Friday, 30 November 2012

Should all economists live in Greece of 2012?

My first two university degrees were focused on decision sciences as applied to transport(ation) systems: traffic, public transportation, trains, corporate logistics and of course, at least in my case, airports and airlines. I have not really practiced the trade, except for policy analysis of EU transport policy. I used to say and I believed it that any transportation analyst/planner should spend some time working as a taxi driver. I have always been inspired by international (long haul) tracking as well. Maybe I should have practiced one of these two professions anyway. Maybe.

But my point, by some analogy, is that any economist should spent significant time living the life of "people in the streets" of economies such as the Greek economy in 2012 (the econ stats of which are, they say, comparable to the ones in the US during the great crash 80 years ago). How long for? I would say at least 4 months, maybe 6. Maybe even a year.

The values of wisdom and stamina and the danger of too financial times


My 12 weeks in the UK, NL, BEL, FRA, ITA were full of hard knocks. Tweeted much re that. So have the 2 weeks (back) in GRE. It has been a hard 7 days because I thought there was something wrong with my health. Turns out I am fine but I keep the lessons learned! We tend to think we are like companies, ie we live in perpetuity. Being aware every day that we are not, leads to better life management, ime.

Since the 17th I keep a daily ledger of all my daily expenses. Good discipline. My mom did same til she was 81! Some think that success in life is maximizing revenues. It is also, if not more, to manage/minimize cost (of living for persons/households).

Today I heard that another one of my bosses (good and bad times) in the 1990s passed away, this one this week. I shall miss him too.

Some years ago a friend accused me that I care too much about old people compared to young ones. Not true. I care much for both. But I feel that in this hard day and age, society has somewhat abandoned old people. I think old people, 80s+ are very cool and interesting. I also think that old people are very cute and lovely humans. And full of memories and wisdom to share with us.

My generation used to complain that old(er) people held the power (in biz, politics, the job market, etc). Now power seems to have shifted to those in their 30s. Nowadays the stamina of the 30plus decision makers has largely replaced in market value the wisdom of the 50plus of past decades. Both are bad trends

Why both are bad trends? Because IMO there shld be a healthy mix, Plus today's trend not good news for humans in general!  The current high market value for stamina reflects a de-humanization of work and the economy in general.  Are we headed towards IRobot humans?

My MBA with heavy electives in Finance does not prevent me from considering our times as too financial. A new type of middle ages.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

From my personal diary: My own "systemics" and London rain

Back from the third trip to the dentist in 10 days. 8 extractions down (3 today), 6-7 more to go. It's raining like London the taxi driver claimed. Not it's not, I thought, but I did not say anything, I still had cotton in my mouth pressed again the empty gum. Was raining cats and dogs though and my shoes were too low to keep my pants from getting wet. Did make it to a mini market near the flat though and bought some basic stuff, was surprised the bill was 8 euro! The tuna can alone cost 2.5! The juice boxes each 1.2! Next time, supermarket. This was just to cover needs for tonight and tomorrow am, mostly.

Back at the flat, I washed my jaw with salty water, turned on the heater to reduce the dumpness,  edited my LinkedIn profile.

Looks like my denture will be fixed by end of January at the latest. Then I will decide re location, it seems.

Still exhausted from the last 3 months, the last 1 year, the last 10 years. But especially the 12 weeks of the NW "fact-finding" trip. And as a friend put it during the trip "you quit your home, smoking, lost 20+ kilos, etc etc, your system must be out of balance looking for a new one". Seems so. I analyse world,, European and other systemics and dynamics and their effects on policy making and business strategies. My systemics are systemics too. But not a believer in self analysis. Because a lawyer who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.

Dynamics (Europe): Only Greece is Greece!

In the aftermath of Monday night's Eurogroup decision on Greece (a very complicated package/deal the elements of which and their between the lines not clear to the writer, still, 24++ hrs later, but my MBA does help, to a certain extent, to begin to try to understand this complex financial deal), some in Ireland (and I am sure in Portugal too) are wondering "what does Greece have" that they do not have (implicit in that is the working assumption that the deal Greece got was, after all is said (and analysed) a good one).

Well, for one, with all due respect, Greece did not have politicians arguing that their country is NOT Greece. That is if I recall well the case for Ireland and Portugal, at least. I only call it as I remember it, vividly with we "are not Greece" political chants of sorts still in my ears from many many months ago).

Yes, Ireland does not have sunshine. I love Ireland and I wish it did. Not a fan of humidity. Greece never had or claimed to have a Tiger, either. Nor does it benefit from a corporate tax regime that via transfer pricing seems to suck corporate taxable income from other national tax systems, in the EU, Eurozone and beyond (in a very "our taxpayers" age, eg in Germany, The Netherlands, Finland, UK even USA - see other blog posts for the folly of that "out taxpayers" argument though, at least inside the EU and Eurozone).

What Ireland and Portugal do not have, either, is a huge pile of mud that has been thrown at them in the last three years, in the form of "lazy" and other epithets.

It was almost clear to most from the start that the first deal Greece got ("Memorandum 1") was meant to be punitive and, what is more, discourage Ireland, Portugal and other Euro members from ever asking for one.

It also seems clear to at least some commentators of the Eurogroup decision that Greece got a good enough deal considering the potential events re Spain, Italy, increasingly (?), France. And the German political timing/scene (elections next autumn). One that may be revised when the time (in Euro and German politics) is "right". At least that is one way to look at things. There are others.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

South European systemics


The South Europe life systemics and dynamics need to fit the South, in a way the South was more systemically sound some decades ago than today. Eg Spanish siesta made lost of sense.

Being in Athens is not that different frm being in LON, BRUX etc. Basically alone BUT less cost/day AND much easier to engage with "strangers"

About the Universe and its "conspiracies"


Sorry folks, but the Universe does not conspire for or against you when you really want something. So resist the (understandable) temptation to think so, when things are going well or badly. It's too convenient, among other things.

Reminds me of a scene in "The Day After" when a woman who sees the nuke mushroom says something like (was ages ago, in the 80s when I watched this TV movie): Does that mean my appointment with my hair dresser for tomorrow is off?


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

For global and EU systemics to work they need more than trade flows. Or less

Here are some systemics and dynamics thoughts (written and tweeted Nov 24, 2012):

What libertarians seem to forget imo is that any group of more than 1 person constitutes a "society" or polis etc. Laws are part of explicit and informal "social contract" between members of a society/group/polis (politics comes from polis). The economy is also a dimension of a social contract when families stopped self producing everything and started trading w/ each other. Intra-polis trade between families created need for prices (even in barter trade) and thus money. But in basic intra-polis/village trade no one was really left "jobless", was mostly specialization benefits.

I am sure economic theories/models (be they of 5000 BCE or 2012 CE) worked much better in 5000 BCE! In a way, extra-polis trade (see eg explorers to "new worlds") disrupted the social/econ contracts/balances of de facto closed societies. Not to mention that lack of competition rules probably had created warlords and other oligarchs inside closed systems/cities/villages.

Why do I say probably? Cos I was not there to see for myself, at 5000 or something BCE. Were you?

Opening up and allowing trade between families in a polis came as part of social and legal contracts/laws/balance. But but inter-polis (ie inter-national) trade/exchanges were not coupled by common laws and a social/econ contract! Were they? No WTO etc.

That is still in 2012 the underpinning element of trade and other inter-state exchanges of all kinds: They fall outside national scopes. Of course so many are in favor of free trade without unification, it sort of allows them to have the cake and eat it too!! Think about it!

Trade between entities not bound together the way a country is bound together is sort of having a cake and eating it too! Sort of "dumping".

That is also part why most economic models/theories have failed. They deal in principle and de facto with closed systems. Look at GATT and the WTO: It regulates basically trade but fails to deal with many other dimensions thus systemically unbalanced. What I am saying is that trade, investment, migration and other flows need to happen within a "system". Is such system compatible with any sub-global/earth sovereignties? In other words is even trade compatible with national sovereignty since separate social contracts?

Can comparative advantage really exist in a league (competition) between 200+ national economies where there is no actual "league"? Does this mean that the world needs to become a federal political entity for "fair" trade to exist? Is it otherwise an "animal farm"? Can national social contracts exist at the same time as free trade exists? Much like libertarians who want to exploit imo the benefits of a society (econ is a social activity) w/o the "costs" of a society ... Or look at how some in the UK want to free-ride Europe and the world w/o any associated social contracts or rules! Pick and choose only!

Thus no wonder that many of the arguments used against the EU are actually prompting localism/separatism in many EU member states!To use absiloute logic, either sovereign states need to become like eg Cuba or North Korea or join together in a federal entity!!

But in any case, imo trade was, back when it started in human history, the first opener for more open systems. But that was thousands of years ago. Not in 2012! The systemics to work need more than trade flows. Or less.

The idea that one can be a sovereign state (city, national, etc) and still engage even in trade with others is imo challenged in this era!  It worked in 1200 BCE or 1400 CE or even 1949 (GATT era) etc but not in the systemics and dynamics of 2000s!

Thus it should come as no real surprise that European and US and world systemics and dynamics are out of control in the 2000s and 2012 and that globalization, regionalization (EU, UNASUR, ASEAN), nationalization (UK), localisation/separatist dynamics do co-exist in 2012!  Because systemically speaking the system is out of whack! Freedom of trade and investment cannot work systemically for long w/o full system integration.


Note: Available for research and analysis for think tanks, NGOs, civil society orgs, firms, policy makers, media, academia anywhere in world.

12 points on Greece, crisis, austerity, growth, new national sport, etc

These are some thoughts I tweeted last night before and after the Eurogroup decision on Greece:

1) What is the elephant in the Eurogroup presser room? GDP growth!

2) Reminder: The best way to bring down any debt/GDP ratio is GDP growth. Not rocket science, is it, except for the Euro austerians!

3) The Euro crisis is now in its 4th season! So is Fringe, but it's its final season (for Fringe).

4)  If Greece had 1 cent (Ok, maybe 1 euro) for every time int'l media have mentioned Greece in connection to crisis 3 yrs now, it would have no debt by now!

5) In 2004, I wrote an article "after 2004, what?". Tonight I ask, after tonight, what? Greece always needs a real growth model, above all. As again I wrote before, in 2004, Greece needs to make exporting its new national sport.

6) Greece has been extremely loyal to the EU Single Market and the WTO. But alas mostly on the imports side! Needs growth and exports.

7) Greece has a great econ model. It's called Tourism. And assets such a climate. No sense being "Wall St yuppie" in "Jamaica" imho

8) Whether with euro or drachma, Greek economy has to grow. And that means more industry and much much more tourism revenues! And exports.

9) It also needs to develop the companies that will produce products that will replace imports, trade balance is one of the keys to GR growth.

10) Now, and always, Greece needs a growth model that fits it, not imports of models or parts of models from Ireland, Finland, Germany etc! The same applies to every country/economy imho.

11) For Greece, PIIGS and others to achieve growth, a key issue is: What will the Euro exchange rate v-a-v USD, Yuan etc be like 2012-2020/22

12) Romney-Ryan lost and now there seems to be accord on Greece. Seems the world moves in right direction after all!



From my diary: Marathon Man?

Sunday, Nov. 25:

Yesterday I was expecting a good day and it turned out a not so good one, today I expected a bad day and it turned out better!

Monday Nov. 26 (day 14 in Athens)

Today was the first time I went out of the flat for last 9 days except for the 2 visits to the dentist (last Monday and last Thursday). I am still tired from the 12 week voyage but less than before and eager to sight-see in an Athens I feel I have been away from for years!

Shopping new antivirus at Stournara St and pants on Patission near Kaningos Square (15 euro) and a cap (5 euro), passing by my lawyer, bought food at sandwich shop (6.5 euro, 2 spanakopittas and 1 sandwich), topped up my mobile (20!), went to a funeral of a friend's father, visited my mother's grave (could not help crying, very rare for me), went to a supermarket (15 euro), back to my flat (total taxi spend 12 euro), watched the news re Eurogroup, now in bed tweeting and the like.

Tomorrow I will walk, some, in Athens aimlessly, the best kind of walking around Athens! lol Tired of roaming around London, Brussels, NW Europe trying to decide if to stay or not.

Too much thinking, that was! And feeling.

Tuesday, Nov. 27 (day 15 in Athens)

Woke up very late, was online til late last nite doing the kind of things I like to do (friend suggested that as a way to chill after trip). Then, today, put on my new sweat pants and went walking aimlessly around the hood. Slowly, like a new arrival, re-discovering the place which is very multi-culti and prices are in free fall. Bought 2 units of underwear for 4 euro. Can of sardines for 1.5. Chicken for 8 (full chicken, cooked), Bottle of water (small) for 0.5. Talked to a friend of a friend who owns a local restaurant. Neither used to do take-outs. Now, cos of the crisis, they kinda do.

But above all, walked, more of that tomorrow.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

How to bring a debt/GDP ratio down

Reminder to IMF and all: The best way to bring debt/GDP ratio down is, you know, GDP Growth. Not rocket science.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Living in too financial times

We do live in (too) financial times! Ie cursed interesting times. A combo of high finance and China effect, that is.

The oxymoron with/ modern finance is that if your rating is undermined in/by any way, you are thrown down a cruel spiral. Good luck getting out.

Does it make systemic or logical sense? In my opinion, no!


"Love Europe, Hate EU"? Really?


"Love Europe, Hate EU",, quite a frequent argument by Eurosceptics, especially British ones, is imho opinion analogous to "Love Women, Hate Marriage".

I Love Logic, Hate BS, btw.

Also syllogismically analogous to "Love Free Markets, Hate Competition Law"

In effect, it sort of means that one likes a quaint loose group of countries, some 60-80+ million in population,  some less than 1 million, many between 1 and 5 and 5 and 10, operating together at best as a free trade area ie for goods and capital, but keep "Polish plumbers" (remember May-June 2005 in France and NL) and other citizens job seekers of EU member states out, or at best, let's make sure that the rules and the game is run by Britain and that only high fliers or high skilled are let in. That kind of love!

Never mind that the wild spirits of Schumpeter (Unternehmergeist) do not necessarily have formal skills or degrees (and that is what imo US immigration of last few decades has grossly missed, see eg Think Like an Immigrant book on entrepreneurship).

That kind of love. For divide and rule by big European or world powers. A Europe of nation keepers (to paraphrase the British saying)?




The UK - Ireland tie, post EU UK


If UK leaves can Ireland keep the free access to UK? Well, should be No, but see the Norway situation with EU Scandics. But NOR is member of the EEA and of Schengen.

But if UK is part of EEA then it will still have to let Greeks, Poles, Spaniards et al work in the UK! Are Cameron (and even Miliband after his recent apologies and other views re intra-EU migration) aware of that?

CAP this!

So you want to cut CAP? Do not whine then if food shortage hits the world or Europe in the future and your meal is left to market forces!

Does anyone care to recall the 2008 staple food prices crisis? Or have memories become too short in this day and age?



So, Greece, Spain and other PIGS, do not lose your humanism!


When you use the same taxi company for years the drivers know you and are even nicer. Today one got meds from pharmacy after the dentist! That is merely an example. The systemic: I didn't come to Greece because I have many more friends than in other places, I came because here I can feel the humanism of strangers compared to... (you know).

So, Greece and other PIGS, do not lose your humanism on account of Merkel etc. It's the biggest competitive advantage/asset you have!

Strangers in Greece ,Greek and foreign, generally give a sh*t that I have a problem with my neck. Very few in other countries I visited those 11 weeks, did.

PS. Do humanism things like that happen in NW Europe, in your experience/POV? If they do, feel free to tweet it. If they do not, ....



Moody?

Now France is Greece, at least for those who are moody?

I could reply to tweeps I often unfollow or block

Philosophise on this:

I could reply to tweeps I often unfollow or block. But that would mean my mutation into something I have the skill to be but I am not. Why let myself be mutated by a stranger's tweet? No point. Not even an employer, client or friend. Think of what I am saying here in terms of life management

Monday, 19 November 2012

My cost of doing nothing on Nov 19

Tomorrow, after quite some time, I can afford to do nothing and have it cost me only 13 euros (my all inclusive rent divided by 30), 13 instead of 60, 82, 70, and especially 80 or 100 or in some cases 150! Oh yes, hotel rooms cost, around Europe. That will contribute to my rest - peace of mind while doing nothing. Dolce far niente, right?

A dentist, a marathon thinker and a philosoph reminder!

I have let my teeth go, for years now, when I was taking daily care of a sick, bedridden relative. After those three years, my teeth that suffered a lot from the abandon, but did I really care, my mother had just died. More teeth left until a few months ago 2 in front, upper jaw! That shook me, I looked like a seal! I did not have time to take care of that though even then. Then I was off to the NW Europe endevour. Until today, after one postponed appointment due to exhaustion last Thursday (yes, I had scheduled that one the minute I stepped on Greek ground in Patras!). By 4 pm I had 2 fewer broken teeth (extracted) and some 7-8 to go,. Yes, I think I am getting a good old style denture, No implants, no partial dentures using my 3 remaining teeth on the upper jaw. I heard that option. But I want a clean solution. After all, both my late mother and my  uncle had dentures by the time they were 45. I am 50 and I want to have to remove my denture to clean it every night (now they put it back on, my dentist said), as a reminder that a) life is not perfect and b) life is not  forever.

Oh come on, you did not expect a philosophical twist at the end?
Why on earth would I have engaged you in a story about teeth then? Not that vane!

The UK EU debate is over! Europhiles were largely a no show!

The UK EU debate is in its 88th minute and the Eurosceptics are ahead 5 nil. It's over. Has been for long. Eurosceptics have for many years almost unopposed, dominated the British current/public affairs scene on Europe in the UK. With or without of referendum, the UK has by now effectively "turned" anti-EU. A surprising Yes to EU vote in a ref would not change that, at least until younger, pro-EU Brits become the norm, if ever. The EU26 have a lot to lose from a UK that remains in the EU, eg preventing the rest to move ahead, eg via an IGC. At the late stage, the EU 26 would, alas/I am afraid, be better off with an non-EU UK than more years of UK whining re "Europe" or "Brussels". I call them as I see them not as I want them to be, UK!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Diary of a traveling thinker

Since my last blog post, November 6, in St. Maxim, France, I have paid brief visits to St. Tropez (to check out the place for tourism industry systemics, last visit in 1991), St. Rafael and Frejus, Cannes, Nice then via Genoa to La Spezia, Pisa, Florence, Bologna. Then Ancona. Then ferry boat to Patras, Greece, arriving in Athens, Tuesday evening, November 13. Had to stay in a hotel (lucky to have run into a cheap deal by a downtown posh hotel), found a furnished studio to rent for a month at my old neighborhood in Athens until I make plans. Lots of fatigue and trying to resync my intellect, psyche and body. Not that easy. 11 weeks on the road (must have slept in over 20 hotel beds, 2 couches, 1 floor mattress, etc) have been extremely educational and very tiring. See my tweets in these last 12 days (@npthinking).
More thoughts soon.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

NP Live Blog - November 6: Omabaland

To follow the flow, start from the bottom and read up:

Afternoon:

Obama-Romney:
What happens if there is a tie? Extra time or penalties?
Nothing to fear but Romney being President.
America will come "roaring back"? With a Chinese engine?


Morning: EU: The euro's credibility was built on an in-credible inflation minimization dogma that pushed the euro skyhigh. Hence the resulting vertigo.

Governing Dynamics: Capital is vagabond and homeless, so are companies, services and products. Can humans do it, though?

Governing Dynamics - Competitiveness: Only the homeless will survive?

Monday, 5 November 2012

Thinker's Diary - November 5: At St. Tropez!

When you are woken up early by a maid's knock on your hotel room door, rent a car that goes bust after 10 minutes and have to wait for assistance for 90 minutes in a busy street aided by a homeless fellow Balkan, witness a car upside down on a highway, cannot find the place you slept out in the open when 17, 33 years ago, find out that the restaurant you had dinner with your late mother 21 years ago is now part of a parking lot, and realise the area around St. Tropez looks a lot like many Greek tourist places (esp Nature), plus have a wifi connection that is less stable than the euro, I guess then you know you have had a full day. November 5.
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