It’s that time of year again,… time to pull the hair out trying to find just the right gifts for my clients, and to sign cards with meaningful messages. In my search for gift ideas I came across this essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson (yep, lived and died in 1800’s), called “Gifts”. The very first sentence amazed me in a way we’re usually surprised to find that people in the past had lived through, and felt similar things as we are:

It is said that the world is in a state of bankruptcy, that the world owes the world more than the world can pay, and ought to go into chancery, and be sold.

Everything happens in cycles within cycles, and humanity keeps on ticking. We keep on living. That is my gift to you for the holidays 🙂 – hope that no matter how crazy things seem right now, know that you will prevail.

~ Happy Holidays ~

P.S. Still accepting suggestions for business gift ideas

Merry Christmas

 

This article  in The New Yorker is short, sweet, and interesting.

Highlights:

  • “digital goods and services are everywhere you look, but their impact is hard to see in economic statistics” (because most content online is given away for free and/or stolen. also, hard to track.)
  • “You may think that Wikipedia, Twitter, Snapchat, Google Maps, and so on are valuable. But, as far as G.D.P. is concerned, they barely exist.”
  • ““information sector” of the economy—which includes publishing, software, data services, and telecom—has barely grown since the late eighties, even though we’ve seen an explosion in the amount of information and data that individuals and businesses consume.”
  • “New technologies have always driven out old ones, but it used to be that they would enter the market economy, and thus boost G.D.P.—as when the internal-combustion engine replaced the horse.  Digitization is distinctive because much of the value it creates for consumers never becomes part of the economy that G.D.P. measures.”
  • “Figuring out the invisible value created by the Internet is no easy task. One strategy that economists have used is to measure how much time we spend online (on the assumption that time is money).” (Funny. All the time we spend trolling on Facebook is counted as created value and real dollars.)
  • “The enormous gains for consumers in the digital age often come at the expense of workers. Wikipedia is great for readers. It’s awful for the people who make encyclopedias. Although the digital economy creates new ways to make money, digitization doesn’t require a lot of workers: you can come up with an idea, write a piece of software, and distribute it to hundreds of millions of people with ease.”

GDP as a measure was developed in 1930’s. They need to come up with a new method of tracking the value created by the Internet, but I’m not convinced that “time=money” in this case.

Here’s the latest news if you missed it: Cyprus Bailout

Early Saturday, the nation reached an agreement with international lenders for bailout help. Part of the agreement: Bank depositors with more than 100,000 euros ($131,000) in their accounts will take a 9.9 percent haircut. Even those with less in savings will see their accounts reduced by 6.75 percent. That’s right: Anyone with money in a Cypriot bank will have significantly less money when the banks open for business Tuesday than they did on Friday.

And I wanted to quote my own comment from Duc‘s blog about what happened in Cyprus this weekend:

Duc,
the situation in Cyprus is unique. Most of the money in their banks is Russian offshore funds, in other words, laundered criminal money.

Message or a pure money grab, we as outsiders cannot know. The message could be about something else entirely, not directed to debtor nations but specifically for the mafia, just under this ‘world crisis’ umbrella.

This was published in 2007. I wonder if the conclusions are as true today as they were 5 years ago.

THIS REPORT IS ABOUT THE FACT that per capita GDP is lower in most of the countries of Europe than in most of the states of the USA. That France, Italy and Germany have less per capita GDP than all but five of the states of the USA is probably something that messrs Chirac, Schröder and Berlusconi don’t wish to know. Or that Göran Persson is prime minister of a country which, if it were a part of the USA, would rank as one of the very poorest states in that Union? Can this be true? Is it plausible?

It is both true and plausible. America’s GDP is far higher than Europe’s and has been so for a long time now, and the American economy has been growing faster than the economies of many European countries in recent decades, not least those of countries like France, Germany and Sweden.

The US recession, with GDP growth rates of 1 or 2 per cent, represents almost boom conditions in Germany, for example. Europe may have its Eiffel Tower in Paris, its Coliseum in Rome, fine roads in Germany and social security systems in Sweden, but it will take more than past achievements to cope with the economic challenges which many European countries are facing. Economic challenges which among other things will be brought about by demographic developments and will impose heavy strains on comprehensive, publicly funded welfare systems.1

http://www.timbro.se/bokhandel/pdf/9175665646.pdf

This is an excerpt from a book I’m not reading, called “One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism” by William Greider. I opened it to a random page and came upon Chapter Eleven, titled “The Alchemists”. Wanted to share.

In the history of capitalism’s long expansionary cycles, it is finance capital that usually rules in the final stage, displacing the inventors and industrialists who launched the era, eclipsing the power of governments to manage the course of economic events. As capital owners and financial markets accumulate greater girth and a dominating influence, their search for higher returns becomes increasingly purified in purpose – detached from social concerns and abstracted from the practical realities of commerce. In this atmosphere, investors develop rising expectations of what their invested savings ought to earn and the rising prices in financial makrets gradually diverge from the underlying economic reality. Since returns on capital are rising faster than the productive output that must pay them, the process imposses greater and greater burdens on commerce and societies – debt obligations that cannot possibly be fulfilled by the future, and sooner or later, must be liquidated, written off or forgiven.

Amid the glow of personal accumulation, this divergence is difficult for individual investors to see. Instead, they plunge forward optimisitcially, embracing new and more speculative opportunities despite occasional evidence that something may be awry. A period of manic investing typically unfolds at this point, as masses of investors, large and small, rush this way and that in their search. Their enthusiasm is interrupted now and then by sudden disappointments that set off panics and collapsing financial prices, but the sheer energy of amassed wealth pushes forward, nonetheless. And finance becomes further inhunged from reality.