Howard Marks' Addendum to 'Economic Reality' Memo ~ market folly

Friday, August 5, 2016

Howard Marks' Addendum to 'Economic Reality' Memo

Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital released his most recent memo entitled 'Economic Reality' a few months ago.  However, we forgot to post the addendum he added to it.  The original piece is insightful so definitely check it out if if you haven't already via the link above.

Here's what he added:

"There’s been a lot of response since the memo that follows was originally published on May 26.  In the discussions that have ensued, I realized that I should have led with something like this:  

Ultimately, economics is the study of choice.  Because choices range over every imaginable aspect of human experience, so does economics. . . .  

How do individuals make choices:  Would you like better grades?  More time to relax?  More time watching movies?  Getting better grades probably requires more time studying, and perhaps less relaxation and entertainment.  Not only must we make choices as individuals, we must make choices as a society.  Do we want a cleaner environment?  Faster economic growth?  Both may be desirable, but efforts to clean up the environment may conflict with faster economic growth.  Society must make choices. . . .  

We would always like more and better housing, more and better education – more and better of practically everything.  

If our resources were . . . unlimited, we could say yes to each of our wants – and there would be no economics.  Because our resources are limited, we cannot say yes to everything.  To say yes to one thing requires that we say no to another.  Whether we like it or not, we must make choices.  

Our unlimited wants are continually colliding with the limits of our resources, forcing us to pick some activities and to reject others.  Scarcity is the condition of having to choose among alternatives.  (Macroeconomics Principles, Libby Rittenberg and Tim Tregarthen.  Emphasis added)  

Because of the above, we make economic choices every day.  Everyone knows choices like these are inescapable.   

Everyone, that is, except for politicians.  The politician promises better grades and more leisure time.  A cleaner environment and faster economic growth.  That’s what caused me to write the memo: in politics and government – unlike the real world – the word “or” often goes out the window, replaced by “and.”  No choices are necessary.   

A few months ago I saw a cartoon featuring caricatures of two primary opponents.  Under one it said “bulls**t” and under the other it said “free s**t.”  There’s bound to be a lot of the former in any election season, but economics tells us the latter is unrealistic.  I wrote this memo to help readers understand why."

You can read the rest of Howard Marks' memo 'Economic Reality' here.

For more on this investor, check out Howard Marks' presentation at the London Value Investor Conference.

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