Friday, November 17, 2006

"Booms, Technological Bubbles and Busts."

Milton Friedman died yesterday.

When I was in graduate school in the late 1960s, many of my peers were disciples of Mao and romanticized that thug Che Guevara. They carried around with them The Thoughts of Chairman Mao (
"The Little Red Book") as if it were a badge of honor. I vividly remember the ugliness at the American Economic Association meetings when Friedman gave his Nobel Laureate lecture amid angry prrotests and demonstrations.

The "Little Green Book" (his Capitalism and Freedom) was the first book that made me think critically and creatively in economics. From today's vantage point, it appears to have won the long war with "The Little Red Book." His ideas have seized the commanding heights.
It is a great irony that the best words to put on his tomestone would be those of John Maynard Keynes, the dominant intellectual force in economics from 1936 to the 1970s and the king whom Friedman deposed:

"The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood . . . Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back."

- J.M. Keynes, General Theory, ch. 24.

Today's Wall Street Journal is a must read. Not only is there a lead editorial on Uncle Milton (no surprise) and a front page article, but they published a new article by Friedman himself ("Why Money Matters") on the editorial page that is a gem. It could as easily have been titled "Booms, Technological Bubbles and Busts." Personally, I can't imaging still writing so lucidly and perceptively at 94. In fact, still breathing would be an accomplishment.

Fellow economist Michael Boskin leaves us with the image of Milton and Rose dancing at her birthday. The perfect signature on a full and fruitful life!

Pray for his soul and the wife who has lost a soulmate. May he be smiling down at us from the true commanding heights.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Borrowing by Consumers Eases, But Credit-Card Balances Jump

The Wall Street Journal reports that American consumers' debt fell somewhat in September despite a rise in credit card debt. Yet debt burdens are rising as consumers rely more heavily on morgaging their homes and reduce their exposure by pulling back on credit card debt. The Wall Strret Journal reports, "As of the second quarter, mortgage payments had reached 11.6% of disposable income, the highest level since at least 1980. Consumer-debt payments had fallen to 6.5% of disposable income, the lowest level since late 2000."

As houses become more difficult to sell in the previously hot real estate markets, less mortgage financing will bleed through to consumer spending. A slowdown in both consumer spending and new housing is translating into slower U.S. growth. Will the housing bubble burst into a recession? It is too early to make that call.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wichita Unemployment Rate Falls Below the National Average

The Wichita unemployment rate dropped to 4.4 percent in September. September's jobless rate was below the national average of 4.6 percent. This news was contained this morning's Bureau of Labor Statistics metropolitan area report.

There were forty eight hundred more jobs in the Wichita metropolitan area in September than a year ago.