Economics

Collapsing pensions will fuel America’s next financial crisis

Collapsing pensions will fuel America’s next financial crisis
Collapsing pensions will fuel America’s next financial crisis

As the article states, this is not a "next" crisis, this is a "now" crisis. Many states have pension plans that are underfunded by billions - the author didn't even mention Illinois' $130 billion hole.

The fundamental problem is over-promising by policymakers and corporations in decades gone by. In Chicago, retired police, fire and teachers can expect to earn between $70k and $80k a year in state retirement benefits (far more than most teachers/cops/firemen earn while working in other cities), with a healthy cost-of-living adjustment, and usually the ability to retire after 30 years of service, extending the years the retirement benefits are owed.

I don't foresee any way Illinois can pay out these lavish pensions through the baby boom generation's retirement. So someone will get short-changed by necessity.

The Montana Constitution requires that all Pension funds be actuarially sound and are audited independently every other year. One of the several awesome provisions in our constitution..

The issue isn't what was promised necessarily. It's that state governments and corporations made choices early on to use overly rosy numbers in order to intentionally underfund their pension systems so they could spend the money elsewhere. If they had used more real world growth predictions and planned around the fact that the economy seems to have issues every 10 years or so there wouldn't be an issue today.

IMHO any corporation that underfunded their pension plans should be barred from shareholder dividends and stock buybacks until their fund is at least stable. Yet today, we have corporations flush with huge amounts of cash and spending it on everything except fixing their pensions. Then they pick a time to sell off a part of their company including the pension system to a created third party and having it declare bankruptcy in order to pay nothing at all. This should be criminal theft.

MT is in the middle of the pack, with a 70% funding ratio that is based on some mighty aggressive assumptions. I wouldn't say they're out of the woods.

(I've never heard of a pension fund that isn't audited, so that provision isn't all that great. It would get audited regardless)

Prof. James K. Galbraith: "Economics is not a scientific discipline in any modern sense of the term science."

Prof. James K. Galbraith: "Economics is not a scientific discipline in any modern sense of the te...

Not only is economics not a science in the sense of physics or chemistry, but it will never be a science. And that's okay.

Hard sciences require repeatable experiments. In physics, we can slam atoms, protons, and electrons into each other at relativistic speeds and see what happens. This allows us to predict results in future experiments because, as far as we can tell, the distribution of particles created from these experiments is repeatable. It does not depend on any previous history. Same with dropping feathers and bowling balls in a vacuum or observing the precession of Mercury. In math, you might call this a Markov Process: the prediction is only dependent on the current state.

Economics has no such luxury. Economics is dependent on the decisions of individuals which are anything but Markov Processes. To take a recent example, our handling of the crisis in 2008 benefitted from our knowledge of the Great Depression. Of course, now that the actors involved have seen how a modern government responds to a crisis, they too will act differently. Ad infinitum.

That said, economists shouldn't despair! While it may be intellectually depressing to know there's no "Grand Unified Theory of Economics" laying around the corner, it does mean some job security for economists for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, that economics isn't a science in the sense of physics doesn't mean we should disregard its results but rather view them with proper skepticism. After all, taken as a whole, economics is still the best model we have for predicting human behavior, particularly with regard to markets.

job security for economists

Perhaps the most repeatable result of the whole field.

Science is a method of exploring the world around you. It is a way to figure out, to the best of our ability, what is and what isn't

It is.

This is at the center of economic study.

It can be for some economists. Unfortunately because of the very human motivations surrounding the economy and policies related to it, in the real world economics is used as a cover for achieving things certain vested interests want.

The only problem is that the study of economics necessarily involves the study of human action and incentives, which are extremely hard to nail down to single laws like the law of gravity for instance

Human values are properties of the mind. They aren't falsifiable. Because human action occurs post thinking, and thinking isn't limited to what is possible, prediction is impossible. Science cannot achieve its aim in this human sphere.

But at the end of the day, the very same scientific method that is used in other fields is relied upon among economists.

Repeatable experiments there are none in most of economics. There are some in behavioural economics but generally those are small scale.

People should be cautious not to confuse the relative lack of concrete laws and explanations with not being scientific.

And also shouldn't confuse the attempt to be scientific with any sense of actually being scientific. Economists would like to be. They try. Like a lot of social science they cannot achieve their aim to be more scientific.

Science is a method of exploring the world around you. It is a way to figure out, to the best of our ability, what is and what isn't. This is at the center of economic study. The only problem is that the study of economics necessarily involves the study of human action and incentives, which are extremely hard to nail down to single laws like the law of gravity for instance. The result is a lot of grey area and conflicting views. But at the end of the day, the very same scientific method that is used in other fields is relied upon among economists. People should be cautious not to confuse the relative lack of concrete laws and explanations with not being scientific.

1,000 People Own 40% of the Bitcoin Market

1,000 People Own 40% of the Bitcoin Market

Because one day in the dark of night, he did a favor for a witch. She agreed to grant him any wish he wanted, so without hesitation, he wished for unlimited wealth. The witch waved her arms in the cold night air and granted his wish. But as the sun rose, he saw her face for the first time and shrieked at her hideousness. Offended, the witch cursed him so that he could never spend any of his vast wealth, but still had to check the bitcoin price every 35 seconds like the rest of us.

The top 100 bitcoin addresses control 17.3 percent of all the issued currency

He's implying one person corresponds to one address, which is wrong. First you have to remove Satoshi's coins which will never be used. Then you have the exchanges hot and cold wallets which corresponds to all their users fonds.

I have a question that me and my friends asked each other given recent events - what if you have, after buying them years ago, lets say 1.4 billion dollar worth of bitcoins at current rate - how would you even get a fraction of it out of the exchanges into hard cash into a bank account?

Large institutions and investors would buy in bulk off you. You wouldn't want to sell those on an exchange in bulk

The Economics of Microtransactions in Video Games

The Economics of Microtransactions in Video Games
The Economics of Microtransactions in Video Games

For Overwatch, the article gets it wrong.

Overwatch has a progression bar system for loot boxes, which means users anticipate the next drop. Each loot box has something called “weapon skin.”

True, although the skins are for the player characters, not the weapons, but that's overly pedantic for this forum

Overwatch then allows you to sell your weapon skin for the in-game currency.The in-game currency gives you access to the more premium loot boxes (Superior and Enhanced Battlepacks) which have a higher chance of containing premium weapon skins. You’re taught to keep trying to get the premium loot boxes, eventually making you take out your credit card.

Not true - you get in-game currency for duplicate items that come out of the lootbox. You can then use that currency to directly purchase the skins and in-game items, allowing you full agency over what you want. The Superior and Enhanced battlepacks are (surprise!) part of EA's Battlefield series, another progession system based heavily around microtransactions, but not so much as it appears this new Starwars Battlefront II was.

I'm no fan of the lootbox system, believe me, but Overwatch is one of the few games that does it in a way that is at least less offensive. The items are only cosmetic, meaning no in game advantage is afforded to the player (i.e., no Pay-to-win mechanics), lootboxes are earned fairly steadily (about 1 every 6 games, or about an hour of playtime), and over time you earn credits to be able to purchase exactly what you want.

For anyone on this subreddit who has no knowledge about microtransactions or lootboxes in general, there's a tangential but equally interesting line of thinking with these things and that is the "game of chance" aspect. These things have a small chance of producing the most desired items when you open them in game, but there is no transparency for a lot of these games as to what your chances are. Las Vegas odds are highly regulated and public, so I know what my chances are if I play the pass line in a game of craps. What are the chances of me obtaining a premium item out of a lootbox that I spend a dollar on? I honestly don't know, and I think that this lack of transparency is something that we need to think about going forward if lootbox mechanics are here to stay. The second-order implications become even more worrying if the now supposedly defunct skin gambling operations make returns in other games in the future.

TL;DR: Lootboxes are not my favorite, but I understand that they are incredible revenue for the developers. I just think that there is a right way to do it (Overwatch) and a wrong way (Battlefront II, Battlefield 1, pretty much every modern EA game)

Shitty blog written by some arsehole with the hubris to dub himself "intelligent economist"? No thanks.

I would like to see a study looking at rational behavior in micro transaction gaming environments. I have a feeling that people tend to behave more irrationally in such environments and that the dopamine effects associated with microtransaction rewards would substantially distort preference curves to be non-transitive. If that's the case, then (as we've seen in many cases), such microtransaction environments would be ripe for exploiting consumers.

Either way, I'd like to see a study on such effects so that consumer protection policies can be intelligently discussed.

It's an incredibly important topic worth billions of dollars annually, and is both the largest share of mobile game revenue and the fastest growing.

So no, /sub/economics is not "safe" from economics.

Paradise Papers leak reveals secrets of world elite's hidden wealth

Paradise Papers leak reveals secrets of world elite's hidden wealth

This should be good and I am going to enjoy sitting back and watching the fallout. But I do hope something will be done about tax havens once and for all. But have little confidence that there is any motivation by world leaders to do so as they all have fingers in the pie..

Just like the Panama Papers, I assume this will fizzle out and simply exist in the back of the minds of a small portion of the population.

Being aware of a problem is the first step to fixing it. Can’t deny something once it’s out in the open.

With daily controversies in a world of hyper-dissemination of information & news, it is really tough for people to have the capacity to care about it all with any degree of commitment.

Mexico Maintains Competitive Position in World Economic Forum

Mexico Maintains Competitive Position in World Economic Forum
Mexico Maintains Competitive Position in World Economic Forum

For those who are interested, the Top 5 most competitive countries are:

Switzerland United States Singapore Netherlands Germany

Curiously, they forgot to mention Mexico's corruption problem and how that influences its economic prowess. Be curious to learn more about that. Because, anecdotally speaking, it seems to be a big problem.

This is the best tl;dr I could make, original reduced by 56%. (I'm a bot)

Mexico obtained the best rating since 2006, when the WEF implemented the current methodology, informed the Ministry of Economy.

The World Economic Forum published the Global Competitiveness Report, in which Mexico remained in 51st place, in a sample 137 countries, presenting an improvement in the rating from 4.41 to 4.44.

Regarding the challenges for Mexico, the Ministry of Economy pointed out that inhibitors continue to be detected in the institutions' competitiveness, with a negative perception about the efficiency of government spending, the protection of property rights and the independence of the judiciary.

Extended Summary | FAQ | Feedback | Top keywords: Mexico#1 Economy#2 Ministry#3 country#4 rating#5

i agree with you

Warren Buffett wins $1M bet made a decade ago that the S&P 500 stock index would outperform hedge funds

Warren Buffett wins $1M bet made a decade ago that the S&P 500 stock index would outperform hedge...

Lucky him. I've heard he could really use it

Tim Hartford has a podcast called "50 things that made the modern economy" and one episode was on index funds, I highly recommend listening to it.

It goes to a charity of his choice

The reason against actively managed funds is not, that it is mathematically impossible to outperform the market (plus 2 percent costs). Just that it is very unlikely over a prolonged period of time. AFAIK plenty of research has shown that (I don't know the exact number) around 98 percent or so of funds are not able to achieve that. You will of course find somebody throwing a dime and getting heads ten times in a row, but you don't know in advance and he/she will not achieve that over 20 years. So you have to have good reasons to pay a premium for less. (can't say anything about your tax reason, though because I just don't know).

At $75,560, housing a prisoner in California now costs more than a year at Harvard

At $75,560, housing a prisoner in California now costs more than a year at Harvard
At $75,560, housing a prisoner in California now costs more than a year at Harvard

whenever govt programs and costs don't make sense, the reason is corruption and thievery under the guise of inefficiency or ineptitude.

Honestly, what the fuck. I thought one of the main points (besides security) of having them all in the same place is because it leads to economies of scale in purchasing land to house them, food to feed them, and the labor to watch over them. How the hell can it cost this much per prisoner?

Unacceptable for tax payers.

I think transparency and accountability are suitable checks on government monopolies, without requiring a slide into the private sector.

Martin Schulz to Trump: Dropping Paris agreement means no trade talks -- ‘Whoever wants to have access to our market needs to respect the European standards,’ Schulz says.

Martin Schulz to Trump: Dropping Paris agreement means no trade talks -- ‘Whoever wants to have access to our market needs to respect the European standards,’ Schulz says.
Martin Schulz to Trump: Dropping Paris agreement means no trade talks -- ‘Whoever wants to have a...

Good. Sanction the shit out of us.

How badly would the US economy suffer in the case of a trade war with Germany?

Same question, but with the EU.

US is Germany's top export partner, at approx 10% of all exports($122B), mostly cars(transportation) and machinery.

Germany is US's 5th largest, at approx 4.6%($63.3B), mostly chemical products and machinery.

An EU wide sanction however, might hurt US more than it hurts Germany, but at the cost of the other European countries.

Edit: TIL EU trade laws

Do you have evidence of this? Right now, it more looks like the US is going towards complete isolationism, dropping all ambitious trade agreements across the world, whereas the EU and the rest of the world are busy unifying their markets, and agreeing on common policies for the environment. This won't be good for the US.

The U.S. Has Forgotten How to Do Infrastructure: The nation once built things fast and cheaply. Now experts are puzzled why costs are higher and projects take longer than in other countries.

The U.S. Has Forgotten How to Do Infrastructure: The nation once built things fast and cheaply. Now experts are puzzled why costs are higher and projects take longer than in other countries.
The U.S. Has Forgotten How to Do Infrastructure: The nation once built things fast and cheaply. N...

Interesting read. The tl;dr is

"That suggests that U.S. costs are high due to general inefficiency -- inefficient project management, an inefficient government contracting process, and inefficient regulation."

I don't think it's particularly surprising that some form of government corruption is one of the biggest factors. This is also pretty interesting -- with regards to reform:

"Unfortunately, this is going to be hard, given all the vested interests and institutional inertia blocking deep reform of the construction sector. As Yglesias ruefully notes, a study by the Government Accountability Office looking into the problem of high train-construction costs was recently killed by Congress, with no explanation given."

That sounds about right.

Inefficient regulation is a huge problem. There is also the issue of regulatory capture, where you can get a permit for some projects in a few months, and some take decades.

For one thing, no other advanced democracies have the same institutionalized, legalized corruption system as the US, where donors can give as much money as they want to lawmakers in order to buy laws.

because we've turned our infrastructure development into a profit center for friends of politicians.

Try one of these subthreads