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Tuesday, January 27

Market practices and its participants....I just don't get it.

Wall Street points to mostly higher open as companies post moderate results amid tough economy
NEW YORK (AP) -- Wall Street showed some relief Tuesday that big companies like American Express Co. and Texas Instruments Inc. managed to post profits in a difficult recession.


and then in the very next paragraph:
American Express reported profits fell 79 percent in the final three months of 2008. The numbers weren't as weak as some investors had feared.
Likewise, Texas Instruments said its earnings fell 86 percent and that it would slash 3,400 jobs as the maker of chips for cell phones and other products tries to cut costs.


makes NO sense (to me) whatsoever...

Then I came across this article over at Counterpunch - The Monks' Cure Our Current Economic Crisis
....in medieval trade merchants regularly tried to cheat one another in the market place. [3] In so doing they used other merchants’ ignorance of arithmetic to swindle them. Arithmetic—which at the time consisted mostly of knowledge of the Arab numerals, four basic mathematical operations and the “golden rule,” or the “rule of three,” where a missing fourth number in two equal ratios is found—had just reached Europe by way of Arab merchants. Between the 13th and 16th centuries a group of merchants in Europe, particularly in Italy, wrote manuscripts to teach merchants’ children, who attended special training schools, the newly received arithmetic. But what is perhaps most interesting about these manuscripts is that almost all of them teach how to use arithmetic, particularly in the act of barter, to cheat their trading opponents and increase what they called the “overprice.” As such, these medieval manuscripts taught that the rule of exchange was to come out ahead in transaction and that barter was “nothing but giving a good for another in order to get more.”

To make a long story short, in the medieval markets arithmetic became a tool, a “financial innovation” to use the language of the modern market, to make more money. The rule of the game was to take advantage of arithmetical ignorance of others to gain as much profit as possible. This was how capitalism was born. It was born not of honesty, equality, justice or fairness in exchange, but of deceit, swindle, inequality, injustice and unfairness. It was also in this same period that one can find the emergence of many other financial innovations, such as forward contracts and bills of exchange, innovations that tried to increase profit by reducing uncertainty and risk.

How did the economic thinkers of the medieval era, the Catholic clergy or the so called Scholastics, react to these market practices? Instead of trying to reflect on the reality of the new and rising social system and attempting to understand its true nature, they wrote pamphlets and gave sermons preaching how to be a good Christian. They prohibited certain market practices and blamed market participants for these practices. They warned people of avarice and excessive accumulation of wealth. They advocated quid pro quo and called for equality in exchange, an Aristotelian concept that by then had acquired a Biblical flavour. As opposed to merchants’ concept of “overprice,” the monks advocated a “just price,” an ambiguous concept that has been interpreted in a variety of ways, including a price that covers cost of production plus a “reasonable” profit. The monks warned people of practicing such sinful activities as usury and reminded them of such lines in the Bible: “Lend freely, hoping nothing thereby.” In sum, the medieval economic thinkers tried to regulate the market by prohibiting certain practices. Of course, as anyone familiar with the writings of the Scholastics knows, this prohibition was quite selective and often did not include the high and the mighty, the “beloved sons of the church,” who were the church’s benefactors.

It seems that seven hundred years later not much has changed


NOW I get it. I'm not supposed to get it.

Crossposted at BigBrassBlog

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