The Bear’s Lair

The Bear’s Lair: Time to ban stock repurchases

Boeing (NYSE:BA) and the airlines are currently in negotiations with the Trump administration for a bailout, with taxpayers expected to replace capital that those companies had previously eliminated through stock buybacks. If they get money without being forced through bankruptcy, this will become a pattern in each business cycle because it is so beneficial to […]

The Bear’s Lair: Götter-Boomer-rung

At the end of the 1983 movie “Trading Places,” the Duke brothers’ solid, long-established commodities business has been bankrupted in the orange juice pits by the insider-trading young sleazebags Winthorpe and Valentine, and the Dukes realize to their horror that trading has closed and the screens are dead. “Turn them back on” they cry feebly […]

The Bear’s Lair: Cromwell, Keynes and the Industrial Revolution

Maynard Keynes, as a good left-liberal, was a political admirer of an earlier Cambridge alumnus Oliver Cromwell, and certainly regarded himself as part of the “Roundhead” tradition. Yet it is becoming increasingly apparent that, just as Cromwell’s virtues and policies pointed Britain on the road to the Industrial Revolution, so the vices and profligacies inspired […]

The Bear’s Lair: Welch destroyed Sloan’s Century

Jack Welch, former GE Chairman (1981-2000) who died last week, was named “Manager of the Century” by Fortune magazine in 1999. Twenty years later, we can see clearly that the Manager of the 20th century was not Welch but Alfred P. Sloan, CEO and then Chairman of General Motors (1920-1963). Welch’s main achievement was destroying […]

The Bear’s Lair: A world without Mike Milken

President Donald Trump last week pardoned Mike Milken, the effective originator of the junk bond market, who had been sentenced to 10 years in jail in 1990 for mysterious securities infractions. While I have considerable sympathy for Milken himself (not that he needs it, being worth $3.8 billion) I thought it worth performing the thought-experiment: […]

The Bear’s Lair: Robots don’t threaten weirdos and misfits

The fancy-college-educated left take great satisfaction in proclaiming that robots will soon threaten blue-collar jobs, while skills requiring higher education will be immune from competition driven by artificial intelligence (AI). This is surely incorrect. Robots/AI can in principle reproduce any predictable process, whether mechanical or intellectual. They cannot reproduce unexpected movement, leaps of imagination or […]

The Bear’s Lair: Half-inflated bubbles are a Buy

If you had bought South Sea Company shares 300 years ago today, on February 17, 1720, you would have paid the inflated price of about £175 per share. If you had sold those shares at any time before the end of September 1720, you would have made a fine profit, more than five times your […]

The Bear’s Lair: The Dead Hand of Jacques Delors

On July 6, 1988 European Commission President Jacques Delors propounded the hope that “Ten years hence, 80% of our economic legislation, and perhaps even our fiscal and social legislation as well, will be of Community origin.” The EU has not lost this ambition; this week Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, attempted to prevent […]

The Bear’s Lair: Beyond reason and behaviorism

Classical economics holds that economic decisions are made by rational decision makers, using solid information and reason. Behavioral economics holds that many economic decisions are based on “cognitive biases” such as an aversion to losses that is stronger than the desire for profits. Richard Robb’s new book “Willful” holds that many decisions are made without […]

The Bear’s Lair: Debt Jubilee would set us back to Sumer

With U.S. debt at record levels, enthusiasm is mounting for a debt jubilee, in which part of or all the mountain of debt would be written off, to the great relief of debtors and the despair and probable bankruptcy of creditors. The jubilee’s proponents point out that debt jubilees have Biblical sanction, being a standard […]