In late 2008, U.S. banks accelerated consolidation driven by intense Federal government pressure (many failing banks were “saved” by being acquired by a larger bank). This yielded a banking structure where today the largest five U.S. banks control over 44 percent of the nation’s banking assets. The five largest U.S. banks held assets of $6.7… Read more

Previously published on September 2, 2015 on Fox and Hounds As California weathers its fourth straight year of extreme drought, policy makers and their cheerleaders continue to scapegoat California’s agricultural industry. Writing in the Sacramento Bee, economist Christopher Thornberg, for example, refers to the industry as “feckless” and advocates using eminent domain to seize farmers’… Read more

The Federal Open Market Committee began its two day September meeting yesterday, where it will consider raising the short-term policy rate, or the guidance on that rate. It has been nine years since the committee has raised this rate. The prospect of higher rates has financial markets and their commentators very nervous. The rate-raising event,… Read more

John C. (Jack) Bogle graduated from Princeton University in 1951 and founded The Vanguard Group, Inc. in 1974. In 1975, Vanguard introduced the first so-called “Index Fund” based on the Standard and Poor 500 (S&P500) stock index. The S&P500 is a market capitalization weighted average of 500 of the largest stocks that trade on the… Read more

Previously published on August 29, 2015 on I recently made a couple of tweets/Facebook posts pointing out that market declines threaten California’s budget surplus. I referenced articles in the WSJ and Bloomberg, and I thought the observation was non-controversial—almost banal. So I was surprised at the feedback. One person asked why. Another said it… Read more

In general, we expect that a beginner or novice in a field is likely to be out-performed by a seasoned veteran. We would be surprised if a beginner could build a better house than a skilled carpenter, or if an amateur boxer could knock out a pro. Yet, something like this may be true in… Read more

Bryan Caplan at George Mason University and the Library of Economics and Liberty has a couple of posts on medical screening and treatment. First, Caplan shares data on prostate cancer.  It turns out that screening does nothing good for the patient: That’s right.  Statistically speaking, prostate cancer screening is worthless.  Over the course of ten years,… Read more

Nobel economist Edmond S Phelps has a piece, What is Wrong with the West’s Economies?  He discusses the alarming slowdown in western economies dating back to the 1960s, a lack of what he call flourishing or a narrowing of innovation.  It’s a nice piece and I recommend reading it in its entirety.  As you might expect,… Read more

“It’s no longer legal to say, ‘We don’t want African-Americans to live here,’ but you can say, ‘I’m going to make sure no one who makes less than two times the median income lives here,’” Jargowsky told me. The above quote is from an Atlantic article on the resurrection of American slums.  I recommend the… Read more

Once a year, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) releases a new set of economic growth estimates that include not yet released numbers for the second quarter and revisions to historical GDP estimates as far five years back. Today is that day. The first estimate of 2015’s second quarter economic growth is 2.3 percent,… Read more

Here’s the first paragraph from a FED press release of July 20th: The Federal Reserve Board on Monday approved a final rule requiring the largest, most systemically important U.S. bank holding companies to further strengthen their capital positions. Under the rule, a firm that is identified as a global systemically important bank holding company, or… Read more

California’s water regulatory environment is a mess.  One result is that it’s expensive and often arbitrary.  It’s expensive to support, but that’s the not biggest cost.  The real loss is in the efficient use of water. Since allocation in California is increasingly a political process, there is no reason to believe it’s economically efficient.  Indeed,… Read more

I’ve argued for some time that services for the wealthy will be a major source of Coastal California jobs in coming years.  As people become more wealthy, they increase their specialization.  That is, wealthy people specialize in consumption and whatever it is that brings them their wealth.  That may mean specializing in consumption and in… Read more

A few years ago, I was convinced that Greece would have to leave the European Union within months.  So, I made some bets.  Of course, I lost those bets. At the time, I attributed my losses to underestimating Europeans’ fear of repeating the 20th Century’s violence and their conviction that only some sort of union… Read more

Several years ago I was asked to speak at a dinner meeting for some customers of a large insurance company.  It so happens that another economist, Gene Stanaland, was the featured speaker in the afternoon session.  Gene turned out to be a professional speaker who bills himself as the “Will Rogers of Economics.”  He was… Read more