Monday, February 01, 2010

No mystery to the mood swing

Prof. Shiller discusses the mood swings among market participants. It is now clear that most people were too optimistic circa five years ago and it is perhaps not unreasonable that they swing to the pessimistic side today. What can be done?

Wendell Cox discusses the high-speed rail boondogle ("The Runaway Subsidy Train") in today's WSJ and I cannot imagine that these investments can make anyone beyond the Baptists and bootleggers (greens and construction interests) involved (thank you, Prof. Yandle) less gloomy. I can imagine that they signal, instead, that policy makers are confused and spenders are in charge.

In this week's Becker-Posner blog, Judge Posner writes about subsidies and deficits. He ends with this:

There is an enormous amount of idle productive capacity in the U.S. economy at present. There is thus a case, as liberal economists such as Paul Krugman keep urging, for further stimulus spending. The problem is that such spending is irresponsible unless coupled with a credible commitment to repay, after the economy recovers, the money borrowed to finance the spending. Not only is there no such commitment; at present the only realistic prospect is of staggering deficits stretching indefinitely into the future ...

I would say that the extreme unlikelihood of getting a "credible commitment to repay" explains the "malaise" that worries Shiller.