Paul Krugman on Andrew Hall

Paul Krugman,ever the populist,has now jumped into the Hall fray ( read Rewarding Bad Actors NYT Aug.2,2009 ).In his editorial,Professor Krugman fires a broadside against Goldman Sachs’high frequency derived profits and against Mr.Hall.Arguendo,one might  find  high frequency trading to be reprehensible because those with higher speed computers are said to have an unfair advantage over the Lumpenproletariat whose computers dawdle along at much lower speeds.To condemn Mr.Hall,Professor Krugman then argues: »What about Mr. Hall? The Times report suggests that he makes money mainly by outsmarting other investors, rather than by directing resources to where they’re needed. Again, it’s hard to see the social value of what he does. »Does Professor Krugman really think there is something wrong about being smarter than others?Is this an indication of a belief that « equality » really means dumbing down to the lowest common denominator?His linking  outsmarting other investors and not directing ressources where they are needed is not mentionned in the article he cites as a source ( see David Segal ) nor is there a logical link between the proposition that Mr. Hall outsmarts others and the alleged lack of social value in what a Mr. Hall does with his greater smarts unless one were to hold the belief,as Professor Krugman implicitly appears to hold,that being smarter is unfair and has no social value.More’s the pity that such a leading economist should show such a bias.

James Madison and Hall’s $ 100M bonus

On July 27,2009,I posted a note  ( below: Rémunération des cadres bancaires : les $100 millions d’Andrew Hall ) on the  debate raging around Andrew Hall’s right to a $ 100 million bonus,the  topic now of David Segal’s  front page article in Sunday’s New York Times ( August 2,2009) .In my note I  stated that while there were sound reasons to reform the remuneration of traders to avoid excessive risk-taking and to adjust it to account for risks spread over a long period ( the classic problem of long tailed distributions such as Pareto or Lévy ones) there are even sounder reasons for the provision in the U.S. Constitution  prohibiting the  passing laws that affect contract rights retroactively. These reasons were best articulated by James Madison, writing as Publius, in 1788 ,No44 The Federalist Papers:

“Bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation. The two former are expressly prohibited by the declarations prefixed to some of the State constitutions, and all of them are prohibited by the spirit and scope of these fundamental charters. Our own experience has taught us, nevertheless, that additional fences against these dangers ought not to be omitted. Very properly, therefore, have the convention added this constitutional bulwark in favor of personal security and private rights; and I am much deceived if they have not, in so doing, as faithfully consulted the genuine sentiments as the undoubted interests of their constituents. The sober people of America are weary of the fluctuating policy which has directed the public councils. They have seen with regret and indignation that sudden changes and legislative interferences, in cases affecting personal rights, become jobs in the hands of enterprising and influential speculators, and snares to the more-industrious and less informed part of the community. They have seen, too, that one legislative interference is but the first link of a long chain of repetitions, every subsequent interference being naturally produced by the effects of the preceding. “

President Madison’s wise observations deserve to be heeded by those who now seek to retroactively modify contract rights.

Où courrent-ils?

Les vacances sont pour nos compatriotes l’occasion de souffler un peu,de décompresser,en un mot de ne plus courrir comme ils se sentent obligés de le faire chaque jour  durant le reste de l’anné.Courrir, comme l’a si bien fait ressortir Raymond Devos avec son humour habituel,suscite des questions dont la moindre n’est pas :où courrent-ils? Délectez vous en attendant cette rentrée qui signale le redémarrage de la course!