Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The end of capitalism

Dilbert Blog is probably the best blog I know. Funny, smart, surprising, honest and to the point. It is written by a non-economist with great economic intuition. Adam Scotts' investment advice is based on the idea that you (or nobody else in the long term) cannot beat the market, which is quite well understood by most economists and confirmed by his experience with his own management of money, when compared to Goldman Sachs.

The last post is mostly wrong, however. He claims that we will soon see the end of capitalism because

Capitalism was conceived before the Internet, and before the gears of commerce became computerized. The system could absorb a lot of con artists because they didn't have the ability to steal fast enough to cripple the system. As you know, that has changed. Crooks in expensive suits now have the ability to swindle trillions, collectively, thanks to the efficiency of the system. And idiots in expensive suits can do even more damage.

This is mostly true but the result is not the need to abolish capitalism. It will encourage people (most people) to be more careful. At least I will try. Most smart people will. And the governments should stop caring about stupid people. Not because they don't deserve it but because it encourages stupidity.

Further comments suggests lack of understanding what the money is:

The balance of power has swung to the crooks and the market manipulators. Even if we could regulate away these problems, it's already too late. There isn't enough money left to support the planet under the current social systems, at least not when the boomers start retiring and unemployment starts climbing.

Whether or not the capitalism can support current social systems does not depend on how much money are being printed out but how well it can motivate people to work and how efficient the production can be. The biggest danger then comes from the (stupid)restrictions on trade. The people possess the technology to feed ourselves and to sustain and well increase our average standards of living (even if for some part of the society the standards of living might go down). The question is whether there will be sufficient incentives to use that technology, to keep looking for more efficient ways of producing stuff and to sell it.


But the biggest change could be in what sort of consumption is allowed under the new economy. Most of our problems were caused by people who couldn't control their own spending. Banks could tighten their credit requirements but that won't be enough to stop the spending junkies from depleting their own nest eggs. So you might see some forced savings rules in the new economy.

No, the problem was not caused by people borrowing money they could not afford to pay back. It was caused by people willing to lend them and even more by people who bought such debt or were willing to bet that it was a good debt. Some stupid people will always try to spend more than they can afford to. The only thing the government needs to do to make their life miserable (thought not unbearable), not support them or save them to discourage such behavior.

The interesting question is whether anything can be done with the herding behavior (causing bubbles and their bursting) but most likely not.