…[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‘.
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.
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…
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.
We decided to summarise our learning from 2011 into two brief thoughts:
The pains and strains of the economic sovereign debt melt-down in 2011, should stand us in good stead to deal with even more debt and sovereign strain in 2012, as More and Bigger Europe continue to miss the point; this being that more bureaucracy and more government and regulation will not get the INNOVATION engine started again to Recapitalise Europe!
Translational differences will matter. The CLOUD is a huge business and business model transformation opportunity. IT ‘Geekery’ and language could scupper this potential opportunity and we need to develop more ‘CLOUD TRANSLATION’ services so that a broader community and eco-system can get involved in an aspect of “INNOVATION ignition” in 2012.