Category Archives: Financial

Awesome Documentary

Just watched this, and I think it’s one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.

It’s abut a dutch designer who wants to create a mobile phone that is created using fair labour and sustainable environmental practices.

For me, one of the most important parts was when the main guy who set up and ran this company, basically hit a wall and had to seek medical help.

This is actually very common for CEOs in startup organisations, but we hardly hear anything about it.  The loneliness and stress you have when you are driving a business, doing everything from top to bottom is really really underappreciated.  Some people can do it, but many can’t.

You basically just burn out.  And I’m saying this because of course, I’ve experienced this myself.

It was also interesting to hear how when you create a business, it becomes something you can’t stop.  You have customers who want products and services, you have contracts with employees and suppliers and all sorts of others, that you can’t just end.  You can’t just stand up one day, say “I don’t want to do this anymore” and walk out.

Anyway, it’s interesting, enjoy.

Big Government?

I’m no fan of big government but I do agree with this article:

Robert Reich: Big government isn’t the problem

The former secretary of labor on our newest spending bill — and why it’s everything that’s wrong with Washington

Topics: RobertReich.org, Big government, Dodd-Frank, Big Pharma, Capitalism, Business News, Politics News

Robert Reich: Big government isn't the problemRobert Reich
This originally appeared on Robert Reich’s blog.

Some believe the central political issue of our era is the size of the government. They’re wrong. The central issue is whom the government is for.

Consider the new spending bill Congress and the President agreed to a few weeks ago.

It’s not especially large by historic standards. Under the $1.1 trillion measure, government spending doesn’t rise as a percent of the total economy. In fact, if the economy grows as expected, government spending will actually shrink over the next year.

The problem with the legislation is who gets the goodies and who’s stuck with the tab.

For example, it repeals part of the Dodd-Frank Act designed to stop Wall Street from using other peoples’ money to support its gambling addiction, as the Street did before the near-meltdown of 2008.

The London Property Market is the Same as the Auckland Property Market

Well to be more precise, the London property market compared to the rest of the UK is the same situation we have here with Auckland vs the rest of New Zealand.

This article is quite good:

Britain’s economy is dangerously imbalanced – just look at the London property bubble

The only way to correct the situation is to invest north of Watford

The Guardian, The average home in London costs as much as three homes in the rest of Britain.The average home in London costs as much as three homes in the rest of Britain. Photograph: Yui Mok

Treat the cause, not just the symptoms, doctors are urged. Yet in tackling the Great British fever over our housing market we are doing precisely the opposite. The policy quacks urge us to breezeblock the greenbelt. Or to let those garden cities bloom. Or to build up, to build out – to just bloody well build.

Valid as some of these suggestions are, they muddle manifestations of the problem with its root. The confusions are threefold. First, there isn’t a housing bubble across Britain, despite the government’s attempts to blow in as much hot air as possible. Instead, we have a London bubble – a giant one. Second, for all the angst-ridden commentary, that bubble can’t keep growing for ever.

 

The important bit in all of this for me comes right near the end:

This is the price Britain pays for treating London as a “world city”, and lavishing on it all the plum infrastructure and transport links. For bailing out the City, but leaving manufacturing to wither on the vine. For putting all the big-boy jobs in the capital and draining the rest of the country of their sustainable local economies and elites. That process has gone on for decades, and it will require decades to correct. Without strong local economies, HS2 and the rest threaten to turn more of the country into dormitories for capital commuters.

And especially the bit in bold.  The government did indeed help the finance boys, and pump money into infrastructure and housing.  We didn’t have the same bank bailout here, but we did have billions poured into infrastructure.

AND in both countries manufacturing jobs were not valued at all.  I’m not sure why, but to prop up this sector would have been viewed as being very 1970’s, protectionist.  And not the right thing to do at all.

And it’s this that also helps the housing market in both London and Auckland take off compared to other parts of the country I reckon.  Manufacturing used to be done in many cities in both countries – and good paying jobs were available to be had in those cities – you didn’t have to up-sticks to London or Auckland to get a high paying job, you could get one in a regional centre – and a very nice lifestyle to go with it.

But these days, if you want a decent paying job, the big cities, and more so, the one big city in the country.

 

Good Post on Financial Regulation

A very good article detailing how financial advisors and the like are still essentially looking after themselves and no one else.  Quite a long read, but worth it.

 

Brent Sheather: Poachers turned game keepers

9:30 AM Wednesday Jan 29, 2014 11 comments
Sean Hughes (right), the former chief executive of the FMA got his hands dirty dishing out divine retribution for most, but sadly not all, of the local bad guys, says Brent Sheather.

Sean Hughes (right), the former chief executive of the FMA got his hands dirty dishing out divine retribution for most, but sadly not all, of the local bad guys, says Brent Sheather.

He came, he saw, he prosecuted.

Sean Hughes rode into town and blew the bad guys away with the FMA arguably doing more in a few years than the Securities Commission accomplished in a decade.

No dining out with contemporaries at overseas conferences every second week for Mr Hughes, he got his hands dirty dishing out divine retribution for most, but sadly not all, of the local bad guys. Not the FMA’s fault that the silly Court system sentenced many to home detention.

So whilst it is high fives for the FMA so far, let’s hope, to quote Winston Churchill “this is just the end of the beginning”. Most of the bad element is gone – prosecuted, retired or left the country. So that is the criminals sorted.

The next, even more important job, is to rehabilitate the law abiding members of the investment community.

 

 

 

Rodney Nails it Again

I like a lot of what Rodney Hide says.  He calls it as it is most of the time I reckon:

Mainzeal and the mad men who drive the economy

Rodney Hide | WEEKEND REVIEW |

HIDESIGHT

Mainzeal Property & Construction’s collapse generated the usual and expected kneejerk bewailing and bemoaning.  

It’s as if it should never have happened. We had this big company yesterday. We should still have it today. It should go on forever.

And because it should never have happened, something must have gone wrong. And so someone is to blame.  

The fault is invariably greed or business ignorance or both. The fingers predictably point to directors and the company’s owners. And to the government.

The business failure is reported as an economic calamity. And a sign that all is not well within the wider New Zealand economy.

Rest of Article

 

It’s a pity he can’t say this sort of stuff when in parliament. The media won’t report it.  It’s all the latest scandal stuff that’s all.

There Simply Won’t be Enough Jobs

We have 7 billion people on the planet now.

A percentage of these will be of working age, i.e. 18 to 65 say.  I imagine it might be something like half.  So that’s 3.5 billion people who are of working age and if they all lived the lifestyle we have in the westernised countries (and increasingly they are), then these people would have a job each.

And what are jobs for? What do people do when they’re at these jobs?  Well if they’re in the private sector, they produce a product or provide a service.  So they might be making widgets or serving cappuccinos.  If they’re in the public service then they are taking care of some aspect of society.  So they might be cleaning the streets or providing an electricity supply.

But the idea is the same either way, these people are engaged in providing a product or service.  And they usually work for a company who pays them a wage or salary.  And this is how they survive, how they pay the rent, buy their food and so on.

Now this assumes of course that there’s someone else who is paying to consume this product or service.  A bunch of people who are going to pay for that cappuccino or that unit of electricity.  And so far there has been and it all works well.  They call this capitalism and it utilises the free market.

However, as Bob Dylan once said, times they are a changing.  How? Well the thing is we simply don’t need 3.5 billion people to provide the products and services the 7 billion of us need. Why? Well we’ve been getting very good at increasing labour productivity, that’s why.  What does this mean? Well essentially it means we need less people to produce the same amount of stuff.

And so we’re seeing long lasting unemployment in westernised countries now.  Just look at this:

Eurozone crisis live: Global jobless to hit record 200m this year

LiveThe UN jobs watchdog says global spillover from the recession in Europe is driving unemployment higher

The crisis in the eurozone is the single biggest risk to global employment this year, says the International Labour Organisation.
The crisis in the eurozone is the single biggest risk to global employment this year, says the International Labour Organisation. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

  Source

Why is this happening? Well basically we’ve gotten very good at producing a lot of stuff very cheaply and easily.  As an example, take food production.  Only a few decades ago, 50% of US families were farming families, now that figure is 1-2%.  And this is achieved by mechanisation, better growing methods (technology) etc.

So our societies are going to have to change to accommodate this.  How? Well I’m not sure and I’m not sure it’s even really being addressed.  Everyone’s still focussing on how we can create more jobs.  And this debate is happening in every developed and developing country.  Here’s an example of that.  Very few are pointing out that we will never have full employment again.

I did come across this article which addresses the issue.  In it the author says this:

The key question to ask is how does the individual live in a society where the “reservation job” now pays a lot less? 

The simple answer seems to be that we allow people in this situation the opportunity to increase their skills, and where they can’t redistribute some of the gains from mechanisation to these people in the form of an income payment – where the income payment represents the fact that the “reservation job” that previously gave an individual a certain standard of living no longer exists.

The existence of an unemployment benefit, the existence of student loans, and the subsidisation of education are clear and consistent methods that society has already taken on board to deal with the possibility of the increasing mechanisation of low skilled work – and it is this these types of solutions that are appropriate moving forward, not an arbitrary call to stand in the way of technological innovation.

As a result, the rise of the robots is not something to fear, as long as society and the government that represents it are conscious of the changes that are occurring – and that they provide a security net for those who may otherwise lose out.

So he’s basically saying they go on the dole and that’s OK.  Well I’m not sure that it is at all OK.  People use their jobs to buy stuff, pay their mortgage etc.  Are we going to agree that there’s a number of people who get this money for free, while the rest of us work?  Wouldn’t we all want to be the ones who get the money for free instead of slaving away at some job we don’t even like?

Another way of addressing this is job sharing.  This has been proposed for decades.  So perhaps we work 2-3 days a week, with someone else working say 2-3 days a week to make up one full time job.  And then we all have 3-4 days of leisure time each week, lovely.

Except this has never worked anywhere as far as I know.  the thing is people kind of want to work (well most people anyway), for all sorts of reasons.  Work provides people with a purpose, and some meaning in their life.  It also just occupies their time!  Many people don’t know what to do with 4 days a week to spend how they like.  Maybe they don’t get on sowell with their wife/husband that they want to be around them 4 days a week.  They want the structure, the social interaction, and lets face it they want the money too.  If you can earn $x doing half a week’s work, then you can earn $2x working a full week.

And of course if you have leisure time, you probably want money to spend undertaking your leisure.  And more and more people’s idea of leisure is not free stuff.  they don’t want to spend it doing gardening or walking on the beach.  They want to be at the mall, buying the shiny new gadgets, or partaking in the many and varied paid for activities.

People don’t want to live a time-rich but money-poor existence.  They want the money so they can buy all the flash things.  This gives them prestige etc.

And so we come full circle to the situation we have now.  Which is that people who are highly skilled are in strong demand and paid a lot of money for the jobs they do.  And those without many skills are finding no one wants to employ them at all.  Their jobs can be done by robots or by people in another country for far less money and far less hassle.

Which leaves us with a section of the community that will be permanently unemployed.  And so in various ways we have to pay for them.  Here in NZ (and most developed countries) we pay for this via unemployment benefits, extra police, more jails etc.

The amount of crime in any country is related to the number of young men who are unemployed and disconnected from society.  Young men with time on their hands, no one to keep them in line, who are not owners of property etc. are going to commit crime.  And this is what we are seeing.

And yesterday I was intrigued to see John Key announcing that jails will be implementing a working lifestyle for their inmates.  This is supposedly to prepare them for work on the outside.  They will be used to getting up, going to work (albeit on jail grounds) and earning a paycheck, earning their place in society.  Now this sounds good but of course raises a number of questions such as “What will they be making or doing for work?” i.e. how will this affect the private sector?  and “Will there be a job for them when they come out?” i.e. with all the will in the world, can a lowly skilled convict find a job once they get out of jail?  Or will they end up back on the dole with time on their hands again?

I think this is a huge issue that will not go away, but only get worse over time.  It will be interesting to see how things work out.

Update: French jobs minister says France is bankrupt!

What a Good Article

On the Stuff website, they’re doing a thing called Stuff Nation, which seems to be everyday people writing articles.  Which is quite savvy of the Stuff owners (Fairfax) really since they’re getting people to write articles for their website for free.

But anyway, some of the articles are quite good.  Especially this one.  It’s called “The Sad State of NZ’s Economy” which is not a catchy title at all.  A subeditor would rename it something like “How the Whole World is Ripping Us Off!” or “NZ Naked and Defenseless as Ruthless Neighbours Prey on Us!”

Essentially it tells the story of how we are playing the international trade game following all the rules 100% completely, 100 of the time and virtually no one else is.  They’re either state run countries with no free market at all, using nationalised assets, controlling the value of their currencies (we let ours float), destroying their environments to produce stuff cheaper, and the same with their people etc. etc.

So this whole globalization thing is working out really badly for NZ.  We are losing our assets, we are losing our talented people and basically just getting poorer and poorer day by the day.

And yet we’re chasing more free trade agreements.  With anyone really, Russia (what a fantastic open, non-corrupt, peace loving haven of a country this is), India (not so bad but very big), the USA (money printing like a lizard drinking) and so on.

And we’re supposed to sit back and thank our masters for selling our country down the gurgler and repeat the free market mantra, over and over again.

Well I’m a business owner and a right winger.  I don’t mind free trade if everyone plays by the rules.  But they don’t.  They never have and never will.  Including bastions of trade like the USA.  We have to learn this once and for all.

I hate to sound like a 1970s protectionist, but we have to look after NZ, our assets and our people.

What we are doing right now is lying back like a whore and saying to the rest of the world “Treat us Nicely”.  We have surrendered.  And we’re being screwed for it.  And not nicely.