and sophisticated, quite the opposite, it should increase it. The reason it doesn't is that the distribution of benefits from the increased productivity is not well managed, so you get a vicious cycle of increased inequality and authoritarian control. This problem does not go away if the U.S. still has some real competitive advantages in production. Relying on those is saying that market advantages will solve the distribution problem, which they won't.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:03 AM
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I think the clear experience of the last 30 years is that there's nothing particularly good about an influx of foreign capital.

It can be a net good with Tobin taxes, and possibly other policies promoting invested in factories and other real things (not real estate!) rather than computer-automated flash trading pumping up bubbles.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:03 AM
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61: Oops, I meant to say "uncontrolled" influx of foreign capital. China sees large amounts of foreign investment, which they try to neutralize. (Though it sounds like China has a gigantic real estate bubble as well, so who knows.)

The Eastern European record now looks pretty mixed. The Baltic states underwent some of the largest falls in GDP on record. Hungary has become a fascist-flavored one-party state.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:08 AM
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64. In my mind China is a special case, mostly due to current politics both there and in the US rather than the size of the deficit with the US. I feel very differently about effective factories in Brazil or South Africa than in China.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:09 AM
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62: Sorry about that, chief. I couldn't find an about page on your blog, so I googled and the first thing I hit looked like your affiliation was Princeton. (also, I was late for work. And my dog was sick. And I needed to water the plants.) I can't edit posts from here, but I'll fix it tonight.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:12 AM
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The US has recovered from worse and so have other countries.

The objective problems coincide with, and are in large part the result of, a disastrous collapse of the political system. The Federal Reserve failed, the media failed, Congress failed, the President failed, the economics profession failed, finance failed. ("failed" from a general-welfare point of view; some of those people were very successful in a predatory way). So the people who we'd rely on to lead the recovery are the very people who caused the problem and then failed to respond to it.

My model is gradual decline (from my POV) starting 1970 or 1980, a very sharp structural disaster in 2006 which was badly mishandled, and then the gradual unrolling of the negative consequences of the 2006 disaster. For example, a large percentage of Americans (including my sister) lost a major part of their retirement savings, some of them all of that. Those consequences won't be evident for 10 or 20 years.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:12 AM
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Never mind, someone else fixed it. Thanks!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:13 AM
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62: Sorry about that, chief.

Now we won't be able to trust anything we read on Unfogged.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:15 AM
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66.2 I would say that failure is measured in loss of people with a choice about emigration and environmental disaster rather than GDP. The worst soviet-built hardware has been shut down. Hungary's politics and economy are bad, yes, but why think that it is more typical than Slovakia? SK also had nasty politics for many years, much better now.

Estonia to Lithuania is a steep gradient, I don't know much about life in LT right now.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:17 AM
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LW, I actually don't get what you're trying to say.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:26 AM
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||

Did this get linked here before?

http://gothsuptrees.tumblr.com/

||>


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:31 AM
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Sorta on-topic: I understand that, beyond Glenn Beck's goldbug fever, there are people who are stockpiling non-precious metals like copper or whatever. Given that interest rates are so low, I'm wondering if it makes sense, from the perspective of someone without much money, but with some knowledge of specific markets and subcultures, to hoard readily eBay-able items if they can be bought cheaply now, if it is reasonable to expect that they may rise in value significantly over the next few years. Is there something I'm missing?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:35 AM
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I have trouble placing the current political/economic situation in historical context.

I think that the historical US was more oligarchical than the modern age. What seems novel to me is the sustained downward trajectory of policymaking. Roosevelt's Depression ultimately resulted in gains for working people. This one has consolidated the position of bankers.

And the bankers have shown only the most limited amount of enlightened self-interest. As long as they can arrange for dollars to continue flowing in their direction, they're not going to worry about the health of the system.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:36 AM
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I'm not arguing for status quo, just saying that capital controls have a huge downside in very hard times.

How's that? One of the things Joe Stiglitz pounded away on was that in hard times, foreign capital is the first thing to dry up anyway - it's procyclical.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:39 AM
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Short-term foreign capital, obvs.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:40 AM
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Very hard times as in Korea in 1954 or E Germany in 1989, rather than as in a business cycle's low point.

All I meant in 72 was that Central Europe looks pretty good compared to 20 years ago, GDP alone is not IMO the right measure.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 11:15 AM
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And the bankers have shown only the most limited amount of enlightened self-interest.

And don't even get me started on corporations, those non-human monsters which lack a conscience, enlightenment, the ability to think long-term, and the decency to die after a reasonable time. They actually make humans look good by comparison, and that is saying something.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 11:19 AM
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75: Yes, you are missing the huge sums necessary to make that a smart thing to do. I remember reading about a recent time-window when the value of the metals in a US nickel exceeded $0.05 USD, and some gazillionaire bought a million dollars worth of nickels and had them melted down and made something like a 20% profit before the treasury changed the composition.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 11:22 AM
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77: The downside is that they make it difficult for you to withdraw your capital, of course.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 11:24 AM
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75, 81: Could still work as a bet on a high-inflation, low-real-growth future. Transaction costs just mean you don't profit if you're slightly right, only if you're very right.

Alternately, if you know the specific markets subcultures well enough, you might be reasonably confident that you'll be "very right", in which case not just low but even moderate interest rate environments would be amenable to this type of speculation, and it would be profitable to borrow as much as you can sustainably do to make these bets.

In other words, you're just describing perfectly ordinary speculation, on a small scale, by an investor with uncommon knowledge about the assets.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 11:30 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 11:32 AM
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81: Couldn't have been that recently. It has been illegal for some years.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 11:33 AM
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Unlike the stock market where I would expect an amateur to get crushed utterly, it's not unreasonable to think you might have some genuine knowledge advantage, since the big-time investors don't sell stuff on eBay. If that's the case, go for it!

OTOH, to produce an economic profit, you'd have to get better returns than whatever else you'd do with the money. Depending on how much you expect these ebay-able items to appreciate, you might be better off just buying into an S&P 500 index, which will probably also outperform current interest rates this year.

So don't bother unless you think these things will go up in value by A LOT (like, at least 20%).


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 11:39 AM
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Melting US coins was banned in 2006.

75. Not sure I understand what you're thinking of, but don't borrow money to speculate. Also, rapidly appreciating objects create new supply, either legitimate or forged.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 11:41 AM
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Interesting that according to the Mint, these regulations have existed in the past but only for a few years at a time, presumably until the underlying conditions disappeared. I thought that kind of rule typically ossified.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 11:46 AM
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87: I would qualify that. Don't borrow money to speculate unless you can get some kind of limited liability arrangement. Which you probably can't.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 11:46 AM
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And of course if you don't have a good reason to think that you know something other people don't know (or don't have the cash to act on), then you're unlikely to realize any profit.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 11:48 AM
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If I were the Chinese, rather than buy ungodly amounts of T-bills, I'd buy ungodly amounts of copper and bury it near major population centers. Artificial copper mines will hold their value better than dollars.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 11:57 AM
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75: The people who knew the most about the Beanie Baby market and subculture now have the very best ones, while the dilettantes now have far far less respected collections. But neither the experts nor the dummies have sold anything for any value in many years. Similarly for railroad caboose collections, vinyl record collecitons (possibly a miniscule number of exceptions there) etc.

Hoarding for future sale to a subculture makes sense only if you can hedge for the risk that the subculture will cease to exist.

The situation might be different if you know how to acquire a commercial quantity of the rare earth element that is essential to the construction of an ipad, or something like that. Of course, if you stockpiled the critical element for building a Walkman, you're out of luck lately.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 11:57 AM
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I'm thinking about a couple of different markets/subcultures, but in the case of the specific item that gave me the idea, it seems like there's already some pretty sizable arbitrage opportunities between eBay and retail clearance prices. If I'm reading the market correctly, the eBay value is almost assured to increase significantly -- like a couple of hundred percent or so -- within a couple of years. Transaction costs, esp. shipping in this case, are obviously a significant factor, but the impact on potential profit would seem to be minor.

Hmm. I will have to think about this and investigate more.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 12:02 PM
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The other factor is that I recently spoke to someone with an in-depth knowledge of the market in question, and he verified my suspicion that this market, while comparatively large, as collectables go, is totally un-rationalized.

The other obvious question would be, is there more money to be made in further rationalizing the market than in taking advantage of individual arbitrage opportunities?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 12:05 PM
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The only market I have any knowledge of is cameras. While it'd be possible to make a profit buying and selling on ebay -- it's even possible to buy from dealers and sell on ebay at a profit -- it'd be a hard living and you have to deal with a lot of bastards. My recent experiences in this area have not been good.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 12:11 PM
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I think that low interest rates don't per se mean regular people can borrow at that rate for their own projects/speculations. My bank offers "consumer loans" (cash to play with) at 12%, for example. Even if you found someone with capital who understood what you wanted to do and agreed with you, they'd probably class it with "precious metal speculation" and demand a good deal over the prime rate.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 12:11 PM
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My limited understanding of the copper market is that, because copper is generally consumed, rather than hoarded, its value is closely tied to the growth rate of the world economy. So I don't think stockpiling copper will save you if the world economy continues to get worse. Specifically, if the Chinese economy blows up as a result of the popping of their real estate bubble, the price of copper will likely crash as well.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 12:15 PM
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97: What seemed problematic to me was just that copper is so widely traded, and used, that it doesn't seem likely that there'd be any significant arbitrage potential for quantities that regular people could accumulate. Basically it seems like the people hoarding it would be betting on a major economic shift, which seems like too much risk to me.

The other point to consider, of course, is that while I wouldn't necessarily think about borrowing money to fund such a small-scale project, I do carry some consumer credit card debt, and it would make sense to pay that off first before speculating.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 12:19 PM
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When I was a kid I corned the market at my school in Craig Worthington rookie cards. It turned out to be a rather disappointing investment.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 12:31 PM
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I invested early and heavily in New Mutants and Alpha Flight comic books.

My day will come.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 12:45 PM
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One day Craig Worthington will get elected President, and then the price of his cards will skyrocket. Just like what happened to Bob Uecker cards when Mr. Belvedere became a hit.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 12:48 PM
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98: A hedge fund manager would slay their firstborn to get the kind of reliable returns you can get by paying off credit card debt.

So unless your expected gain is very high and your certainty is also very high, paying off the debt is probably a better bet. But it depends on your risk tolerance, and how much you have to lose.

(If your net worth is either very high or negative, then you might reasonably have a higher risk tolerance.)


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 12:52 PM
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96: That's true, because most individuals and businesses who want to borrow present a significant credit risk.

The only access most people have to a low-risk-premium rate is by borrowing against their house. Which is less available now than it was in the past.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 12:54 PM
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94: Depends on how soon you need the money back. (And, again, your tolerance for risk.)

You'd get some quick feedback about whether the retail-vs-ebay arbitrage works by starting small, while there's no good way to know whether the time-arbitrage buy-and-hold strategy is good except to wait.

And as lw points out in 87, you also need to think about how much producers will respond to an increase in prices by increasing production to meet demand.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 12:57 PM
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neither the experts nor the dummies have sold anything for any value in many years. Similarly for railroad caboose collections, vinyl record collecitons

Not true at all for vinyl record collections. I know two people personally who make very tidy livings as vinyl dealers, and there are many many more.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 1:12 PM
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Since first pressings command a premium for vinyl, do you know whether there's a forgery problem? Print a label and sleeve to turn the 1975 pressing into the much more lucrative 1973 one, feasible especially if there's no provenance.

Forgery has in the last few years become a big problem for rare coins:
http://coins.about.com/od/worldcoins/ig/Chinese-Counterfeiting-Ring/


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 1:21 PM
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Very few counterfeit New Mutants comics.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 1:24 PM
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There are people who make OK livings on secondhand books. Isn't Parsi one of them? My understanding is that you have to know the biz, you have to know books, you have to tie up a fair amount of money in inventory, and there's a lot of tedious detail.

There are a very few areas where I can tell if a book is vastly underpriced. I could tell about ten stories of windfall profits, but overall, the $3000 or so cash I got selling books a couple years back was probably a net $3000 loss.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 1:24 PM
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106 -- I don't really know the business, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't an issue.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 1:27 PM
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I'm with Benquo here.

94: The other obvious question would be, is there more money to be made in further rationalizing the market than in taking advantage of individual arbitrage opportunities?

This is sorta like speculating in stocks as one tries for capital gains. The basic problem here is that a given 'share' may spontaneously come up worthless. So if you buy a 100 'shares' in a given niche, a typical return would be half of them tank, some just come up worthless and a few might pay off with decent gains. If you luck out, you wind up holding something with big gains, but that's lottery ticket odds.

In a hot market (cabbage patch kids, back in the day!) you can play, but only for a while.

Most outfits that service the collectible market (comic book shops) operate like grocery stores, more or less, and the owner will collect himself just because, but someone like that doesn't spend a lot of money trying to make big gains. The money comes from dumping the high-volume, low-cost crap on the suckers. And they always wind up holding lots of crap. So, basically if you set up a store and do a lot of buying and selling you can make money on the transactions. But as a speculative play, it's a joke. You want to unload the crap on the fool speculators. Most of those people are probably trolling Ebay.

Pay off the credit balances before you do anything else.

max
['I just don't see how you make it pay as consistently and well as flipping burgers unless you're store in the market.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 2:02 PM
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When my son collected baseball cards I assumed that they'd have some value ten or twenty years later. Total delusion, a classic error of the kind being talked about here.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 2:05 PM
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I have about an equal number of vinyl records and cassettes from my teenage collecting days. Including several cassettes of things that I am now amazed were released on cassette, like The Bats' The Law of Things. When do those become collectible?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 2:10 PM
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Cassettes, my guess is never, barring some particular freak thing. They just don't last very long before they deteriorate.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 2:12 PM
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5 That comment thread wasn't all that funny. I'm not sure whether I can trust anything that Rossman writes now.

I thought ned and Sifu's parodies in comments 29, 40-42, 46-48 were funny.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 2:20 PM
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Though I mostly remember that as "the Jared Diamond thread".


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 2:21 PM
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I thought ned and Sifu's parodies in comments 29, 40-42, 46-48 were funny.

Hmm. You're right. Now we can't trust anything that I say. This may be no problem for you, but I'm going to have to make some major adjustments. On the plus side, we can still trust Rossman.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 2:29 PM
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116: As far as we know. And why would we trust us?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 2:50 PM
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Ah, Craig Worthington. Another of the Orioles' saviors at third base, after Floyd Rayford and Bob Gross, I think. Then there was Tim Knight.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 2:53 PM
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And why would we trust us?

Why, indeed? Especially after the Princeton/UCLA snafu.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 2:54 PM
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Unfogged: an eclectic, self-correcting web magazine.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 2:57 PM
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119: Especially after the Princeton/UCLA snafu.

As God is my witness, I thought Bill Bradley had played under John Wooden.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 2:59 PM
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120: Loaded with the right ammo for your brain.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 3:00 PM
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118: If you are looking for a sound investment, I could hook you up with a stack of his rookie cards.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 3:02 PM
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Thanks for the offer. I would have cornered the Storm Davis and Pete Stanicek markets. Those guys were going to be HUGE.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 3:07 PM
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I've still got a couple Storm Davis cards lying around, just in case. I keep them next to my Ben McDonald collection.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 3:16 PM
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Even Kirby Puckett rookie cards aren't worth much. Glut.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 3:22 PM
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I've got a Kirby Puckett second year card that was autographed by him. Or, at least autographed by somebody who knows how to spell "Kirby Puckett"


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 3:28 PM
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I believe that my son has his first ten or so cards. We saw him while he was still a minor leaguer.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 3:31 PM
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Somebody blew out poor Ben's arm. It was either LSU or the O's. Gregg Olson was another phenom who came up with a dead arm after throwing too many curveballs.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 3:38 PM
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Gregg Olson was a god to me. I actually did get his autograph. I sent him a card, and he sent it back, signed "Gregg OL"


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 5:48 PM
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Perhaps one of the greatest curveballs in MLB history. Strangely, he chose to be a reliever. The great tragedy of the O's was trading Schilling, Harnisch, and Finley for Glen Davis. That's when I lost interest.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 7:33 PM
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Yeah, the Glenn Davis trade was all sorts of awful.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 3-12 10:07 PM
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I had a Mark McGwire rookie card that was worth probably 2 or 3 times what I ever spent on baseball cards for a very short while. I didn't sell it in time - I wasn't paying attention to baseball and didn't expect the HR record to get broken so quickly - and then the box that had all my cards got lost when my parents moved. There were a few other (probably less) valuable cards in there, along with hundreds of worthless ones. I guess I should have tried harder to track it down.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 2:55 AM
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Another problem with copper as an investment: the world's biggest high grade copper mine is called "AT&T" (and BT and DTAG and FTel and lots of other things with T in them), and when they eventually crack and give in and deploy fibre (or co-ax, or radio out in the sticks), there'll be one hell of a lot of scrap copper that's already refined to the highest grades on the market.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 3:13 AM
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133: But unless you kept them "mint" the values are a *lot* lower than you might imagine.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:20 AM
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Speaking of mint, don't put those nickels and pennies back into circulation. The old penny (up to 82) and the current nickel are worth more melted down.

http://www.coinflation.com/coins/basemetal_coin_calculator.html

You get the option value of the mineral value and the embedded put of the currency value. Unfortunately, it's illegal to melt coinage.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:35 AM
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http://www.coinflation.com/


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:37 AM
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134: who was it who pointed out that BT's market value was less than the market value of all its copper wires?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 5:40 AM
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132: Re: old copper wire - there for a while I had access to old copper wire for free. Even at that price, it was a bugger and a half to strip those wires, and the cost to send the wires to Africa or China to have a poor kid burn the insulation off (which is what many supposedly 'green' recycling companies do) was way too high. They've got a few industrial gadgets to mechanically strip the wires, but they cost a lot as well. The bottom line (or, as everyone seems to be saying these days) at the end of the day there are a lot easier ways to make money.

But I'm still waiting. I'm still waiting.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:05 AM
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Copper wire is valuable enough here that theft of cable is a real problem. People are stealing cables from trainlines.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:13 AM
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For example:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/jun/06/sheffield-copper-theft-national-rail


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:13 AM
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there'll be one hell of a lot of scrap copper that's already refined to the highest grades on the market.

And the Zambian economy will go straight to hell.

141. Even three or four years ago, when Mrs y was commuting to Leeds by rail, she reckoned they'd be held up by signal wire theft on average once a week. There was a signal box just outside Leeds station that seemed to be hit regularly. As soon as the wire was replaced, it was nicked again.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:40 AM
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And...Numerian at Agonist

"WHY THE COLLAPSE OF THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL SYSTEM CANNOT BE AVOIDED" ...his caps

Numerian says this year. Ian Welsh says depends on China.

"...progressives aren't going to get change before the collapse. Sorry, that ship has sailed, it's done. Modern progressivism failed." ...Welsh


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:51 AM
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I wonder if you could shift to using cheaper metal for the cable? Aluminium or steel? It wouldn't be as good a conductor, but at least you'd save money on not having to replace it so often.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 7:55 AM
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"WHY THE COLLAPSE OF THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL SYSTEM CANNOT BE AVOIDED"

Let me guess , shortage of capital.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:02 AM
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Is the tram line cable bare - without an insulating coat? For me, the big problem was stripping the wire of its plastic coating. So I think big gauge bare copper wire would be an ideal target for theft.

For awhile in the 70(?)s here the price of copper was so high they switched to wiring houses with aluminum wires, but they had awful connectivity problems, and were banned.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:03 AM
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Train lines, not tram lines, Tripp: the cables running to the signals and so on.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:05 AM
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146.2: It was earlier than that. You still see some houses with it around here. The big issue is connecting copper to the aluminum can cause fires after the aluminum has had time to oxidize.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:09 AM
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144: Aluminum currently ~4x cheaper by weight and is used for a lot of long-distance transmission wires. But there have certainly been issues with theft of architectural aluminum (railings etc.), although that probably yields a greater amount of material per theft event.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:09 AM
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147. But incidentally, what are the overhead power cables on high speed rail lines made of if not copper? If it is copper, the TGV network must be a mine almost in the same league as France Télécom.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:09 AM
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150: Copper and bronze. So, yes.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:27 AM
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But thieves are less likely to go for them due to the whole "voltage" thing.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:29 AM
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I understand that ammo cases full of nickles are becoming the preferred way of lining one's fallout bunker to protect against radiation.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:31 AM
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re: 152

High voltage cables have also been stolen.

http://menmedia.co.uk/accringtonobserver/news/s/1463272_metal-thieves-risk-lives-to-steal-high-voltage-cables-from-substations
http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/mobile/news/scotland-yard-tackles-rising-metal-theft-1.1140456


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:34 AM
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Why don't they just periodically run high voltage down the signal wires for the trains?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:34 AM
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Because the wires and/or the signals would catch fire and/or explode.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:36 AM
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That would make them even less likely to be stolen.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:37 AM
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154: bloody hell.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:37 AM
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They should start making those high-voltage cables out of plastic.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:38 AM
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This is why all electrical and communications infrastructure should be made with hemp.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:38 AM
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Dammit... ?


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:39 AM
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This may sound odd but I have been reading local British newspapers recently, and the fixation on scrap metal theft (stealing it from "nice" places, as opposed to roofless houses and abandoned warehouses) is amazing. It sounds like it's literally about a thousand times as common there as it is in North America. The reading public must go nuts for this stuff. Someone gets their bird feeder stolen, or their wheelchair, or some ugly public sculpture, and it always gets in the news.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:40 AM
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This is why all electrical and communications infrastructure should be made with hemp.

You start getting some funny messages after a bit if your communications are mediated with hemp.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:42 AM
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This may sound odd but I have been reading local British newspapers recently

Well done. Nobody else does, apart from the Situations Vacant and second hand cars pages.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:44 AM
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It sounds like it's literally about a thousand times as common there as it is in North America.

That may because North America's metal thieves are still working their way through our massive supply of vacant McMansions.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:44 AM
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It does happen here and can take a shot at why is doesn't happen as often.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:47 AM
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Or go back to semaphore telegraphs. I had no idea until recently how extensive the French system was in the early 19th century.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 8:47 AM
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That may because North America's metal thieves are still working their way through our massive supply of vacant McMansions.

Sounds right. One of the most surprising things about The Wire for Brits, especially London Brits, was the idea that you could have huge areas of vacants, street after street of them, in the middle of a major city, with Bubbles et al going round ripping off wiring and piping from them.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 9:58 AM
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in the middle of a major city

I thought it was set in Baltimore.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 10:00 AM
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And the Zambian economy will go straight to hell.

It's already in hell, it will presumably have to go to Wrexham.

Stealing scrap metal is pretty close to the local religion in parts of the North West. One of the biggest coke smuggling rings in Liverpool got closed down because, after having come up with a nearly foolproof method of smuggling (you put half a ton of the stuff inside hollowed-out lead ingots, which are of course impervious to the x-ray machines used by customs), the Scousers responsible for making the move could not resist taking the ingots down to the local yard.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 11:56 AM
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Wouldn't that affect the weight of the ingot by several tons?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:14 PM
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I'd hate to get lead poisoning from snorting coke.

Of course, if I had to get lead poisoning, that might be the best possible way.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 4-12 12:22 PM
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Stealing scrap metal is pretty close to the local religion in parts of the North West.

For stories of hilarious criminal ineptitude, it's Liverpool first and the rest nowhere. London criminals are too good to be funny, Glasgow criminals are too violent, Manchester criminals are too well-armed, but being a copper on Merseyside for six months would keep gswift supplied with anecdotes for the rest of his life.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 3:13 AM
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Dead thread, but here's the British govt. finally trying to do something about the copper theft thing.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 4:03 AM
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it's funny, they used to do that for used CDs in america, require ID. seems like a reasonably simple fix. you get convicted x times for stealing copper wire, you're banned from selling?

my step-brother gets it from jobs and things (he's a welder); his solution was to wait till nighttime and burn it outside in his forge while we stood around and smoked joints and drank budweiser tallboys. god, the evil, toxic, impenetrably black smoke that boiled up off of that thing...so hot it rose instantly skyward and we inhaled relatively little, but even so. evil.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 4:21 AM
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you know, my family should really sober the fuck up, on some reflection.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 4:22 AM
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My favourite copper-theft stories are from Yorkshire.

Comedy: Thief breaks into Virgin Media (our monopoly cable MSO) head-end installation in south Leeds and hitches vehicle to what he thinks is a big copper cable. Engages clutch. Drags > 1 km of cable out of the ground. Discovers that it's optical fibre and therefore of negligible scrap value. Major disruption to service.

Tragedy: Thief breaks into old textile mill in Huddersfield and forces open substation cabinet. Paydirt! Cuts into large copper cable. Substation is operational. Thief collects 6.25 KV electric shock in blinding blue flash seen across city. Seriously burned, palpitating, shuddering thief staggers to van parked outside and drives several miles home to say goodbye to girlfriend. Who does sensible thing and calls an ambulance, but he dies in hospital.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 01- 5-12 4:47 AM
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