Category Archives: The Real World

Free Inquiry on Campus

The “Free Inquiry on Campus: A Statement of Principles by a Collection of Middlebury College Professors” document, published in the “Aftermath at Middlebury” is well worth reading and pondering.

On March 2, 2017, roughly 100 of our 2500 students prevented a controversial visiting speaker, Dr. Charles Murray, from communicating with his audience on the campus of Middlebury College.  Afterwards, a group of unidentified assailants mobbed the speaker, and one of our faculty members was seriously injured.  In view of these unacceptable acts, we have produced this document stating core principles that seem to us unassailable in the context of higher education within a free society.
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On the importance of “viewpoint” diversity…

I am proud to be a member of the Heterodox Academy (see http://heterodoxacademy.org/). Heterodox Academy members are all professors who have endorsed the following statement:

“I believe that university life requires that people with diverse viewpoints and perspectives encounter each other in an environment where they feel free to speak up and challenge each other. I am concerned that many academic fields and universities currently lack sufficient viewpoint diversity—particularly political diversity. I will support viewpoint diversity in my academic field, my university, my department, and my classroom.”

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Dow will peak March 23…just after lunch!

Quoting from this CNBC article,

“The Dow Jones Industrial Average… will hit its peak on Wednesday, March 23rd, specifically “after lunch,” Robin Griffiths, the chief technical strategist at the ECU Group told CNBC.”

Such a claim (based on so-called “technical analysis” (cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_analysis)) is total and utter nonsense.  It would appear that the signal-to-noise ratio for this article specifically and much of CNBC content, in general, is close to zero.

Stocks have entered bear market territory, and any rallies from here are just opportunities to sell — not buy, a number of analysts have told CNBC.
cnbc.com|By CNBC
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Bank of Japan Introduces Negative Interest Rates

The Bank of Japan’s (somewhat counterintuitive) stated goal for implementing it’s new (negative interest rate) policy is “…to push down borrowing costs to stimulate inflation”. While I certainly do not claim or pretend to be a monetary economist, a policy that punishes savers and rewards borrowers doesn’t seem like a particularly good script for long-term economic success. I think it’s a tacit acknowledgment that the Japanese economy is struggling with deflation.  See https://www.boj.or.jp/en/announcements/release_2016/k160129a.pdf for the official policy statement issued by BOJ…

BOJ Introduces Negative Interest Rates for First Time
wsj.com|By Takashi Nakamichi and Megumi Fujikawa
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As Interest Benchmarks Go Negative, Banks May Have to Pay Borrowers

I never thought that I would ever live to see the day when interest rates turned negative, creating a world where investors pay for the opportunity to lose money over time and banks pay interest to borrowers…

As Interest Benchmarks Go Negative, Banks May Have to Pay Borrowers

“As Euribor, a key benchmark used to set interest rates, seems to sliding toward zero and below, banks in some European countries are looking at previously inconceivable problem: They may soon have to pay interest to customers who borrow from them.”

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Are Shareholders Obsolete?

Corporate Governance

Are Shareholders Obsolete?

In his January 2, 2015 Wall Street Journal essay, columnist Holman Jenkins makes a compelling case for the principle of shareholder value maximization by noting that owners seeking to maximize the value of their businesses end up doing a pretty decent job of satisfying customer and employees along the way. Think of this essay as a 2015 sequel to Milton Friedman’s famous New York Times Magazine essay (published September 13, 1970) entitled “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” (see http://bit.ly/Social_Responsibility_of_Business for Friedman’s essay; Thomas Coleman provides important context in his recent (2013) essay about Friedman entitled “Corporate Social Responsibility: Friedman’s View @ http://bfi.uchicago.edu/feature-story/corporate-social-responsibilty-friedmans-view)…

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What’s the “future” for price at the pump?

Lately, futures prices for crude oil and refined products such as gasoline and heating oil have been in a free-fall.  For example, the January 2015 futures contract for “RBOB Gasoline” is trading at the equivalent of around $1.64 per gallon.  As shown in the following graph, this represents a price drop of roughly 85-90 cents per gallon since September:

RBOB Gasoline

AAA reports that today’s national average is $2.639 and could fall to $2.50 within the next couple of weeks.  Nationally, the average markup from the near term futures contract price to prices at the pump has averaged 62 cents per gallon since January 2000 (which is when AAA began tracking this information).  Therefore, if futures prices hold at (or fall further from) current levels it seems quite likely that the price at the pump may be headed even lower.

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