1. There is no point in trying to predict macro economy further than 3 months
2. It's hard to predict which way the economy will go, but it's easier to foresee that there will be volatility or not.
3. If you want to make macro bets, you'd better have quant strategies that work in the case your macro bet goes South.
4. It's important to read and understand macro economists, not as much because they know what is going on, but rather because they are influencers, who participate in risking / de-risking movements
5. The most important things to understand in macro economics is that it is very much a people's problem. If you could get in the head of every central bank people, you'd get a strong edge over the market.
Do you mind sharing which one? (Ok, stupid question) Or whether it's a "quant" or global macro fund?
> There is no point in trying to predict macro economy further than 3 months
I disagree. Sometimes you can identify systematic factors. I remember Bob Litterman once telling me at a conference that a lot of their "quant" success was actually due to factoring in certain central bank policies that the central banks were willing to accept a certain, let's call it, slippage for in order to achieve certain goals. That apparently worked for years. Another example that comes to mind is the Euro convergence trade. Didn't that also go on for years? Unless you mean specifically GDP. Then yeah, I agree. In fact, I remember a class in financial econometrics where the teacher drew fancy equations on the blackboard only to conclude: "But you know, in practice a simple AR-model will perform just as well. It's just so you've seen it" :D
> It's important to read and understand macro economists, not as much because they know what is going on, but rather because they are influencers, who participate in risking / de-risking movements
Obligatory quote here:
"""You might suppose that the feud could be settled by testing ri- val claims. Alas, macroeconomics rarely works this way. Macro- economists cannot run experiments as laboratory scientists can. Statistical analysis of the world is muddied by the vast number of variables, many of which are correlated with the thing whose ef- fect the economist is trying to isolate. _Macroeconomic arguments tend not to produce winners and losers: only those with more in- fluence and those with less._ Post-Keynesian ideas were never pro- ven false, unlike the Ptolemaic model of the solar system. Rather, they declined in status as mainstream Keynesianism rose."""
 The Economist. Free exchange: Magic or logic? page 69, Mar 16 2019.
Which of course leads directly into your
> The most important things to understand in macro economics is that it is very much a people's problem. If you could get in the head of every central bank people, you'd get a strong edge over the market.
I've been saying this for YEARS, mostly to deaf ears. Thank you for confirming my personal biases/opinions ;) Finally someone else says it. It's why I (used to) like reading biographies, however shitty, of key people in power. Just to get a sense of their thinking or psychological makeup.
Very good comment, I'll keep it.
Predicting the next semester is done quite alright. There are good economic models for long duration trend (50 years at least), though they are not used much because they are not very useful to invest as they do not have enough granularity. But the middle ground is just chaos.
> “Macrophysics” (predicting complex physical systems such as hurricanes and earthquakes) does just as poor a job of prediction as macroeconomics.
> The real problem is modeling the policymakers. We don’t know exactly how the 12 members of the FOMC will behave.
Which is why people do not trust the weather men and neither should they trust economists.
This sounds hard. What about 327 million consumers? The real problem is a discipline in the social sciences which mistakes itself for hard science. It is serving today the same purpose "scientific socialism" once served in the Soviet Union: Taking power away from the people and placing it into the hands of an enlightended elite. What's called "depoliticisation" today. In which you remove spheres of public interest from the democratic decision-making process and cede them to unaccountable power. The exact thing we just haven't had enough of just yet according to this guy.
Listening to informed opinions is important but economists enjoy a kind of widespread unquestioned respect that has no basis in reality at all.
People who's livelihood depend on the weather (farmers) do trust weathermen. They just know the limitations.
1: any forecast more than three days out cannot be counted on. (If you're close to mountains or other similarly confounding factor, that 3 day number is a lot smaller)
2: An 80% forecast of rain doesn't mean that it will rain in one specific place, but that it will rain in a good portion of the forecast area.
The same thing applies to economists. Some of their predictions are very accurate, but much are wishes and guesses. But due to human nature we primarily remember the times their guesses were wrong.
Predicting what a lot of people will do is a lot easier than predicting what one person will do (which was the point of what you were quoting.)
Oh, if only dim policymakers behaved as economists tell them to! Wouldn't the world be a wonderful place then?
What he's pointing out is there's a human-driven force to economics so it's not accurate to compare it to a (theoretically) closed system like physics.
Economists started to understand the dynamics of post-war type growing economy and how it behaves better and better. There is gradual shift away from these conditions.
* Wage share in OECD countries peaked late 70's early 80's and has started to decline.
* The return from increased education is slowing. Marginal return from increasing education is smaller.
* Women are now fully in workforce.
* Demographic change in OECD countries when people age. The share of working-age population is in decline. Paying for the care of older people dominates the growth of public spending and requires increases in taxation.
Now macroeconomists are trying to learn the dynamics of new conditions.
But all this does not mean that macroeconomics is useless or that it's not getting results. They are just relatively modest.
It's a system which is slow to change, nigh on impossible to experiment with, we only have one experimental unit, and it responds to interventions. No wonder it's difficult to science it properly.
'Macroeconomics' by Williamson is my go-to example of the worst textbook I ever had to read (setting aside postmodernism). Overly certain, badly argued, with fishy math. So, a good place to go to for everything wrong with the discipline.
My problem with macro-economics/economists is that so many of them seem so convinced aboout their own models and beliefs, or at least the conversation is dominated by those who are. It doesn't matter which view you have, there will be promonant economists who are convinced that it is the 'one true way" and the alternatives are bunk. Government policy then seems to swing depending on who is being listented to at the time.
I wouldn't mind macro-economists so much if they would just admit that a lot of thier views on the economy are largely faith, backed by cherry-picked data.
Here is an example:
Globalization leads to concentration of economic opportunity in certain locations. If you simply go by the book then workers simply move to where the economic opportunity is and therefore everyone is better off than before globalization.
But local politicians of those locations want to avoid displacing their existing residents. Therefore they pass laws that make sense in the short term for their residents. Over the long term however they prevent the mobilization of all those future workers and the vast majority are worse off as a result of globalization.
Globalisation was about externalising costs and impacts. To hell with the local consequences - we got a decade or two of deindustrialisation, with lives and regions ruined for generations. Political fashions tend to stem from economic fashions without regard for the bigger picture. Or environment, citizens and residents.
It would be silly to expect a biologist to write down an all-encompassing equation describing a cat, solve it, and thereby understand the animal. Why should that approach work on something infinitely more complex, like a whole economy?
It seems that the financial economy, which is the trading of various financial instruments between a lot of different parties, and the business economy, which produces, distributes and consumes goods and services, are two loosely coupled systems. Monetary volumes of financial trading are one or two orders of magnitude greater than the monetary volumes of good and services. Further, the financial economy is even more globalized than the business economy. The financial economy is showing signs of instability as regulators attempt to use it to control the business economy. Direct control of the business economy by fiscal measures, subsidies, tariffs and regulations would be more effective and cause less distortions than continued use of financial measures.
This is how I've always done my analysis. Start with 1000 people. Group them into 500 households along an age curve. Give each person a money account and assets along a wealth curve. Set up 100 businesses and the government. Study the dynamic system and gradually increase the realism/complexity with central banking, credit cards, etc. This is the hard unsimplified way but you will uncover the absolute truth of our system.
Start small (not the US), in a geo where electronic payments dominate, and where privacy isn't as important. If the model proves valuable, build modeling tools and scale up.
Counterpoint: there's a very large percentage (by value) of transactions that are invisible e.g. business partnerships, cryptocurrency, etc.
more realistic sim city (city skylines)
I don't know that they've managed to produce the sort of general results that older economic theory.
I think we have a an obvious reason for the lack of consensus here, which is cognitive/regulatory capture. You'll always find someone willing to muddy the waters for a little cash and some sort of career advancement. Economics is the ideological science _par excellence_.
>Gates is right, in a way: Economists don’t understand much about the macroeconomy. No one does. Any responsible economist is the first to admit that.
> Economists’ research has contributed to fewer people living in poverty, low predictable inflation, and less risk and uncertainty.
But also, you can be right for the wrong reason, especially in "soft" sciences.
Said another way, how do we know these macroeconomic improvements are not in-spite-of this research?
"Economists don’t understand much about the macroeconomy"
But then says that in fact economists have e.g. contributed to fewer people living in poverty. I'm simply saying I don't accept that the research of economists has improved e.g
the poverty situation without some evidence of that fact.
Before the discipline of 'economist' existed human societies experienced rises and falls of poverty, inflation etc. Is that sufficient evidence for you that 'completely unmanaged' (your words, which I don't even really understand your point here -- are you claiming economists 'manage' the economy?) economies have in the past had periods of ups like ours today?
The article is bordering on claiming that economists have nfi what they are doing, but the effects of their efforts have been amazing.
Just since 1990, the share of the global population living on less than $1.90 a day has fallen from 44% to about 9.5% in 2015. The graphs there are broken because different studies have used different measures of poverty at different times, but the trends and absolute numbers are clear. Global poverty as a proportion of population is about 1/6th what it was in 1960.
More like in China almost entirely. Global capitalist structures take a lot of credit for improving living standards all over the world, but when you look at the numbers, it's really a very dramatic improvement in China, a country that deviates from those structures in significant ways (and is demonized for ir.)
I don't have anything close to a belief yet, but the more I hang on HN and read stories from various industries, the more I'm starting to feel that maybe we took globalization a bit too far, or at least we're now learning about bad side effects. Human groups tend to be recursive hierarchies, and to this environment our intuitions about trust and behavior are adapted. Global economy does its best to cut straight through that.
Many smart people must have already talked through this to death. If anyone has pointers towards reading material, I'd strongly appreciate it.
When you give people freedoms like that, and there is huge advantage to be gained from it, people quickly find ways to scale it up to benefit the maximum number of people as much as possible. That's what a company is. It's a way to scale up economic activity.
This dynamic has raised hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the last few decades alone. That's a number so big and a transformation in people's lives to dramatic that it's hard to grasp mentally in a meaningful way. That didn't happen because of farmer's markets and buying local produce in Wholefoods, much as it might pain us to admit it.
Does globalisation have it's down side? Yes, absolutely. It has increased pollution and accelerated the rate of consumption of resources. But what could we say to those families, those hundreds of millions of people, that could justify denying them their opportunities?
I'm not saying we should revert globalization; I'm right now only trying to learn about the good and bad sides, their relative balance, to figure out whether and where something needs to be done to achieve a better outcome for everyone. Because I get this growing feeling that screwing up local communities in exchange for freer money flow isn't turning as good a deal as advertised.
Your initial paragraphs talk about freedom, and I appreciate this view coming from a principle. Though looking at the world as it is today, couldn't you say that this focus on individual freedom, scaled up, actually ends up taking freedom from individuals away? How come when talking about freedom we focus on freedom to choose, but ignore the increasing constraints, the disappearance of options to choose from?
Billions of people worldwide didn't rise out of poverty since the 60s from migration though.
Capital belongs to people. Capital freedom is people exercising their rights of ownership over their property. That's what capitalism is. I know this very well because my wife is Chinese. Her father's family were villagers in the Chinese countryside, but they owned a few plots of land they rented to other farmers otherwise like themselves. As a result they were branded 'class enemies' and persecuted ruthlessly. To this day he sometimes tears up when we talk about those times, although I speak very little Chinese myself.
The millions of people that have been lifted out of poverty in India and China are obviously still there, they haven't migrated. Globalisation is said to have helped people out of poverty by the increased flow of capital it represents, not by literally having them all move to richer countries.
In the face of the daily deaths along the "illegal" migrant routes, the idea that globalisation has made personal movement easier is unfounded.
China and the USA didn't pass a Jack Ma law that allowed Jack Ma to trade with America. He took advantage of individual freedoms available to anyone. I'm sure he had particular opportunities too, but he was free to take advantage of them, as others were free to take advantage of opportunities they had.
China is working it's way up the economic ladder. Low end assembly isn't moving out of China because other countries are getting cheaper. It's moving out because there are more higher paid jobs in China now, so it's harder (more expensive) to persuade Chinese workers to do low end jobs. Average factory worker wages in Chine are now 5x those in India, because their value-add has rocketed. Chinese workers have better opportunities now.
The fifties and sixties had a sustained period of increasingly shared worker participation, believed in by both sides of the political fence. Rising pay, conditions, pensions, fringe benefits, and reducing inequalities. Regulation to combat the ills of capitalism and markets, to prevent a repeat of 1929, to be suspicious of overly large corporations, to improve the lives both of worker and residents near the factory. It was Republican Nixon who formed the EPA and brought the clean air act.
By placing commerce above nation you restrict the impact of government, the shared deal is defenestrated, and it becomes a global race to the bottom. It makes it super-easy to trade one nation against another, and move profit around to avoid paying the rightful tax. Just because. The corporation is now above its government. Make it wherever's cheapest or has fewest restrictions. The current home of manufacture rises, the globe as a whole does not. Environmentally, climatically and regulationally it got worse.
Not to say I object to other nations rising, I don't at all. It could have been done without throwing baby out with the bath water.
I suspect this is simply due to the fact that there are now hundreds of millions more middle class people in the world that can do our jobs just as well as we can. However I can't bring myself to cry foul. Why shouldn't they get a fair bite at the apple?
Inequality is definitely an issue, but frankly if we're going to vote in billionaires so they can give themselves and their rich mates historically unprecedented tax breaks, while profiting enormously from their position of privilege, maybe we deserve it.
Coordination is required to avoid suboptimal solutions to games (as in game theory) that emerge in a modern economy.
If your a computer scientist saying individual freedom resolves all economic questions is like saying greedy algorithms provide the optimal solution to all cs problems.
You mean individual freedom for the rich?
> This dynamic has raised hundreds of millions of people out of poverty
And billions of people into modern slavery. And so much more complex misery that it is impossible to comprehend.
> It has increased pollution and accelerated the rate of consumption of resources.
Indeed! We are totally destroying life on this planet and it seems most people don't realize it's the economy. Economists have a 'raise people out of poverty' fallacy for this. All these false truths we learn at school are so persistent, amazing.
Joseph Stiglitz and Naomi Klein are probably the standard starting points for reading about anti-globalisation.
I would not be surprised if we eventually find out humanity has already multiple times wiped everything from this planet in the last billion years. And IMAO we are stupid enough to do it again and again.. It all comes down to: Greed, Vanity, etc..(you know your sins don't you?). The flesh is weak, so weak we'll probably never learn..