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guest-theritz

A set of good points. If only American politicians knew or cared about how local or national or global economies work, 2009 would have seen a deficit and the QED(for detonation) would not be a worry. But what difference can it possibly make if it's finally done, though nine years later?

It's the Fed's job to clean up the mess that the pols leave behind.

Bartleby, eh? The Scrivener? Is "I would prefer not to" a hint?

Looking forward to your new column.

ashbird

Mr Buttonwood,
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Just read your final piece in Printed Edition.
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There is something in it I strongly disagree with.
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It is this in the conclusion: "Forecasting exactly when that will happen is the tricky bit and, sadly, Buttonwood’s Tardis can only go backwards, not forwards, in time.... Indeed, the moment has come for a change. Eventually, after a few series, Doctor Who has to regenerate and be replaced by someone younger, and with a better script. The same is true of columnists."
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Nothing could be further from the truth about truth. Young things do not have a perspective, in particular the young things born in the last 2 decades. They are full of zeal, and devoid (nearly) of content. Their staple is 140 characters on Facebook and other Social Media. Some could not read beyond a 8th grader. And talk with a tone of authority fully unsupported and unjustified. Many haven't read basic Western Civilization, let alone World Civilization, let alone a specific civilizations outside their time zone, and on the "other " side of their latitude and longitude. Their ideas and thoughts are generated by pre-fabbed/pre-kneaded dough instantly popped into a large size nothingness in a Microwave. Even popcorns chew less air than the stuff they construe and construct. I think you made a serious error downgrading the value of experience and perspective that is the product of exerted and cumulative learning over a life time. If what you said were true, then there is no meaning in reading any of the Classics, in ancient Greece or in ancient China. Don't forget, John Mayard Keynes, whom Russell (Bertrand) regarded one of the few minds in his contemporaries (actually he said "the only one") who was more clever than he, made sure he consulted I-Ching, aka Book of Change (c. 9th Century BC) ) in his formulation of his economic theory that has left enduring influence to this day, whether or not you are a Keynesian.
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So. I disagree. Doctor Who may be a little burnt out. But once Doctor Who, always Doctor Who. Sorry, can't get off that easy. :)

ashbird in reply to ashbird

In terms of lessons learned as a forecaster (in the Printed Edition article), personally I think there is one common lesson for all of us to learn.
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That lesson is: Do not confuse wishful-thinking with responsible prognosticating.
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What is crooked cannot and will not by the force of Denial become straight, and what is straight become crooked.
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What is is, what is is not. It really is that simple.
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The demonization of a "perceived evil" will not make that thing evil if it isn't evil , no matter how many times the wishful thinking is repeated. When finally the curtain falls, it is the wishful-thinker who is the end loser, never the winner, assuming the aim of the wishful-thinker is to "win".

guest-aaawwwmj

Thank you for all your blogs and articles.
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Whether I agreed or not, at least they made me contemplate.
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Good luck with all of your future endeavors!
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NSFTL
Regards

ashbird

Honestly, Mr. Buttonwood, this is hard. You are one of 4 columns (used to be 5, that too is gone, about a year ago) I subscribe to TE to read, to take seriously. I generally do not give more than 5-minute attention to some of the things that appear in the paper, and others zero.
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Learned much much over the years from your column. Not only in substantive ways, but in the manner you write. You write in a style that is forthright and witty. Not crass and hyperbolic. Most of all, forthright, with hardly any tone of condescension, which is very very very difficult to do when you know you know more than a good number of your readers, and encounter from time to time sundry bizarre "accusations" from the same.
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Yes, will migrate with you. There, start with Do Re me.... Doe a deer... Re a drop of golden sun, Me a name I call myself, Far, a long long way to run...... . All the best and look forward.

ashbird in reply to ashbird

Some thoughts organized in accordance to, and the order of, your subheadings -
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* “Politics is more important than investors think.” On this, an anecdote. A very rich man (one of top 10 in HK in his time, net worth billions USD) invested heavily in the American stock market. During the Cuban missile crisis, before eventuality was known, he lost close to 1/2 of his wealth. Of course the man had assiduously followed politics and the US stock market, and had professional brokers handling his investment. Long story short, when he lost 1/2 of his wealth, and along with it, half of his self-esteem, he couldn’t very well “take it out” on Kruschev, or Kennedy, or, for that matter, his broker (after all the broker only carried out his buy and sell orders), so he took it out on his children. Much worse than Captain Von Trapp, I can assure you. My point is politics not only have direct impact on $ investment, it has direct impact on the lives of real people, older, younger, and all ages in between.
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On the last point you made under this same subheading: “In a world that depends on co-operation, there is too much nationalism. This will not end happily.” - I wish more people will be convinced of the common-sense sense in this observation. But alas, it seems to me people enjoys fighting much more than co-operation, when their brains are on strike, or they don’t have any to begin with. And there are a lot of brains on strike, and missing brains altogether, in 2018 as midterm election approaches in America.

ashbird in reply to ashbird

Part 2 of 2-
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* “We have been better at creating claims on wealth than wealth itself.” This is in vivo action of the proverbial “You only live once. Screw tomorrow!”. As you noted in your post previous to this: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.  Not good.
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Re the “hopeful signs” -
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Technology is lowering the cost of finance.  “Technology … means that more people in the world can get access to simple financial products, via their mobile phones”. True. I note, however, the downside of that is technology also opens up a whole Brave New World of cyberspace scams and thievery, putting undue strain on government resource to police and regulate the abuse of technology. Vigilance, by government as well as "actors", is in order in this respect.
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* I quote in toto - “And technology could improve other parts of our lives. One thing the internet does well is to connect human beings and give them access to a vast treasure of information and ideas. We focus on the ugly things: the internet trolls and the conspiracy theorists. But good ideas can spread much more quickly too. Chinese society was an enormously fertile source of ideas before 1400; now it is reconnected with the world, it can be so again.”
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Thank you for saying that bit about China, i.e., for acknowledging, for the benefit of many TE readers, that even before 1400 A.D., (and going back far longer than that, into @2000 BC) , Chinese people did not have horns sticking out of their foreheads. Quite the contrary, they were wearing silk since two thousand years earlier, instead of animal skin, and ate with chopsticks instead of dirty fingers, but most importantly, Education was the priority of the realm and focal point of the culture. The pigtails on men shown in Western caricatures were mandated by the ruling Manchus imposed on its conquered people, the Han. This is known as the Qing Dynasty 滿清帝國 by all proper historians. Qing Dynasty presided over the import of Opium from Gt Britain, and the signing of the Nanking Treaty (1842). The Qing Dynasty was the last imperial dynasty of China (1644 to 1912), and, for those interested in such esoteric things, “bound feet” that ended in 1949 ended overnight by the edict of the then head of state (you know his name, but his name conjures exclusively frightful and evil things in the minds of many “Westerners” who call themselves ‘China experts’ - my foot, they don’t even read one single word of Chinese!) did not smell half as bad as the bound brains of 2018 Extreme Evangelicals in America, aka industrial strength White Supremacists who believe Jesus’ teachings are condensable in 2 words: Hate them! (“them” refers to anyone who is not “them”).

* Emerging markets are actually emerging. As writers such as Steven Radelet, Stephen Pinker and the late Hans Roslin have explained, there is plenty of good news in the world.” THAT IS RIGHT!!! I Quote again from you: “Apart from the proportionate rate of extreme poverty has halved, people are living longer, getting more access to basics like electricity, and girls are going to school for longer.  Economic power may be shifting to Asia, but that continent holds the majority of the world's population. From the point of view of the median human, things are getting better. In the end, that is more important than what happens to the markets.”
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This is Proof positive Buttonwood has a brain and a mind in it that is not bound, at birth, or any time.
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Will look for Bartleby (with associated blog), in a few weeks. Many many thanks again for for your informed and intelligent work, as you said, it is not only a privilege to write on things that matter for the Human Race, but a responsibility. Responsibility is something that needs to be taught in Jounalism 101, if it isn’t already.
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ashbird in reply to ashbird

I inadvertently left out an important detail on bound feet, a custom that started in the Ming Dynasty (1368 -1644) following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty.
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Bound feet were the exclusive right and privilege of girls born into the upper-class, not of commoners and peasants.
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The idea was bound feet (bound from 3-6 months on, the earlier the better, the ideal was to reach the length of a "golden lily" - 3 inches long. Anything bigger flunked the test)) gave a female person a dainty, hoppy gait , not unlike Anna Pavlova, Galina Ulanova, Natalia Makarova on Full Pointe as the ballerina in Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann, an opéra fantastique.
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The gait was considered the epitome of femininity, of which only rich patriarchs had the right to enjoy.
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The many-hundred years old "custom" of the rich was finally outlawed by 1949 for a very simple and down-to-earth reason: All feet, male or female, were needed to work the fields.
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Therefore, No more of that silly nonsense. And so it ended. Overnight. Of course, those that were bound and formed on adult females already could not be returned retroactively to their "natural" size. This is why as late as late 1990's, there were still bound feet hopping about and around on women who were 90+ years old by that time.
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Interestingly, initially following the outlaw of a medieval custom, it was the fathers who were eager in 1949 to stop the nonsense, more than the mothers. Took a while to "re-programme" the mothers in that particular circumstance, who were used to, as they were themselves bound as girls and assisted wherever they went (or, rather, hopped) by two handmaidens - a glaring status symbol (you can't miss it, don't even have to go to La Scala Opera House to watch it). Needless to say, the feet of the maids were NOT bound. For them, the bigger the better, for it is rough work to hold a thing that cannot stand up on its own and keep it balanced.

sien

Thank you for your great work and all the best for the future.

Any plans for books?

Also - it's Rosling no Roslin for the late great Hans.

Jon Bradley

Buttonwood's "three signs of danger" should be mandatory reading for every elected official, political appointee, and voter in America. Here's hoping the "three signs of optimism" are also spot on. Godspeed!

Remy 1984

You know what Buttonwood? Subscribing to The Economist, 8 years ago aged 26, is without a doubt the best investment I have made so far. Apart from a better understanding of the world, the newspaper brought me a sense of enjoyment with its style. And your column is a great part of it. Thank you.

wmJgzrWjYD

Auf Wiedersehen, Good bye.

Will you be seeking to be more optimistic in your next blog? It seems that a common trait amongst journalists is an innate distrust of the establishment and thus a tendency to view negative news as a confirmation of one's fundamental pessimism. Would you agree, and is it a trait worth fighting against?!

guest-aawjmlno

Does this mean Buttonwood (an economics/financial blog) will cease to exist? Or will it be taken over by another journalist?

It’d be a bummer to have this whole blog stop without a replacement. :(

CA-Oxonian

It is a curious thing, upon which too few people have commented, that whereas we expect and enjoy continuous improvement in nearly all aspects of our lives, from telecommunications to medicine, we blithely accept a centuries-old notion of government that is today utterly unfit for purpose.

We continue to fetishize so-called representative democracy and endlessly quote Churchill's defense of it, instead of accepting the fact that it has failed almost everywhere. Trump, Brexit, Erdogan, Putin, Le Pen, Orban et al (the list is very, very long) are all merely symptoms of a failed system. Until we begin to think about how we can engineer a more adequate approach to handling complexity, we will be doomed to see ignorant thoughtless voters electing infantile incompetents whose actions bring untold harm and disruption to the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the globe.

If we were told that the Wright Brothers' Flyer was "not very good, but better than all other heavier-than-air craft that have previously been tried" and therefore accepted blithely the innumerable limitations thereof, we would clearly be irrational. If we were still relying on Stevenson's Rocket to pull carriages down our railway tracks, we would clearly be irrational. We are no less irrational in continuing to accept representative democracy as the ne plus ultra of self-governance. Politics, as the columnist says, is important. So it's long past time we treated it as more than mere entertainment, for it has profound and often awful consequences.

Mutant_Dog in reply to CA-Oxonian

Sure, let us by all means consider improving on "better than all other systems that have been tried". Just bear this in mind; democracy involves the citizen - there is a "buy in" factor that needs to be remembered. The process is not necessarily about governance, in this view.

SebastianKnight in reply to CA-Oxonian

Excellent, as usual, CA-Oxonian.

My thoughts on democracy have changed recently, after reading "Why Nations Fail". Basically the criteria for success has become more complex. I think we will continue to have democratic nations which are simultaneously economically successful. But probably we will have to refine our concept of diversity. Little or no diversity causes intellectual inbreeding. Haphazard diversity results in something chaotic. In comp sci, we do not put people who want to build mainframes on the same team with people who want to build mobile apps. Instead we combine people who support the same goal but see different ways of achieving that.

I have not yet figured out what the "axioms" of democracy are but I suspect they are changing to include a wider section of the populace. This will be a good synthesis but getting there will be painful.

So, yes, everything you said was true, but consider it an interim stage to something (hopefully) better.

Manolon in reply to CA-Oxonian

On voters:
"One man, one vote" it a dumb idea and we have may examples of the consequences as you mention (Brexit, Trump...). It has been accepted as it keeps Social Peace. But maybe we should advance towards "qualified vote", giving voters different voting powers depending on level of studies or from the results of a "voters examination" held each four years.

On elected politicians:
"One term and out" maybe the best option to take best solutions to problems and not be "pressed" by the next election.

Tom Meadowcroft in reply to CA-Oxonian

Rather like Karl Marx on capitalism, your critique of democracy's flaws is accurate and defensible, but I have yet to hear from you or others a solution for governance that does not have more flaws than the current system. Marx got rather vague on the question of how to govern better. There is a reason that the book is named after capitalism, not communism. He had little idea as to how to make communism work, and I think he knew it. Philosophers and academics are better at criticism than synthesis; criticism is both easier to do and to write about.