Felix Salmon

Volcker makes his move

Dare I hope? The teaser in the WSJ about a big announcement from Barack Obama tomorrow sounds almost too good to be true. A cap on the size of financial institutions! A ban on risky investments in things like hedge funds and private equity! A real wall between commercial banking and speculative prop trading!

How the CFPA would stop neg-am mortgages

Beer and Numbers asks for the grounds on which a consumer financial protection agency would ban a particular negative-amortization mortgage. I can think of a few.

Running the numbers on the NYT paywall

Apologies for being something of a one-trick pony today, but reading John Gapper’s column on the NYT paywall makes me realize that a lot of people fail to appreciate exactly what’s at stake here. Gapper seems to think that online subscription revenues can make newspapers profitable again; they can’t. In fact, insofar as the paywall makes any sense at all, it does so only as a tool to boost print subscriptions.

The legal and necessary bank tax

John Carney has a post up today saying that the bank tax is unconstitutional; it’s incredibly unconvincing, not least because he ignores the fact that the tax is required by law. Far from being an ex post facto appropriation, it was entirely foreseeable — and necessary — from the day the TARP bill was passed.

The economics of the NYT paywall

Preston Austin has managed to squeeze the economics of a NYT-style paywall into one tweet, but it’s compressed, so let me expand it into slightly more than 140 characters.

The NYT’s paywall

It’s official: the NYT is putting up an FT-style paywall; the paper’s Richard Pérez-Peña fills in a few of the gaps.

Counterparties

Have you ever wondered what happens when you put lightly-sparkling box wine in the microwave? — YouTube

Using Tyler Cowen to help Haiti

Can someone press-gang Tyler Cowen into being a key part of the US government’s response to Haiti? Cowen knows and loves the country, and his ideas about how to help — as well as his grasp of the magnitude and complexity of the problem — have been consistently one step ahead.

The uncollectable artwork

A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter is an artwork by Caleb Larsen, currently for sale on eBay. If it hasn’t sold in the next couple of days — the minimum bid is $2,500 — it will go back on eBay. On the other hand, if it does sell, it will still go back on eBay. That’s what it does, as clearly explained in the legal contract accompanying the work: