Posts tagged ‘investment capital’

Do You Want to Be A Farmer?

I have zero desire to be  a farmer.  But that would seem to be the logical end result if we take Obama's recent statement to its logical conclusion.  He said in his Kansas "OK, I really am a socialist after all" speech:

Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas, where workers were cheaper. Steel mills that needed 100—or 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100 employees, so layoffs too often became permanent, not just a temporary part of the business cycle. And these changes didn’t just affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs and the Internet.

As has been pointed out by economists everywhere since the speech, Obama is fighting against the very roots of wealth creation and growth and our economy.  Productivity improvement has always been the main engine of a better life for Americans, but here Obama is decrying it.

This reduction in employment in major industries due to productivity is not new.  It began with the agriculture.  Check this out from the always awesome Mark Perry

This is exactly what Obama is criticizing.  Without productivity improvements of the type Obama seems to hate, nine out of ten of you would be laboring in a field rather than reading this on the Internet.   Are you poorer because you don't have to grow your own food?  Of course not.   Every time we increase productivity in a major industry, we fee up labor for the next big thing.  We couldn't have had the steel or auto or oil industries if agricultural productivity improvements had not feed up labor for them.  The computer revolution would be impossible if we all were working in steel mills.

PS- of course this does not work if the next big thing, say domestic gas productions through fracking, is blocked by the government and private investment capital is diverted by the government to cronies with a solar panel factory.

Making Entrepreneurship Harder

The Free Market Project wonders why the government wants to make it harder for entrepreneurs to attract investment capital.

This is the same government that has no problem with the poorest people in our society, or anyone else, playing the lottery every week, or heading to an Indian casino or Las Vegas.  For certain, they don't have an income limit on who can contribute to a political campaign, despite the fact that there is generally no pay-off for that unless you're able to contribute thousands or bundle tens or hundreds of thousands in campaign donations....

My question is this: With the transparency possible using the Internet, why aren't average citizens able to spend small amounts of money (like, lottery ticket money) on seed-money investments?  With proper transparency and protections in place, why aren't entrepreneurs allowed to put their idea online so that the average Joe (or anyone) can look at what they're doing and invest in it if they like the idea?

Getting It Exactly Backwards

The mechanism for this recession seems pretty clear:  A bursting asset bubble has left both lenders and consumers over-leveraged, so everyone is trying to reduce their debt.  This means less consumer spending for a while, as well as tighter lending.

Running a small business over the last few months, I have found that the credit we need to expand is not unavailable, but is harder to get.  Banks and individual investors are asking for tougher terms, more collateral, and are being pickier about what they will fund.  All totally normal and unsurprising (though stressful if you are in the middle of it).

The one thing small borrowers like myself have in our favor:  Eventually, lenders have to lend and investors have to invest.  They simply cannot just put all their money in the vault or the mattress.  The money they hold, in deposits and CD's and whatever else, has a cost, as do their operations staff.  These costs have to be covered.  The only way they have of doing so (short of switching businesses) is to put their free cash to work.  They have to lend it and invest it.  It's  a useful thing to remember in this world dominated by the cult of victimization and helplessness  -- that even as a borrower, you have power.  Banks need you as much as you need them.

So, what does the government do now?  Well, very soon, the Obama administration is going to be marketing to banks and investors an additional trillion dollars of government bonds backed by the full faith and credit of the US taxpayer as an alternative investment to funding my business.  Uh, yeah, that's sure going to help.  On Thursday, I had some power with investors.  Given time, they were going to have to consider my business as a place to put their money to work.  Now, however, everyone can run out and park their money in a trillion dollars of new government securities that have features attached I can never match (e.g. the ability to print money or grab it at gunpoint to repay the loans).

But don't worry about me, I will figure it all out.  I just will not grow the business or hire as many people as I thought I could given new investment capital.  But everything will be fine for the country as a whole as long as you believe that Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama, with their vast business experience, will invest this trillion dollars more productively than I, and other like me, would have.

A Critical Turning Point


The steel industry, a bellwether for the state of the nation's economy, is looking to the government for a huge investment program: up to $1 trillion over two years.

Government can't create capital -- it can only force it to be reallocated and, to a small extent, move it forward from the future.   Given that there is some sort of fixed amount of investment capital in the economy, then, it strikes me that we are rapidly approaching the point where we are giving to Congress the job of allocating the vast majority of the country's available investment capital.  And if that prospect does not scare you, and it should, consider this:  Congress has made it fairly clear the three criteria it will use to select the recipients of capital:

  • They must have a business model that has been proven a failure (by poor performance, eroding market share, and/or near bankrupcy)
  • They must have strong, powerful unions with the historically proven ability to dictate terms to management
  • The company and its key stakeholders must be strong supporters of the party in power

They say the government does things that private parties can't or won't, and that is certainly true here since I cannot imagine any private investor allocating capital on these criteria.

Good Money After Bad

If the world's citizens will not freely lend the Big Three automakers money of their own free will, then Congress is considering using force to make it happen.

Auto industry allies hope to secure
up to $50 billion in federal t loans this month to modernize plants and
help struggling car makers build more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Congress returns this coming week from its summer break, and the
auto industry plans an aggressive lobbying campaign for the
low-interest loans.

I wrote earlier on why we should not be afraid to let GM fail.  Paul Ingrassia makes this point:

low-interest loans to develop fuel-efficient cars should be made
available to all car companies, not just the Detroit Three. The law
passed by Congress last year is framed to make this highly unlikely.
But if developing fuel-efficient and alternative-energy cars is deemed
worthy of taxpayer subsidies for public-policy purposes, it's just
common sense not to put all our eggs in Detroit's basket.

I would have gone further and said that US automakers are perhaps the last one's one would entrust with limited capital resources to develop such a new technology.  What would have happened to the PC revolution had the government circa 1975 limited all the available investment capital for new computing technologies to IBM, DEC, Honeywell, etc.

Due Process?

Reason has been on top of the LA crackdown on bacon-dog sales from mobile carts for some time.  Recently, the police stormed in and confiscated a number of vendors' inventory and push carts.  OK, its bad enough that bacon product sales have been deemed a threat to the Republic.  But what freaked me out is that the police did not impound the carts but rather junked them (pictures here).  So where is the due process?  If the police are found to have acted precipitously in arresting these folks, if they are found to be not guilty for whatever reason, their property is still gone forever.  This is roughly equivilant to having your car crushed in a mobile hydraulic press within minutes of being given a speeding ticket.  I wonder how many of these carts, which likely represent a huge investment relative to the investment capital these small business people possess, are collateral for loans?