Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I always enjoy your essays. You have a talent for articulating complex ideas and euphemism, in particular. You know with the business-end, so to speak, of language. Over all, I detect appropriate exasperation with the ethics of "wealth building" in the US but some confusion about method. When in doubt, construct a transaction model of one buyer, one seller.

I think there is a difference between a bubble and a Ponzi scheme, although one may shade into the other.

I think there is a difference. A "bubble" is a colloquial expression for price inflation. A price is synonomous with market value or fair value. Price inflation is a measure of what a buyer is willing to pay for a thing be it notional (e.g. a security) or tangible (e.g. real estate). A buyer may attribute all sorts of reasons to the cause of price inflation, depending on the quantity in question and the number of prospective agents involved in the exchange ("market"), but always because the buyer possess insufficient information to value a thing. A an auction exemplifies as well as a "peer-to-peer" dynamics of price movements and range of motives hidden by currency valuation (dollars, camels, females, children, etc).

Whether a buyer is able to pay is determined in the event of transaction. It's at that juncture economic institutions oblige, and may even assist, buyer and seller to settle the exchange as agreed. If either fails, he or she is liable to a legal challenge of fraud, a sort of breach in contract law. Everywhere.

"Greed" is a motive ascribed to fraud; it is the intent or compulsion to acquire more than one's "fair" (lawful) share. "Deregulation" is a euphemism for laissez faire jurisdiction and a failure to enforce lawfulness among obligators.

A "ponzi scheme" is a method to defraud a buyer. However the seller accomplishes the task, no transaction occurs; that is, the buyer does not receive the thing agreed to by the seller. Whether that thing is unearned income, profit, or wax candles is irrelevant. A "ponzi scheme" is differentiated from other methods because the seller represents him- or herself to the buyer as and assumes the fiduciary duties of the buyer's agent in an exchange with some third party. No stamps (Ponzi), no income or realizable appreciation* (Insull), no securities (Madoff) purchased.

Here is a curious idea: a security consultancy, I just found in a search.

You are quite correct, I think, to be wary of government strategies to mandate mass participation in capital markets that cannot and will not produce sufficient retirement income. "Easing" is inevitable.

Insull's serial IPOs were funded largely by repo; he sold stock by mail during a "bubble" that "over-valued" what book value the utilities' established. Common shareholders expecting fixed income were wiped out in '29 by calls on the utilities' debt.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Jan 15th, 2009 at 11:59:29 AM EST
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