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Category: Finance Theory

Commodity Financialization (and Why It Matters)

In December 2018, a leading European bank sent its customers investing tips for the next year. To navigate “an increasingly challenging investment environment,” the bank advised, “The latter stages of the economic cycle have historically been one of the better times to invest in commodities. Overall demand tends to stay high while inventories run low.” Until recently, commodities interested mostly those who produced, traded, or consumed them…

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Tax Sovereignty in the Age of Global Capital

In January 2019, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez found a perhaps unexpected vein of popular support when she proposed raising the top marginal tax rate from 37 percent to 70 percent for those with annual incomes of over $10 million.1 Polling conducted by the Hill and HarrisX soon revealed that 59 percent of Americans supported this idea:…

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Disruptive Innovation in America and China

The concept of disruptive innovation arose from the study of innovation in companies, but it can also be applied to nations. In this essay I will use some of the concepts of disruptive innovation to analyze the dynamics of national innovation and growth in America and China.1 The United States is supposed to be the…

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The Financialization of the American Elite

On October 1, 2018, the newly christened Klarman Hall opened to much acclaim on the campus of Harvard Business School. The stunning $120 million building houses a conference center as well as a gleaming auditorium built around a 32-million-pixel, 1,250-square-foot video wall and a state-of-the-art, modular design that seats up to a thousand attendees. To mark the opening, the school held a daylong series of speeches and lectures, headlined by the building’s namesake and one of the school’s wealthiest living gradu­ates, billion­aire investor Seth Klarman…

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How the Financial Crisis Did Not Change the World

The tenth anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis came and went with surprisingly little reflection. Adam Tooze’s Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World was perhaps the most celebrated attempt to analyze the crisis with the benefit of hindsight. Unfortunately, much of the book offers little more than a chronology of newspaper headlines, displaying superficial…

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Does America Need Global Savings to Finance Its Fiscal and Trade Deficits?

It is frequently argued that America’s twin deficits—the government budget deficit and the trade deficit—result from profligate spending by the government and private sectors. This excess domestic spending, moreover, must be financed by global savings, putting America on an unsustainable debt path. Problems are compounded as the U.S. demand for savings can push up interest…

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Share Buybacks and the Contradictions of “Shareholder Capitalism”

In the jargon of finance, America is suffering from a capital allocation problem. The country seems incapable of making the necessary investments to fuel future productivity and growth, or to ensure widespread prosperity. At the government level, public spending on basic research and development as well as infrastructure investment has declined significantly over the past…

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Principles for Dummies

On the first page of his best-selling memoir, Ray Dalio unburdens himself of the opinion that he is “a dumb shit.” Nothing in the ensuing six hundred or so pages convinced me that I should dissent from this verdict. I can say honestly, in keeping with the book’s own serial inducements to “radical transparency,” that my endorsement of Dalio’s conclusion about his own intelligence was arrived at without prejudice…

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The Past and Future of Political Economy

In this remarkable work, Robert Skidelsky—historian, biographer, and tribune of Keynesian ideas in the House of Lords—unites his experience, knowledge, and talents in a sweeping account of money and power. His topic is not money and power…

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