22 February 2018

I Still Hate Neil Irwin - part the tenth

It's the nature of quants to be lazy, despite all the brow sweat they brag about. This laziness leads them to seek out easy data. Which, in turn, leads them corporations, i.e. the micro sector, who collect as much data as they want. And, since corporations are mostly rolling in dough, fat salaries to be had. So long as the quant doesn't find the requirement to pander undesirable. Hog heaven for the quant. The problem is that, as any macro quant will tell you: 99.44% of micro performance is the result of the macro environment. Do the CxO class, and their quant servants, really think Mr. Market's spectacular rise over the last years is due to their brilliance? The CxO class has had, at most, an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka-dot effect; almost entirely M&A to destroy competition.

So, today is another reason to hate Neil Irwin!! As stated here more than once, Say is crap. If it were true, there'd never be recessions or depressions because business would ramp production (and employment and wage incomes) in the face of falling demand. I dare anyone to cite any company that did so. You won't find one. They follow the Lemming Law: each attempts to conserve cash and profits by cutting production and employment. Thus constructing a downward spiral of global contraction. What the individual sees as rational through his own eyes, leads to a mess when everyone does it.
The latest wrinkle is that the researchers now believe that productivity growth depends not just on the supply side of the economy — what companies produce and what technologies they use to do it — but also significantly on the demand side.
[C]ompanies need to increase production to match demand for their goods, and a shortage, either of workers or of materials, forces them to think creatively about how to do so.

As Homer says, "D'oh!!". And, it's worth noting, McKinsey has an extreme rightwing reputation in the consulting world.
McDonald comments that apart from slashing cost by slashing headcount (increasing employee churn in order to keep costs low), there have been many instances where the recommendations that have come from McKinsey seem to focus on cold blooded cost cutting at the expense of long term staff loyalty, creating a culture of fear and short-termism in the organisational culture.

It is kind of amazing that McKinsey and Irwin seem to ask, "What would Jesus do?". Again, the repeat: go read Baumol, as well. FIRE has eaten GDP, and measuring productivity using tools created for a manufacturing economy will, by definition, show lousy productivity as GDP skews more toward services. Which is not to assert that some other measure of productivity would both be honest and at much higher levels than we've actually seen. After all, productivity is supposed to be a measure of labor output. A few years back, GDP's definition was fiddled to add IP related activity. No one seems to ask the fundamental question: is there any productivity benefit to a mobile phone that runs "Candy Crush" 10% faster???

Here's a long-ish article making these points.
A problem with GDP even when it is being asked to do nothing more than measure production is that it is a relic of a period dominated by manufacturing.

Just like I said. Of course.

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