May 2009

Nigeria has never been a poster child for good governance. In fact, the country often appears ungovernable and it’s possible that the only job in the world worse than President Obama’s is that of Umaru Yar’Adua, the Nigerian President. But at a time when the U.S. government is making an unprecedented grab for control and ownership of vast expanses of the American business landscape, the officials at Treasury, the Department of Energy, and other departments would be well advised to heed the advice of Mr. Ahmed Njidda Gella, a member of the House of Representatives from Adamawa State and Chairman of the Federal Committee on Privatization.  [click to continue…]

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As General Motors nears its rendezvous with the bankruptcy court, it has proposed an interesting deal to its bondholders, offering them a 10 percent share in the company in exchange for forgiveness of $27 billion in debt. Since GM’s current market capitalization is about $1 billion, the debt-holders would get $10 million or so in stock or about 0.4 cents on the dollar. Put another way, the deal suggests that GM thinks it is really worth $270 billion. It doesn’t really, of course. No one could think that, and no one thinks the debt-holders will accept the offer. [click to continue…]

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Frank Shostak writes a blog for the Mises Institute, named after Ludwig von Mises, the founder of the Austrian School of Economics. As someone with libertarian leanings I sometimes visit the Mises Institute’s web site – www.mises.org to get their take on issues of the day. Mr. Shostak  is an adjunct scholar at the institute and Chief Economist at MF Global, a leading broker of exchange-traded futures and options. He probably got better grades in Economics than I did, but he gets quite a few things wrong.

As President Obama, our legislators, and the press try to assess blame for the financial crisis, they invariably point the finger at greedy Wall Street bankers and a “gutting” of financial sector regulation on George Bush’s watch. Frank Shostak does point out, correctly, that the real cause, at least of the mortgage crisis that precipitated the rest, was Alan Greenspan’s attempt to reflate asset prices in the wake of the 2000 stock market crash. Beyond that, his arguments come pretty well unstuck.  [click to continue…]

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I have been sick for the past week with what could be the flu. My doctor, however,  tells me it’s not swine flu, which he said would produce milder symptoms than what I have. The antibiotics he prescribed seem to be doing the trick.

Is swine flu the latest in a series of promised events – wondrous or catastrophic – that never quite materialize? It’s not to ignore the suffering of those who have died of swine flu, or H1N1 virus, now the politically correct term, nor to deride the efforts of the WHO and the CDC to prepare for the worst, but it helps to look at the epidemic with some perspective . So far H1N1 has stricken just under 8,500 people worldwide, half of them in the United States, of whom 75 have died. The media have just reported an “explosion” of 70 new cases in Japan. The WHO estimates that if the world were to suffer a pandemic on the scale of the 1918-1919 Spanish flu, which killed at least 20 million people, we could expect 62 million deaths. Given the current mortality rate from H1N1, this would imply more than 7 billion cases, meaning that everyone on earth would get it, some of us twice.  Are the Doomsday scenarios justified? Are people being scared out of their wits for no reason? [click to continue…]

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Zimbabwe, it seems, is preparing for a return to the international stage in something other than the role of pariah. According the official government newspaper The Herald, the government has just launched a “massive investment and tourism marketing drive that should see high-powered business delegations visit and court investors from 26 nations worldwide.” The 26 countries, all of which are to receive a visit before the end of 2009, include the United Kingdom, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, China, Russia, Iran, Australia, Japan, Spain, and that economic powerhouse North Korea. [click to continue…]

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