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  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: European Affairs
  • Institution: The European Institute
  • Abstract: Beneath the mantra about a coordinated global response to the economic crisis, a line of fracture starkly divides the two sides of the Atlantic about what to do in practice to revive the sinking economies. In Washington, the Obama administration is accepting an unprecedented amount of government debt in order to pump money into the hands of consumers who can spend it and revive business. An Obama aide says that Canada, France, Germany and are not matching the U.S. effort with stimulus spending of their own and should do more. No, answer Ms. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy - firmly but politely, so far - this is the wrong approach, the wrong priority. The global financial rules need to be overhauled before more money is pumped into it, they say, because the real problem is the lack of confidence in a recent U.S. model of capitalism that has collapsed. And, they say privately, America is to blame for the problem, so America should pay to fix it.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America, Washington, Canada, France, Germany
  • Author: Martin Walker
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: European Affairs
  • Institution: The European Institute
  • Abstract: David Smick's book, The World Is Curved, explains that financial engineering has outpaced the understanding of regulators and governments - and even of many of the people involved in the business. His book, reviewed by journalist and consultant, Martin Walker, predicts that worse is still to come for the U.S. and also for highly-leveraged banks in Europe holding "toxic" assets.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, China, America
  • Author: Leslie H. Gelb
  • Publication Date: 05-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The United States is declining as a nation and a world power. This is a serious yet reversible situation, so long as Americans are clear-eyed about the causes and courageous about implementing the cures, including a return to pragmatic problem solving.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, China, America
  • Author: Bülent GÖKAY
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations
  • Institution: Prof. Bulent Aras
  • Abstract: The last months of 2008 witnessed what is being called the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of 1929-30. The first indications of a serious crisis appeared in January 2008. On 15 January, news of a sharp drop in the profits of the Citigroup banking led to a sharp fall on the New York Stock Exchange. On 21 January a spectacular fall in share prices occurred in all major world markets, followed by a series of collapses. A number of American and European banks declared massive losses in their 2007 end of the year results.
  • Topic: Economics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: New York, America, Europe
  • Author: Robert J Lieber
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Politics
  • Institution: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Abstract: Arguments are widely expressed that America is in decline, both at home and abroad. These admonitions extend not only to economic, diplomatic and geopolitical realms, but even to the cultural arena. The United States does face real and even serious problems, but there is an unmistakable echo of the past in current arguments. Antecedents of these views were evident in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, and on occasion even in identical language. Indeed, declinist proclamations have appeared on and off not only throughout the 20th Century, but also during the 18th and 19th Centuries. Moreover, periodic crises in US history have included challenges more daunting than those of today. It can thus be instructive to compare the arguments and prescriptions of the new declinism with those of earlier eras. The evidence suggests a pattern of over-reaction, a historicism, and a lack of appreciation for the robustness, adaptability and staying power of the United States.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: I recently spoke with Jonathan Hoenig, manager of the Capitalistpig Hedge Fund and regular contributor to Fox News Channel's Cashin' In, Your World with Neil Cavuto, and Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld. Mr. Hoenig is also a columnist for Smartmoney.com and contributes economic commentary to WLS 890AM in Chicago. -Craig Biddle Craig Biddle: I must ask at the outset, why did you name your firm "Capitalistpig"? Is there a story behind that? Jonathan Hoenig: Yes, there is. From weeding yards as a young boy to working at Starbucks in high school, I have always been interested in money and actively hustling for dollars. Getting an "A" in school didn't mean much to me, but earning a few hundred dollars working in a local warehouse or passing out samples of Nutella (another summer job) always provided a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride. One of my earliest memories is going with my dad to our local bank and opening my first passbook savings account. Even then, it was a real thrill to watch the balance slowly build. As a kid, while many of my contemporaries were either bullying (or being bullied), I was busy discovering the virtue of mutually beneficial exchange. My neighbor appreciated me cleaning out her basement, and, for a few bucks, I was more than happy to do an excellent job. Ever since I can remember, capitalism wasn't something I spurned, but embraced. Knowing I wanted to pursue a career in the financial markets, after college I traded futures at the Chicago Board of Trade for a few years before opening up my firm in 2000. The name Capitalistpig Asset Management was a punchy way of communicating the philosophy by which my operation is run. We also give all new clients a copy of [Ayn Rand's] Atlas Shrugged. The name Capitalistpig also helps to attract the right type of customer. I prefer to work with like-minded individuals who support capitalism and individual rights and are happy to be part of an operation that loudly promotes these ideals. CB: What exactly is a hedge fund? How is it different from a mutual fund? And what do you and other hedge fund managers do? JH: A hedge fund is simply a pool of money funded by profit-seeking investors and managed by a professional money manager. In that sense, it is similar to a mutual fund. But unlike a mutual fund, a hedge fund is not required to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This doesn't mean hedge funds are unregulated; far from it. The government places stringent restrictions on how hedge funds can operate. Most notably, we're prohibited from accepting investments from "nonaccredited" individuals-meaning, those who don't have a liquid net worth of at least $1 million or haven't earned an income of at least $200,000 for two consecutive years. This, incidentally, is the source of the notoriously "exclusive" and "elitist" nature of hedge funds: They're exclusive and elitist not by choice, but by government edict. While most people assume that hedge funds trade frequently and make big bets on financial esoterica, the truth is a hedge fund is a legal structure, not an investment technique. Some trade frequently and use leverage, others buy and hold stocks for months or years at a time. So while the media routinely characterize hedge funds as "risky" or "highly leveraged," the reality is that hedge-fund strategies, just like mutual-fund strategies, run the gamut from the ultraconservative to the highly volatile. Some managers employ complex spread trades, while others simply buy and sell stocks. Just knowing someone runs a hedge fund tells you absolutely nothing about how it's run. What matters are the strategies, positions, and discipline that the manager uses to maximize the money. My fund is focused on absolute return, ideally earning a profit regardless of the condition of the stock market or larger macroeconomic environment. To accomplish this, I use strategies such as selling short, trading options, commodities, currencies, and other instruments, some of which aren't directly correlated with the stock market. My fund functions as one part of an individual's portfolio, usually no more than 25 percent, and it has been profitable eight out of nine years, earning a total return of over 345 percent. The Dow Jones has lost 28 percent over the same period. CB: Hedge funds and their managers have been loudly and repeatedly condemned for having somehow caused or exacerbated the current financial crisis. Did hedge funds lead to or worsen the crisis? If so, how? If not, what do you make of such claims? JH: Such accusations are absurd. Hedge-fund managers have neither caused nor exacerbated the financial crisis, and they couldn't have done so even if they had tried. These managers simply invest money for their clients. If they make good investments, their clients make money; if they make bad investments, their clients lose money. Moreover, hedge funds-one of the few financial industries that has not asked for and will not receive a bailout-actually helped shoulder the burden of the credit collapse. In buying and selling risky mortgages, loans, and other instruments, hedge funds substantially mitigated the crisis by adding liquidity to the marketplace and facilitating trade. Wealth creation requires investment, and the savings needed in order to make loans, finance operations, start new companies, and invest in R come from investors, such as hedge-fund managers, who are seeking to profit. Far from fueling the financial crisis, hedge-fund managers reduced its severity, and continue to do so, by allocating capital in accordance with the principles of economics, long-range thinking, the profit motive, and market demand.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America, Chicago
  • Author: Heike Larson
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Free marketeers reading the news these days cannot help but feel depressed. Media reports would lead us to believe that entrepreneurs are exploiters, that global trade hurts rather than helps people in America-in short, that capitalism has failed and that only the "change" offered us by central planners can alleviate our economic woes. In this climate, Marc Levinson's book The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger provides a welcome respite and intellectual refueling for weary capitalists. It tells a suspenseful story of achievement-replete with many twists and turns and a swashbuckling American hero-that will leave you wanting to run to the nearest container port to admire with newfound appreciation the industrial machinery that impacts almost every part of our daily lives. The Box, published on the fiftieth anniversary of the first sailing of a containership christened The Ideal-X, tells the story of how a seemingly mundane thing-a metal box with a wooden floor-managed to fundamentally change the world we live in. Until the 1960s, shipping had not changed much in decades. Handling cargo was a labor-intensive activity, and transportation costs and times-whether by land or by sea-were huge obstacles to trade, often making transcontinental, let alone global, trade economically unfeasible. In the 1950s, moving goods by ship was "a hugely complicated project," involving "millions of people who drove, dragged, or pushed cargo through city streets to or from the piers" (p. 16). Docks were cluttered with every kind of good imaginable, "steel drums of cleaning compound and beef tallow alongside 440-pound bales of cotton and animal skins"-all of which needed to be loaded and unloaded manually by gangs of longshoremen (p. 17). The process of loading and unloading a single ship during a single visit to a port often took weeks and accounted for between 60 and 75 percent of shipping costs. And, given the difficulties inherent and time involved in moving goods housed in a variety of different containers, it was imperative that factories locate close to docks for fast access to raw materials. Transportation costs and long delivery times made long-distance trade challenging and expensive-even before factoring in the heavy regulation that plagued the shipping industry. Recognizing the great expense and wasted time inherent in shipping practices of the day, two companies-both outsiders to the maritime shipping industry-developed in parallel an alternative system. Malcom McLean, an entrepreneur who grew his trucking company from a single vehicle purchased on credit during the Great Depression to one of the largest in America, bought a marginal East Coast maritime shipping line using "an unprecedented piece of financial and legal engineering" to circumvent regulations that prevented trucking companies from owning ship lines (p. 45). McLean set out to design and build a new shipping system from scratch based on a novel approach to the business: Whereas most shipping executives at the time believed that their business was operating ships, "McLean's fundamental insight, commonplace today but quite radical in the 1950s, was that the shipping industry's business was moving cargo" (p. 53, emphasis added). Within less then two years, McLean and his company, Pan-Atlantic, bootstrapped the first viable container system, in which cargo was loaded into stackable metal and wooden boxes of uniform dimensions, eliminating much of the labor required for and many of the problems inherent in loading ships with goods housed in a variety of containers. Further, "McLean understood that reducing the cost of shipping goods required not just a metal box but an entire new way of handling freight. Every part of the system-ports, ships, cranes, storage facilities, trucks, trains and the operations of the shippers themselves-would have to change. In that understanding, he was years ahead of almost everyone else in the transportation industry" (p. 53). His team of entrepreneurial, fast-moving engineers, managers, and partners designed, among many other things, the 33-foot box (only small steel containers were previously available); developed a quick-release locking system that eliminated the need to chain containers to ships or trucks; built a new trailer chassis to guide containers automatically into place; and put in place large cranes equipped with spreader bars-devices stretching the entire length of a container that enabled crane operators to attach and release hooks at the container's corner with the flick of a switch, thereby eliminating the need for longshoremen to climb up to each container corner and attach chains manually. And they accomplished all of these things while dealing with skeptical regulators who doubted the safety of containers and were pressured by truck and rail competitors to prohibit the container shipping experiment. When the first containership sailed on April 24, 1956, McLean's detailed cost tracking system showed clearly the benefits of the new system: "Loading loose cargo on a medium-sized cargo ship cost $5.83 per ton in 1956. McLean's experts pegged the cost of loading the Ideal-X at 15.8 cents per ton. With numbers like that, the container seemed to have a future" (p. 52). . . .
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Timothy Samuel Shah
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Religion and modernity were never expected to go hand in hand, and for centuries they coexisted uncomfortably. But thanks to the entrepreneurial model of American evangelicals, argue two journalists at The Economist, God is back.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Eric Daniels
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Not yet a year into its term, the initially popular Obama administration has plummeted in popularity. In light of Washington's escalated meddling in the economy, many Americans are expressing deep concerns and anger about the statist direction in which this administration is steering the country. Unfortunately, however, few Americans are aware of-and the media is ignoring-one of the administration's most serious threats to our freedom: its stated intention to bolster antitrust enforcement. Since May, Christine Varney, the newly appointed assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, has conducted a speaking tour promoting the Division's new mandate under Obama and affirming the president's many campaign promises to "reinvigorate antitrust enforcement." Varney and her counterpart at the Federal Trade Commission, Jon Leibowitz, are publicly threatening "possible investigations" of businesses ranging from Google to Monsanto to IBM. In response to this new climate, antitrust advocates from Senator Charles Schumer to the American Booksellers Association have called on Varney to undertake new prosecutions. And New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo recently joined the push by filing a suit against Intel.1 Americans should not only be aware of this ominous trend; they should be up in arms about it. Antitrust laws violate the rights of American businessmen and consumers, thwart economic development, and stifle our quality of life in myriad ways. To see why, we must first understand what antitrust law is. During the second half of the 19th century, as American companies grew and acquired assets around the country, they found themselves in a difficult position. Although companies could achieve economies of scale by acquiring smaller firms and unifying their efforts, state laws prevented them from doing so. Whereas some state legislatures imposed special taxes on out-of-state corporations doing business in their states, other legislatures forbade corporations in their state from holding the stock of companies based elsewhere. (Legislators established such restrictions in the hope that they would force successful companies to incorporate-and thus pay taxes-in their state.) In response to these restrictions on acquisitions, C. T. Dodd and John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil created a new form of business using the device of a legal trust, which enabled them to hold the stock of dozens of companies and thus effectively manage vast productive assets.2 The operational and financial advantages of this novel corporate structure were immense, yet critics alleged that the newly created trusts were "odious monopolies," charging them with "making competition impossible," "raising prices," and "disregarding the interests of the American consumer."3 Critics condemned this new legal device as a "problem" and branded businessmen who employed it as "robber barons." Yet these businessmen used this legal device to create their vast fortunes by increasing competition, lowering prices, and providing American consumers with more and better products.4 The problem was not that their novel form of business had generated economic inefficiencies-it had done the opposite. Rather, the problem was a political one. Because these businesses were becoming fabulously successful and their owners enormously wealthy, egalitarian-minded and envious Americans pressured politicians to "do something," and politicians, seeking approval, got "tough" on the issue. A solution to the trust "problem" came in the form of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. Senator John Sherman and his colleagues claimed that trusts were "combinations that affect injuriously the industrial liberty of the citizens of these States."5 Critics of the trusts claimed that their high profits were achieved-not through the entrepreneurial, managerial, and productive genius of men such as Rockefeller, Edison, and Carnegie-but by "the few extorting the many."6 Because of the "public outcry on the trust question" and the alleged need to protect the "interests of the consumer," Sherman and his colleagues advocated the creation of a broad law that outlawed "monopolization" and "restraint of trade." That law was the Sherman Antitrust Act, and since its passage in 1890 Congress has added five other antitrust laws to the books, prohibiting dozens of supposedly "anticompetitive" business practices.7 . . . To read the rest of this article, select one of the following options: Subscriber Login | Subscribe | Renew | Purchase a PDF of this article.
  • Topic: Economics, Oil
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Robert Sutter
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Comparative Connections
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Asian commentators who asserted that China and its neighbors could ride out the economic crisis in U.S. and Western financial markets appeared in retreat during the quarter as the impact of the financial turmoil and recession in America and Europe began to have a major effect on China and the region's trade, manufacturing, currency values, and broader economic stability. The hope that China could sustain stable growth independent of the U.S. and Europe and thereby provide an engine of growth for export-oriented Southeast Asian countries was dented by Chinese trade figures that nosedived in November, especially Chinese imports, which fell by 18 percent. The financial crisis also dominated the discussion at the ASEM summit in October. Meanwhile, China continued to pursue infrastructure development projects with its neighbors to the south, resolved the land boundary dispute with Vietnam, and signed a free trade agreement with Singapore. Talk of a planned Chinese aircraft carrier caused some controversy, but on the whole assessments of China's rise were notably more balanced than in the past.
  • Topic: Economics, Financial Crisis, Reform
  • Political Geography: United States, China, America, Europe, Asia, Southeast Asia