Open Rugby World Cup Thread

by Kieran Healy on September 7, 2007

The Rugby World Cup starts this weekend, with France vs Argentina tonight. I haven’t been able to keep up with the form this time. I think Ireland are looking slightly shaky in the run-up. They’re in the same pool as France and Argentina, so that’s going to be tough, with France having home-field advantage and Argentina being the dirtiest team in Europe. England are hoping for a revival. I would, ideally, like to see them semi-revived and then re-crushed, but I’ll settle for straightforward humiliating defeats. Thanks to their crap form they may have a helpful underdog status, however. As for the Southern Hemisphere, all the Kiwis I know are in their usual frame of mind, viz titanic self-confidence combined with a desperate fear that the All Blacks will choke yet again.


by Kieran Healy on September 7, 2007

Ow, ow, ow. Comment 2 is also pretty funny. Actually, the whole thread is hilarious.

Again, the magic of markets

by Henry Farrell on September 7, 2007

This “FT piece”: on GWB’s magical market pony plan for preventing mortgage foreclosures by handing the problem over to “an opaque part of the financial system normally associated with moves to evict families from their homes” is tough and on-target.

An estimated 6m high-risk subprime loans, worth a total of more than $1,000bn, are outstanding, which will in many cases reset to higher interest rates in the next 18 months, putting more than 2.5m Americans at risk of foreclosure. … The response to this crisis outlined by the president places considerable faith in the ability of mortgage servicers to mitigate this blow by helping distressed borrowers to stay in their homes. … Edward Lazear, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said: “I believe, and I think the president believes, that markets are very good at finding ways to solve problems.” But many experts claim that the mortgage service sector is not fit for this purpose. They argue it does not have the capacity to perform this role, and lacks the personnel, financial resources, technical tools, experience, incentives and oversight to deal with an economic crisis of this scale. “Theoretically, it makes sense, but not in the real world,” said Scott Syphax,a director at the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco. “These institutions are not built to handle this scale and volume of problems.” … as more service companies fall into the hands of vulture investors, the task of co-ordinating a national response is likely to become complicated. “The fixes being proposed by the president are not going to result in Americans being rescued from their homes, quite the opposite,” said Richard E. Gottlieb, a lawyer who specialises in mortgage servicing.

There’s very little that I find more annoying than the “magic of markets” arguments that various right wing hacks and ideologues spew at the drop of a talking-point. It makes me want to forcibly enrol the responsible parties in an economic sociology program until they see the errors of their ways. Markets can indeed do extraordinary and impressive things, but they rather obviously depend on previously existing institutions, expertise and social conditions if they are to work. Not to mention proper incentive structures. These can’t be whistled out of thin air. The claim that a business sector composed of small firms specializing in foreclosure and themselves terrified of bankruptcy will have the appropriate motivations and expertise to stave off this crisis is self-evidently bogus, if you look at it at all closely. But sprinkle some of that schmeconomics 101 pixy dust on it, and you can get away with it, thanks to the supine US journalism industry (I don’t know of any US publication which has even _mentioned_ this as a problem; perhaps I’m wrong).