The forgotten man

Published: Wed 19 August 2020
Updated: Tue 22 November 2022
By steve

In misc.

August 19th

Sorry for the truncated content today. I got a bug that laid me low.

The man who is never thought of

I read this in the blog of the amazing Rudy Havenstein today. It is reminiscent of Hazlitt or Bastiat. You can read it and a number of other thought-provoking quotes in the blog, here. Rudy can come across as a bit of a monomaniac some times, with his obsession about the evil that is done in the name of the Fed, but society needs prophets like him, to shake us out of the cozy groupthink that permeates most political debate.

As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X.

Their law always proposes to determine what C shall do for X or, in the better case, what A, B and C shall do for X. As for A and B, who get a law to make themselves do for X what they are willing to do for him, we have nothing to say except that they might better have done it without any law, but what I want to do is to look up C. I want to show you what manner of man he is.

I call him the Forgotten Man. Perhaps the appellation is not strictly correct. He is the man who never is thought of. He is the victim of the reformer, social speculator and philanthropist, and I hope to show you before I get through that he deserves your notice both for his character and for the many burdens which are laid upon him.

William Graham Sumner, 1883


This week ended with a whimper. The tone is vaguely risk-off, but hardly dramatically so. The markets seem to think that some slowdown is on the cards, although only marginally so. Equities in the US paused, with all the indices down on the week, but bonds took the opposite track, with yields up, slightly, on the week. Commodities were pretty flat, although lumber was down a lot, presumably a reflection of the state of the US housing market. Most energies were quite weak, apart from gas, which was very strong.

Ten year yields are still under 3%. This seems very low at this stage of the cycle. In the seventies, we had loads of workers, loads of cheap minerals, vast labour and other resources in developing countries to exploit, and the subsequent return to normal was completely free from serious conflicts directly affecting the West. None of these things apply today.

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