My score card accords the winner of each segment 3 points, the runner up 2 points, the third-place-finisher 1 point - with cumulative points behind candidates' names:
I do not necessarily agree with the candidates' views, so my judgement is a mixture of assessing reasonableness (even in a person of different opinions), coherence, communicative effectiveness, and, where applicable, concurrence.
Introduction : McAfee (3), Petersen (2), Johnson (1)
When to go to war? : Johnson (5), Petersen (7), McAfee (6)
Dealing with Welfare State : Johnson (8), Petersen (9), McAfee (7)
Terrorism, ISIS : Johnson (11), Petersen (11), McAfee (8)
Foreign aid : Johnson (14), Petersen (13), McAfee (9)
Personal Questions : Johnson (17), Petersen (15), McAfee (10)
Appeal to Democrats : Johnson (20), Petersen (17), McAfee (11)
Abortion : McAfee (14), Johnson (22), Petersen (18)
Death Penalty : McAfee (17), Petersen (20), Johnson (23)
Gay Marriage : McAfee (20), Petersen (22), Johnson (24)
Gender Pay Gap : Petersen (25), Johnson (26), McAfee (21)
Vote For Other Pres. Candidate : Petersen (28), McAfee (23), Johnson (27)
If my counting is right, the winner by a small margin is Petersen, one point ahead of Johnson.
Nonetheless, if I had to decide who I would vote for, ultimately, Gary Johnson would have my support. McAfee strikes me as a bit of a black horse. He leaves me with the impression that some of his views are not too well thought through. Petersen is personable, a good communicator, with an aura of deep conviction, but his palpable faith comes with the downside of rather a mechanical approach to the issues. Johnson is the one who convinces me that his principles do not cut him off from reality and people with other beliefs.
Paul Solman: But how are negative interest rates supposed to work?
Mohamed El-Erian: Let me tell you the theory, and let me tell you what happened in reality. The theory is that if you take interest rates negative, people like you and me are going to say, “That’s a silly game! I’m not going to lend my money to governments who want me to pay them. I am going to go into the stock market where I can get positive returns!”
Paul Solman: Or if I’m a company, “I’m going to invest in some new technology or factory or something.”
Mohamed El-Erian: Correct. The idea is to push households and push companies to take on more risk. In one case, financial risk — the stock market — in the other case, economic risk. Economic risk is investing in, say, plants and equipment. So let’s look at the first one. You take financial risk, you push up the price of stocks.
Paul Solman: Of which has certainly happened.
Mohamed El-Erian: Which has happened. You and I then open a 401(k), and we say, “Wow, we’re richer!” In theory, we trigger what economics call the wealth effect. Because we feel we’re wealthier, we go out and spend more.
As we spend more, and as companies are pushed to invest, they say, “Hey wait a minute! There’s more demand in the system. Let’s invest more.”
And then the third element is that if you happen to be the only one with negative interest rates, you also weaken your currency, which means you make your exports more competitive.
Quite a useful survey. Continue to read at the source. For another Q&A on negative interest rates see here.
Is duelling actually illegal, nowadays? And if it is, would such prohibition be a case of paternalism? Or have we "nudged" ourselves toward a duelling taboo that most moderns are proud about as being a victory of reason?
Lately, Trump and Romney have engaged in a contemporary form of duelling. David Stockman claims that in attacking Trump as a businessman of poor performance Romney is presenting us with "a screaming case of the pot calling the kettle black."
Mitt Romney has lashed out at The Donald for being a “phony and fraud”, but consider this. During his 16-years at Bain Capital, fully one-fourth or $600 million of the firms cumulative $2.5 billion of profits were scalped from companies which went bankrupt soon after Mitt and his partners got out of town with the loot.
No wonder the American voters did not believe him when he claimed to be the “job creator”!
Perhaps more interestingly, Stockman, as ever a little shrill on doom and gloom and human depravity, offers us a graphic account of how to make money in the private equity business.
“The intelligent investor is a realist who sells to optimists and buys from pessimists.” – Ben Graham
Optimism always struck me as the quintessential American quality. To be sure, I have in mind an optimism that is accompanied by many other welcome qualities, such as open-mindedness, industry, a knack for uncomplicated handling and cooperativeness, non-nonsense vigour and so on. Of course, these are idealisations, but they are not figments, as an optimist from Nebraska reminds us:
Berkshire as a corporation, and we as individuals, have prospered in America as we would have in no other country. Indeed, if we lived in some other part of the world and completely escaped taxes, I’m sure we would be worse off financially (and in many other ways as well). Overall, we feel extraordinarily lucky to have been dealt a hand in life that enables us to write large checks to the government rather than one requiring the government to regularly write checks to us — say, because we are disabled or unemployed.
1998 Shareholder Letter
Our country’s dynamism and resiliency have repeatedly made fools of naysayers.
2003 Shareholder Letter
In no way does our thinking about currencies rest on doubts about America. We live in an extraordinarily rich country, the product of a system that values market economics, the rule of law and equality of opportunity. Our economy is far and away the strongest in the world and will continue to be. We are lucky to live here.
2004 Shareholder Letter
The U.S., it should be emphasized, is extraordinarily rich and will get richer.
2005 Shareholder Letter
I want to emphasize that even though our course is unwise, Americans will live better ten or twenty years from now than they do today. Per-capita wealth will increase.
2006 Shareholder Letter
Without fail, however, we’ve overcome [challenges to our country’s future]. In the face of those obstacles – and many others – the real standard of living for Americans improved nearly seven-fold during the 1900s, while the Dow Jones Industrials rose from 66 to 11,497. Compare the record of this period with the dozens of centuries during which humans secured only tiny gains, if any, in how they lived. Though the path has not been smooth, our economic system has worked extraordinarily well over time. It has unleashed human potential as no other system has, and it will continue to do so. America’s best days lie ahead.
2008 Shareholder Letter
Money will always flow toward opportunity, and there is an abundance of that in America. Commentators today often talk of “great uncertainty.” But think back, for example, to December 6, 1941, October 18, 1987 and September 10, 2001. No matter how serene today may be, tomorrow is always uncertain.
Don’t let that reality spook you. Throughout my lifetime, politicians and pundits have constantly moaned about terrifying problems facing America. Yet our citizens now live an astonishing six times better than when I was born. The prophets of doom have overlooked the all-important factor that is certain: Human potential is far from exhausted, and the American system for unleashing that potential – a system that has worked wonders for over two centuries despite frequent interruptions for recessions and even a Civil War – remains alive and effective. We are not natively smarter than we were when our country was founded nor do we work harder. But look around you and see a world beyond the dreams of any colonial citizen. Now, as in 1776, 1861, 1932 and 1941, America’s best days lie ahead.
2010 Shareholder Letter
Wise monetary and fiscal policies play an important role in tempering recessions, but these tools don’t create households nor eliminate excess housing units. Fortunately, demographics and our market system will restore the needed balance – probably before long. When that day comes, we will again build one million or more residential units annually. I believe pundits will be surprised at how far unemployment drops once that happens. They will then reawake to what has been true since 1776: America’s best days lie ahead.
2011 Shareholder Letter
A thought for my fellow CEOs: Of course, the immediate future is uncertain; America has faced the unknown since 1776. It’s just that sometimes people focus on the myriad of uncertainties that always exist while at other times they ignore them (usually because the recent past has been uneventful).
American business will do fine over time. And stocks will do well just as certainly, since their fate is tied to business performance. Periodic setbacks will occur, yes, but investors and managers are in a game that is heavily stacked in their favor.
2012 Shareholder Letter
Indeed, who has ever benefited during the past 237 years by betting against America? If you compare our country’s present condition to that existing in 1776, you have to rub your eyes in wonder. And the dynamism embedded in our market economy will continue to work its magic. America’s best days lie ahead.
2013 Shareholder Letter
Indeed, who has ever benefited during the past 238 years by betting against America? If you compare our country’s present condition to that existing in 1776, you have to rub your eyes in wonder. In my lifetime alone, real per-capita U.S. output has sextupled. My parents could not have dreamed in 1930 of the world their son would see. Though the preachers of pessimism prattle endlessly about America’s problems, I’ve never seen one who wishes to emigrate (though I can think of a few for whom I would happily buy a one-way ticket). The dynamism embedded in our market economy will continue to work its magic. Gains won’t come in a smooth or uninterrupted manner; they never have. And we will regularly grumble about our government. But, most assuredly, America’s best days lie ahead.
2014 Shareholder Letter
It's an election year, and candidates can’t stop speaking about our country’s problems (which, of course, only they can solve). As a result of this negative drumbeat, many Americans now believe that their children will not live as well as they themselves do.
That view is dead wrong: The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.
American GDP per capita is now about $56,000. As I mentioned last year that – in real terms – is a staggering six times the amount in 1930, the year I was born, a leap far beyond the wildest dreams of my parents or their contemporaries. U.S. citizens are not intrinsically more intelligent today, nor do they work harder than did Americans in 1930. Rather, they work far more efficiently and thereby produce far more. This all-powerful trend is certain to continue: America’s economic magic remains alive and well.
Some commentators bemoan our current 2% per year growth in real GDP – and, yes, we would all like to see a higher rate. But let’s do some simple math using the much-lamented 2% figure. That rate, we will see, delivers astounding gains.
America’s population is growing about .8% per year (.5% from births minus deaths and .3% from net migration). Thus 2% of overall growth produces about 1.2% of per capita growth. That may not sound impressive. But in a single generation of, say, 25 years, that rate of growth leads to a gain of 34.4% in real GDP per capita. (Compounding’s effects produce the excess over the percentage that would result by simply multiplying 25 x 1.2%.) In turn, that 34.4% gain will produce a staggering $19,000 increase in real GDP per capita for the next generation. Were that to be distributed equally, the gain would be $76,000 annually for a family of four. Today’s politicians need not shed tears for tomorrow’s children.
Indeed, most of today’s children are doing well. All families in my upper middle-class neighborhood regularly enjoy a living standard better than that achieved by John D. Rockefeller Sr. at the time of my birth. His unparalleled fortune couldn’t buy what we now take for granted, whether the field is – to name just a few – transportation, entertainment, communication or medical services. Rockefeller certainly had power and fame; he could not, however, live as well as my neighbors now do.
An administration may reasonably offer indications to other governments on its attitude towards a possible momentous policy change. Normally, such indications ought to be conveyed in politic, perhaps even intramural, rather than publicly ostentatious fashion. All the more, a responsible government is well advised to be very careful to join the fray in foreign electoral campaigns. It may be just about a borderline case of admissibility when the US government takes sides in the debate of Brexit (Britain's exit from the EU), but the sheer incompetence and ignorance of US foreign policy in the face of its most important challenges never ceases to amaze me; the "masterpiece" being the enormously costly, decade-long destabilisation of the Muslim world from Libya to Afghanistan at the hands of both Republican and Democratic Administrations. It would seem, however, none of the presidential aspirants show promise to change this major shortcoming.
The source. There is something special about the English art of vituperative commenting.
While US Secretary of State, John Kerry, emphasises that his country has a ‘profound interest… in a very strong United Kingdom staying in a strong EU’, Matt Ridley begs to differ:
How would Americans like it if we argued that it is in our interests that the United States should forthwith be united with all the countries in their continent north of the Panama Canal — Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador and Panama — into a vast customs union governed by a trans-national, unelected civil service. Let’s call it the American Union, or AU.
Imagine that Britain’s Foreign Secretary has just made a speech in Toronto saying he thinks America should join the AU in order to influence Mexico in the direction of free trade. The great and the good in America agree, because they think being part of the ten-country AU will prevent war, boost trade, help smaller nations compete with the behemoths of Europe and China, enable free movement of people, stand up to Russia, encourage scientific co-operation and ensure environmental protection.
Above all, we argue, it would show the world that America is not small-minded, xenophobic, protectionist and isolationist. To this end we think the AU should — er — agree a common tariff against imports from the poorer countries of South America and have free movement of peoples within but not from outside the union. We also think the United States should give up the dollar and use a common currency issued in central America, called the auro, sometimes known as the oreo, or if it is not ready to do that, should encourage others to use the auro, even though there is limited fiscal harmonisation, which bodes ill for the single currency. Oh, and the flag of the AU, consisting of ten radial yellow stripes on a blue background, should be prominently displayed alongside the Stars and Stripes.
Unfortunately, in the current political climate, it turns out that these manifest advantages, deliciously attractive though they might be to the American elite, because they offer an escape from having to think about people in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, apparently do not have quite the same appeal to the American electorate. People are worried about Mexicans taking their jobs, using their health care and drawing upon their welfare if they join the AU. And about Panamanians running up deficits, Guatemalans passing laws that affect Americans and Nicaraguans sharing a common foreign policy.
The average Trump voter might not like Congress much, but he likes the idea of an expensive international parliament that shuttles between Mexico City and Vancouver even less, and of an international executive whose directives pass automatically into law still less, let alone one whose corridors of power are positively seething with lobbyists from big business and big pressure groups (funded by the AU to lobby it). As for the idea that the US Supreme Court could be overruled by judges sitting in Toronto or Managua…
Here are two gentlemen who disagree on almost every possible issue, yet they preserve the capacity to talk civilly and sensibly to one another, and keep their minds open for perspectives of cooperation. Enjoy a conversation from the admirable side of politics.
Scalia was driven by a belief that the Supreme Court had become too powerful and political. He was deeply concerned about judges usurping the role of elected legislators. With respect to issues of morality in particular, he wanted the American people to decide for themselves. ‘If you believe in democracy, you should put it to the people’, he told Georgetown University law students in November. To me, this was his most important insight.
In his dissent to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in favour of same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, Scalia argued it was anti-democratic that five judges could decide such a major change in public policy. It is worth quoting him at length:
‘Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact — and the furthest extension one can even imagine — of the court’s claimed power to create “liberties” that the constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.’
Scalia was not saying that same-sex marriage should be illegal. He was saying it was a matter for legislatures to decide, not courts. Essentially, Scalia was defending the right for all to have a voice in a public debate about a moral issue. As he noted in his dissent in United States v Virginia (1996), a ruling that ended a men-only admissions policy to the Virginia Military Institute: ‘The virtue of a democratic system with a First Amendment is that it readily enables the people, over time, to be persuaded that what they took for granted is not so, and to change their laws accordingly. That system is destroyed if the smug assurances of each age are removed from the democratic process and written into the constitution.’