The Stingy News Weekly (08/12/2012)
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The risky new world of ETFs
"A little more than a decade ago ETFs were rare things. The few that were available were much like the chocolate and vanilla of the investment world - plain but satisfying options. They tracked the big indexes and charged relatively low annual fees (MERs). If you pointed new investors to ETFs in those days, they would likely find reasonable funds on their own. But that was then."
Looking at China's problems
"The Austrian approach raises the possibility that there is no way for China to make good on enough of its oversubsidized investments. At first, they create lots of jobs and revenue, but as the business cycle proceeds, new marginal investments become less valuable and more prone to allocation by corruption. The giddy booms of earlier times wear off, and suddenly not every decision seems wise. The combination can lead to an economic crackup - not because aggregate demand is too low, but because the economy has been producing the wrong mix of goods and services."
It's just totally irresponsible
"What we're actually witnessing - and have been for years now - is not gridlock, but the abdication of responsibility by Congress and the president for performing the most basic responsibilities of government. Despite the fiscal crisis that Washington knows will occur if it fails to deal with unsustainable spending and debt, it hasn't managed to produce a federal budget in more than three years."
The state of the States
"For operational purposes, 'states' are best understood as undercapitalized health care and pension funds that write speeding tickets on the side."
In praise of copycats
"The conventional wisdom today is that copying is bad for creativity. If we allow people to copy new inventions, the thinking goes, no one will create them in the first place. Copycats do none of the work of developing new ideas but capture much of the benefit. That is the reason behind patents and copyrights: Copying destroys the incentive to innovate. Except when it doesn't. There are many creative industries, like finance, that lack protection against copying (or did for a long time). A closer look at these fields shows that plenty of innovation takes place even when others are free to copy."
Charting a map for investors
"The notion that the prices of stocks and bonds bear a sane relationship to their underlying value is not, at present, in high regard. Wall Street is widely said to be a betting parlor, if not an adjunct of the underworld. Its repute was even worse when Benjamin Graham published 'Security Analysis,' an investment manual that urged investors to calmly dissect securities and then plunge into issues trading at a sizable discount to intrinsic value. Stocks at a discount, Graham wrote, offered a 'margin of safety' - a cushion that would protect the investor from loss and, in time, assure him of a reasonable gain."
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