In early July 1944, delegates from 44 countries gathered at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. A three-week summit took place, at which a new system was agreed to regulate the international monetary and financial order after the Second World War.The U.S. was already the world’s commercial powerhouse, having eclipsed the British […]
When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]
Some people are saying it is just what the doctor ordered. Others are saying that the cure is worse than the disease.The Affordable Care Act? Reengagement in Iraq? Tea Party bullying in the GOP?Not this time. Just as protracted in the corridors of Congress and the White House is the debate over the proposed reform […]
In 2012, money mandarins running the European Union chose stagnation over restructuring. Here’s a consequence of that choice: expectations for a self-sustaining economic recovery keep getting crushed.Two years ago, European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi promised to do “whatever it takes” to hold the eurozone together. He bluffed nervous investors into believing in a […]
Picture the scene. It’s 2020. You’re at the checkout in a convenience store with a carton of milk. But you’ve got no cash and you’ve left your cards at home. No problem. You scan your right index finger; the green light flashes. Purchase approved and you leave. Easy.Is this a realistic vision of the future, […]
People jacked up about income inequality can find a new hobby. The 1% are victims of a doomsday machine, and the countdown is ticking. Machine, thy name is “family.”This came to mind as I was reading a preview of Columbia Professor Andrew Ang’s forthcoming, must-read book on Asset Management. Ang is that oxymoron, an exciting […]
Here’s a fun fact: Although we all hate the U.S. dollar, as it continues to hemorrhage wealth, its foothold as the world’s reserve currency isn’t going to disappear overnight.A Russian gas deal with China won’t change that — as we’ll highlight below.But before we get to the nitty-gritty, let’s dive into a story that’s right […]
Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously used the term “forgotten man” in a 1932 speech to describe those at the bottom of the economic pyramid who, he felt, government should aid.But the originator of the phrase “forgotten man” had a whole different meaning in mind. He aimed to expose the seeming good intentions of government to reveal […]
“As the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve derives its authority from the Congress of the United States. It is considered an independent central bank because its monetary policy decisions do not have to be approved by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branches of government, it does not receive funding […]
The Keynesian disaster recovery plan has been to lower rates, force people to take more risk in search of yield, and entice others to borrow and spend and, magically, more jobs will be created. If people won’t buy stocks, central banks will.Back in 2011, Ben Bernanke, when asked if QE2 was driving up stock prices, […]
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices are rising at a 2.1% annual rate. This suggests to us that the current stock market boom will die with a bang, rather than a whimper.Fed economists say they don’t think inflation rates are rising. They think the most recent reading is a fluke. But why […]
Entrepreneurs are high-tailing it out of the United States, and it’s the politicians’ faultThe U.S. government is driving some of its most productive citizens abroad. The only beneficiaries are countries such as Singapore and Switzerland, which offer sanctuary to Americans fleeing avaricious Uncle Sam.Three years ago Eduardo Saverin, one of Facebook’s founders, joined 1,780 other […]
Politicians love raising the minimum wage because they don’t have to ask voters to pay more in taxes. They just dump the costs onto shop owners. But they don’t act like politicians and go into debt to pretend like they have all the money in the world. They face real world situations. And sometimes that means replacing workers with more affordable options...
As the world gets more digital, people forget about the benefits of transacting in cash. And government officials know that.
The experts will tell you the recession is over, but they’re only torturing the data to hide the truth. The economy never recovered from the downturn it experienced. But the downturn happened in 2000, not 2008. The country’s been in the middle of a 14 year recession and hardly anyone knows the truth.
Every time Bitcoin crashes, it winds up at a price greater than it’s previous high. Yet the experts still call it a currency fad that will fade away. But a little over a year since it really took up, the digital currency is still going strong, and is once again seeing its price rise. But is there another reason why people are buying Bitcoins.
All paper currency has a shelf life. It could be 5 years or 500 years, but at some point, the value of any paper currency eventually reaches zero. That's why, for centuries, people have turned to one shiny metal to safeguard their personal store of wealth. And, as Jim Rickards explains, you still have that option. Read on...
Harold Hamm isn’t your typical entrepreneur. His life’s story shows you success in America doesn’t always depend on a fat checkbook
It’s a destructive cycle that comes around everytime your politicians ask you to take to the polls. The government’s meddling creates unexpected problems that eventually overshadow the planners’ original intentions. But that only leads the way for even more interventions.
Politicians love inflation. It’s a way to pay for the government’s debts without upsetting the public by raising taxes, or their special interests by cutting government. So they’ll flood the economy with easy money and eat away at your savings. But that’s only part of the story...
You can count the number of people who went to jail over the 2008 financial crisis on one hand. Which is strange considering the U.S. loves to put people away in jail. But as one author discovered in his most recent book, having the right connections and a big enough bank account, can protect you from even the worst crimes.
Obama recently claimed this was the “Decade of the Brain”. But it not the first time the government made that promise. The last time they did it, they wasted millions of your tax dollars. Now they’re back for round two. But this time, their failure could mean more than squandered money. It could mean making Alzheimer’s even worse for those who suffer from it.
“So we have, indeed, had a disappointingly slow recovery, and our consistent expectations for a pickup in growth have been dashed over a number of years… And the labor market is behaving in some perplexing ways and showing patterns that are novel.”–Federal Reserve Chairperson Janet Yellen in a speech to the Economic Club of New […]
When Michael Lewis’ new book Flash Boys came out, the author caused a stir while making the media rounds to promote it. “The stock market is rigged,” he told 60 Minutes flatly. His comments set off a firestorm of debate as to whether sharp techies and their fast computers are screwing small investors.As titillating as […]
Why Is U.S. Health Care So Much More Expensive?After years of research and many conversations with health policy experts, I see three key culprits of expensive health care in the U.S.In no particular order, they are the third-party payer system (i.e., employer-provided health care), malpractice suits, and administrative support costs/paperwork.The unintended consequence of institutionalized employer-provided […]
When you think of economists, you might think of policy pundits arguing ideas on how to fix the country’s stagnant economy. But that’s only part of their job. Most of the time, their job boils down to decision-making, and how to make the best decision based on your particular circumstance.
Economists aren’t physicists. But they sure do like to act like they are sometimes. When scientists reach a consensus about something, it usually means they’re breaking new ground on a theory based on hard facts and proven evidence. When economists agree on something, it shows the limitations of a field that tries to model how humans are supposed to behave. And that’s where the danger lies. Especially when it comes to things like U.S. Treasurys.
During the 2008 credit crisis, a horde of central bankers, Treasury officials and large corporations screamed that the end of the world was upon us — unless trillions of your money were spent (or created) to prop up the existing financial and banking systems.
The presumption was that the existing structure must never be changed, or the Fed’s control over the financial and monetary system ever brought into question. Everything is just as it should be. This is a minor blip on the radar screen, nothing to be concerned about, provided certain steps were taken.
So we were all looted. There was the debt run-up, the new regulations, the funny money creation, the absorption of bad debt that was revarnished and relabeled as assets, the complicated payouts to every institution that Bernanke and his friends deemed to be too big and too crucial to our well-being to be allowed to fail. The government must be permitted to throw around inconceivable amounts of money, they said, in order to save our glorious system.
Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives and every conventional media outlet on this green earth agreed: No expense can be spared to solve this great emergency. Anyone who resists this multiyear bailout, began under Bush and continued under Obama and to be continued by whomever follows, is clearly an egregious cretin who doesn’t understand the depth of the emergency we (as a nation) face.
Yet here we are not too many years later, and it seems that entrepreneurs understand something that the political and banking classes did not understand: The system is rotten and needs to be fixed. It doesn’t serve consumers, which is to say that it does not serve society. There are too many layers between us and the people running the show.
These young entrepreneurs have been hard at working to find new ways for us to develop financial relationships with each other, human ways that don’t rely on force, fraud and freaking out at every sign of trouble. The most-remarkable thing is how they are doing this within the rigid existing structure, regardless of every barrier thrown in their way.
I’ve been exploring some fascinating new digital-age systems for banking, money, loans and payments. If you aren’t following this stuff day to day, you would miss them. They might be used by millions to transfers billions of dollars, yet even still, they aren’t in our purview. This is because people are using digital media as never before to create and innovate in ways that the mercifully spared money institutions of old could not even imagine.
Let’s name a few from simple to complex. And let me say, just before marching through these things, if you have had a rotten day, working in a routine job in which nothing new ever happens, or you have been sitting in a desk listening to some drone professor babble on about the dated falsehoods that clog his brain, these little tools will seriously lift your spirits.
Squareup. This is an innovation by Jack Dorsey (Twitter fame) and his friends, and came about only in 2010. The first problem they were trying to overcome was there has to be an easier way for merchants to accept credit cards. They decided to give the hardware away for use on simple mobile phones, and then charge per transaction. Win!
In the course of developing the business, which is valued already at $1 billion, they solved an even stranger problem that all of us have but never really noticed that we have: If we don’t have our wallets with us, we can’t buy anything.
Now this is genius: Square allows you to pay by saying your name. The merchant matches a picture of your on the square system with your physical face. You look each other in the eye and the deal is done. Anyone can sign up. Yes, it is incredible. Simple and wonderful.
The Lending Club. Again, this is mind-blowing. The Lending Club matches up lenders and borrowers while bypassing the banking system altogether. The idea emerged in October 2008, just as the existing credit system seemed to be blowing up. Today, the company originates $1 million in loans per day.
Anyone can become a lender with a minimum investment of $25 per note. Lenders can choose specific borrowers or choose among many baskets and combinations of borrowers to reduce risk.
Any potential borrower can apply, but of course the company wants to keep default rates at the lowest possible level, and these are published daily (right now, they are running 3%). As a result, most applications to borrow are declined (this is good!).
The average rate of interest on the loans is 11%, cheaper than credit cards but more realistic than the Fed’s crazy push for zero. As a result, the average net annualized return is 9.6%.
The focus if of course on small loans for weddings, moving expenses, business startups, debt consolidation and the like. If you are an indebted country with large unfunded liabilities, you probably can’t get a loan. But if you are student with a job who needs upfront money to put down on an apartment, you might qualify.
Dwolla. This is a super-easy, super-slick online payment system that specializes in linking payments through social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Like most of these companies, the idea was hatched in 2008 in response to the crisis. The system was breaking down and needed new services that worked. Dwolla got off the ground in 2009, and today, it processes more than $1 million per week.
An easy way to understand Dwolla is to view it as the next generation of PayPal, but with a special focus on reducing the problem that vexed PayPal in its early years: getting rid of credit card fraud. Dwolla is focussing its product development on ways to pay that do not require sending credit card information over networks.
Dwolla has also taken a strong interest in the Internet payment system called Bitcoin, a digital unit of account that hopes to become an alternative to national monetary systems. It is a long way from becoming that, but it is hardly surprising that a young and innovative company would be interested in competition to failed paper money.
These are a few of the services, but there are hundreds more. None were created by the money masters in Washington. They are results of private innovation, individual entrepreneurs thinking their way through social and economic problems and coming up with solutions. They accept the risk of failure and enjoy the profit from success.
What they all have in common that is missing from the current monetary, financial and banking structure — a maniacal focus on serving the individual consumer. If or when the official structure blows up, such private enterprises will be there to save us.