The Most Important Economic Questions for Investors
We all know that the stock market is not a futures contract on GDP, but there is a relationship. Investors who are frightened about the economy really need some answers.
We would all like to raise the most important questions to a group of the best experts, so I invite you to help me.
The Annual Kauffman Conference
Each year I have the opportunity to mingle with a group of leading economic bloggers in a conference sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation. Here is the mission as they describe it:
The Kauffman Economics Bloggers Forum brings together select economics, finance and technology bloggers for an event in Kansas City to discuss key policy issues and cutting-edge research on topics related to entrepreneurship, innovation, and growth. The aim of this conference is to foster a consensus around economic growth strategies for U.S. and global policymakers.
I have a somewhat different perspective. I spend my entire life in an unusual world of extremely intelligent people who are specialists — traders, academics, or business leaders with their own companies. This makes me a skeptic on smarts. I see it all the time. Despite this personal background, I find the Kauffman Conference special and valuable — well worth the time taken to attend. Here is why:
- The group has wonderful diversity! It includes, to start with, people that I call economic bloggers and those who are blogging economists. Totally different! There are leading journalists — Felix Salmon, Matt Yglesias, and Megan McArdle — but that is only one interesting subset. Kauffman has strong leadership in entrepreneurial activity, so there are many participants who represent that perspective.
- Being together with so many people who combine intelligence, ambition, and the drive for success. My only complaint is that the participants do not have more understanding of each other's objectives, but I guess that comes with the territory.
- Extended conversations with top experts –Bob McTeer, from whom I got some frank answers about the inner workings of the Fed; Donald Marron, an expert on the CBO and economic modeling; and Dean Baker, who has tremendous economic insight as well as a D.C. insider's understanding.
- The great contingent of professional economists, where George Mason is well-represented. Tyler Cowen was a featured participant last year, mostly based upon his exciting research and recent book. A personal favorite is Bryan Caplan, a thoughtful academic with wide-ranging interests.
- And of course — Mark Thoma — a pioneer among academic bloggers. Mark has done more than anyone to legitimize blogging activity for academic economists. He provides wide-ranging links to important topics, and also writes some of the best and clearest summaries of current issues.
For reference, here is the most recent survey of the leading economic bloggers.
My Personal Agenda
I feel like I have a rather unique role in this group. I genuinely respect everyone else. I am interested in learning. But…..
I am on a mission!
Where many of my blogging colleagues start with the idea that they know the answers, I am seeking enlightenment and especially, help for the individual investor.
Where my journalistic colleagues are measuring success in page views, I measure it by investment returns. (This means that when one of the big-time journalists encourages me by referring to my "little blog" I do not take umbrage. I do not bother to explain the value metric, and how many investors have learned how to meet their goals by reading my work. They have a salary and also get paid by their traffic — a different world.)
The Key Questions
Here are some things that I see as important:
- How do others perceive the recession forecasts? What methods make sense?
- What is the attitude about Europe? Systemic risk off the table? Drag on growth?
- Does anyone really know about China? Is it all speculation?
- What about oil prices? How big is the threat?
- How rapidly must we deal with reducing worldwide debt? Is there a magic blend?
- Election 2012 and the effects. How much difference will this make?
Everyone else at the conference has TweetDeck up and going and is doing live blogging. I am not going to make any promises, but maybe I'll try to do something in real time this year.
Meanwhile, I invite questions from readers. Maybe I can get some answers from your favorite expert.