Tater’s Takes – Debt and Misinformation

December 19th, 2010 by Potato

Looks like the credit tightening may be taken seriously, as Mark Carney’s warnings are being widely picked up now. There are several other articles with similar themes this week, indeed it seemed to be the Globe’s major story for the week.

In one Globe round-up, the “As one economist puts it, Mark Carney’s warning on consumer debt is akin to leaving the cookie jar in plain sight but telling you not to touch.” analogy was put out there. I don’t think that’s accurate — the metaphor there implies that Carney is being hypocritical or just downright negligent in his expectations. But the children and cookies framework would be better phrased as “Those are for guests, don’t touch!” Because there is a good reason for the cookies (low rates) to be out — to stimulate the economy, capital spending, etc. But they’re not for the kids (housing market) since they’re already hyper enough. The cookies aren’t arbitrarily out, and can’t be easily put away just because the kids are getting into them.

Ed Clark of TD explains why regulation is needed: even though they recognize the problem, the banks don’t want to move first to tighten lending because it would be a competitive disadvantage to the bank that moved first (plus, systematic risk is beyond their business plan, and these loans are essentially risk-free to them thanks to CMHC). A good lesson for deregulation in lots of other areas: competition alone doesn’t always lead to a good outcome.

Michael James had a few good posts this week. another on index investing. I’m not a people person, so I think it’s much easier to pick stocks than to pick advisors/managers…

John Hempton has a post up about some statistics on Chinese ethanol consumption (provided by a controversial producer). There’s a discrepancy between the statistics the company provides, and what the WHO (and educated guessing) suggests is the status of alcohol consumption in China. Either the stats are wrong, or there’s a massive over-capacity building up… I’m starting to worry about stories like these. Don’t know what to do about it yet, but it’s got me thinking…

Jenn sends along this article in the economist about why doing a PhD is usually a waste of time. Speaking of finishing a PhD though, Netbug sends this inspirational video with the helpful tip: “the way to finish something on time and on budget is to ship when you run out of time or money.” Just finishing something and sending it along is the problem I’m wrestling with right now – and I’m long past out of time for sending a first draft to my committee… time to just “ship” something! :)

Jeffery Simpson has a column on misinformed people. Perhaps not surprisingly, “The people who were the most misinformed – in terms of having opinions that varied the most from verifiable facts – were those who watched Fox News almost daily.” I love learning things (I should hope so, as I’ve been a student all my life), and I like being an educator: not even necessarily as a teacher/lecturer, but even just helping to correct misinformation here on the blog. I’m deeply disappointed by (deliberate?) misinformation in the media…

2 Responses to “Tater’s Takes – Debt and Misinformation”

  1. Michael James Says:

    All this talk of having to stimulate spending always makes me uneasy. Instead of getting people to increase their spending on low-quality clothing that they won’t wear anyway because they are just addicted to buying clothes, is there no way to cause the people making their living from making and selling useless clothing to do something useful? Taking a very macro view, we’re all best off when most of us a working at things that are truly useful.

    In my naive view of all this I hope that people will stop spending money on stupid things to spark the economy into producing more useful things.

  2. Netbug Says:

    “is there no way to cause the people making their living from making and selling useless clothing to do something useful?”

    I like this question of Michael’s, if simply for the reason that there is too much cheap crap on the planet already.

    Also, I’m glad to provide you with misinformed views to correct as often as possible. :D