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How many rich economists do you know?

You ever think about stuff like that? I do...

Another question...

What Is an Economist?

An economist is an expert who studies the relationship between a society's resources and its production or output, using a number of different indicators, in order to predict future trends.
Economists study societies ranging from small, local communities to entire nations and even the global economy.

Which leads to one more question for the economists...

If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?

Think about it. If economists understand the global economy so well, they should back themselves in the markets and be able to retire at 35, right?

Sadly for them, it's just not that simple.

See, many economists love models.

Makes sense. If you're trying to understand something as complex as the global economy, you need to create a bit of 'certainty', take a few shortcuts and pretend that randomness/variance will be ironed out over time.

We all use these little heuristic shortcuts to form our views of the world.

Look at modern politics.

Bleeding heart lefties and right wing fascists everywhere you look...

Except it's just not true...

Why pundits get it wrong
The left-right-centre model of political analysis has long ceased to be useful

Confession time

Back in 2016, I was 'one of those' remainers that thought Brexiteers were all ignorant, little Englander racist types...

"Brexit will never happen"

Happily, once I got over the shock of being wrong, I wanted to understand why I was wrong...

I knew plenty who voted leave, and I knew they weren't ignorant racists. Some were even intelligent...

So I examined their reasoning, read, studied, spoke to more people and gradually updated my model of the world and how it worked.

It's inevitable that I will often be wrong, but to be SO completely wrong?

No way I could just let that pass...

In my humble opinion, economists need to become more curious as to why their models don't work...

Even in the face of the overwhelming evidence of this past decade, there are still many that subscribe to the monetarist theory of inflation.

The monetary theory of inflation asserts that money supply growth is the cause of inflation.
Faster money supply growth causes faster inflation...
With other things constant, the price level is proportional to the money supply. Doubling the money supply would double prices.

Let's test it...

Money supply has increased exponentially since 2000

While inflation has trended lower...

We can also look to Japan & Europe to see how this theory is clearly flawed...

And that's far from the only flawed theory out there...

Models and the natural human tendency to avoid being wrong are at the crux of it.

So, as traders, independent thinkers, cynics, & brilliant open-minded citizens of the world, what can we do to see more clearly without falling into the economist trap...?

Start by acknowledging the limitations of models in a complex world, embrace the uncertainty & then work our way forward...

You want examples, don't you?

I've got just the ticket...

The latest Odd Lots podcast with Macquarie strategist Viktor Shvets is a really great place to start...

Some key excerpts from the transcript...

Emphasis (bold) is mine

Transcript: Viktor Shvets on Inflation and the Next Financial Crisis
The Macquarie strategist sees little risk of long-term price spikes, but describes how the mix of monetary and fiscal policy might still shift market regimes.

Tracy: At the same time, it’s really interesting that the market seems to be taking that stance because of course we've had 10 years of no inflation or deflation, despite lots of monetary easing from the central bank and a relatively strong economy, we haven't seen price increases like you would have expected from some economic models like NAIRU or the Phillips Curve.
Viktor: Well, there is no question that if you go through the next six, nine, 12 months, whether you look at the United States or whether you look at other countries as well, inflation will pick up. For exactly the same reason as what you've just outlined -- base effect, recovery and demand and supply side bottlenecks. Whether you have a war or a pandemic, usually it has a demand and supply shock in some form. Supply disappears, companies become zombies. They are incapable of providing some services. Some of the capacities are just withdrawn, investment goes down. And so when you start recovering, suppliers never quite know how much capacity should they provide. Will demand go up 20%, 30%, 10%? And so the result is it usually takes four or five or six quarters to what I would call normalized demand and supply.

And I think what the Federal Reserve is saying is that this is a transitory period. That we are not confident that inflation actually will be sustainable. And as we go sort of forward to the end of 2022 or into 2023, we're not that confident that there will be such a strong inflationary pulse. And I find myself in an unusual position because I usually quite disagree with many things that the Fed does.
I find myself in an unusual position to actually agree that it probably is the case that the pressures are transitory.
Tracy: I see lots of people, for instance, reaching to the analogy of the 1970s or the 1960s as an era of high inflation.
Yeah, they do. And there's a lot of investors and commentators who seem to feel that we’re probably somewhere around late sixties and yes it will take a bit of time, but ultimately, we are going to unanchor, so to speak, inflationary expectations and inflation will be much, much stronger than most people expect right now. I completely disagree with that.
And primarily I disagree with that — whether it's Congressional Budget Office or whether it's Larry Summers — they’re all using very much an industrial age framework. In other words, the era where capital was capital. Fixed assets, were fixed assets. Labor was labor. None of those things are true anymore. So if you think for example, U.S. private sector GDP is now 60% intangible assets. If you look at Europe, depending on the country you choose, it's 25% to 50% intangibles.

Even in China, it's anywhere from 15% to 20%. Why is that important? Well, intangibles don't have the same capacity constraints. They’re incredibly fluid and they spill over from one industry to another, the good synergistic benefits. So it's a first point to remember that we’re not actually building roads, machinery, factories, railways and the rest of it. It's a very different investment we're making. And if you think of Biden's infrastructure package, Republicans are right to say that only about 20% is real infrastructure. But that's the whole point -- that we should not be investing in real infrastructure. We should be investing in the future. So that's the first area, which is capital and where do we invest, and how it behaves.

The other area is labor. Remember everybody is still relying on Bureau of Labor statistics sort of classifications. Are you a plumber, are you an electrician, business professional. Are you full-time? Are you part-time? When in reality, labor is really stretched in many areas.
For example, you’re recording now this conversation. In the past, somebody else would have been recording. So you are stretched. You're doing many jobs in a service-oriented industry. 20% to 25% of employees are now either non-conventional or gig economy. And so labor doesn't function the same way as it has done in an industrial age. And so the way I basically describe it is capacity constraints -- incredibly hard to compute even in the good days — today it's almost impossible. In fact, I would argue capacity constraints just melt away in front of you. Every day they’re just going away, higher and higher. And to me, that explains why Phillips Curve did not work and hasn't worked for several decades. And by the way, it even predates China. It didn't even work in 1990s, forgetting the last 20 years.
It also explains why commodity prices could go up but battery prices, for example, go down. It explains how we can ignite shale gas revolution. Remember shale gas was invented or for the first time tried in 1947, but in 1973, we couldn't respond with shale gas, but today we can.
So to me, it's technology, financialization, changes in the functioning of capital, fixed assets, intangible assets, labor — all of that implies to me that I don't think we are really facing capacity constraints at all.

Tracy: I want to go back to something that you alluded to earlier, or you said, which is that you don't normally agree with the Fed, but on this one idea around transitory inflation, you think they have it, right. Why is that? Because, you know, for years we've heard the Fed talk about the natural rate of unemployment and things like the Phillips Curve. It seems odd to have the Fed, uh, suddenly grasp a big transition in economic ideas. So why do you think that's happened in recent years?
Viktor: Well, it sort of reminds me of when I was a fund manager.
If you keep losing money consistently, eventually it changes your mind.
But you have to remember for economics as a profession, any signs, progresses, only one funeral at the time. And so for economics as a science or art or whatever that is, to change, requires considerable change of basic tenants, basic fundamentals. Now that will happen, but that's probably at least a decade away. So economics as a profession is still largely functioning in an industrial age that has no relevance almost to what we have today.

The full podcast is well worth a listen, and really peels back the layers of fiscal and monetary policies, economic models based on the bygone industrial era, demographic changes leading into political shifts in the future, as well as the dangers a crypto crash could pose to the wider financial system... 👇

How Crypto Could Cause the Next Financial Crisis (Podcast)
Source: Bloomberg, 39:20

So, maybe that economics degree isn't so necessary and valuable after all...