Economics

Policy Implementing vs. Dispute Resolving

Property rights are fundamental to law and economics. La Porta et al. (1997) show that countries with poorer investor protections, measured by both the character of legal rules and the quality of law enforcement, have smaller and narrower capital markets. These and other authors argue in a succession of articles that the common law is economically superior to the civil law system. The term civil law describes those systems which have developed out of the Romano-Germanic legal tradition of continental Europe. It is the civil law tradition which dominates whithin the present European Union, but common law is economically superior to civil law because common law systems

  • have stronger investor protection and provide easier access to equity. This leads to larger stock markets, more numerous companies and more IPOs;
    [La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., Shleifer, A., & Vishny, R. W. (1997) Legal determinants of external finance, Journal of finance, pp. 1131 – 1150]
  • have better protection of outside investors relative to insiders and agents (compared e.g. to French civil law);
    [La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., Shleifer, A., & Vishny, R. (2000) Investor protection and corporate governance, Journal of financial economics, 58(1), pp. 3 – 27]
  • have lower entrance barriers to markets (procedures, time, cost);
    [Djankov, S., La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., & Shleifer, A. (2002) The regulation of entry, The quarterly Journal of economics, 117(1), pp. 1 – 37]
  • have more efficient courts, measured by the procedures used by litigants and courts to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent and to collect a bounced check;
    [Djankov, S., La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., & Shleifer, A. (2003) Courts, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118(2), pp. 453 – 517]
  • show lower labour market regulation and a higher labour-force participation rate, and therefore lower unemployment rates (with some exception);
    [Botero, J. C., Djankov, S., Porta, R. L., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., & Shleifer, A. (2004) The regulation of labor, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 119(4), pp. 1339-1382]
  • have laws mandating disclosure (e.g. to mortgage borrowers) and facilitating private enforcement through liability rules that benefit stock markets.
    [La Porta, R., Lopez‐de‐Silanes, F., & Shleifer, A. (2006) What works in securities laws?, The Journal of Finance, 61(1), pp. 1 – 32]
  • have more efficient procedures in case of insolvency – measured by time, cost, and the likely disposition of the assets (preservation as a going concern vs. piecemeal sale);
    [Djankov, S., Hart, O., McLiesh, C., & Shleifer, A. (2008) Debt enforcement around the world, Journal of political economy, 116(6), pp. 1105 – 1149]

This boils down to higher levels of investment and higher rates of growth in common law countries.
[La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., Shleifer, A., & Vishny, R. W. (1997) Legal determinants of external finance, Journal of finance, pp. 1131 – 1150]

‘First, the built-in judicial independence of common law, particularly in the cases of administrative acts affecting individuals, suggests that common law is likely to be more respectful of private property and contract than civil law.
Second, common law’s emphasis on judicial resolution of private disputes, as opposed to legislation, as a solution to social problems, suggests that we are likely to see greater emphasis on private contracts and orderings, and less emphasis on government regulation, in common law countries. To the extent that there is regulation, it aims to facilitate private contracting rather than to direct particular outcomes. Pistor (2006) describes French legal origin as embracing socially conditioned private contracting, in contrast to common law’s support for unconditioned private contracting. Damaska (1986) calls civil law “policy-implementing,” and common law “dispute resolving.”
Third, the greater respect for jurisprudence as a source of law in the common law countries, especially as compared to the French civil law countries, suggests that common law will be more adaptable to the changing circumstances, a point emphasized by Hayek (1960) and more recently Levine (2005). These adaptability benefits of common law have also been noted by scholars in law and economics (Richard Posner 1973, Paul H. Rubin 1977, George L. Priest 1977, Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto and Patricio A. Fernandez forthcoming), who have made the stronger claim that, through sequential decisions by appellate courts, common law evolves not only for the better but actually toward efficient legal rules.’
[La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., & Shleifer, A. (2008) The economic consequences of legal origins, Journal of economic literature, 46(2), pp. 285 – 332]

We’ll be Run by Morons Pretty Soon!

“You look at the active value of the companies that you buy the stocks in. And it becomes a little more complex, but basically you look for a company that is cheap and the reason that they’re really cheap. And the major reason is often and usually very poor management.”

“So in a sense, it’s like an arbitrage. You go in, you buy a lot of stock in the company, and you then try to make changes at the company. […] We’re trying to get them to change the structure of the company. We think the board is very poor, and we’re trying to change what happens. The thing about corporate America is that most people in America don’t realize how poorly most of our companies are run in this country. With many exceptions. And when you get inside the companies, you realize it. The real reason is, there’s no accountability, there’s no corporate democracy. And I’ve been saying that, proselytizing it, writing about it. And the reason that we can make so much money when we go into one of these companies is – I’m not even a manager. I never took a course in management and I wouldn’t profess to really know much – but I don’t micromanage. I put in a very good manager. They cut the heck out of cost, but they changed the structure of the companies. And this is the problem in America today, in my opinion:
That we are basically under-managed. We can’t compete, because the best and the brightest don’t get to be at the top of the corporate ladder. And I, I have a sort of a metaphor that’s a little facetious, but not completely: I call it anti-Darwinian. And that means a guy goes to college and he’s the guy who gets to be the CEO. And he’s the kind of guy that was the president of the fraternity. Now all these presidents of fraternities aren’t bad guys, but basically, the normal guy that I remembered at college was always there at the fraternity of the eating club. And he’s always there to be there, if you have a bad day, you walk over to the club. And you’re feeling bad, your girlfriend left you, you did bad on a test score, or whatever. And you go over there, he’s always there. He buys you a drink, and you sit around with him. He commiserates with you. You play a little pool, or whatever. And he tells you whatever it is, yeah, my girl left me, yeah well, they’re all no good, usual conversation back and forth. And what would happen would be you liked the guy, you can’t help but like him. You used to wonder a little bit, when the hell did he ever do any work? But you know, he was always there for you. And he never made many waves. He would never said anything too obtrusive or he never showed too much intelligence. But he was a good guy. He goes, that same guy, out into corporate America. And he’s politically, he’s astute. He knows how to get along with people. And it’s he never really rocks the boat. He never comes up with any great ideas. He’s not a threat to his superior. And as a result, he moves up the ladder because in corporate America, there’s really very little accountability. So he moves up that ladder.”

“There’s a good show “How to Succeed in Business” that was out many years ago – that sort of sums it up. If a genius has an idea in corporate America, they give him an idea to resign.”

“And so the guy moves along the ladder, and he gets up slowly to the top. And he has three attributes: He’s likable, he’s politically astute, and he’s a survivor. And he knows when he’s threatened. These are the attributes of today’s CEOs for the most part, with exceptions. You know, he doesn’t ruffle feathers, he doesn’t get the board upset. And as he moves up the ladder, he finally gets to be number two to the CEO. Now the CEO has the same same attributes where he doesn’t want to be threatened and is a survivor. So the CEO will never let anybody be number two who’s smarter than he is. By definition, the assistant of the CEO is a little dumber than the CEO. Now this guy now is the assistant, and the board likes him. The CEO eventually retires and they make this guy the new CEO. The fraternity president we’re talking. Now he’s the head guy. And he’ll bring in a number two guy that’s a little dumber than he is, because he doesn’t want to be threatened. So by definition, we’ll be run by morons pretty soon. And we’re not too far from that point right now in our economic history.”

[Carl Icahn, 2011]

Should we Own a Home?

It was the anglo-saxon world’s favourite economic game: property. No other facet of financial life has such a hold on the popular imagination. In the English-speaking world and also increasingly in other countries, it has become a truth universally acknowledged that nothing beats bricks and mortar as an investment. But should you really own a home? Unless you have 20 million bucks in the bank, in cash, you have no business buying a house.

People think the only way to save money is to buy a house. Maybe you will get your home paid off when you are old. But who wants to wait until they are old to have money? A home is not an investment because it doesn’t pay you every month. In fact, you have to pay it every month.
That is why a house is not an asset, it is a liability. Nothing is a good deal if you have to feed it constantly.

People ask, “Why would you pay rent when you could buy?” Because you cannot leave. Who wants to go to jail for 30 years? You can be mobile and nimble if you rent. Mobility is a great thing in today’s world. Why settle down? Invest the money in yourself or your business. If you want a great opportunity to create income for yourself, realise that America is becoming a nation of renters!

The house, much like a college education, has been fed to us as the bourgeois dream. It is a middle class myth perpetuated by outdated thinking, politicians and mass media. The English-speaking world’s passion for property has also been the foundation for a political experiment: the creation of the world’s true property-owning democracies (the EU included).

Buying a house may have worked for previous generations but old ways of doing things are not viable in 2016. We are not in the 1950s, things have changed and people refuse to adjust. There are three considerations to bear in mind when trying to compare housing with other forms of capital asset (Ferguson, 2008):

  1. The first is depreciation. Stocks do not wear out and require new roofs; houses do.
  2. The second is liquidity. As assets, houses are a great deal more expensive to convert into cash than stocks.
  3. The third is volatility. Housing markets since WWII have been far less volatile than stock markets.

A Production Possibilities Frontier

The engine of economic progress must ride on the same four wheels (supply side factors), no matter how rich or poor the country:

  • Human resources (including labor supply, education, discipline and motivation)

Labor inputs include, of course the quantity of workers. However, many economists believe that the quality of labor inputs, the skills, knowledge, and discipline of the labor force, is the single most important element in economic growth. capital goods can be effectively used and maintained only by skilled and trained workers.

Improvements in literacy, health, and discipline, and most recently, the ability to use computers, add greatly to the productivity of labor.

  • Natural resources (including land, minerals, fuels and environmental quality)

The important resources here are, arable land, oil and gas, forests, water, and mineral resources.
But the possession of natural resources is hardly necessary for economic success in the modern world. New York City prospers primarily on its high density service industries. While many countries that have virtually no natural resources, such as Japan, have thrived by concentrating on sectors that depend more on labor and capital than on indigenous resources.

  • Capital formation (including machines, factories and roads)

Tangible capital includes structures like roads, and power plants, and equipment, like trucks and computers. In this regard, some of the most dramatic stories in economic history, often involve the rapid accumulation of capital.
Accumulating capital requires a sacrifice of current consumption over many years. Countries that grow rapidly tend to invest heavily in new capital goods. In the most rapidly growing countries, 10 to 20% of output may go into capital formation. In this regard when we think of capital we must not concentrate only on private sector investment. In fact, many investments are undertaken only be governments, and provide the necessary social overhead capital and infrastructure for businesses to prosper. Roads, irrigation and water projects, and public health measures are important.

Government projects involve external benefits that private firms cannot capture so government is necessary to provide them.

  • Technology (from science and engineering to management and entrepreneurship)

Historically, growth has definitely not been a process of simple replication, adding rows of steel mills, or power plants next to each other. Rather, a never-ending stream of inventions and technological advances led to a vast improvement in the production possibilities of Europe, North America, and Japan. Technological change denotes changes in production processes or the introduction of new products or services.

Technological change is a continuous process of small and large improvements.

While the four supply factors of growth relate to the physical ability of the economy to expand, there are two other factors that are equally important:

  • First, there is the demand factor

To realize its growing production potential, a nation must fully employ its expanding supply of resources. This requires a growing level of aggregate demand.

  • Second, there is the efficiency factor

To reach its production potential, a nation must not only achieve full employment, but also two kinds of economic efficiency. Specifically, a country must achieve productive efficiency. That is, it must use its existing and new resources in the least costly way to produce what it does. And it must also achieve allocative efficiency, meaning that the specific mix of goods and services it produces must maximize society’s well-being.