The Bear’s Lair: Over the cliff with student debts

Monthly Payments will resume on $1.8 trillion of U.S. student debt beginning in October, after a 3-year payment holiday for the Covid-19 pandemic. Since President Biden had been talking of more widespread debt relief (last week nixed by the Supreme Court) this will come as a nasty shock to 27 million ex-students, some of whom have graduated since 2020 and hence have never known the burden of monthly debt payments. That may end the strange resilience the U.S. economy has shown so far this year. Come October, reality may dawn. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Europe needs a populist revival

It is hard to find a defense of populism in conventional media. The steady slide away from solid property rights in Europe (including the United Kingdom) and the United States since 1990 has been generally applauded, and its opponents demonized. Yet an economy without property rights is being shown year by year to make citizens poorer in country after country, however warm and fuzzy it makes the intellectual left feel. With both major parties in most European jurisdictions committed to property rights destruction in one form or another, only a populist reorientation of politics can return government to its proper primary function: of protecting, not eroding the property of the people. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Back to the 50s – when military equipment ruled!

Design Machine from Fortune Magazine November 1956, p150

Even as a participant in the derivatives market, I found new derivatives wrinkles pretty boring, however lucrative they might be. Equally in software, the latest “social media” app, however irresistible to billions of dozy consumers, leaves me cold. Fortunately, help is at hand. With international tensions ever-increasing, research money is pouring again into the military-industrial complex. Soon we shall thrill at the release of the 2020s equivalent of those 1950s giants: the B52 bomber, the U-2 spy plane, the USS Nautilus nuclear submarine, the Lockheed Starfighter and the AR-15 rifle. If technology is to thrill us, it needs to go VROOM! Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Foreign Policy in a Non-Hegemonic World

Communication and mutual understanding with both allies and opponents are key to a successful foreign policy. The skillful alliance formation and peacemaking of Klemens, Prince von Metternich and Robert, Viscount Castlereagh after the Napoleonic Wars led to a century of peace and rapidly increasing prosperity; the lack of it in 1914 and the late 1930s led to global catastrophes. In a world where one power is a clear hegemon as from roughly 1985 to 2015, communication may be less necessary, though understanding is always helpful. But today there is no hegemon, and foreign policy must be rethought to prevent economic and political apocalypse. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Big is Very Ugly

Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL) is bringing out yet another virtual reality headset, the “Vision Pro” to appear early next year, priced at $3,400. This follows the total failure of Meta’s (Nasdaq:META) Metaverse and similar virtual and augmented reality products launched by Alphabet (Nasdaq:GOOG), Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) and others – I bought my son a $30 virtual reality headset in 1999! This is yet another indication that the biggest companies tend to follow one another like sheep and are not at all where innovation comes from. Since Bigness leads to Badness, I thus applaud the work of the Federal Trade Commission’s Lina Khan in attempting to slow the flow of corporate mergers, which generally subtract value. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: The coming collapse in luxury goods

The past two decades have been wonderful for the luxury goods business as demonstrated by the position at the top of the world’s billionaire Rich List of Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessey Louis Vuitton. Cheap money has boosted asset prices ad infinitum and the top 1-2% of the world’s population with significant inflated-value assets have spent a lot of their winnings on high-priced rubbish. But interest rates are no longer near zero, and asset prices must inevitably fall. Surely that portends a slump in the luxury goods market, even as ordinary consumers continue to spend. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Breaking Through the Debt Ceiling

President Biden appears adamant that he will not yield one iota to the Republicans demanding spending cuts in return for increasing the debt limit. He also claims to believe that through the 14th Amendment he can issue debt unilaterally, without Congressional approval. By doing so, he would take the position of an absolute monarch, like James II, Louis XIV or Khufu. Lessons can be drawn as to how that might work in practice. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: The Productivity Death Wish

Nonfarm labor productivity in the United States dropped at an annual rate of 2.7% in the first quarter of 2023, which followed a fall of 1.6% for 2022 as a whole. This does not appear to be a temporary phenomenon, or rather it appears coincident with the hyper-regulating Biden administration. Since productivity growth is key to rising living standards – without it, you cannot have them – this decline, which appears likely to continue, has the direst possible implications for the United States, and for human civilization as a whole. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: An agenda for a Tucker Carlson presidency

The TV pundit Tucker Carlson, fired by Fox, is now seeking a new gig, but appears to be hampered by non-compete clauses in his agreement with Fox, which extends to December 2024. As the columnist Frank Miele of RealClearPolitics has suggested, one way around this would be for Carlson to run for President, which would give him a “bully pulpit” until November 2024, with the major networks forced to cover him. Miele sees this as a way round Carlson’s Fox problem. I would go further and suggest that Carlson, if he ran, would have a sporting chance of winning. This column outlines why this is so, and what he should do if he won. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: How to regulate banks

Chorus of Peers from Iolanthe

First Republic board meeting

The collapses of Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank and First Republic Bank, all within six weeks, are a drastic failure of both bank regulation and Fed monetary policy. This column has written incessantly about the idiocies of Fed monetary policy and its GOSPLAN approach to interest rate setting; I would now like to focus on bank regulation and make some suggestions about how it might be improved. Continue reading