The editor’s opinion from Marketplace, Northeast Wisconsin’s business magazine. (Obligatory disclaimer: Most hyperlinks go to outside sites, and we’re not responsible for their content. And like fresh watermelon, peaches, pineapple, grapefruit, tomatoes and sweet corn, hyperlinks can go bad after a while.)

July 28, 2008

Analyses of the Day

Both are from Friday's Wall Street Journal:

(1) Columnist Kimberly A. Strassel's Potomac Watch column reporting that congressional Democrats are threatening business groups with blatantly anti-business legislation in the next congressional session unless the business groups give them campaign contributions. (In the non-political world, this is called "extortion.") And it's not as if Democrats are being subtle about it:
[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid stepped up the pressure with last week's pow-wow. Democrats invited only presidents and CEOs of the most powerful trade groups, hoping to circumvent GOP lobbyists and take their message straight to the top. That message? According to one participant, the meeting was cordial, but the theme clear: "We have a narrow margin right now, and it is tough for us to get anything done. But there will be more of us next year, you'd better get used to it, and you better find a way to work with us."...
Based on this, anyone who tells you that Democrats are pro-business is lying. Eighth Congressional District residents should ask their congressman, who is running for reelection, about this. (And, by the way, what are his views on business anyway?)

(2) Columnist David Ranson of H.C. Wainwright Economics on people's view of the economy, as opposed to what the economy is actually like:
People tend to anthropomorphize the world around them, and not just in economics. We look at the outside world and assume that it is governed in the same way as our own lives. For example, we're mystified by Mother Nature's apparent heartlessness and large-scale disregard for what we cherish: order, justice and the sanctity of life. We still resist the notion that we can't dictate the course of the Mississippi, control the way the planet evolves, or equalize the distribution of income.

The same parochial streak in human nature is rife in economic commentary. In the context of a household or a business, debt is a burden and can become a threat. But for society as a whole, debt finance is a prime means of capitalizing production and growth.

It's extraordinary, then, that in national debate the narrow view drowns out the broad. Aggregate private debt and trade deficits are widely regarded with equal suspicion and fear — even by "experts." Instead of celebrating the role that private debt has played in creating prosperity, many blame "excessive" debt when things go wrong, and cite it as a basis for pessimism. ...

There's an old saying that if your neighbors are losing their jobs it's a recession; if you are losing yours it's a depression. It's therefore unfortunate that such a large fraction of prominent forecasters hails from the financial community. Their views are colored by the turmoil suffered in their industry. ...

We are not a nation of whiners, but we do have a lot of alarmists. It is becoming politically incorrect to suggest that the economy is basically sound.

Ranson borrows a metaphor from Franklin Roosevelt's first inaugural address: "What's excessive now is fear, not debt: Fears of insolvency and private-sector indebtedness are misplaced and harmful. They place obstacles in the way of ill-used capital that seeks to move toward safer and more profitable employment. They plunge the stock market into turbulence. They push government into hasty actions that intrude more aggressively into private choices and decisions. They undercut the market-price system, without which the economy cannot allocate resources productively. Last but not least, these fears trigger the proverbial false alarm in a crowded theater, sending everyone stampeding for the exits."

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