The Bear’s Lair: The globalization tyranny

“We have the means to impose the state of the world” said World Economic Forum chairman Klaus Schwab, sounding ever more like Ernst Stavro Blofeld, at the Davos forum this week. In that remark, he summed up precisely what is wrong with globalization – it leads inexorably to an unending global monopoly. Even the totalitarian Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia of George Orwell’s “1984” are more libertarian and economically efficient. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: 1930s, here we come!

Pundits all over the media are proclaiming gloomily that we are in for a re-run of the 1970s. They are far too optimistic. If you look at the world with an unprejudiced eye, we currently have aggressive power blocs, rapidly escalating protectionism, overpriced stock and real estate markets and a huge mass of malinvestment from the last decade that will need to be written off. Guys and girls: that is not the 1970s, it is the 1930s, albeit with rather more inflation. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: The Age of Pointless Excess

The Financial Times last week gave an account of the new “pencil” tower at 111 West 57th Street that made me glad I am not a billionaire. For one thing, if by inordinate wealth I were compelled to purchase an apartment on the upper floors of that building, the weight of my book collection – all 291 volumes of “Punch” magazine and some remarkably heavy 17th Century “bokes” –would fully counteract the dampening weight in the basement, that protects the tower from swaying too much in high winds. If my library were so resident, in a typical New York storm the entire structure would become unstable, swaying wildly from side to side and perhaps in a New York rush hour showering immensely heavy volumes from a height of 1,100 feet on the heads of passers-by on 57th Street, killing hundreds. A true tragedy, and an epitome of the folly of modern life. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: How to Define Conservatism

The well-respected political journalist Matthew Continetti has just published a book “The Right: The Hundred Year War for American Conservatism,” one of many such, which takes the meaning of “Conservatism” as varying from decade to decade, according to the winds of events and popular culture. This seems to me a silly way to go about defining the term “Conservatism,” as is the concurrent attempt to write lengthy philosophical tomes attempting to do so from first principles. Instead, I suggest would-be “Conservatives” should identify a regime which in their view ran its country well, and then measure ideological deviations from that regime. Trust me: it’s much simpler and more coherent! Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of media

There are many factors that make rational economic decision-making difficult. One of them is that the media and educated opinion, mostly wholly ignorant of the laws of economics (or preferring to ignore them) often has violently misguided views on a subject, which it uses its intellectual power and marketplace megaphone to impose. William F. Buckley declared in 1963 that he would rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone book than by the Harvard faculty; the problem with that solution is that even without appointing the faculty to govern, it still has an excessive influence on the views of the telephone book’s “Aardvark to Adamson” contingent. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: What if Trump had won?

The United States and the world as a whole have fallen into a difficult period in the last year, with war in Ukraine, rising inflation and almost certainly a coming recession as interest rates soar. Many blame President Joe Biden for this, but I thought it worth carrying out a thought experiment: what if Donald Trump had won the 2020 election that he narrowly lost? To what extent would today’s outcomes be different? Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Death spirals

The U.S. Consumer Price Index ticked up again this week, to 1.2% in the latest month (15.4% annualized) or 8.5% in the last 12 months, making the 10-year Treasury bond rate at 2.7% even more inadequate to restrain it. As the negative real rate of interest gets more severe, it pushes inflation up further, causing a death spiral that is eventually solved by a sharp surge in bond rates and an economic crash. However, that is not the only death spiral visible today; their prevalence makes this column even more pessimistic than usual. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: The search for a well-run country

When I moved from Britain to the United States in 1995, a significant motivator was my search for good government. The British government’s quality had sharply declined after the departure of Margaret Thatcher and seemed likely to get still worse after Tony Blair’s inevitable arrival. Conversely, the Bill Clinton/Newt Gingrich tandem was distinctly hopeful for the U.S. The picture today is globally grim for those seeking a replica of the capable, intelligent government of Lord Liverpool. If one were similarly seeking a new home today, one would need to search globally to find the brighter spots amid the general gloom. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: The Weimarization of Japan

The Bank of Japan has indicated that it will buy Japan Government bonds in an indefinite amount at a yield of 0.25% — thus refusing to share in the belated tightening policies of other central banks. That is a policy worthy of Rudolf von Havenstein, President of the Reichsbank in the years leading up to the Weimar Republic hyperinflation of 1923. Beyond monetary policy, there are other Weimar signs about Japan also – trouble appears to be ahead. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Apocalypse now?

With 35% of the world’s grain supply subject to the disruption of the Russia-Ukraine war, it seems likely that the next six months will see a disruption in global food supplies, in some areas causing famine. If so, that will complete the set of evils supposedly unleashed upon the world by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the Revelation of St. John the Divine (War, Famine, Pestilence and Death.) As post-Enlightenment thinkers, we are not used to expecting the Biblical Apocalypse. Were we wrong? Continue reading