March 25, 2017

Less Than Clueless Of The Risks

A weekend topic starting with “Ever had a feeling that perhaps you missed the peak time to sell something? That by holding out for a better offer or chancing your arm a bit you ended up costing yourself money? Well if so, you can only imagine how the team at Ed’s Easy Diner feel. In 2015 the business was on the market for £90m. Just over a year later, in October 2016, after a spell in administration it was offloaded to Giraffe for just shy of £9m. Have we, after half a dozen years of solid – and occasionally frenetic – growth, reached Peak Restaurant? ‘I think so,’ says Charlie Young of the Vinoteca group of wine bars. ‘It’s not that it’s going to break – it’s actually breaking. We’re starting to see casualties.’”

The Lincoln Journal Star. “Nebraska’s land auctions still attract a crowd — farmers in co-op hats, curious neighbors, keen-eyed investors. ‘The crowds are about the same,’ said Travis Augustin, an auctioneer and managing broker with Hastings-based Ruhter Auction & Realty. But the bidders, he said, are raising their hands a little slower and less often than they did when farming was more profitable.”

“The University of Nebraska’s land-market survey, shows slower bids and land sales that have translated into a 10 percent decline in Nebraska’s average farmland value over the past year. It marks the third consecutive year Nebraska’s weighted average price for farmland has declined. The average, as of Feb. 1, was $2,805 per acre this year, which is 15 percent lower than the state’s 2014 peak of $3,315 per acre.”

From Realtytrac. “Housing prices may be appreciating at a seemingly unsustainable rate once again in some markets around the country, but Christopher Thornberg believes the nation’s economic fundamentals will continue to be much more sound in 2017 than when the market began to implode back in 2005.”

“‘There’s no housing bubble. Not even close,’ assures Thornberg, Founding Partner of Beacon Economics LLC in Los Angeles. ‘There are three basic worry indicators and all three were very scary in 2005 and all three today suggest, if anything, that the housing market is still in the process of recovery instead of being near a new bubble.’”

From USA Today. “According to Foreign Affairs magazine, Americans reject the advice of experts so as ‘to insulate their fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong.’ That’s in support of a book by Tom Nichols called The Death of Expertise, which essentially advances that thesis. But it also seems pretty plausible that Americans might look back on the last 50 years and say, ‘What have experts done for us lately?’ Not only have the experts failed to deliver on the moon bases and flying cars they promised back in the day, but their track record in general is looking a lot spottier than it was in, say, 1965.”

“It was experts who brought us the housing bubble and the subprime crisis. It was experts who botched the Obamacare rollout. And, of course, the experts didn’t see Brexit coming, and seem to have responded mostly with injured pride and assaults on the intelligence of the electorate, rather than with constructive solutions.”

“As Nassim Taleb recently observed: ‘With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers.’”

“Then there’s the problem that, somehow, over the past half-century or so the educated classes that make up the ‘expert’ demographic seem to have been doing pretty well, even as so many ordinary folks, in America and throughout the West, have seen their fortunes decaying. Is it any surprise that claims to authority in the form of ‘expertise’ don’t carry the same weight that they once did?”

“If experts want to reclaim a position of authority, they need to make a few changes. First, they should make sure they know what they’re talking about, and they shouldn’t talk about things where their knowledge isn’t solid. Second, they should be appropriately modest in their claims of authority. And, third, they should check their egos. It doesn’t matter what your SAT scores were, voters are under no obligation to listen to you unless they find what you say persuasive.”

“And you know what makes you less persuasive? The kind of contempt displayed by Foreign Affairs. If expertise is dead, it’s because those who claimed it overplayed their hands. It’s not the death of expertise, so much as a suicide.”