The Great Debate UK
from Chrystia Freeland:
Tony Hsieh and Sanjay Madan wrote the program to create LinkExchange over a weekend. Before the following weekend, they had more than a dozen websites participating in their ad-sharing network. Over the next several weeks they worked frantically on the project. They refined their business in real time, learning—quickly!—from their mistakes. Less than a year later, the Harvard grads were offered $1 million (U.S.) for the company. Less than a year after that, they sold it for $265 million.
That was 1996. Since then, this story of development on the run has become commonplace. Hacker culture is now part of the broader culture: “beta test” is in the dictionary, and we accept innovative, albeit imperfect, beta releases even from multibillion-dollar global behemoths such as Google. We’re prepared to accept flaws because the tech revolution is progressing so quickly that it is usually better to be fast, and possibly wrong, than to try to be perfect and end up being slow. By the time your flawless product is released, it will likely be obsolete.
Technologists aren’t the only people operating in a rapidly changing, uncertain environment. Thanks both to the tech revolution and to globalization, that is true of all of us, including our governments. But, as Nobel-Prize winning economist Michael Spence argued at a private equity conference in Quebec City this week, emerging-market governments seem to be better at dealing with an unpredictable, volatile world than Western ones. They are like Silicon Valley entrepreneurs—willing to act swiftly, even if it means making mistakes. Leaders in the West are more like Detroit, reluctant to make bold moves until it is too late.
Part of the problem is the way we judge various types of mistakes. Spence argues that we make two types of mistakes—implementing a bad idea, and failing to act on a good one. If you are religiously minded, you could think of these as sins of commission and sins of omission. In stable times, sins of commission are probably worse. If your industry isn’t changing very much or if your country’s economy and the world economy are on an even keel, launching an expensive new product or government program that fails is probably more damaging than missing out on a great opportunity.
Competitive devaluation is no longer a possible danger – it is already here. Many people are worried that, after global stock market crashes and a collapse of most of the world’s banking system, a war over exchange rates completes a sequence of events that looks awfully like a rerun of the 1930’s. There is however one crucial difference. The Chinese role certainly makes matters more complicated, though it is as yet unclear whether it makes the outlook better or worse.
The key point to understand about the belligerents is this. In the context of purely self-interested beggar-my-neighbour economic policy, devaluation makes good sense for the Eurozone countries as a whole, the British, the Japanese, Swiss, Koreans… for everyone except the Americans. Whether they are deficit countries, like Britain, or surplus countries, like Switzerland, Korea or Japan, devaluation will increase demand for their exports and make their imports more expensive, giving a boost to their output and employment. And if other countries retaliate by counter-devaluation, they can tell themselves that their situation would have been worse if they had not taken the initiative and got their retaliation in first.
Two days before Thursday's strong inflation figures, the People's Bank of China surprised with a rate hike. Global markets sold off, but quickly recovered. The effect of conducting monetary policy through short sharp shocks is waning. It looks time for a well-explained, concerted plan to fight rising prices.
Chinese policymakers favor a keep-'em-guessing approach. The first rate hike in three years came out of the blue, and the central bank remains mute on its reasons. Only annual inflation of 3.6 percent, above the official target, gives a retrospective clue. Similarly, the People's Bank has not explained why it ditched its bewildering practice of moving rates by 27 basis points at a time.
from Chrystia Freeland:
"There is no other policy tool available [besides quantitative easing],"' Laura Tyson, a former chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisors, said at this morning's Reuters/YouTube live debate on how to fix the economy. Tyson argues that additional Fed purchases of long-term bonds is the most viable way to energize the U.S. economy since a new fiscal stimulus bill is unlikely to pass Congress:
She appears alongside Glenn Hubbard, another former CEA chairman, who maintains the Fed will spend another $1 trillion to lower rates by 20 basis points. "We can't inflate our way to prosperity," he said.
Kathleen Brooks is research director at forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.
Ever since the last Federal Reserve meeting when the prospect of further policy stimulus for the US gripped the market, dollar weakness has been the dominant theme in FX. The Fed action is considered in some quarters as a backdoor form of currency devaluation, and there has been talk of a global “currency war” as a result.
Joschka Fischer was never one to mince words when he was Germany's foreign minister in the late '90s and early noughts. So it is not overly surprising that he has painted a picture in a new post of a world with only two powers -- the United States and China -- and an ineffective and divided Europe on the sidelines.
More controversial, however, is his view that China will not only grow into the world's most important market over the coming years, but will determine what the world produces and consumes -- and that that will be green.
The retaliatory China currency bill passed in the U.S. House helps brand this Congress as one of the more protectionist in years. The next one might switch gears and embrace trade by passing several stalled pacts. But Beijing shouldn't expect that to translate into a friendlier Washington.
A companion bill in the Senate also meant to pressure China to allow a faster rise in the yuan is unlikely to succeed. And it would probably be vetoed by President Barack Obama if it did.
from Chrystia Freeland:
Get ready for the next wave of globalization. The emergence of the emerging markets is old news, of course: after all, Tom Friedman discovered that the world was flat back in 2005. But even as much of the developed world is struggling with weak consumer demand and stubbornly high levels of unemployment, the emerging market countries are writing a new chapter in the story of the global economy.
We are accustomed to thinking of our economic relationship with the countries Fareed Zakaria describes as “the rest” as a two-way exchange between west and east or north and south: western companies setting up call centers in India or manufacturing their goods in China, for instance; and, more recently, savings-rich emerging market economies, especially China, investing in US treasuries, or Russian oligarchs buying London mansions.
from The Great Debate:
What does $4 trillion a day in business, never sleeps and sees Japan's Ministry of Finance as just one more patsy?
The foreign exchange market, of course, which is licking its collective lips as Japan embarks on another round of unilateral intervention to sell the yen in an effort to drive down its value and protect its export-oriented economy.
By John Foley and Wei Gu
China's plans to make its currency global could change the world -- if they get off the ground. More international use of the yuan might increase China's trade clout, unseat the mighty U.S. dollar and make a lot of financiers very rich in the process. But it can be hard to separate the facts from the fable. Here are some questions answered.
Why are people talking about an international yuan?
China is the world's second-biggest economy. But its currency doesn't nearly match its size. For most international dealings, China relies on the dollar, which leaves it beholden to the United States. Beijing wants more influence on the global stage, so it has been taking baby-steps to turn the yuan into an internationally used currency.