The Geographical Imperative

By |2017-07-17T12:21:19+00:00May 16th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Is geography destiny? Composite image of Earth’s biosphere. Source: NASA In 1820 – at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution – per-capita GDP in Western Europe was three times that of Africa. By 1992, it was 13 times as high, despite the catastrophic effects of two world wars on Europe When you look at a map of global economic development, two significant facts stand out: most tropical countries are poor, and most land-locked countries are poor. Many geographical regions are extremely fertile, despite being [...]

Snow Days?

By |2017-07-17T12:21:29+00:00February 13th, 2017|Uncategorized|

How do storms impact the markets? Source: NOAA We seem to be in a storm cycle. We just had a couple nor’easters, and it looks like more snow is on the way. At times like these, people wonder just how much weather can affect the economy. Last year was a great case-study. For the previous several years we’d had heavy weather disrupt the first quarter’s economic growth. Last year we had a mild winter, along with low energy prices. Economists were curious whether lower [...]

The Death of Retail?

By |2017-07-17T12:21:31+00:00January 18th, 2017|Uncategorized|

"the report of my death was an exaggeration" Photo: A.F. Bradley. Source: Library of Congress  That’s how Mark Twain responded to a story that he was dying of poverty while on a visit to London. He was undecided whether to be annoyed or amused. He was just 62 at the time, and while a little frail, was in excellent health. A cousin of his – James Ross Clemens – had been seriously ill, and the papers confused the two. The report of Twain’s illness [...]

Ivy League Returns, 2016

By |2017-07-17T12:21:37+00:00November 21st, 2016|Global Market Update, Uncategorized|

Photo Source: Dartmouth Investment Office For the fiscal year ending 6/30/2016, Ivy League endowments were all over the place, from Cornell at -3.3% to Yale at 3.4%. How are these large endowments managed, and what makes it so hard to hold onto a good Chief Investment Officer? Dartmouth’s endowment returned -1.9%, and they’re looking for a new CIO for the third time in ten years. Dartmouth’s endowment is one of the largest in the country. And it plays a crucial role in [...]

Our Fibers, Our Selves

By |2017-07-17T12:21:41+00:00October 3rd, 2016|Uncategorized|

What do our clothes say about us? Illustration from “The Penny Magazine,” 1843, Source: Wikimedia For millenia, clothes have inspired new technology. Cotton has been spun, woven, and dyed since prehistoric times. Marco Polo pioneered the Silk Road and the Age of Exploration. Spinning mills in England and New England were at the center of the Industrial Revolution. Demand for “Basic Black” fashions stimulated the chemical industry in the 20th century. Everyone’s excited by the latest smart watch or FitBit, but clothes are the [...]

Mixed Money Messages

By |2017-07-17T12:21:52+00:00August 8th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Where does money come from? Source: Morguefile Money is a funny thing. Most people around the world look at yen and euros and dollars and say that that’s money. But banknotes are only a small fraction of the money in the world. Most money exists in the form of bank deposits. When we buy a house or a car or pay our credit card bill, we just instruct our banks to make ledger entries transferring some of our account to someone else. When a [...]

Classic Advice

By |2017-07-17T12:21:53+00:00July 28th, 2016|Uncategorized|

What makes a work of literature a classic? Photo: SV Klimkin. Source: Morguefile Mark Twain called a classic a book everyone wants to have read, and no one wants to read. We remember them from high-school: big, scary tomes with strange titles our teachers all said were full of wisdom. We really, really tried to get through them. Some of us actually did. But whether it was the 25th character named Ivan in a Tolstoy story, or a sentence in James Joyce’s Ulysses that [...]

Helicopter Money (Part 2)

By |2017-07-17T12:22:00+00:00April 27th, 2016|Uncategorized|

What’s wrong with helicopter money? Photo: Eric Salard. Source: Wikimedia “Helicopter money” is money created by the central bank so that the government can spend it. It typically happened during wartime: the government unmoors the currency from a gold or silver standard, and the central bank credits the government’s financing agency the funds. Governments do this when their very existence is threatened, when war or insurrection require them to raise a large army and buy a lot of material. The result is always inflation: [...]