There were some excellent comments on my post about house Big Brother finance on Monday. The standard is terrific. Thank you to Snoepje and others for your support: it was getting pretty lonely before you came along. The comments of those who clearly live in the house of haute finance, or write about it, were sharp and to the point and will keep me on my toes.
Some comments however, were, I thought, a little defensive. The idea that traders in credit derivatives live in a real, pragmatic world unaffected by free-market ideology and that people such as me and Snoepje are mere "ideologues" is sloppy thinking and dangerously complacent. There is, granted, a gulf between us that I do not intend to bridge, but don't let us call that gulf pragmatism v ideology.
I never mentioned exchange controls but referred to capital controls: controls over the movement of stocks and bonds, not currency. Capital controls can impact on exchange controls but need not do so. For a discussion on how capital and exchange controls can successfully be used in a crisis, see my good friend Martin Kohr's analysis of the Malaysian experience in September, 1998.
Some other comments on the post were, in my humble view, truly patronising. There was no suggestion that I was "befuddled" by Mr. Tucker's remarks; merely that his comments "were intended to befuddle people like you and me". The piece was written in a state of alarm precisely because I had decoded his comments, but I am aware that if Josephine Bloggs had read it, she might, (but who knows?) be befuddled and find it easier to decode Dan Brown's Ultimate Code: 128-10-93-85-10-128-98-112-6-6-25-126-39-1-68-78
Now, about evidence: for this I tend not to look, on the whole, to university economics departments and their professors. They seem to me to inhabit remote and sadly irrelevant ivory towers where the words "haute finance" are never uttered and the sector is seldom, if ever, studied.
I get most of my numbers, information and analysis from a man who is something of a hero to me, Nouriel Roubini. Back in 1995-6, when those of us working on low-income country debt were worrying about an impending crisis, Nouriel began assembling, on what was then a fairly primitive website, every document written on the subject.
Through the whole of the 1997-98 crisis, his site became riveting and essential reading, connecting all those following those frightening and sad events.
Actually, Nouriel is a professor of economics, based at the Stern School of Business (funny, isn't it, that all the good economists working on finance are at schools of business, not departments of economics) at the University of New York, and has been an adviser to the White House, and IMF and the US Treasury.
Roubini Global Economics monitor is a paid-content site that well worth the money.My day doesn't really get started until I have had Signora Claudio's real Italian coffee, read the FT and the Guardian and had my RGE monitor fix.
I might then amble across to my monetarist friends at Prudent Bear, where Doug Noland's Credit Bubble Bulletin provides timely up-to-date numbers. If I'm feeling particularly gloomy I might wander across to Marc Faber's site, GloomBoomDoom.
But too much time spent in the company of monetarists is discomfiting, so I invariably move across to my great friends at the Center for Economic Policy Research in Washington, Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot. I recommend their regular updates on the US economy. Dean's weekly comment on the way in which economics is written about in the US media, and Dean's e-book The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer are both essential reading for those watching how those with assets extract more assets from those without.
I am an admirer of the IMF's World Economic Outlook, even when I disagree with its analyses and conclusions: it gives the "big picture" of the global economy, and I like that; is well written and edited, and comprehensive. In other words, it is easy reading for non-professors. The latest edition is illuminating on the impact of petrodollars on "global interest rates".
Another favourite site is run by a woman who is not a professor but is extremely knowledgeable about the Federal Reserve. Jane d'Arista is a friend, a woman of my age and distinction, and one who spent many years as a secretary to the US Congressional banking committee. She runs a brilliant site for anyone wishing to follow developments at the Fed.
On these sites I find more than enough detail to cause me alarm.