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How Externalities Affect Systems

How Externalities Affect Systems




It took about a billion years for life – single cell organisms — to develop on planet earth. Another 500 million years led to simple organisms that used photosynthesis; another 1 – 2 billion years before multi-cellular life appeared. The next billion years led to plants, dinosaurs, birds and mammals.

Evolution was the driving force of these changes. Suitability and adaptation was a key to competitive success. Life could adapt to changing conditions. But every now and again, fate intervened, in the form of five mass extinctions.

The most recent: About 66 million years ago, a 7.5-mile-wide asteroid traveling about 50,000 mph slammed into the earth in the ocean near Chicxulub, Mexico. The collision resulted in an explosion estimated at over 100 trillion tons of TNT. That’s about a billion times more energy than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The impact gouged the Earth’s crust several miles deep and more than 115 miles long.1

It was not a good day to be a dinosaur.

Everything within 1,000 miles was killed by a giant fireball. That was followed by a 1,000-foot high tsunami, extinguishing the fires, and drowning anything that survived. Just in case a few creatures were still standing, a 600-mile an hour wind blast tore through the region. And that was just day one. Nuclear winter followed, chilling the planet by a global average of 14 to 18 degrees.2

Eventually, the critters that could adapt to these circumstances did. Thus, the dinosaurs demise was soon after followed by the rise fo the mammals. And by soon, I mean 10s of millions of years.

What does any of this have to do with markets, economics and investing?

You might be surprised. I am entranced by the idea of how externalities intervene in functioning systems. In markets, the usual variables affect longer secular cycles. The ebb and flow of the economy, inflation, consumer spending, employment, fiscal and monetary policy, interest rates, etc. all impact the longer cycle of price and value.

What happens when an externality hits the markets like an asteroid from space? What happens when a non-economic event crashes into stocks and bonds, and derails their prior path? Consider some of history’s externalities that have impacted markets:

• 1914 Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, sparking WW1;

• 1941 Attack on Pearl Harbor, bringing the US into WW2

• 1963 Assassination President JFK

• 2001 September 11 Terror Attacks on USA

• 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, leading to a full system failure at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant;

• 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic, leading to a global lockdown.

There are surely many more you can think of, but these six are the ones that come to mind.

What happened in the past when these externalities hit? Markets would wobble, frightening everyone. Often, they would sell off fast and hard. But then, they would simply resume their prior trend.

That seems to be what is taking place currently: Covid 19 led to the fastest bear market in history, and the fastest snapback to prior highs. The move down was so deep that economically, none of the data could fit on the usual charts. I mentioned in April that we should not be too quick to assume the bull market was over, and so far, events seem to be confirming that view.

Which leads to an interesting question:

Will the economy and markets son mean revert? Will we go back to our prior structures in the economy, eventually returning to the way things were? Or has a sea change taken place? Will the economic dinosaurs soon find themselves replaced by smaller, more adaptable mammals?

I don’t pretend to know, but I do find the question fascinating.




Off the Charts (July 31, 2020)

End of the Secular Bull? Not So Fast (April 3, 2020)




1. All of these are approximations, and may be close to what actually happened or totally wrong.

2. Based on recent research and reasonable estimates.

3. Geological time spiral




The post How Externalities Affect Systems appeared first on The Big Picture.

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Highlights of My Weekly Reading and Viewing

Timothy Taylor, “Some Economics of Pharmacy Benefit Managers,” The Conversable Economist, September 28, 2023. This is the nicest treatment of the facts…



Timothy Taylor, “Some Economics of Pharmacy Benefit Managers,” The Conversable Economist, September 28, 2023. This is the nicest treatment of the facts that I’ve seen. I confess that I’ve seen PBMs as something of a black box rather than doing the standard middleman treatment that Tim does.

Tim highlights the work of Matthew Fiedler, Loren Adler, and Richard G. Frank in “A Brief Look at Key Debates About Pharmacy Benefit Manufacturers,” Brookings Institution, September 7, 2023.

Ending paragraph:

As in most economic discussions about the role of middlemen, it’s important to remember that they (usually) don’t just sit around with their hands out, collecting money. Some entity needs to negotiate on behalf of health insurance companies with drug manufacturers and pharmacies. Some entity needs to process insurance claims for drug prices. I do not mean to defend the relatively high drug prices paid by American consumers compared to international markets, nor to defend the costs and requirements for developing new drugs, nor to defend some of the mechanisms used by drug companies to keep prices high. But while it might be possible to squeeze some money out of PBMs for slightly lower drug prices, and it’s certainly possible to mess up PBMs in a way that leads to higher drug prices, it doesn’t seem plausible that reform of PBMs is going to be a powerful lever for reducing drug prices.

Thomas W. Hazlett, “Maybe Google Is Popular Because It’s Good,” Reason, September 27, 2023. I think Hazlett is the best writer in economics. This piece is a good sample.

An excerpt:

The innovation was simple in design, complex in execution, and radical in result. The business achieved a rare triple play: First, a robust new web crawler devised a superior method for finding and tagging the world’s digital content, deploying cheap PCs linked in formations to achieve momentous computing power (Brin’s genius). Second, this more prolific database of global digital content was better cataloged. A clever “Page Rank” score evaluated keyword matches, countering the influence of scammers by scrutinizing the quality of their web page links (Page’s inspiration). Third, “intention-based advertising” displayed commercial messages to searchers self-identified as ready to buy. For instance, the internet user wondering about “coho salmon, Ketchikan, kids” gave Hank’s Family Fishing B&B in Alaska a digital target for its 10 percent off coupon, while signaling to Olay not to bother advertising its skin care products. This solved the famous marketing dilemma: “I know I’m wasting half my ad budget, I just don’t know which half.” Businesses loved these tiny slices of digital real estate, and Google mined gold.

Fiona Harrigan, “America’s Immigrant Brain Drain,” Reason, October 2023.


In June, The Hechinger Report outlined how foreign governments are welcoming U.S.-trained international students. The United Kingdom offers a “high potential individual” visa, which authorizes a two-year stay and is available to “new graduates of 40 universities….21 of them in the United States.” Recruiters from Australia are “attending job fairs and visiting university campuses” in the United States. From 2017 to 2021, according to the Niskanen Center, a Washington-based think tank, Canada managed to attract almost 40,000 foreign-born graduates of American universities.

Most international students want to stay in the U.S. after graduating, but very few are able to do so. The U.S. does not have a dedicated postgraduate work visa. Canada and Australia, meanwhile, have streamlined the steps from graduation to employment to permanent residency. Graduates in the U.S. can complete Optional Practical Training, but it does not lead to permanent residency and lasts a maximum of three years.

Personal note: Actually the maximum of 3 years for Practical Training sounds good. When I took advantage of the F-1 Practical Training visa to be on the faculty of the University of Rochester, the max was only 18 months.

David Friedman, “Consequences of Climate Change,” September 24, 2023. David does his typical calm, clear, masterful job of laying out the facts. He takes the IPCC reports as given and then follows the implications, uncovering a lot of misleading claims in the process. While David takes as given that the earth will heat about another degree centigrade by about the end of the century, he lays out why we can’t be sure that the net effects are negative or positive. Watch about the first 35 minutes of his speech, before he gets to Q&A. I would point out highlights but there is zinger after zinger. And he references his blog and his substack where you can get details.

The pic above is of David Friedman giving his talk.


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Russia’s Military Budget Set To Rise By 70%

Russia’s Military Budget Set To Rise By 70%

Via Remix News,

Russian military spending is set to rise by almost 70 percent — to €106…



Russia's Military Budget Set To Rise By 70%

Via Remix News,

Russian military spending is set to rise by almost 70 percent — to €106 billion — by 2024, according to a Russian Finance Ministry document published Thursday, an increase that illustrates Moscow’s determination to continue its military intervention in Ukraine despite the human and economic costs.

According to the document, Russian defense spending will increase by 68 percent in 2024 compared to this year and will reach 10.8 trillion rubles (€106 billion).

As a result, the amount allocated to defense will represent about 30 percent of total federal spending in 2024 and 6 percent of GDP — a first in Russia’s modern history.

The budget for internal security is set to rise to 3.4 trillion rubles (€33 billion), almost 10 percent of annual federal spending.

The priorities for this budget are outlined as “strengthening the country’s defense capacity” and “integrating the new regions” of Ukraine whose annexation Moscow has demanded, as well as “social aid for the most vulnerable citizens,” just months ahead of the Russian presidential elections in spring 2024.

Conversely, total spending on education, healthcare and environmental protection accounts for barely a third of the defense budget, according to ministry figures. Overall, federal spending will total 36.7 trillion rubles (€359 billion), a dramatic 20 percent increase over 2023.

The government, however, has explained little about how it will finance this large increase, as Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Musustin said last Friday that revenues from the sale of hydrocarbons will be down sharply and will account for “a third of next year’s budget” in 2024, whereas before the invasion of Ukraine, they accounted for half the budget.

The sector used to drive Russia’s growth, hydrocarbon sales are declining due to international sanctions and the European Union’s determination to move away from energy dependence on Moscow.

One indication that the government expects a delicate month ahead for the Russian economy is that it has announced that it has based its budget forecast on the assumption of a dollar worth around 90 rubles, thus betting on a weakening of the national currency in the medium term. The draft budget law for 2024-2026 is due to be sent to the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, on Friday.

Tyler Durden Sun, 10/01/2023 - 08:10

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Atlantic Overfishing: Europe’s Worst Offenders

Atlantic Overfishing: Europe’s Worst Offenders

Each year, agriculture and fisheries ministers decide on total allowable catches (TACs) for…



Atlantic Overfishing: Europe's Worst Offenders

Each year, agriculture and fisheries ministers decide on total allowable catches (TACs) for commercial fishing.

Scientific bodies, such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), provide information on the state of fish stocks around the world and recommend maximum catch levels per zone to ensure sustainable fishing.

However, this scientific advice is all too often ignored by the authorities, jeopardizing the sustainability of marine resources.

Statista's Martin Armstrong shows in the following infographic, based on the latest report from the New Economics Foundation, these European countries are the worst offenders for this, having on numerous occasions set their fishing quotas in the North-East Atlantic in excess of the sustainability recommendations in recent years.

You will find more infographics at Statista

Sweden exceeded its recommended TAC by almost 33 percent in 2020 (the latest year available), equivalent to 12,000 tonnes of fish, followed by Denmark (6 percent, 20,000 tonnes) and France (6 percent, 17,000 tonnes).

Ireland, Belgium, Spain and the UK all exceeded their targets by between 2 and 4 percent.

The year before, in 2019, the overshoot of the sustainable fishing threshold in the zone was even more pronounced: 7 percent of the recommended TAC for Spain, 9 percent for France, 10 percent for Belgium, 18 percent for Germany, 20 percent or more for Denmark, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and 52% for Sweden.

Tyler Durden Sun, 10/01/2023 - 07:35

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