Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Law, Legislation and Civil Liberty – BC Mental Health Act. (BCMHA) – Discriminatory

If one contemplates this acts application in the context of Section 8 (1) b of the human rights code,

a.       Unlawful to discriminate against a person or class of persons regarding any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age of that person or class of persons.

Discrimination begins at the point of accusation and continues with the circumvention of due process and procedure.  In Canada, as per fundamental law, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the full breadth of Canadian Jurisprudence’s history and practice, one critical fundamental lies at the core of our law, we exist in a state of liberty and for that state liberty to be interrupted it must be proven justified in front of a justice and / or jury. The BC Mental Health Act denies this right, it permits an opinion of a lay person to have a person incarcerated, it then requires a doctor’s opinion to have you detained for 24 hours and another doctor’s opinion to have you detained indefinitely. If you object, a retrograde process in the form of a Review Panel is provided, a lawyer, a doctor, and another member preside over your future – no judge or jury like criminals get. So at the mere accusation of mental infirmity by a layperson or a police officer, absent imminent threat to self or others, you can be locked up and forced to treatment for an extended period of time; the subject in the subject case was detained under section 37 Leave or Extended Leave for 12 years.

Excerpt Section 22 BCMHA

(i)  requires treatment in or through a designated facility,
(ii)  requires care, supervision and control in or through a designated facility to prevent the person's or patient's substantial mental or physical deterioration or for the protection of the person or patient or the protection of others, and
(iii)  cannot suitably be admitted as a voluntary patient.

Absent a single act of violence, absent any threat of suicide, absent any objective evidence, absent any proof of a physical pathogen; the BCMMA can be activated and you can be incarcerated. People accused of mental infirmity are at the whim of medical opinion – see Section ii above – there is no requirement for imminent harm to self or others, no requirement of proof. “Patient’s mental or physical deterioration” has had the act applied if someone is appearing to be “irrationally” managing their money. If you choose to stop working and to sit on the side of a hill and meditate, and your spouse or other lay person deems this an irrational act, they could have the BCMHA actuated.

Discriminatory Elements of the Act.

1.       No judicial review before incarceration.

2.       A Review Panel process that makes rudimentary the incarceration and detention of people and flouts the traditions of Canadian jurisprudence.

3.      Reduced standard of review – the balance of probabilities vs beyond reasonable doubt (we extend criminals better protection), if complaints ever make it to court by people accused of mental illness.

4.       Reduced evidentiary standards:
a.       The “evidence” presented has no obligation to be based in fact.
b.      The “evidence” presented is written by the doctors and accepted by Review Panel as “evidence”, this is like the Crown Attorney writing “guilty” on a sheet of paper and the Judge accepting it.
c.       “Evidence” is collected from third parties, interpreted, and then entered into a judicial process – absent opportunity for review by the accused or incarcerated.
d.      There are no discovery obligations in the Review Panel process, the accused can be denied access to information that contributes to their incarceration.
e.   If the Review Panel Process is challenged in the Courts under Section 33, evidence that accumulated in a process that is substandard to Supreme Court proceedings is admissible and is the only Statutory avenue available to access the BCSC.

5.    The accused can be denied access to process altogether upon the recommendation of the accusing doctor.

6.    There is no more severe form of sanction than arresting a person’s state liberty in Canadian law, save the requirement to relinquish control over mind and body, people merely accused of Mental Illness are subject to both – WITH NO JUDICIAL REVIEW – accused criminals are only subject to incarceration and they have better treatment.    
This is intended to bring awareness to the inequity of the act, it is discriminatory make no mistake about it – grossly so. In an attempt to “have better ability to help”, a group of people have lobbied for this act, a group of people radicalized by bad experience – they have succeeded in convincing the government and in doing so have grossly damaged legal processes and permitted discrimination. As you read more of my posts on the subject of the BCMHA, it will come to light that what is even worse than the ill being discriminated against – which is bad enough – is the fact that the entire population is at risk of its abuse. Abuse does happen – it has and will again.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Law, Legislation and Civil Liberty – BAD LAW - DANGEROUS LAW - UNJUST PROCESS

It is the case that in the practice of law, that the minutia tends to take us away from justice, the big picture. In Canada we have a circumstance in play that has the erosion of fundamental law occurring at an alarming rate. If you have a deep belief in common law and its fundamental tenets that are the foundation of our system, then you will share my concern with respect to this disturbing trend, a trend that has expediency trump due process. There are a number of examples of this trend throughout the system, no more glaring however, than the BC Mental Health Act. An act that has drifted away from fundamental law, and that was drafted and is now administered is a manner that flouts common law traditions and the charter. We need to be very wary of the “tribunalisation” of legal process, as it has been applied here a number of ills have emerged; not the least of which is the stagnation of statute absent exposure to court process and alterations due to its administration in the face of precedent effect. We need to ensure that people have the benefit of the “full due process” that courts provide. We need to protect evidentiary process. We need to ensure that the standard of review is commensurate with state sanction. We need clarity in law. We need the absence of arbitrariness. As the BC Mental health act is written and administered there is a litany of breaches and infringements on expected process, fundamental law and the charter. The BC Mental Health Act, as it is administered, counts evidence in a manner that would be analogous to Crown Counsel writing “guilty” on a piece of paper, handing to the judge, and having it accepted. I have prepared a summary of a case of an individual severally affected by the mis-application of the BC Mental Health Act, please take the time to review this case by clicking on the link below. I am sure you will find this act and its administration as concerning as I do.  

There has never been a better legal system than “common law”, it is fair, it is responsive and through the use of precedent a single “law” can evolve at a  measured pace. One can attribute common law’s fairness in large measure, I believe, to the fact that the people who devised the process knew they would never be subject to it. As common law is now applied, as directed by our charter, “universally”; we have certain protections and obligations. It is my assertion that the hard earned protections afforded us, years of tradition that has built the foundation of our system – or the bank of fundamentals that make our common law jurisdiction’s residents’ safe from intrusion by others or government – are all being seriously challenged by a complex of factors; the apathy of the people to long accustom to legal fundamentals of freedom being in place, legislation greatly influenced by “special interests” that are in effect radicalized to the point of lobbing to weaken the fundamentals of freedom, technology in the hands of government and other actors that circumvent traditional legal and societal protocols. There has been an insidious slide backward to state authority gaining greater and greater influence over the full continuum of human existence, we are all complicit in this, we need to be more diligent in arresting further state intrusion into the citizenry's private lives by ensuring the fundamentals of freedom; presumption of innocence, habitus corpus, protection against arbitrariness, overreaching legislation, charter protections, property rights etc. are upheld – the law must be administered off the foundation of first principles, as opposed to contemporary concerns and nouveau tangents.

A most glaring example of this is the British Columbia Mental Health Act. (BCMHA), where lobbing has effected a circumstance that has the interests of a few, very few, overridding the fundamental rights of the entire population. Through the experiences of a friend, I have witnessed a travesty of justice – where the most draconian measures available in Canadian society, incarceration, were utilized inappropriately and on the judgment of what amounts to a single individual. This is a terrifying piece of legislation because it attacks the fundamental rights and freedoms of the entire population, and worse, discriminates against people at the mere accusation of mental infirmity (oft times accusations by lay people) and then discriminates by the mechanics of the systems as it disempowers the accused to a greater extent the  more they object. These types of legislations the world over have been the favoured tool of oppressors, as they both incarcerate and discredit in one fowl swoop; Soviet Russia, China, jurisdictions in the United States and Europe have seen abuse of these types of statues, we need now to work to see that in Canada, that statutes of this nature are brought into accord with fundamental justice and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In Canada we are in a trend of lessening liberty as opposed to increasing liberty, I intend, with the BCMHA as a lens, to enlighten those who are interested how our liberty is being eroded, how institutional inertia is taking the law further away from base principles and how easy it is for legislation to be misapplied and power abused. The BCMHA was conceived and promoted by people injured by what can be a ravaging experience, they have my empathy, however; in the creation and administration of the law a sober mind is required, and as much attention needs to be given to a law’s misuse as it’s intended use. The only way to ensure law is properly directed, is to build it on base principles which have at their core the protection of the individual against misapplied state power and or the actions of others.  It is a most grievous circumstance, that in Canada, we have legislation in place that both endangers the general populous, and both, arrests the rights of ill and discriminates against the ill.



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Security Challenges 3

PLEASE NOTE: I have had security challenges, subtle changes have been made to my work on occasion – I am working to rectify the situation. Should you witness anything untoward or require clarification do contact me. THANK YOU.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Supply Management - Ed Fast - Trade Talks

Neil E. Thomson

October 17, 2013

Honourable Ed Fast
Minister of International Trade
Ottawa Office
Room 105, East Block
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Phone: (613) 995-0183
Fax: (613) 996-9795

Dear Sir,

In a recent article in the Nation Post your representatives indicated an undying support for Supply Management as it is now configured.

The EU trade deal is only part of the world trade picture, as I know you’re aware; one of the biggest inhibiting factors in the Doha Round of WTO talks has been supply management and agriculturally related trade. The EU agricultural operating environment is similar to ours, a reality which has permitted you to “keep your promise” regarding the Supply Managed sector, other important regions are less hospitable.

The reality is that the present configuration of the Supply Managed sector effects all manner of ills on the participating industries and Canadian consumers. Your extended inhabitation in Abbottsford undoubtedly has had you in contact with the BC Milk Marketing Board who have their office in Abbottsford. The supply management regime, especially as it pertains to milk, requires restructuring; as the system’s long tenure has allowed a decadence to settle in and the world trading system will demand change.

Preservation of the system as it now stands is errant, transition out of supply management as it is now configured, with fair remuneration to farmers for lost “assets” is the path to contemplate now.  We are seeking free trade with the world, clinging to outmoded market practices to appease groups who would better absent said outmoded practices is folly. Your government has run on the “free market ticket”, how does that pair up with the ardent support of supply management communicated by your office.    

Neil E. Thomson

Please see Blog for a more fulsome discussion regarding Supply Management.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Medical Ethics – Challenge with Consent

Medical Ethics – Challenge with Consent

All segments of the medical service space require consent; there are statutes that arrest one’s state of “competency” and permit treatment without consent – some draconian - to be discussed later. There are even provisions for people to be treated absent their knowledge and this is determined as appropriate, in some cases by a committee. Of course, as one who treasures choice, consent in the medical service space, or any space, is paramount – consent is the substrate of choice. For those of us lucky enough to have a “significant other” personal relations are oft times referred to as “love making”, the only component that separates “love making” from rape is consent. I offer this metaphor to sharpen the reader’s attention to the gravity of this discourse; this is much more than theoretical chit chat, this discussion brings resolution to the fact that “consent” & personal choice are one in the same, and when, by force, or deception, choice is removed people are, as the rape victim, disempowered and violated.

The only effective means to garner consent is to ask “is it ok to do this” and then to ensure that if the person answers in the affirmative they understand what they are agreeing to. There is no such thing as implied consent, people in the medical profession use the term “implied consent”. “Implied Consent” is loosely determined by deducting an action or verbiage as parallel “enough” that if the subject could provide consent they would. The Challenge with “Implied Consent” is that practitioners unable to garner consent think they need it, so they “over interpret” information, or they enter the process with confirmation bias as their companion, or the assumption of consent fails to adjust for a variance in risk and treatment – he takes Aspirin so Oxycontin is okay. The other challenge with implied consent is that inherent in implied consent is the absent of explicit discourse, so the subject is absent any knowledge; this grossly under rates the capacity of the lay person to manage or understand, and denotes a professional arrogance on the part of the practitioner. Implied consent can have a person exposed to a drug absent knowledge of what they are being exposed to, this practice is fraught with risk for any number of reasons – common sense will fill in the blanks.

Finally, there is the removal of the requirement to get consent – by way of example – the BC Mental Health Act. grants Doctors the power to deem someone mentally ill and incarcerate them. There are a host of ills with this specific act and discourse is outside the scope of this document, however, it suffice to say that when government action interrupts a person’s state of liberty, that judicial review should be commensurate with the “sentence” administered – now we have lay people deciding what defines “competency”, this reality is more than unethical, it flouts years of Canadian Jurisprudence.   

Consent is also a moving target; consent today can change to consent tomorrow or vise versa. So consent given ten years ago is no longer valid, as time passes circumstance can change – people learn more, people become more evolved. The critical element in consent is full disclosure of actions taken and ongoing assurance that the subject is fully informed and has understanding.

The base point of contemplation in matters related to consent is – make it explicit.       

Law, Legislation and Liberty - Policy Creation – Correct Perspective - Government as Educator not Regulator

When you read any piece of legislation, legislation being the practical expression of policy, the language is always directive by authority. The fundamental view in structuring law has government as the authority and the population to obey or suffer the consequences. This is an errant perspective as it assumes us subordinate to government; a) when the opposite is supposed to be true b) when our charter extends us autonomy as a basic human right. If you believe as I do, that we exist as sovereign beings and liberty is a right of our humanity as opposed something the state grants us, this authoritarian stance of government is very offensive. The government should be issuing direction as opposed to edicts.

Government has an important role as a mediator, or, through law, to provision the effective interaction of the citizenry – the government has no meaningful role in personal choice, especially when personal choices made are benign to the rest of the populous. Government has an important role as a protector from outside threats; it has no role in protecting us from ourselves - save to provision non - biased & reliable information for us to choose with. When thinking about policy the thrust needs to be, how do we facilitate human action as it originates from the individual, as opposed to how do we control people; Canadians are a collection of individuals as opposed to a group of people, so in providing choice to a well-informed populous, we move decision making closer to the point of action and inherent in exercising choice is ownership, and in ownership is responsibility; a more responsible and actuated population emerges.   

Rather than having drug policy that enforces a moral code against the altered state, have a drug policy that informs the public of the risks and benefits of all substance use. In the early 1970’s 70% of the adult population smoked, now about 15% does. Cigarettes are still legal, however, through informing the public, the government effected a cultural shift that moved smoking from an action of status to one of a fool. When people see the skull and crossbones on a container they know the contents are poison – rationale people avoid eating the contents. The Canadian land scape has literally millions of dangers, the government is unable to put handrails on every cliff in Canada, and it relies on parents to teach their children to avoid walking off cliffs. People have the capacity to manage their own lives, government policy should extend them as full a breath of action as possible. 

With law – less is more. In Canada we are over governed, increasingly our personal lives are governed. This is the case because the government to often is trying to manage personal matters, government has trouble with managing slow moving, large and sturdy infrastructure, so it should stay away from micro managing Canadian’s personal lives by regulating every possible aspect of life. Since my parents day, there has been an insidious escalation into our private lives, we have become in many ways a totalitarian state – if one measures the breath of government involvement in our personal lives juxtaposed against any other point in history.            

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Law, Legislation and Liberty Policy Creation – Correct Perspective - Morality

If you begin the process of making policy with a skewed perspective, the policy will be skewed. If you  begin policy making from the perspective of what should  be, rather than what is, you will get skewed policy. Religious morality is founded on the assertions of people in the context of their metaphysical contemplations rather than fact, whether they believe in God or Christ, Mahmoud, polytheist or some variation on a given theme. The challenge with the irrationality of religion being mixed with policy is that people are busy effecting control over the populous rather than managing societal outcomes.  Religious morality came into being to manage human interface in a beneficial manner, morality is in no way created to stop behavior, but rather to effect societal outcomes – as a person subjecting themselves to theocratic rigour one has the right to ignore outcome, one involved in the governance process must hold outcome as paramount.    

To assert religious belief as irrational is accurate, in that, the notion of faith absent tangible proof is irrational as a result of the assertion being unsubstantiated. This is, in no way an affirmation of atheism, but rather, a criticism of the misapplication of religious morality in governance which results in outcomes that contradict the basic premises of the Christian faith (in the Canadian context) and conflict with the enlightenment / secular ideals as they are want to find expression in a free and democratic society. There needs to be a detachment from religious belief in the policy creation process to ensure rational policy that meets the requirements of society at large.

As an aside, a comment on the Christian moral perspective. Metaphysical contemplation has inherent the reality that it must start where human knowledge ends, the Christian moral perspective evolves from the views and general understanding of people who, in many cases, lived in excess of 2000 thousand years ago. The assumption that order is preexisting, as opposed to realizing universe is in a state of flux, assumes that all creatures and things were the product of a single Genesis and are fixed, when the world indicates differently. Assuming a fixed point of origin provides a reference point, but creates a distortion in perception, as the “fixed point of origin” occurred in a state of flux. The beginning and the end are unknown and unknowable, and are the place of metaphysical contemplation; assumptions that distort this reality serve to confound thought, distort progress and generally limit humanity. The ardent adherence to orthodoxy oft times generates an immoral circumstance; one would think that in our modern society “orthodoxy” as it relates to any religion & government policy would have folded, it does linger however, so we have to work to ensure that the negative outcomes generated by orthodoxy get remedied and the positive preserved.

Moral Relativism is a term normally murmured as a pejorative; I, on the other hand, see moral relativism as a philosophy that permits “traditional believes” to provide direction, while allowing people’s conduct to evolve with advancements in knowledge and technology. When one permits the “reexamination” of moral tenets, examination undertaken with the desired outcomes of the “founders” of a given m oral complex in mind – one can begin to expand the human endeavor and achieve the worthwhile “societal” outcomes we all desire. One is also permitted to examine an issue absent prejudice, to really examine an issue from a place of reason. Many of (y)our most vexing challenges – even in modern Canada – paths to solution are blocked by the inappropriate adherence to “outmoded” moral perspectives. Rather than taking a public health perspective, a populist perspective or just the most efficient solution perspective, we are locked in repeat on bad policy the attempts to adhere to a single moral perspective with outcomes that marginalize and effect grossly immoral outcomes on our most vulnerable.

If it is your goal, as it is mine, to have whole and well - adjusted family units – which is the underlying desire of much of the religion based moral complex, then build policy that addresses that goal – rather than directing resources to blocking “vice” for example. Prostitution will occur, it is contrary to the aforementioned goal, however, by directing resources to stop it you starve the governance energy to support family or what some may term as the more “wholesome” aspects of life. It is necessary at times to “ignore” behavior to address the root causes of the behavior your wanting to correct or redirect. The public health perspective on prostitution brings people in the “trade” into the ambit of health professionals, people who can offer a way to a different life should a different life be desired. In the process of “fighting” vice, we marginalize and alienate people drawn to the “trade”, oft times by unfortunate circumstance. There is a paradox that exists in developing policy – the ardent adherence to moral orthodoxy often leads to a damaging outcome. It is the ardent adherence to the institutionalized Christian moral perspective with respect to the altered state that has us “warring” against our own people in the realm of drug policy; even when it was our very drug policy that has imposed illness on a given individual.  

The correct basis in thought for good policy has firstly, the desire to find the best overall outcome founded on science and fact, and secondly, the willingness to expose policy execution to honest, rigorous post application assessment. Only by establishing indicators, benchmarks and milestones based on a clear set of metrics can we ensure policy is doing what it is intended to do.          

Morality is far too idiosyncratic for government to manage; morality belongs squarely in civil society. Any given person’s moral perspective evolves, most often absent conscious thought, from their family and their family’s religious practice or the absence of religious practice.  So you may disagree with a person’s actions, fear for their sole – so speak to that person; you may enlighten them to another perspective. I should emphasize that this commentary is in no way an attack on any given religious perspective. The challenge arises when institutional credibility rides on dogma challenged by substantiated fact and government authority is appropriated to further dogma. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, all we need for reason to prevail is to accept another’s truth to be as valid as our own. It is critical however, that government policy generates neutrality in the public square. A child should be able start down any street with a given moral perspective and level of awareness, and emerge out the other end unchanged, save a parent’s chosen direction.      

Monday, October 14, 2013

Discourse on the Great Recession - Economy Harmonics

Discourse on the Great Recession - Harmonic - Financial Economy and the Real Economy

I had a girlfriend once that played a game, when walking and holding hands she would have me relax my arm, as we walked she would swing my arm for me, we would over time be swinging arms back and forth, but having picked up her rhythm, again over time, neither of us would know who was swinging our arms – at the point of actuation it became unclear which of us was initiating the motion. I’m unsure what she was up to exactly, it does serve however as a perfect metaphor for the harmonic that exists between the “real economy” and the financial economy. Unlike the chicken and the egg, we know what got here first; we are absent the ability to know which however having created the relationship is initiating action - the real economy or the financial economy.

A harmonic describes a frequency that is an integral multiple of a fundamental frequency, unlike in physics, in the two “economies” harmonics are less clearly identified and asymmetrical at initiation yet constantly seek a revision to an equilibrium – more like colliding cycles –  1000 pebbles on the pond rather than one. It’s this degree of complexity that confounds our ability to assess causation, and worse, confounds our ability to offer a rationale to the “consuming public” that is clear and effects confidence. Like Truman said “god please give me a one handed economist”, with the economy there are never enough hands.

To illustrate the point, contemplate money supply relative to the real economy. Money being an abstract entity that we create at will, can effect change in the real economy, more money supply, will for a time and to a point, effect accelerated creation and consumption of goods and services. More money absent the perception of devaluation effects actuation, more money in the presence of generalized knowledge of devaluation effects no change in actuation. When the real economy expands due to supply and demand dynamics the money supply expands and as stated, when money supply expands so to dose the real economy. It is this harmonic that is the crux of a central banker’s work; managing money supply to either actuate a contracting or stagnant economy or retard an “over” stimulated one. Once again, this harmonic can feed a rapid upward “spiral”, when confidence is high and money supply is untethered, and the real economy is vibrant – inflation ensues – a little inflation is good, a lot is toxic. When we effect a harmonic – tight complementary cycles – we have a vibrant economy and steady growth and improved lives – at any point however cycles can extend to create a “positive” feedback mechanism and cycles become more extreme and lives are harmed. Once again accentuating the point that artificial interventions that extend cycles come with risk – as was the case with the great recession.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Discourse on the Great Recession – Oil

For the most part one can contribute “the lions share” of the blame for the Great Recession on the collective human mind; in fact, the entire world enterprise is a product of the human mind and its interface with the world environment. What we humans want, we get, supply does wane, prices do go up – oil is no exception. Oil is the single biggest influencer on the human enterprise, without a doubt, where oil goes we follow. There are replacements, just none that come into play quickly enough to offer a liberating degree of fungiblity for this item, as George Bush said “we are addicted to it”.  When oil goes up, economic growth wanes, it is a constant in reviewing the modern economy. The good news is that there has been somewhat of a decoupling of oil and GDP post the 1970’s oil crisis. The move to a more efficient fleet is partly responsible and of course, we have moved to a more “intellectually” based economy – less physical stuff relative to information and services.   

The challenge in the run up to the Great Recession was in no way related to the presence or absence of oil reserves, but rather, a product of the perception of possible supply constraints due to geo political events – this is evidenced to some degree by the post crisis high price that stabilized much lower absent the speculative fluff that had accumulated in the run up to the crisis. Oil went parabolic – the economy slumped. One might assert that oil is still harbouring speculative fluff at $100 / barrel given an average world price of less than half that since 1947. Technology is giving access to more and more oil. High oil price is certainly a causal agent for the Great Recession, it is hard to determine where in the harmonic between the physical world and the financial world that the genesis for the rise originated. 

Note: In August 2015 this speculation has come true, the price is now half what it was when I wrote this.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Discourse on the Great Recession – Leverage

Leverage refers to the use credit to increase returns on a given amount of equity. If one holds $10 in equity – invests it and makes a dollar they have garnered a 10% return; if one uses that same $10 to barrow $100 and invests the $100 and makes $10 – the $10 of equity has garnered a 100% return. This is better, at least, until there is an equal decline in value then then loses are as dramatic.

In the Stock market people are provisioned the ability to borrow using stocks as collateral, when a brokerage (or a provisionary of funds) sees a decline in stock price, their security for the loan, they make a margin call – requiring the borrower to payback funds. When there is a widespread crisis of confidence, margin calls can generate a cascading event, where, as people liquidate their positions to satisfy margin calls – the value of stock decreases – prompting more margin calls. This transpired at the beginning of the Great Recession and was part of the complex of causal events.

It was estimated in 2006 the United States as a nation was levered at about 11 to 1 – an entire economy that had $1 of equity for every $11 of debt. When all the effects of the crisis of confidence occurred and people exited the field or were forced to – the value of assets decreased, however, the debt remained. It becomes very difficult to effect growth in an economy when people are holding large amounts of debt, their ability or appetite for more debt is curtailed. Worse than the immediate effects of this debt, is that it weighs on economic growth for a long time. For the average person, when their house value drops and their mortgage stays the same, their ability to borrow more money and purchase goods is curtailed.

There is a phenomena that occurs in the presence of credit; in real estate it is common to have a 10 acre piece of land worth more per acre than a 100 acre piece of land. The reason in that when the hundred acre piece of land is subdivided into 10 pieces there are more people who can afford the 10 acre piece of land than the 100 acre piece of land, effecting an increase in demand for the small parcel of land relative to the larger parcel – the increase in relative value between the more expensive asset and the lease expensive is referred to as a “liquidity premium”. Credit in general and credit configuration has this same effect – by making assets more affordable by amortizing their cost over years you increase the pool of available buyers and exert upward pressure on the assets value.  This is true also of credit configuration, by extending amortization periods you have the effect of making an asset more available – hence increasing demand and exerting upward pressure on price.

It was the extended period of well rewarded leverage and credit availability that effected an over valuation of stocks and related products. It was the availability of credit and credit configuration that effected massive secular inflation and the resulting bubble in the housing sector.   

Discourse on the Great Recession – Trading Systems

Trading is the most primal of human exchanges, even in the most primitive societies comparative advantage prompted trading – the excellent hunter made a deal with the excellent arrowhead maker. The challenge in modern trading systems is the degree of abstraction that has evolved – there is no clear connection between actual human endeavor and trading – trading then hinges on the perception of value, rather than a perception of value anchored in relative human action. Absent a concrete attachment to service or product, the “castle of the mind” plays a massive role; confidence, or the lack of it determines value.


One of the initiating factors of the Great Recession and also the key factor in the prolonged state of uncertainty, was the inability to quantify exposure for individuals and governments due to opaque trading systems. Many of the new financial instruments were without a public forum to trade; the various assets CMO, CDO, many other Asset Backed Securities and Credit Default Swaps without a public trading forum to make public their volume and tempo of exchange or their value, the condition of the market was indiscernible by governments and individuals – there was no ability to qualify the exposure; this effected a widespread state of unease. Lending institutions with no clear assessment of other institutions exposure where hesitant to lend to one another regardless of the interbank rate determined by central banks or other factors – this caused serious consternation and retarded the availability of capital. Many of these “products” became valueless, even though the underlying assets had value, due to the uncertainty of the underling asset’s value – there was no tangible means to assess value and no open trading system to manage sentiment.


When you contrast these asset’s price behavior and ambient sentiment through the crisis with publicly traded products – stocks, exchange traded funds and the related derivatives – one noticed a more favourable circumstance evolve with the transparent trading system. The ability to assess the value of the underlying assets due to generally accepted and regulated accounting and reporting systems, and the presence of an open trading system together allowed a floor to form on the value of openly traded assets sooner than in opaque trading environments and the general market confidence in this space recovered more quickly.


Credit Default Swaps (effectively bond insurance) – for example – the sum total of the asset represent was less the total amount of “insured” value – the equivalent of a $100 asset being insured for $100,000 – default is then a favorable circumstance for the holder of swaps – the challenge of course is, the issuers of swaps often take the asset back from the entity the swap has been issued to. One can see in this circumstance how challenging it can be to assess ones exposure absent any “open” trading modality; once again negatively affecting general confidence.


There will always be “private agreements” between people and companies, however, when public entities are at play – publicly traded companies - as a matter of regulation concern public companies must be obligated to have the capacity to accurately disclose the value of assets they hold – this should preclude them from trading inside opaque systems with “products” that have no clear expression of value and no means to handle the realities of market sentiment.  



Thursday, October 3, 2013

Discourse on the Great Recession – BANKING & REAL ESTATE LENDING

Credit has always presented a challenge to managing a financial system, hence the name “usury”; or perhaps look at a religion that evolved at a time of the earliest advanced banking system – Sharia and the resulting laws banning lending as a practice. Lending, coupled with fiat currency, poses a challenge to manage for modern governments as well, governments role, save in a small number of cases, is to contain over exuberance as opposed to heightening it, as it did in the years leading up to the great recession. In tandem with government policy came the advancement of “financial sciences” and the development of derivative products to allay risk to lenders.


It is a laudable goal of the United States Government to give every citizen an opportunity to have a home. Laudable because, ownership provisions stronger ties to society at larger than the absence of ownership. Laudable because, in provisioning the opportunity for people of limited means to build capital in an appreciating asset it gives them opportunity in general. Laudable because, people of limited  means with a little help can escape the rental trap. Laudable because, elderly people can live more easily when they are absent a rent payment. Laudable because, in broadening home ownership the government broadens all the supporting markets. The commentary post the crash in the housing market coming from talking heads was deplorable – they seemed to indicate that generalized participation in capitalism was impractical, that a goal of generalized home ownership was impractical because some were unable to manage it. You can rest assured that the people trying to claw their way to prosperity via home ownership, where in no way to blame for the real estate crash, government and industry were the culprits.  


The US government brought Freddy Mac and Fanny May into being to create a circumstance that would support the banks in lending for housing to a broader segment of the population. These entities were government initiated corporations charged with lending via banks to support a policy to generalized housing ownership in the US. While it was never the intention for the government to underwrite these organization’s lending, when things got bad, the government did, as Wall Street suspected they would. The tacit understanding by industry that government would intervene was one leg in support of aggressive lending.


The Asset Back Securities (ABS) related to mortgages grew. The underlying rationale for  ABSs was to reduce risk, by pooling mortgages, and in issuing bonds in accord with risk strata the banks could attract capital to the market – no single individual or institution was exposed to the full risk of any given mortgage. It was the separation of lender and borrower that contributed to “irresponsible” lending; prior to these broad based risk mitigation tactics the bank would lend to an individual and the bank would hold that mortgage on its books. The incentive for a bank to screen borrowers, assess the lending environment and follow through on the collection of a mortgage, that is in the sole possession of a that bank, is far greater when mortgage losses falls to said bank.  


Banks have a tier one capital requirement (more or less balance sheet equity), recently elevated in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Banks need to leaver relatively small profits over large volumes of funds, so they require a method to circumvent the tier one requirements. This was achieved in some cases by a Special Investment Vehicle (SIV). A SIV is an arm’s length company that takes ownership of mortgages and often packages said mortgages in ABS. Once the mortgage is held in a SIV the bank has no exposure to that mortgage. You can see here how, the lender and/or the ABS holder, are now three or four tiers away from the borrower - worse, in many cases no one knows who the lenders are.


In the environment generated by these realities and a rapidly valuing real estate markets, “freelance” lenders were issuing mortgages that they would never have to answer for, so they adopted very aggressive tactics with complete disregard for a correction in the market or the prospect of an interest rate increase and under the premise that housing prices would always go up. When the market did correct thousands of people found themselves “up side down”, they owed more than the value of the asset the lone was issued against – they walked away in droves – unsold inventory grew, prices dropped – in some markets no floor was found – acres of homes have been bulldozed. The human toll was massive, the institutions that precipitated the event have enjoyed more benefit than harm and the tax payers are paying and paying some more. So our system is less than perfect to be sure, but to paraphrase Winston Churchill, “it is awful but better than all the other options”.   

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Discourse on the great recession – Cycles

We accept cycles in nature – spring, summer, fall, winter – the predator prey cycle, etc. People not only accept these cycles, they want to preserve and protect them. Cycles are an inevitable element in the interface with the environment, the economy is an extension of the environment - ergo, the economy will have cycle's – this is a good thing. The challenge arises when there is inappropriate intervention or a random circumstance that impedes a cycles “normal” course, when this occurs the cycle becomes more extreme. Dear government, better to have ten corrections than one train wreck – the great recession has as causation both government intervention and happenstance.

Business cycle

The business cycle, depending on events, runs about seven years in duration and change is prompted by any number of factors; public sentiment, economic contraction, ancillary cycle convergence – perhaps a real estate cycle etc. Business cycles happen, there are leading indicators to warn us of their onslaught so they are, to some degree, predictable. Governments tend to associate their performance with economic performance, so the threat of a downturn in the business cycle prompts governmental counter cyclical actions. This can, at times delay, but rarely avert, a downturn in the business cycle. It is really a matter of mass, the federal government budget is about 220 billion, the Canadian economy is possibly 5 or 10 fold that, depending calculation and inclusions. Government’s long term commitment to reduced red tape and an agreeable regulatory environment are the best solution to economic stability – hopefully generating a circumstance where a downturn means reduced growth rather than a contraction.  Government intervention can have short term affect, however, often in the delaying of the cycle, the delaying makes the cycle’s path back to the eventual and certain norm more extreme than it might otherwise have been.

Real Estate Cycle – Prolonged

In the US Real Estate Market in 2006  there were a number of factors that contributed to a fervent and extended up swing, setting the scene for a more violent correction; they include: foreign exchange factors that countered somewhat the US central banks actions, low general inflation due to influx  of “cheaper goods” from China, the new mechanisms for distributing risk, the isolation of lending institutions from lending risk, the obscene exploitation of people pursuing the dream of home ownership by ethically devoid lenders, the tacit understanding that via Freddy Mac & Fanny May the US government was effectively underwriting mortgage risk – the aforementioned plus all the typical dynamics that contribute to a damaging escalation of real estate inventory and price. Massive secular inflation was left un-addressed by the government, in effect; a blind eye was turned to the impending housing dome. Once again, due in part to government programming and in part to other dynamics the cycle was lengthened and the correction was more sever.      

Technological Cycle

The technology cycle runs a similar pattern as the typical product cycle. There is the period of innovation, gradual absorption of the technology in to society at large, then a steep curve as the technology gains critical mass and lastly the plateau and decline or end due to disruption. As a technology enters the “critical mass” stage and begins to be rapidly accepted, it generates a vortex which draws in users and providers at a rapid pace, once the plateau is reached there is often an overrun of suppliers, additionally, there is large scale redundancy generated due to the new technology’s efficiency, as well as, the casualties of the incumbent technologies. At the close of the technology cycle, absent a replacement, inevitably there is a downturn. We have just passed through the maturing of the “the computer technology cycle” and as when the “rail” technology cycle ended, we are experiencing all the negative affects that emanate from a technology cycle ending. The mobile market, or the other “adjuncts” to the computer cycle are essentially drawing on plateau resources to access the market – no real “new blood” of sufficient mass to effect a unique cycle.

Macro-economic cycle

There are macro-economic cycles running 60 to 80 years in duration, the contraction is normally effect by the ending of a technology cycle, or demographics - their existence have an inherent reality of the ebb and flow of large civilizations, these cycles are apparent in various duration throughout history. The last one contracted in the late 1920’s and we are nearing the end of a similar one now. 

There has been a confluence of cycles in the contraction phase; the “crisis of confidence” that precipitated the beginning of the great recession was really a collective realization that due to a number of factors the music was about to stop – at that point even the rats  jumped ship. The good news about a cycle is that inherent in a downswing, there is an upswing – it’s never a question of if, but rather when.