If only we could…

…[take] the human being out of the market entirely, then we should have a proper, effective and efficient market…?
So might go the refrain of Neo-liberal economics, or at least a slightly different take on the Neo-liberal ideal of ‘every interaction should be a market transaction‘.

inspiration

That Neo-liberal economic refrain is part of the inspiration behind the creation of the ‘Soul of the Market’ or rather theMarketSoul and this site.
With this last post of 2013, we thought a bit of reflection and a reminder of our inspiration and founding philosophy might be in order.
In order for a market to be effective, there has to be a few ripples in the ebbs and flows of the transactions and interactions making up the market processes.  Therefore, we have to be able to tolerate human frailties and flaws, or else the market becomes too mechanistic and dare we say it preordained.  This can naturally not be an effective outcome for any market.  Human failings and market failure are two sides of the same coin.  However, we should work together in order to limit the inevitable damage and negative consequences of both human and market failure.  This does not necessarily translate into more regulation, might we add at this juncture.
Let us never forget this and celebrate process frailty, failure, learn to develop and embrace tolerance, persistence and perseverance; basic elements of human nature
We should never forget our inspiration, put it to aspiration and strive to achieve our own unique and specific dreams.
Human Nature / Logo
Human Nature / Logo (Photo credit: Ars Electronica)
Go, Inspire, Aspire and Achieve…
theMarketSoul ©2013
Our final word of 2013 is:

CONSOLIDATION

US Treasury Yield Curve – The Shutdown Analysis (Part 1)

Seal of the United States Department of the Tr...
Seal of the United States Department of the Treasury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today we very briefly focus on the dynamics we have observed in the US Treasury Yield Curve between two critical dates:

1. The Yield Curve at 30 September 2013 – The day before the US government shutdown officially began

2. Friday 11 October 2013, exactly 11 days into the White House, Congress and Senate stand-off

YC shutdown AnalysisWhat can clearly be observed from the Yield Curve for Treasury Bills (T-Bills) dated 30 days is that the spread between 30 September 2013 (at 0.10%) to the rate at 11 October 2013 (0.26%) has significantly increased and that the Yield Curve has become inverted.  Normally the sign of a recession or other financial calamity to come.

Our question:

Will Thursday 17 October 2013 be D-Day (for Disaster or Domino-day) when the whole lot starts tumbling down again?

The Kuznets swing and the market for labour and skills

You must have seen the headlines recently? British wages falling sharply in real terms versus our EU brethren…

We wrote about a particular economic phenomenon referred to in this post about economic cycles and particularly the Kuznets swing; which we find the most interesting and thought provoking cycle. The reason for this is that it is a generational cycle, only lasting or more accurately stated lasting anywhere between 15 – 25 years.

Image representing oDesk as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

So where are we on this cycle and what does it mean for me, should be the two most obvious questions to answer?

Lets address both separately below.

Firstly we believe we are now around seven years into a downward phase of the Kuznets cycle, therefore to some analysts it would mean that we are either almost half way or to others around a third of the way through this cycle.

Secondly, and more importantly, the impact it has on market participants like all of us:

We believe that the downward phase of a Kuznets swing is the ‘exuberance‘ correcting phase; when markets and other factors of productions contributing to mostly normal market clearing activity ‘got slightly out of kilter’. The Kuznets swing is always there to bring these factors of production into alignment. It is a consolidation phase of the cycle and interestingly for this particular phase, it coincides with disruptive technological advances around Cloud Computing, dis-aggregation of intermediaries, especially in labour markets with labour or skills exchanges appearing everywhere.  Examples include, Elance, oDesk, PeoplePerHour, etc..

English: Cloud Computing
English: Cloud Computing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Furthermore, and this is the most import action point for our readers to understand and appreciate, this consolidation and technological advance has a severe impact of wages levels and the distribution of where actual ‘work’ is being performed.

Hence headlines like the one we spotted this morning regarding real wages in Britain declining relative to other (very unproductive EU cousins) are not helpful without the pundit exploring and engaging n deeper analysis of the underlying drivers for the pressure.

The Income and Substitution effects of a wage ...
The Income and Substitution effects of a wage increase (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our recommendation:

Understand that the world of work is changing much faster than we had ever become used to in previous generations. As active able and willing participants in this market for labour and skills we have clear choices: Up-skill, be competitive appreciate and plan for volatility in the labour supply market, by ensuring flexibility in location, skills and prices. It is especially painful to suffer real wage declines, but remember this is the market’s subtle way of signalling a problem or challenge in that particular market and a way of adjusting in order to restore the natural balance and clearing prices.

We believe every interfering politician and educating commentator should always bear this in mind.

theMarketSoul ©2013

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Hidden ‘cost’ of Opportunity Cost

As economists (assuming that most of our readers have a vague interest in the subject matter we keep on harping on about most of the time) we should all be aware of, if not au fait with Opportunity Cost.

English: A production possibility frontier sho...
A production possibility frontier showing opportunity costs of moving between two of the points. (Photo: Wikipedia)

As a one line refresher: Opportunity Cost is the cost or value forgone by choice. Choosing one option or outcome over another, automatically leads to an alternative opportunity forgone, hence the cost element.

So the real challenge is to extract the ‘right’ amount of value or benefit from the chosen option versus the forgone option. This is the real difficulty when the counter-party does not share the same or a similar risk profile.

What is the answer then?

Well as vaguely competent economists our stock answer is: It depends!

Wieser coined the terms marginal utility and o...
Wieser coined the terms marginal utility and opportunity cost. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Lets peal this back one level and start with the this position: the very fact that you had a choice in the first place is a very good thing. A lot or market participants are never really afforded the luxury of this or any choice. They just have to lump it and get on with whatever activity keeps them sustained. Therefore, from this extreme position an answer might be that we should count our blessings and just accept the inevitable and get on with choosing and working through the consequences.

However, in a world driven by value maximisation, the fact that we have to make the optimum choice does become more significant and important. What tools can we employ in a world of Information overload, yet still Information Asymmetry to come up with the optimal solution?

Choices
Choices (Photo: Scarygami)

Answer on the back of a postcard please…