Friday, October 23, 2009

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Steve from sends along this interesting post from The Austrian Investor:

[A]book I am reading entitled “Understanding the Dollar Crisis” by Percy Greaves. This book was published in 1973 and is one of the best economics books ever written. In this excerpt, Mr. Greaves is telling the story about himself and his father and their job search during the Great Depression:

However, the depression brought a merger and soon the company had a surplus of experienced executives. The executive training program went out the window. The author survived another six months. He was given two months’ pay and let go in the summer of 1932 – just weeks before the birth of his first son. Like his father, he could find no employment. With millions of older men walking from door to door in search for jobs, there were few openings for bright young men with little or no experience to offer. They were even rejected for low-paying jobs. Employers did not want to waste time breaking in those who would leave for more promising positions once the momentarily expected upturn arrived. But the upturn failed to appear.
Now, here is the excerpt from [a recent NYT article]:

The 34-year-old recruiter decided the fairest approach was simply to start at the beginning, reviewing résumés in the order in which they came in. When she found a desirable candidate, she called to ask a few preliminary questions, before forwarding the name along to Chris Kelsey, the school’s director. When he had a big enough pool to evaluate, she would stop. Anyone she did not get to was simply out of luck.

She dropped significantly overqualified candidates right away, reasoning that they would leave when the economy improved. Among them was a former I.B.M. business analyst with 18 years experience; a former director of human resources; and someone with a master’s degree and 12 years at Deloitte & Touche, the accounting firm.
The key point here is that what we are experiencing is not some new phenomena caused by derivatives, but a result of the business cycle which has been around a lot longer than derivatives. The above anecdotes show the similarities at the core of the current period and the 1930's. Only an economist ignorant of business cycle theory, or with an agenda, would promote the idea that this downturn is unique, with the primary cause being derivatives. Sloppy derivative construction did exist during the current cycle, but it was a byproduct of the cycle. The cycle was caused by Fed money printing.

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