Month: March 2008

Metrics your mother warned you about

I could easily find a parking place in Berkeley on Saturday! What could it mean? On a normal afternoon in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, I usually find just one space open, and often I have to drive around the block once…. Ah, it’s the end of Easter week and a bunch of the university people have gone away. So much for bigger meanings like recession, breaking news on TV or sunspots.

Sometimes such offbeat indicators do mean something. How would we know if the U.S. economy has begun sliding into a severe recession? By a surge in the number of eBay items for sale, according to one article in the March 23 New York Times. That would indicate, I assume, that people had become unusually motivated to liquidate whatever belongings they could.

These metrics measure hard-to-reach places, internal or external. They may be eccentric, creative and even strange.

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When economists say “slowdown”

If there’s one reliable sign that a recession is coming, it’s when the experts say they see none coming. I’ve survived four. “Oh, maybe a slowdown, yes…” they say. Now, in today’s New York Times, Charles Duhigg argues that what’s unlikely is a “full blown depression.” Quoth Duhigg:

Why? Because so many of them have spent so much time studying the Great Depression and trying to figure out how to react more effectively if things turn really bad again.

Would that be the same kind of study France and Britain did after World War I to avoid World War II? The kind General Motors did to sustain its dominance over the pre-hybrid Toyota?

Quick, buy gold!

Really, to infer from this that a depression is likely could be just as silly as the people who take official denials about Martian spaceships as proof that they really exist.

I don’t infer anything. I just don’t remember hearing the D word during past recessions.