Today’s post is actually only a short sound bite for further conversations to be developed in the future:
The real burden of the open and free market is the fact that it does not always behave and act in the way the market participants anticipated. [In other words, the market might be open and free but not perceived as fair – a real challenge when the clearance mechanism experiences the odd bottleneck moment, because in the long run, the market should and will always clear and achieve equilibrium].
The burden the market then bears is in the form of interference and regulation…
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.
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..
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.
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.
Have you ever overheard a small debate between children related to #economics? Some at theMarketSoul (c)1999 -2013 find themselves in Spain this weekend, relaxing with family and the following conversation between young siblings are worth repeating.
In some bizarre way, it relates to labour economics and the minimum wage:
We had just observed a single horse drawn carriage in the streets of Marbella, when the conversation kicked off.
C1 “What is the minimum wages?”
C2 “I don’t know, why should I?”
A1 “It currently is around €7.00 / hour or something very close”
C1 “Ok, so if one apple costs say €1, then the pony should get 7 apples an hour for working, right?”
C2 “Why?” [by the way C1 is 13 years old and C2 is 11 years old”
C1 “Because that is the minimum wage”
C2 “That doesn’t make any sense!”
C1 “What do you mean it does not make any sense, it is simple mathematics?”
C2 “Why should the pony get 7 apples per hour? What if it only wants 3 apples and something else?”
C1 “Because that is the minimum wage!”
C2 “Yes, but the pony might not want so many apples. The pony might want to choose for itself how many apples it wants”
C1 “Now you don’t make any sense to me at all! The pony should get exactly what the minimum wage is, or more”
C2 “But the pony might not want or need all those apples. It might need fewer apples, but want more oats or something else. The pony should choose and not someone else…”
And thus we had a little insight into an economic debate between the ‘social cohesion’ leaning child and the ‘libertarian’ leaning child. No fisticuffs or bad mouthing, but different opinions and different attitudes to life. It will be interesting to listen into another conversation along these lines.
We agree with C2’s questions on where the choice for the minimum wage really lies. The wage level should be determined by the provider of the labour, whether individually or collectively bargained, but there should be no interference from government in this process.
Take note Europe, this is just one factor contributing to your long drawn out decline. Markets, not quasi-markets and constant political interference and distortions in the markets; should determine clearing prices or wages.
But this seems to be a lesson a child can learn, but not grown up political leaders…
When the Euro zone Debt driven financial crises – yes, it has been dragging on for a little while now; lurching from one convulsion to the next tremor – is headline news across most traditional newspapers in Britain, it is worth pausing briefly to consider the overall ‘management efforts’ of the European leadership and senior bureaucratic establishment and the potential outcomes.
The interesting point to observe today is the development of the crises from one of ‘consolidated rhetoric’ to save the Euro zone and Euro project, to a slow and it now seems inevitable conclusion that certain ‘none performing’ members will have to leave the Euro monetary union. This ‘orderly exit’ is now overdue because the political will, fiscal consolidationand Euro zone wide risk sharingnecessary to ensure continued membership, on an equal footing, has been and is being rejected by the electorate as incumbent political leaders and governments stumble and fall as each political reflection point at the ballot box looms.
What is not being openly discussed?
What is currently not part of the popular discourse is the fact that the risk has moved on from a political, credit and market risk to one of a social or socio-economic dimension. Because ‘austerity proper‘ has not yet begun to bite and embed itself firmly in the economies of most European countries, as part of the process of climbing the stairway on the upward leg of addressing the mountain of sovereign debt built up over the last few years, nobody has really, except for Greece (and a blip in August 2011 in Britain), had to deal with large-scale and continued civil unrest. Yet, this is exactly the scenario we need to prepare for as a few conversations we have been having with analysts and pundits has openly started raising this spectre as another risk factor to add to the volatile cocktail we are already expected to swallow.
The next step?
Is a full-scale exit by the weaker Euro zone nation states on the cards and the possibility of a wholesale devaluation of the Euro? Well, that depends on where the financial and fiscal power and discipline lies and we believe that most observers of the European Debt Crisis known the instinctive answer to that question…
A final thought is to start preparing yourself for debates and contingency planning around a disorderly exist by weaker Euro zone members. And have large-scale civil unrest as part of the scenarios you need to consider…
After the conclusion to what some pundits called a ‘tumultuous week’ for Europe (week ending 11 May 2012), we still find ourselves asking some important questions.
We all know that the question is not around what growth, where growth or why growth. The fundamental question in Europe now is:
For way too long Europe and its leadership had taken its eye off the growth ball. They had taken their eye off that ball focussing instead on creating the conditions for a ‘stable’ internal market, forgetting that it was all actually centred on competitiveness and growth creation!
Too much needless bureaucratically driven regulation, not creating the sustainable conditions for growth, but rather the spiral into debt driven oblivion…and therefore leading to the volatility and the instability we currently experience!
So the choice now comes down to how do we drive growth, in the face of an electorate that favours public sector driven growth, rather than private sector led growth.
It must make common (or at the very least common enough) sense for private sector growth incentives being created, rather than debt fuelled public sector or even Keynesian focused supply side stimulus. But no, the discourse in Europe has not been around stimulating demand by creating the conditions for competitive led export fuelled growth! Instead, the in-fighting and constant politicking around balanced budgets and debt to GDP ratio targets and endless pacts to patch the patient with half-baked policy sticky plasters has contributed to exactly the opposite outcome the leadership tried to create in Europe, namely a stable platform for internal market competitiveness. They forgot about the world changing outside the ‘Chinese wall’ of an expanded 27 member union.
And now the electorate has firmly rejected the austerity programmes, in both Greece and France, because they have not been educated in the dangers of public sector excesses. Nobody in Europe (except for maybe Sweden) realised that giving the “Engine of Growth”, namely enterprise and entrepreneurs an incentive to create businesses and employment opportunities, is actually tax reductions and not increases, combined with tempering public sector growth and reducing labour market inflexibility. Most European countries have youth unemployment; the hungry, tech-savvy and street smart under 25’s, running in double digits, of anywhere between 15 – 50%, depending on which country or statistics you want to believe…
We beg you Europe
For the sake of yourselves and the rest of the world, we beg you Europe (and off course we mean the leaders of Europe) to think about the following key growth criteria, as part of any ‘Growth Pact’ you might negotiate in the coming months:
With apologies to The Smiths; the original version of the song Panic’s lyrics reads something like this:
“Panic on the streets of London / Panic on the streets of Birmingham / I wonder to myself / Could life ever be sane again?”
Or is this the beginning of what we will call ‘Austerity Anarchy’?
As a case study in behavioural economics goes, the last week in March 2012, in the UK must go down as a classic…
What sparked the ‘run on petrol and filling stations’ is not the aim of our analysis, but rather the deeper underlying cultural psychosis affecting Austerity Britain. However, the austerity is not driven by the current revenue expenditure austerity, but rather the culture of Investment Austerity over many decades that has created a supply chain time bomb in the UK.
There is generally a severe lack of investment in any form of storage capacity. Not as a risk management concept, but rather as a pure short sighted cost management issue.
Yes, land capacity is limited on a small (in places patchily overcrowded; especially down in the South East of England) island and the cost of owning a vast storage network must seem prohibitive; yet having so little risk management or rather ‘buffer’ and shock absorption capacity available must be the vast hidden opportunity cost ‘time bomb’ waiting to derail a sustained or sustainable short run upturn in the economy?
Hidden or in the economists parlance ‘Opportunity Cost’ is generally not an item on any policy maker’s agenda, yet in it lies the ‘unintended consequences’ element that so seldom gets factored into the equation. Yet opportunity cost highlights the risk element we have to factor in. And in this sense we use the word RISK in its proper intended format, namely a quantifiable probabilistic evaluation of the downside of a transaction. Yes, threats are more closely aligned to ‘unintended consequences’ and are the issues we can only subjectively be aware of, but cannot quantify with any degree of accuracy.
In the light of the recent Citigroup’s settlement of mis-sold Hedge Fund investments, we issue this brief opinion piece on the interactions of Risk, Trust and Innovation:
We don’t think it is so much about TRUST or trusting institutions anymore but has always been about Caveat Emptor (Buyer beware).
No investor can or should trust institutions without conducting their own due diligence and risk profile / risk appetite assessment first. In the past investors could possibly rely on professional ‘trusted’ advisors to help then navigate the due diligence part, at least in theory. Risk and risk appetite assessment was the more tricky part and not even the professionals had sophisticated enough tools to help their clients through this quagmire landscape.
We believe this is the unintended consequence of over regulation or an over regulated environment. Relational trust has been eroded in favour of ‘legislative trust’ and therefore the impersonal ‘hand of public scrutiny’ is supposed to protect the innocents.
We need to ensure the pendulum swings back to a happy balance between relationship and legislative trust, unburden ourselves from the over regulated and expensive compliance environment we have allowed to engulf and overwhelm us, not adding any value, but stifling innovation instead.