Sunday, March 8, 2009


I'm not sure anyone has a good handle on what is, and what is not, important economic data right now.

There may be a tendency to emphasize the familiar and close by over the important and the alien. one of two things can happen when the situation gets confusing--either you open up to new stimuli, or you default back to the familiar..

My sense is that the media and the political establishment is desperately trying to regain their comfort zones. That may not lead to either good policy or accurate reporting. It will lead to an obsession with the mechanics of readjustment and preclude any kind of coherent response to the need for reform to keep this from happening again.

Driving across the Western United States last week, I couldn't help noticing a number of things. One, there seems to be a fair amount of hiring going on, at least at the bottom of the pyramid. Two, the collapse is itself creating economic opportunities, if you believe the touting on the billboards on the interstate through Salt Lake City. Three, there is a huge swath of country that, having missed out on the bubble, is not being splattered too badly by its bursting. Four, life goes on.

For instance, if residential real estate prices fall far enough, transaction volumes pick up. If transaction volumes pick up, commissions (and related transaction fees) start flowing again. All that happens at lower levels, of course, and doesn't do any good for the non-survivors. The glory days are over, but life goes on . . .

And perhaps a bleak and sodden economic climate is exactly what' needed to nurture the requisite reforms.

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