January 2009 - John Mauldin's Outside the Box

John Mauldin reads hundreds of articles, reports, books, newsletters, etc. and each week he brings one essay from another analyst that should stimulate your thinking. John will not agree with all the essays, and some will make us uncomfortable, but the varied subject matter will offer thoughtful analysis that will challenge our minds to think Outside The Box.

John Mauldin's Outside the Box

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  • Geithner, China, and the Specter of Technical Insolvency

    This week I bring you two different articles as an offering for Outside the Box. As a way to introduce the first, let me give you the quote from Merrill Lynch economist David Rosenberg about the rising threat of global trade protectionism: 'The Financial Times weighs in on the rising threat of global trade protectionism in today's Lex Column on page 14 ('Economic Patriotism'). The FT points out that the stimulus packages of many countries include 'buy local' provisions. At home, there is a proposed inclusion of a 'Buy American' provision in the economic recovery package and this could set off trade retaliation from importers of US goods. Here is what the FT had to say, 'It was trade protectionism that made the 1930s Depression 'Great'. Congress would do well to understand that it is in everyone's interest to keep trade open today.' I have long written that the one thing that could derail my Muddle Through (at least eventually) view point is a return to trade protectionism. Nothing could be more devastating to the hopes of a recovery. Nothing could more surely turn a recession into a depression, and a global one at that....
  • The Next 100 Years

    Much of the world is focused on the next 100 days—what Obama is going to do. That's important. But today in a special Outside the Box from my good friend George Freidman of Stratfor We will look out a bit further George is just about to release his latest book, The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century. (Even pre-release it's already at #11 on Amazon's non-fiction bestseller list!) Here's my quick summary; and to cut to the chase, it's just fascinating. What reads like a geopolitical thriller gives a thought-provoking glimpse into what the world will look like in the coming century. George's strength is his ability to take geopolitical patterns and use them to forecast future events, sometimes with startling and counterintuitive results....
  • The Great Experiment

    There is a reason I call this column Outside the Box. I try to get material that forces us to think outside our normal comfort zones and challenges our common assumptions. And this week's letter from Hoisington Investment Management Company does just that. Let me give you two quotes to pique your interest: 'Monetary policy works by creating the environment for a renewed borrowing and lending cycle. This cycle would require that the debt to GDP ratio, which is already at a record level, grow even higher. Would such an outcome really be that desirable when the controlling problem of the U.S. economy is too much improperly financed debt? If the Fed were able to engender an increase in the debt to GDP ratio, this might merely serve to postpone the reckoning of the current debt levels while laying the foundation for an even more vicious unwinding down the road.' And: 'The only really viable option for federal stimulus is a permanent reduction in the marginal tax rates, as highlighted in the research of Christina Romer, incoming Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors. This would have the benefit of raising after tax rates of return, but the drawback in the short run of still having to be financed by an increased budget deficit. Over time, a massive reduction in marginal tax rates would be beneficial, but the operative word is time. Refunds, or transitory tax relief, will have no better results in stemming the recessionary tide in 2009 and 2010 than it did in the spring of 2008.' Van Hoisington and Dr. Lacy Hunt give us a seminar on the current bailout programs that is not the usual analysis we see in mainstream media. This week's letter requires you to think, but it will be worth the effort....
  • Market Vertigo

    I get a lot of newsletters from money managers around the country, which I try and read as they are written by people who are “in the trenches,” actually making decisions on behalf of their clients. It broadens my perspective. Frankly, most are not all that well written and unimaginative, but who ever said writing was easy? But some really strike a chord with me. Today’s Outside the Box I have read twice, which is unusual for me. Cliff Draughn is a wealth manager in Savannah, Georgia (Draughn Partners) and a good friend. His letter is a wide ranging tome on a variety of topics, but is full of common sense and one that I think will resonate with readers. I trust you will enjoy this....
  • Iran: Using Oil as a Weapon, But Only Rhetorically

    The hottest media topic of the New Year is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza. And as I was reading the New York Times on Tuesday, I came across this sentence in one of the articles that was staggeringly truthful and more than a little unsettling in its implications for me as an investor. 'There are other ways to construe the context of this conflict of course. But no matter what, Israel's diplomats know that if journalists are given a choice between covering death and covering context, death wins.' Now, I'm NOT trying to get into a debate about the rights and wrongs of either side, but if you're an investor, and you're trying to make decisions about where this conflict might drive oil prices, for example, then context is everything. And according to the New York Times, if you're relying on journalists for context, forget it. But you do have an alternative....
  • Setting the Bull Trap

    Yesterday I sent you an Outside the Box from Paul McCulley who supports the government and Fed activity (in general) in the current economic crisis. Today we look at an opposing view from Bennet Sedacca of Atlantic Advisors. He asks some very interesting questions like: Shouldn't the consumer, after decades of over-consumption, be allowed to digest the over-indebtedness and save, rather than be encouraged to take risk? Shouldn't companies, no matter what of view, if run poorly, be allowed to fail or forced to restructure? Should taxpayer money be used to make up for the mishaps at financial institutions or should we allow them to wallow in their own mistakes? I think you will find this a very thought-provoking Outside the Box....
  • All In

    There is an ongoing debate on the current nature of the economic environment and what should the response be by government. Today's Outside the Box by Paul McCulley takes up one view, arguing that we need a federal response and stimulus package to protect the overall economy and save capitalism from itself. Tomorrow, I am going to send yet another view arguing that by doing so we are hurting the prudent investor and businesses that did not over-leverage and behaved responsibly. Both are important to understand. And as I will argue on Friday in my 2009 Forecast Issue, both are right. And that is one of the great economic paradoxes that we are faced with today. Navigating through this period is particularly challenging, but I think it is critical that you understand what Paul says today and what Bennet Sedacca will say tomorrow. Understanding what is going to happen, whether or not we agree with the philosophy behind it should be our goal, as it will make us better able to respond with our own portfolio and business decisions....