Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Publications, March

Another solid month with great material. Corona madness has meant that I have had a lot of interesting material to engage with while I keep working through my book list for 2020.

Happy reading.

Medium
  • [1] 'Feeling Good, Not Doing Good', my biggest problem with the environmental movement: they're not really about improving people's lives - they're about feeling good about themselves. In this piece I discuss John Tierney's suburb essay "The Perverse Panic over Plastic"
  • [2] 'Debt vs Government Cash Assistance', a quick and simple comment on so-called stimulus packages following Corona panic: just send cash. Not to "stimulate demand" or some such nonsense, but to fulfil financial obligations taken while presuming a stable future income. Financial insurance for those who most need it; no need for partisanship or complicated loan structures - just send cash. 
Notes on Liberty
  • [3] '13 Books for 2020 - What a Year!', where I go through the books I'm most excited about for this year. I've already finished two of them, working on a third. I'll come back around discussing these themes, authors and titles as the year progresses. 
AIER: 
"Killing animals in places where property rights over animals have been established doesn’t actually decimate the species. Instead it usually provides the financial incentive to keep more of them alive"
  • [6] 'The Fed and the Mad Urge to Do Something', a comment on the Fed's second round of emergency stimulus. Crazy - and probably to very little avail. Take-away message: we're done, Treasury. It's on you from now on.  
  • [7] 'The Insoluble Perils of Prediction', where I married my love for writing about failed predictions with counter-signaling the most hysterical of commentators right now. Collateral damage = the ever-gloomy Nouriel Roubini whose clever-sounding predictions were so majestically debunked. Not that he noticed, of course, claiming that he predicted this and that his advice going forward are amazing and impressive. Bitch, please. 
    • Translated and re-published into French (New language, I believe) at the French silver firm CGSP.
  • [8] 'Brazilians Should Keep Slashing Their Rainforest', exactly that - plotting economic well-being against deforestation in some ~135 countries, showing that Brazil is pretty much exactly where we'd expect it to be given its economic development. Indeed, as Brazil's North, where the Amazon is, is much poorer than its urban South, it would make a lot of sense for them to keep slashing relatively unproductive rainforest for more productive agricultural/logging purposes. Also: 
"It's fair to say that almost everyone wants to preserve nature – but that nobody wants to do it at the expense of their children going cold or hungry. For quite a lot of the world’s remaining poor, planting trees isn’t their main priority – and shouldn’t be.
Let poor countries grow rich, and in due course they will, too, look after their forests."
Mises

A wonderful month of lots of cool and unfortunate development. Looking forward to April.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Publications, February

Glad to report that February saw my first publication at the British site CapX  and a very snarky, anti-bitcoin piece at that. A second piece at HumanProgress, where I got to discuss CPI in economic history. Lovely!

For the rest of the month: Stats, Harry Potter, Finance & Environmentalism and, of course, a little bit of crypto towards the end of it. Another decent month.

If you like my work, consider supporting it at Buy Me a Coffee and follow my work at Twitter.

CapX: 
  • [1] 'No Matter the Facts, Bitcoiners Cling to the Crypto Creed': fiat's average life-span is 27 years? Nop. Bitcoin's volatile exchange rate falls with scale? Nop. Bitcoin a better transfer of value across the globe? Nop. None of these facts matter: crypto enthusiasts maintain their creed: "Facts, truth, reality, or science are archaic ideals unsuited to an era of bitcoin supremacy."
HumanProgress:
Medium
  • [3] 'Three Phases of My Personal Finance Journey', where I outlined Richest Man in Babylon creed - always pay yourself first - and how that advice has led me to where I am today. I also featured a shout-out to two of my greatest (non-fictional!) sources of inspiration: DividendMantra and Lundaluppen. 
  • [4] 'Feeling Good, Not Doing Good' a rather vicious piece on environmentalists, fuelled by the excellent John Tierney's "The Perverse Panic over Plastic." Read at your own peril. 
  • [5] 'Making a Living as a Freelancer', a comprehensive outline of my earnings, taxes and expenses over the last 6-7 months, where I always compared benefits of this #nomad lifestyle of mine to the next-best option. I included some discussion of what would entice me to give this up and settle for a Regular Job.
    Notes On Liberty: (see all my posts here)
    • [6] 'The Least Empathic Lot', where I discuss three cool topics: male-female divides, empathy & Jonathan Haidt's moral foundations, and libertarianism!
    American Institute for Economic Research (all my pieces here)
    • [7] 'All Hail Statistics!', a stats-loving piece on a) how empathy can lead us astray, and b) how statistics can help us counteract the very biases and moral mistakes that empathy induce us towards. 
    • [8] 'Search Engines Are Better Than Hogwarts', ah! Man, do I love my cheesy pop-culture pieces. Here's another one: sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, said Arthur C. Clarke. Mhm. And I'm saying that search engines  those magnificent technologies that allow us unlimited access to the sum total of humanity's knowledge  trumps even the magical world of J.K. Rowling's fictional world. 
    • [9] 'The Implausible Claims of Green High Finance', where I discuss green bonds, central banks supporting the *Green Revolution*, and various fund managers and banks around the world signaling their greenwashing virtue. Next bubble: the ESG bubble!
    • [10] 'Are All Cryptocurrencies Pyramid Schemes?', a cheeky piece where I make two claims, at least one of which is bound to annoy everyone I know: (1) all cryptocurrencies are pyramid schemes; (2) that's a trivial statement as all moneys, property and valuable items  like pyramid schemes  rely for their value on the ability to offload them later to another person. 
    Stay tuned and enjoy!

    Friday, 31 January 2020

    Publications, January

    Welcome to the next decade! Exciting, isn't it?

    There are some minor changes here too. From now on, I'll post some of my work on Medium particularly work that didn't fit anywhere else or re-edited tweetstorms. I begin, timely enough, with reviewing my best and most important pieces during 2019.

    In terms of quantity, this Medium addition helped - and made it fairly easy to hit the November record of 11.

    Next month, my recent attempts of branching out should be paying off. We'll see!

    Medium

    Notes On Liberty: (see all my posts here)
    • [5] 'A Lesson in Inventing Your Own Statistics', a typically snarky Joakim-esque piece about economist Daniel Lacalle and his recent attempt at making shit up. No thanks. Contrary to common belief, you can't prove whatever you want with statistics. I mean, you can invent numbers and pretend they're real, but that doesn't really do much, does it? 
      • Claire Jones at Financial Times' Alphaville site appreciated the piece enough to put it in that week's Further Reading - magnificently titled "SIWOTI: Riksbank Edition."
    American Institute for Economic Research (all my pieces here)
    • [6] 'The Hobbit Teaches That We Can't Eat Money', inspired by some holiday LOTR and Hobbit-watching, here's a serious point – and silly mistake – that humans, dwarfs and elves alike make in the last Hobbit movie. When your productive capacity is destroyed, say, after a dragon decimates your village, why would you ever turn to a treasure trove of gold coin for your salvation? Surely, you need to rebuild your societies – as in rebuild your lost capital, make new houses or shelter and quickly get some food. Since we can't eat gold, the treasures of Erebor does nothing for the humans who survived Smaug's attack. Being pretty isolated in the middle of a vast and mountainous area means you couldn't even get real goods from cities or other civilizations far away; your people would die before the goods acquired by gold would reach you. 
    • [7] 'Was Bitcoin the Best-Performing Asset of the Decade?', where I investigated this peculiar 9,000,000% return-argument that seem to be popping up left and right. Perhaps bitcoin was the best-performing asset of the 2010s, but that's statistically trivial as it started from a very, very low base and – more crucially – the suggested prices at the beginning of the decade of $0.07 dollars etc, were not exactly readily available for anybody to buy. That is, there was almost no way anybody could have accessed bitcoin at those prices (in stark contrast to other high-performing assets like Netflix's or Amazon's or Monster's stock, which were publicly listed and tradeable for all). 
    • [8] 'When Perfect Correlations Dissolve Into Dust', where I use some examples from Tyler Vigen's wonderful site 'Spurious Correlations' before illustrating that even the much-hyped yield curve is probably just another such correlations where some numbers happened to align. 
    • [9] 'Should We All Be Flying Less?', a mildly misleading title as I wasn't really assessing that question, but rather telling a story that illustrates the hidden order or airline industry: flying useful, efficient and beneficial routes (reasonable opinion) sometimes require airlines to fly inefficient and less-beneficial routes (seemingly unreasonable opinion) for the simple reason that they need to move the planes in the opposite direction. And some Taleb-esque redundancy stuff. 
    • [10] 'The Economics of Price and Quantity Signals', a comparison between the price signals that economists often use to illustrate markets' impressive ability to convey information - and the quantity of goods and services demanded and sold, as this similarly acts as a signal for entrepreneurs to follow. 
    Mises Institute (see all my writing here)

    Tuesday, 31 December 2019

    Publications, December

    Beating November's outpouring (11 articles) was always gonna be hard. For December, I focused on branching out a little bit  adding more outlets to my repository. Despite lots of rejections, I have some valuable trails to work on.

    Travels and Christmas holidays interrupting, I only managed seven publications from December.

    Human Progress: 
    Notes On Liberty: (see all my posts here)
    • [2] 'Confessions of a Fragilista: Talebian Redundancies and Insurance', some reflections from my Taleb spree (see here, here and here) put together into one. It deals with the silly point that insurance is a wasted resource, which Taleb correctly ridicules, and the clash between optimization and redundancies. 
      • While this precise piece only made it into Brandon's nice NoL-review list (and way-too-nice praise) in a roundabout way, many other of my most cherished NoL pieces did. I really appreciate the platform and the kinds of topics I get to explore there. I quote these very nice words in full as they absolutely define me: 
      • "[Joakim] is also beginning to bud as a cultural commentator, too, as you can probably tell from his sporadic notes on opinions [and yes, there are some really great pieces in that series!]. Joakim wants a more rational, more internationalist, and more skeptical world to live in. He’s doing everything he can to make that happen."
    American Institute for Economic Research (all my pieces here)
    • [3] 'Technology Has Made Flexible Work Possible, and That’s Wonderful', where I was pushing back against Izabella Kaminska's FT piece about Uber a few weeks back. She misidentifies trends in the labor market and she forgets the wonders that technology have brought in reducing transaction costs. We should cherish that, not lament it. 
    • [4] 'Jim Simons and his Quants', where I reviewed Greg Zuckerman's latest book, about Jim Simon's firm Renaissance Technologies. For those less-nerdy about finance, RenTech's fund Medallion is considered to be the most profitable hedge fund ever - and how they make their returns has always been clouded in secrecy. Zuckerman does a great job describing the life of Simons and this many colleagues, interviewing countless of old business partners, employees and friends. We don't quite get an explanation for how Simons managed to beat the markets for so long, but we get some hints. Lovely book
      • I received a lot of good feedback from this, for which I'm very grateful!
      • Re-published on Actionable Insight
    • [5] 'What Is Money? It's All About Liquidity', where I argue that money is all around us: gift cards, airplane miles, Uber credits and company-specific cashbacks. While notionally described in "U.S. dollars," this is merely an accounting practice - we could transact in Uber money or Amazon cash, and indeed most airlines allow you to purchase things with acquired miles already, priced and available in those units. "Money is what money does", the old saying goes, and current money does all kinds of things. 
    • My two-pronged piece on Carbon Taxes included
      [6] 'Troubles in the Economists' Case for a Carbon Tax', which was strikingly similar to something my AIER colleague Phil Magness had written about a year ago
      • The most strange rendition of this piece was the audio-version at AIER. My words, created in a written format, sound very strange as they are read back to me. 
      • The site "Pun Salad" discussed it and voiced the common-sense point that revenue-neutral carbon tax schemes allow people to consume their previous bundle, and so won't have any effect. While that's right, it's not quite the full story: as relative prices have changed, I am still disincentivized from consuming goods where the carbon tax applies. 
    • [7] 'More Good Arguments Against a Carbon Tax', where I delve down into the three major reasons carbon tax don't make sense: (1) Perspective: econ growth swamps everything else - including even the worst estimates of climate damage. Whatever trouble the climate gives us, riches and wealth and innovation (you know, standard capitalism) can help us. (2) Externalities are strange, and I wonder why the Pigouvian club jumped on carbon emissions and not some other more profound externality - or, you know, subsidize all the wonders of the world, say my pretty face. Intellectually carries the exact same weight as carbon taxing does. (3) Realism, please. The big conclusion from Public Choice economics over the last few decades is that shit doesn't play out the way some idealizing economist imagines. Nice try, hon, but the carbon tax perfectly rebated to the poor isn't gonna work that way, #politics. 
    I'm starting 2019 at the most extreme pace so far, and November's 11-publication may very well be topped. Happy New Years, everyone!

    Saturday, 30 November 2019

    Publications, November

    November is over  Almost Christmas! This month saw lots of work with my editing service, but I still managed to churn out some interesting stuff:

    Notes On Liberty: (see all my posts here)
    • [1] 'You're Not Worth My Time', where I offered some opportunity-cost thoughts on the idea that the perspectives and experiences of random people I meet are valuable. I estimated that I have some 60,000 hours left in life for curious intellectual endeavours: given that the full treasure trove of humanity's work on philosophy, economics, or literature, I simply don't think your half-drunken rant about "bankers", "inequality" or "climate change" is going to cut it. Your unique "perspective" is probably not worth my time. 
    • [2] 'Intellectuals You Should Know About', a piece long in the making, where I originally just wanted to point out one or two intellectuals whose work I believe most people would benefit from – and then it spiralled out of control, ending with 11 different well-known and wonderful writers. Brandon's response was appropriate and added some people I also admire ("why didn't I think of them?!"). If you're wondering what to read for the holidays (or books to gift your loved ones), these two overview posts contain some tips. 
    American Institute for Economic Research (all my pieces here)
    • [3] 'The Real Reason Nobody Takes Environmental Activists Seriously', this piece has everything: fire and fury, bitterness, hypocrites  and turtles!
    • [4] 'What's the Difference Between Michael Burry and Alexander Fordyce?', a follow-up to 'If You Are Early, You Are Wrong' where I elaborate what I mean by *being wrong in financial markets*. I do this by comparing the famous Big Short investor Michael Burry with the very unknown Scottish 18th century investor and banker Alexander Fordyce. They both predicted similar things and put their money behind their conviction. Both were right on paper, but only one escaped hailed as a successful forecaster and investor. 
      • Re-shared at RealClearMarkets, for what I think is my eight appearance on this great site. 
      • Strange comment/twist by Dan Hugger
    • [5] 'Why We Are Getting More For Less', where I review Andrew McAfee's great book More From Less. Completely contrary to common knowledge, economic growth does not rely on us extracting more and more resources from the planet. Indeed, for the past twenty years, the U.S. and UK and most European countries have decoupled their use of resources from their economic growth; our economies keep growing, but our use of materials, metals, agricultural land etc is falling. Surprise! Capitalism is not "wrecking the planet"; it's saving it. 
    • [6] 'Don't Hand Over Your Money to Uncompetitive Banks', which included some anecdotal stuff on how high-street banks screw you over  not only on the up-front fees, but by using seriously uncompetitive rates when exchanging your funds into a different currency. There are solutions.
    • [7] 'The Great Redistribution: Who Benefits from Ruthless Capitalism?', a pretty cool piece where I emphasized three recent instances in which low-interest rate policies and ruthless capitalists benefits consumers  and almost exclusively consumers as these firms happily run their businesses at a loss: the much-lamented venture cap sector, with the plethora of unicorns (most of which are operated at a loss); the airline Norwegian's recent low-cost offering; and the online broker Charles Schwab's recent move to zero-commission stock trading. What these ruthlessly competitive capitalists do is handing over wealth and resources to us consumers. Thank you, kindly!
    Mises Institute (see all my pieces here)
    Finally blowing that old record number of publications/months out of the water! Yes! Let's see what December has in store.

    Thursday, 31 October 2019

    Publications, October

    Following last month's exciting change of lifestyle (I launched my freelancing business full-time  check it out!), October has been the first real month of trying my wings. So far, they seem to work.

    Here are all the publications:

    Notes On Liberty: (see all my posts here)
    American Institute for Economic Research (all my pieces here)
    • [3] 'The Mythology of Cantillon Effects', a piece, long in the making. For a while, Austrians' emphasis on so-called "Cantillon effects" (= monetary redistribution) has bothered me a while. I finally found enough time to go through Cantillon's original writing. It turns out not only does every monetary system have Cantillon effects, but Cantillon himself was analyzing an increased money supply coming from gold mines  not money-printing central banks. 
    • [4] 'Gresham's Law Is Not the Reason for the Corruption of Democracy', where I discussed the actual origin of Gresham's Law and the real meaning (no, it doesn't mean anything 'bad' drives out anything 'good'). 
    • [5] 'Yield Curve Inversions Don't Improve Investment Outcomes', a piece that I could have audaciously named "Fama-French vs Harvey"  but then only literature-savvy financial economists would have gotten it. I reported the results that esteemed financial economists (one of which a Nobel Laureate) Eugene Fama and Kenneth French found while investigating the infamously scary inversions of the yield curve: negative relative returns, for 1-, 2-, 3- and 5-year across close to all strategies. In plain English: even if yield curve inversions predict recessions (questionable), switching from stocks to bonds earns you lower returns than simply staying invested in stocks. There is no outperformance by obeying yield curve inversions. 
    • [6] 'The Limits to Hostile Takeovers' So-called Hostile "take-overs" get a bad rap; greedy capitalist investors buy up a company and do all kinds of horrible things to it (like take it apart and sell its subdivisions!), somehow "obviously" destroying wealth in the process. If that's true, I always wondered, why would anybody ever sell? 
    • [7] 'The Rise of Edinburgh, Financial Empire', where I (rather favourably) reviewed Ray Perman's latest book, The Rise and Fall of the City of Money. How could I not like it, 336 pages filled with Scottish financial history?! Banks, insurance companies, financial crises, colourful characters and easy prose. Highly recommended for anyone wanted to get a fairly comprehensive outline of Scottish banks, the 1690s to the present.
    Mises Institute (see all my pieces here)
    On par with my July record of 9 publications in a month, October was as good as can be expected considering the time I spent on editing and proofreading. Next month is going to blow that record out of the water!

    Monday, 30 September 2019

    Publications, September

    September was filled with interesting topics (Finance-Finance-Finance-Climate-Monetary History, which pretty much sums up my intellectual life) and at least one interesting development: I have now launched my freelancing business full-time!

    In addition to my writing, I offer copyediting services, proofreading and research assistance. I'm on all the major sites (Fiverr, UpWork, Freelancer) but the easiest way to get in touch with me is to drop me a line at info@joakimbook.com or reach out on Twitter (or contribute to my work via Buy Me a Coffee). All things finance, banking, and money – research reports, blogs or dissertation and manuscripts for journal articles, I'm your guy.

    Despite all the editing work I did this month, I managed the following publications:

    Notes On Liberty: (see all my posts here)
    American Institute for Economic Research (all my pieces here)
    Mises Institute (see all my pieces here)
    While 6 publications is less than the July record of 9, it's still decent all things considered. Overall, a pretty successful month!

    Saturday, 31 August 2019

    Publications, August

    August was an intense and heavily concentrated month all writings this month at AIER and Notes On Liberty. Almost exclusively financial history, money and bitcoin!

    Notes On Liberty: (see all my posts here)
    • [1] 'On Translating Earnings From the Past', I illustrated the troubles all economists and economic historians are faced with: how do we show how much a certain sum (income, wage, price) was really worth in the past? Measuringworth.com is a great resource, but be aware of what you're comparing and getting at. 
    • I started a new series that I manage at Notes, 'Financial History to the Rescue', where I attempt to show how a lot of monetary writing on bitcoin does a very poor job in its generalized claims for monetary change. Not to mention erroneously invoking monetary/financial history. The impetus came from the very inspirational debate between Saifedean Ammous and George Selgin at the Soho Forum at the beginning of this month. A few days after the debate, the deep dark corner of the cryptosphere descended upon me. That was fun. Two pieces on Notes: 
    American Institute for Economic Research (all my pieces here)
    Overall, a pretty successful months! It seems like September has some pretty exciting things in store, which I'm definitely looking forward to.

    Wednesday, 31 July 2019

    Publications, July

    July was busy pero busy! 3-weeks conference touring across the U.S. and so writing has been somewhat on the back burner. Fortunately, a lot of left-over writing was published this month and so made up for the dearth of production. Also, my pre-Harwood Graduate Colloquium reading summaries have all been comming out at AIER, so in total there's been a bunch of Joakim-esque stuff.

    But the most exciting development was how my 'Mr. Darcy's Ten Thousand a Year' keeps reaping its rewards. Not only did I get tons of good feedback, mentions in various blogs and a re-publication in the Mexican magazine Letras Libres but it was recently picked up by HackerNews (of all places!) which drove a ton of people to read it.

    Adam Smith Institute: (all my pieces here)
    Notes On Liberty: (see all my posts here)
      American Institute for Economic Research (all my pieces here)
    Mises Institute (all my pieces here)
    Nine articles in a month is, all things considered, pretty decent work. Some of that, however, is simply overflow from June. Nevertheless, we'll see what the future has in store. 

    Sunday, 30 June 2019

    Publications, June

    June was both an eventful month and a rather slow month. On the upside, I saw my first publication for the ASI, hopefully just the first of many. Regretably, I didn't put out as many pieces as I had previous months - it's quality, not quantity, ok? In my defense, I probably wrote as many pieces as I usually do, and so there's a bunch in the pipeline spilling over into July.

    Here's the summary: 

    Adam Smith Institute: (all my pieces here)
    Notes On Liberty: (see all my posts here)
      American Institute for Economic Research (all my pieces here)
    Mises Institute (all my pieces here)
    I'm looking forward to the month of July, filled with conferences, exciting events and lots of more writing!

    Friday, 31 May 2019

    Publications, May

    May has been an interesting and an altogether decent month. My Mr. Darcy piece got translated into Spanish and published in the Mexican magazine  Letras Libres; together with my other Financial Instrument piece from April, it remains the most read piece on Notes for the last month admittedly during two rather slow months among my fellow Note-writers.

    Notes On Liberty: (see all my posts here)

    American Institute for Economic Research (all my pieces here)
    Mises Institute (all my pieces here)

    Thursday, 16 May 2019

    Publications, March-April

    Notes On Liberty:

    (see all my posts here)
    I had a splendid month on Notes (especially April), where 3 of my 4 articles were the most read for the months; my Mr. Darcy piece even hit a #7 (and climbing!) over the last year.
    • [4] 'Two Financial Instruments that made the Modern World', a kind of follow-up to my Mr. Darcy piece where I illustrated exactly how Bills of Exchange worked and how money was moved from London to Amsterdam via netting of outstanding merchant credits. The piece hasn't been picked up anywhere (as far as I know...?), but at least I received tons of praise on Twitter 
    • [5] 'A Short Note on Fraudulent Banking', a little entry into the FRB=Fraud debate where I responded to erroneous counter-arguments to what I (mistakenly) thought were pretty original points of my own. 

    American Institute for Economic Research

    (all my pieces here)
    • [6] 'Safe Banks Are Probably Not What You Want', another Joakim-classic: teaching economics (oh, well - finance) through the use of popculture: this time through the movie Margin Call. One of the most read articles on AIER that week.
    • [7] 'Yes, You Can Sell What You Do Not Own', preceeding the 'Short Note' piece above, I laid out two well-established phenomena (insurance + airline overbooking) that effectively functions as fractional reserve banking in the real economy.

    Mises Institute

    (all my posts here)