The Value Added by Our Broker Friends

More evidence of just how destructive our current system is:

Russia’s ban on grain exports, in response to a devastating drought, has sent prices shooting up all over the world. But farmers here in wheat country, far from seeing the spike as an unexpected blessing, are wary.

I wonder why that would be the case- sure sounds like good news:

As planting time approaches next month, they are balancing the possibility of greater income against the failed promises of the past, when bonanzas turned bust, sometimes at terrible cost to their bottom lines and the environment. Even many farmers who plan to plant more wheat are begrudging and hesitant — fearful that global dynamics could shift again between now and next year’s harvest.

I guess that makes sense, but what could cause things to shift so dramatically? Certainly these guys have years of experience with this sort of thing:

“The market says plant more,” said Eugene Schroder, who farms about 4,000 acres here in the flatlands of southeast Colorado near the Oklahoma border, where agriculture’s fingerprint stretches beyond the eye’s ability to see — some fields stubbled and cleared in post-harvest, others tassled and green with corn.

Mr. Schroder said he feared that wheat prices were being manipulated by speculators, as was the case a few years ago, just before the recession, when the price soared and then crashed.

“What is this wheat market? I don’t have a clue, and I’m a professional wheat farmer,” he said. “There’s a complete lack of transparency.”

Far from being able to take advantage of market forces, our wheat farmer friends are cowed into inaction because our markets are fickle and unreliable and prone to manipulation. This is fundamentally no different from the average joe trying to invest wisely in stocks- he can’t because the game is rigged. Our current system is anything but a free market. A free market would mean that people would be able to act with adequate information. We’re a nation being held hostage by these Galtian super-geniuses like Rick Santelli at the CME and that idiot blowhard Jim Cramer.






101 replies
  1. 1
    Maude says:

    Eugene is nobody’s fool. We saw what the oil speculators did and are doing with oil. If the market is sour, they go over to comodities. What a scam.

  2. 2
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    Does our friend Eugene listen to NPR, by any chance?

  3. 3
    El Cid says:

    Does he have nerve damage? Can he not feel the feather-light pushes from the invisible hand?

  4. 4
    beltane says:

    I have a cousin who is a commodities trader for a rather infamous company I do not wish to name. He makes way too much money for it to have come honestly in the old-fashioned sense of the word. Really nice guy, though.

  5. 5
    me says:

    Megan McArdle says: “Suck it up, nancy boys.”

  6. 6
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    A free market would mean that people would be able to act with adequate information.

    And take a risk that someone on Wall Street might lose money? That’s crazy talk.

  7. 7
    HankP says:

    Maybe I’m not getting something here, but I thought futures contracts were originally designed for this very reason – so that farmers could lock in a price now before planting. That way speculators may or may not get shafted, but the farmer at least can count on a fixed price at harvest.

  8. 8

    A free market would mean that people would be able to act with adequate information. We’re a nation being held hostage by these Galtian super-geniuses like Rick Santelli at the CME and that idiot blowhard Jim Cramer.

    And I used to argue with a certain folks here about the big grift of the oil industry speculators. And others would chime in that that is the system, so it must be ok. No, it is the system because crooked rule makers make it part of the system. And I argued that gas prices would stabilize back when they were up to 4 dollars, once dems were in full control, and there was at least the possibility of legislation to reign these con artist speculators in. I even guessed it about right at around $2.70 a gallon. You can speculate about anything, even making yourself rich, if you speculate hard enough, and get hired by Wall Street or one of it’s syphilitic appendages.

  9. 9
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    What??? I thought after all these years of deregulation we finally had a totally free market. I am so disillusioned.

  10. 10
    El Cid says:

    @me: Not to mention that the very least the farmer can expect is a 50% increase in revenue and probably a 20% increase in profits. Or it might have supposed to have been a 500% loss and $2,000,000 in debt, whatever, something like that. The point is he should just do it. The only other alternative is for the government to control prices like Hugo Chavez and that’s exactly what the Democrats want. (McAddled.)

  11. 11
    Cat Lady says:

    And yet, I’d bet good money that Eugene is fired up and ready to vote for his local teatard.

  12. 12
    steviez314 says:

    He may not know about the wheat market, but I bet he has an opinion on the mosque.

  13. 13
    El Cid says:

    @Cat Lady: If it wasn’t for Obama and all the deficit spending which is causing all the inflation, he wouldn’t be having these problems.

  14. 14
    Ailuridae says:

    I realize this isn’t the larger point may hold about the role in speculation in commodities markets but let’s not ignore the fact that the American farmer wouldn’t know a free market if it bit them on the ass.

    http://farm.ewg.org/progdetail.....code=wheat

    This is also directly related to the politics of the day where ass holes like Ben Nelson can fuck out of work Americans over as his state is so heavily subsidized with subsidies that aren’t up for votes that it experiences none of the unemployment pain the urban, non-leeching part of the country does.

  15. 15
    Zifnab says:

    I think the free market says we should all become stock brokers and work for big Wall Street firms.

    No need for farmers or doctors or engineers. This country is all about becoming Certified Market Geniuses. Because, think about it. If we all game the system, we can all win!

  16. 16
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Zifnab: A rising tide lifts all boats!

  17. 17
    Cat Lady says:

    @El Cid:

    all the deficit spending goin’ to ACORN and all them mooslems and nigras which is causing all the inflation

    Fixt, sadly.

  18. 18
    morzer says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    The point of de-regulation is to rig the market. Honestly, didn’t you get the memo?

  19. 19
    srv says:

    What ever happened to wheat reserves? Russia doesn’t have any? I guess that would be a good idea if you wanted a market that would swing more wildly.

  20. 20
    MikeJ says:

    @Ailuridae: Ìt would be a lot easier to cut off subsidies if there was a non-corrupt market for them to sell into.

  21. 21
    Duke City Roller says:

    @Cat Lady:

    Speaking of slurs, Snowbilly Sarah says that conservatives are being “shackled” because they can’t use the n-word.

  22. 22
    kdaug says:

    Anyone else catch the article in Harper’s a month or so back about the the wheat commodities & exchange market?

    The game is rigged. No one can change it.

    Capitalism has failed. Full stop.

  23. 23
    El Cid says:

    @Cat Lady: And they’s jus payin’ ta bring all the damn messkins here

  24. 24
    milo says:

    See HankP @#7 above. He is correct.

  25. 25
    sven says:

    @Ailuridae: Keep your government hands off my farm subsidies!

  26. 26
    sven says:

    @Ailuridae: Keep your government hands off my farm subsidies!!!!

  27. 27
    Kyle says:

    So who does Schroder blame – the cronyist speculator-friendly corporatist Repigs?

    No, It’s Obamamuslin the Kenyan terrist, Messicans, abortion and the ‘Ground Zero mosque’. Fux News told him so.

    My sympathy for these people is running low. I want to grab them and shout, “You voted for this, fucktard”.

  28. 28
    nodakfarmboy says:

    @HankP: You can lock in a price on the futures market, and many farmers do. The problem is, if your crop fails to come through (hail, rain, drought, wrath of Cthulhu) you’re on the hook for making good on the bushels you marketed. If you took a contract for July delivery on Winter Wheat (currently at 7.05 on the CBOT) and your crop gets hailed out, you have to make good on the contract. If the spot price of wheat is still at 7 or lower, you’re in the good, because you can buy on the open market, and deliver to fulfill. However, if the price has gone up from your contracted price, you’re on the hook to buy more expensive wheat to make good on your delivery. In other words, you can lose your ass.

    Smart farmers try to protect themselves against such a situation by marketing a smaller percentage of their crop in advance. In my dad’s case, I think he tries to keep it down to a quarter to a third of his anticipated production. The rest can than be sold on the cash market. Producers can also take out Revenue Assurance (RA) contracts (a sort of insurance) to protect themselves in the event that the above situation comes to pass, but they can only cover up to 70% of your established yield, which I think is based on a rolling average of past crops. The RA will cover you for the difference should you get stuck having to cover a spread that has tipped against you.

    The futures markets are a useful tool, but one can get burned if they don’t know what they are doing. And, the presence of speculators playing games with the price only makes it that much harder to implement a successful marketing strategy.

  29. 29

    Far from being able to take advantage of market forces, our wheat farmer friends are cowed into inaction because our markets are fickle and unreliable and prone to manipulation.

    I like to think of this as The Invisible Jazz Hands of the market at work.

  30. 30
    kdaug says:

    Here’s the link. Not sure if it’ll work for non-subscribers.

  31. 31
    HankP says:

    @nodakfarmboy : Understood, but if the fear is that the prices are high now and might collapse later, the futures contracts could at least be a safety net for the farmer. It might be the difference between a bad year and bankruptcy, even taking into account the requirement to fulfill the contract.

  32. 32
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @kdaug: Yup, I was just going to refer to that piece. Cover story a couple of months ago, letters in response to it in the most recent issue. Definitely eye-opening.

  33. 33
    TheF79 says:

    HankP and nodakfarmboy make good points – one should also consider the possibility that Eugene isn’t a very smart farmer. Most of the farmers I knew growing up sounded a lot more like nodakfarmboy’s old man, and less like Eugene. It was more “futures this” and “spot price that” and less “I don’t know crap about no markets.”

    One should also note that if the ag derivatives markets are boned, then we’re really in trouble when it comes to the other derivative markets, which are fair less transparent and regulated than ag markets.

  34. 34
    El Cid says:

    @TheF79:

    one should also consider the possibility that Eugene isn’t a very smart farmer

    Quoting the most informed farmers would interrupt their image as down to Earth, anti-ivory tower native interpreters of Real America folk knowledge.

  35. 35
    gex says:

    @Zifnab: That’s the ownership society. I guess Americans don’t have to work anymore. Well, the right kind of Americans don’t. The rest will be kicked out of real America one demographic/economic group at a time.

  36. 36
    Lurker says:

    @John Cole – Excellent post, but I have one quibble with this sentence:

    This is fundamentally no different from the average joe trying to invest wisely in stocks- he can’t because the game is rigged.

    I think small investors have a shot with client-owned Vanguard. Almost every other investment option rips off investors with high expense ratios, inappropriate advice and fees. Vanguard has no incentive to do this, because its clients are also its shareholders.

    I keep most of my retirement savings with Vanguard. The only reason I don’t have all of it in Vanguard funds is because my 401(k) does not offer any Vanguard options.

  37. 37
    nodakfarmboy says:

    @HankP: If prices were to collapse, yes, you could come out on the good side. But if you marketed your entire anticipated crop, you were taking a large gamble that you’d come out on the right side of things. In other words, speculating. Most producers don’t want to assume that much risk. They don’t want to lose the farm because one crop went against them. Hence, they advance market smaller amounts of their crop to help provide some price assurance. Having partially hedged, they then still face the fluctuations of the market on the remainder of their crop. If prices tank (perhaps partially because the speculators have been playing games) you might find yourself sitting on wheat that you can’t sell at a price equal to the cost of producing it. Which might not be a disaster if you have enough liquidity to put the grain in a bin and wait for a better price. However, when your friendly local banker rings you up to remind you that your operating loan is coming due, the pressure to sell can lead to a bit of stress.

    Farming is a messy business for the small family producer, even with the subsidies that are out there. I’ve seen many a good person get chewed up and spit out trying to hold together the farm they (and in some cases their father and grandfather) worked for decades to build. There’s a reason I’m not on the farm anymore- I can’t handle the months of stress, praying for rain, watching disease slowly ruin a promising crop, or hoping that those storm clouds on the horizon aren’t going to hail out your entire year’s work in ten minutes.

  38. 38
    Ailuridae says:

    @El Cid:

    There’s also the very real possibility that Eugene understands the system perfectly well and pleas hardship to keep generating sympathy and to keep those government checks rolling.

  39. 39
    taylormattd says:

    I have a feeling your front page “libertarian” Mr. Kain disagrees with you on this.

    He just posted a tribute to Matt Y’s stupid jihad against State regulations for hair stylists.

    NO REGULATIONS! FREE MARKETS SOLVE EVERYTHING!

  40. 40
    matt says:

    This guy Eugene is hardly a small producer. With his 4000 acres and a yield of 60 bushels per, he’s looking at a $1.6M harvest at today’s prices. Not bad considering the price per pound he’d be selling at is 3% that of breakfast cereal.

  41. 41

    @taylormattd:

    There’s a lot of open ground between hairstylists and markets.

  42. 42
    HankP says:

    @nodakfarmboy: I never suggested that futures could eliminate all dangers – there’s always crop failures, tornadoes, flooding, etc. – but they do serve the function of allowing a farmer to lay off some risk onto the market, maybe enough to avoid ruin and just have a bad year. But that’s speculating too, any time someone thinks that the market price is too high or too low they’re essentially saying that they can detect a market failure (or manipulation) that others can’t.

    BTW, I couldn’t be a farmer either. There’s a lot more risk and leverage involved than most people realize. You may find this article interesting.

  43. 43
    D-Chance. says:

    Add to the grand scheme the idea of paying those farmers for NOT growing crops (only in the minds of our government)… what a wonderful country!

  44. 44
    Violet says:

    Speaking of crops, anyone like chocolate? A British financier bought enough cocoa a month ago to move the cocoa market and it’s the single largest purchase of cocoa ever. He’s storing it in his warehouses across Europe.

    Anthony Ward, 50, bought 241,000 tons of cocoa beans and now owns enough to manufacture 5.3 billion quarter-pound chocolate bars.
    __
    Mr Ward, who is worth around £36 million, holds so much of the market he could force manufacturers to raise the price of Britain’s favourite chocolate bars.
    __
    The transaction, the largest single cocoa trade in 14 years, was carried out last Friday by Armajaro Holdings, a hedge fund co-founded by Mr Ward.

    The transaction could raise chocolate prices. There will be a strongly worded letter if that happens.

  45. 45
    Ailuridae says:

    @Violet:

    I suppose the best analogue is the purported attempt to corner the onion market in the 50s but in general attempting to corner a market is a very, very costly idea to the trader who attempts it.

  46. 46
    nodakfarmboy says:

    @matt: It’s true, he’s not a small operation. Not huge, either, in the scheme of things. It’s doubtful he’s going to get a 60 bushel per acre crop, however. Dry ground farming in that part of the world just doesn’t yield that well, on average. I think 40 might be a more realistic number. A bit of googling spit out the following, which states that Colorado has a ten year average yield of 30 bushels per acre.

    http://wtop.com/?nid=111&sid=2026172

    That, of course, will vary by area of the state. Another point of note is that farmers don’t usually get the price you hear quoted in the news. For an example, check out the following link.

    http://www.lakeregiongrain.com/index.cfm?show=11

    That is the local cash bid page for an elevator in my area. If you look at the wheat bids, you’ll note that hard red spring for Sept. delivery is at 6.21, 88 cents below the current futures price. That spread is known as the basis. Basically, it represents “the costs to buy, store, handle, merchandise, and ship wheat, plus a profit margin” for the elevator. So, farmers never see the full quoted price you hear on the farm report or see in the markets.

    As the old saying goes, “the farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.”

    All that said, it might be a damn good year for Eugene.

  47. 47
    That's Master of Accountancy to You, Pal says:

    @Ailuridae: What you said. I’d really like to know what the evidence is that speculators rigged the wheat market in 2007. The article certainly doesn’t indicate any.

    In fact, all of the things actually mentioned that made the price jump around like crazy were actions taken by farmers, not speculators.

    This month’s price spike is eerily similar to what happened then, said Colorado’s agriculture commissioner, John R. Stulp, who is also a wheat farmer. And the response could well be same, too — overreaction and overproduction, leading to a glut and a crash in prices.

    It wasn’t speculators that planted all that wheat.

    There is also a lot of complaining by people who sold before the big run up in prices. To which my response is, that’s what can happen. The farmers opted to reduce the risk they were carrying by selling and fixing the price. (This is true whether they sold futures, or sold physical inventory on the spot markets.) Based upon the information they had at the time they made the decision, the price could just have easily gone down. I’ll take this particular complaint seriously the first time I hear someone claim that it was unfair that they made a big profit because they made a decision to buy/sell and then the price went the other way.

  48. 48
    nodakfarmboy says:

    @HankP: I didn’t mean to imply you were stating that futures marketing could eliminate all risk. I was just adding some thoughts regarding what you said. Your read is absolutely correct: used wisely, futures contracts can be used as a tool to minimize some risks.

    However, when markets get overrun by rampant speculation, and prices become unhinged from reality, it makes them harder to use towards good ends.

  49. 49
    Emma says:

    I love this damn blog. Where else can you get snark, fights to the (verbal) death and a quick-and-dirty explanation of modern family farming all in one place?

  50. 50

    @That’s Master of Accountancy to You, Pal:

    In fact, all of the things actually mentioned that made the price jump around like crazy were actions taken by farmers, not speculators.

    The problem is that there are a lot of people in that market who have no intent on taking delivery of any grain, or cattle, or oil. There was an article I read yesterday on one of the economic doom blogs (can’t find it now to save my life) that quoted a UK newspaper interviewing a trader at one of the hedge funds that operated in commodities markets, and this trader made it very clear that they were only there to take the “stupid money” off the top.

    There was also the huge fines levied against some investors who spiked oil prices at $100/barrel in 2008, and even bragged about it via e-mail.

    It’s as much of a cas1no as the stock markets thanks to the Masters of the Universe.

  51. 51
    Violet says:

    @Ailuridae: Apparently this guy specializes in cocoa trading. He made another large trade in 2002. I can’t imagine having that kind of money and the resources to store the actual beans. Kind of boggles the mind.

  52. 52
    Mark S. says:

    As much as I love blaming our financial overlords for everything, I’m not sure it’s apt here. The article claims that the spike is due largely to a drought in Russia. It also says there are fewer people growing wheat than during the price bubble in 1972-3:

    One is that wheat, the historic amber-waved grain of the American breadbasket, is out of fashion — a beleaguered has-been crop on many farms, supplanted by the modern cash-cow of farming: corn, used for everything from ethanol fuel to food additives to animal feed. Fewer acres of wheat were planted nationally last year than any year since 1971, according to federal figures. Kansas, the biggest wheat-producing state, had fewer acres in cultivation this year than any since 1957.

    Most of the farmers seem kind of paranoid to me, but I’d probably be kind of paranoid if I were a farmer. Shit, I’d probably be one of those militia guys convinced the feds were going to take my land.

  53. 53
    That's Master of Accountancy to You, Pal says:

    @Ailuridae:

    I suppose the best analogue is the purported attempt to corner the onion market in the 50s but in general attempting to corner a market is a very, very costly idea to the trader who attempts it.

    No kidding. He may drive the price up, but if he wants to take advantage of it, he needs to figure out how to sell it without driving the price back down.

    You can’t corner a market by just buying the commodity and taking physical possession. Someone is going to make a lot of money, and it probably won’t be you.

    Cornering a market involves buying a metric fuckton of long futures contracts. In fact, the aggregate total of the open contracts has to be pretty close to, if not exceeding, the amount of physical production of the commodity. What that means is that, as the futures get close to expiration, and the sellers have to obtain the commodity in order to give it to you, as required by the contract, they drive the price up to stratospheric heights because there simply isn’t enough of the stuff to fulfill their contracts. It’s a case of desperation.

    In theory, you could make a fortune doing this. In practice, it’s almost impossible to pull off. Generally what happens is that someone starts the process of cornering the market, and then runs out of money/margin/risk exposure before they can finish the job. When that happens, they bid against themselves, buying most of their position after the price was artificially inflated, and then selling it after the price has collapsed in the wake of failure.

    It’s one of the ways in which speculators are a lot more evil in concept than they are in practice.

  54. 54
    jl says:

    Hey you kids, this is the cobweb model and speculation debate, beloved of economists everywhere!

    You kids go get off our cobweb and go play somewhere else! Our discipline is sick and you are bothering it!

    Pork Cycle
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pork_cycle

    The discussion of empirical and experimental evidence in the article below suggests that if we have expectations consistent with the structure of the economy, then there will be price fluctuations, but they will be optimal. But with limited computing ability (like real humans) prices may do strange things until the Holy Long Run occurs.

    Cobweb model
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobweb_model

    Cobweb model math links
    http://math.fullerton.edu/math.....lnk_1.html

    Below is a conclusion regarding the effect of speculation with limited information from a recent representative paper. It is behind a firewall, so anyone who wants to look at it has to get to connection at a library with a subscription. But this paper does things at a more or less undergrad math level.

    A behavioral cobweb-like commodity market model with heterogeneous speculators
    Frank Westerhoff , Cristian Wieland.
    Economic Modelling 27 (2010) 1136–1143
    According to empirical studies, speculators place significant orders in commodity markets and may cause bubbles and crashes. This paper develops a cobweb-like commodity market model that takes into account the behavior of technical and fundamental speculators. We show that interactions between consumers, producers and heterogeneous speculators may produce price dynamics which mimics the cyclical price motion of actual commodity markets, i.e., irregular switches between bullish and bearish price developments. Moreover, we find that the impact of speculators on price dynamics is non-trivial: depending on the market structure, speculative transactions may either be beneficial or harmful for market stability.

  55. 55

    Damnit, comment in moderation thanks to using the cas1n0 word.

    Here’s what can happen on commodities markets. Stop blaming it on the farmers, MoA.

  56. 56
    Suffern ACE says:

    @That’s Master of Accountancy to You, Pal: I agree, there are a lot of different concerns in the article, but I think that the event that the Ag Commission is referring to happened in 1972-73, not 2007/08. The 100,000 new acres of wheat planted since 2007 has to do with a ending of a program of grassland protection, not the response to price spike in 2007.

    Anyway, overall, the article’s headline should be “Farmers often have difficult and complicated decisions to make on what crops to plant.”

  57. 57
    JPhillips says:

    Check out the July issue of Harpers. The Food Bubble, does a great job of explaining how the rules changed and how the masters of the universe discovered they could make a fortune on commodities speculation.

  58. 58
  59. 59
    gypsy howell says:

    Oh Christ, Howard Dean is digging himself in even deeper on Keith right now. STFU Howard. Seriously.

  60. 60
    nodakfarmboy says:

    @nodakfarmboy: One last point, regarding the basis.

    http://www.lakeregiongrain.com.....038;mid=34

    If you take a quick look at the prices quoted at the co-op linked above, you’ll see that Winter Wheat, which has an August futures/market price of 7.15, is only being offered a cash price of 5.12. The basis is a whopping 2.02. The elevator will take your wheat, but they’ll put a massive hit on the price they give you. In other words, they don’t want to buy at anywhere near the Chicago price, because they don’t trust the market/demand. The Spring Wheat basis for August delivery is at 88 cents, way lower. According to my sources (thanks Dad!) this was way higher, flirting with 2 dollars as well, a couple weeks ago. This might seem to imply that there is actual demand in the market from millers and other wheat users. The elevator, which is plugged into the buyers, feels more confident dropping the basis, because they feel they can market the grain they buy with less risk.

    So, for those (few) of you that are interested, always check out the basis to see if the market has a real foundation under it. If the basis is large, it might be an indication that things are out of whack.

    The more you know.

  61. 61
    Objective Scrutator says:

    @Kyle

    I must not possess the same enlightenment as you, because I didn’t read anything about Schroder’s political preferences at all. In fact, the only people he criticizes are the speculators.

  62. 62
    lamh32 says:

    @gypsy howell:

    This is what the 3rd “clarification” that Dean is giving on his remarks, and I just bet Keith’s gonna just let him skate on by, and the Deaniacs in the PL are gonna eat it up, I guess.

    If it wasn’t for that fact that GOP are crazy, and having the GOP in power again would be bad for me too, I’d say Screw You Guys I’m Going Home and never vote for Dems again.

    Man Keith is being too easy on him. I sure wish Jon Stewart or hell Stephen Colbert was conducting this interview.

    But I guess keith doesn’t want to alienate Dean, he and Rachel may need him to substitute for either of them the next time they need time off.

  63. 63
    That's Master of Accountancy to You, Pal says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    Here’s what can happen on commodities markets. Stop blaming it on the farmers, MoA.

    And notice that the guy who made the money wasn’t the guy who got in trouble. There’s a lot less manipulation of the commodities markets than most people think, because it’s very hard to manipulate them profitably. If someone wants to make a vanity trade just to say that they did it, without regards to making money, I’m not sure that you can prevent it, or that it’s a situation common enough to put together a regulatory regime specifically to stop. In this case, they sold at $100 and bought it back significantly higher than that. That seems like a dumb way to spend your money, even before the CFTC dropped the fines on them.

  64. 64
    That's Master of Accountancy to You, Pal says:

    @jl:

    Moreover, we find that the impact of speculators on price dynamics is non-trivial: depending on the market structure, speculative transactions may either be beneficial or harmful for market stability.

    This part I don’t deny. The effects of speculation can have significant impacts on the prices in the markets. Uhm, duh. Anyone who can affect either supply or demand can affect the markets. Speculators can do that.

    That’s not the same thing as saying that they are using nefarious market manipulation to make a profit. If you trade a commodity in which supply and demand are volatile, and both are extremely volatile in agricultural products, as we are seeing right now, then you are subject to wild fluctuations in prices.

    Farmers have a huge amount of inherent risk in their business. As Suffern ACE points out, it’s a complicated business from a financial standpoint as well as a physical one. That’s not the result of market manipulation, though*. It’s because it’s so unpredictable. That’s the way it goes in some lines of work, and farming is one of them. It always has been.

    *There is some gaming of the system that can lead to making profits. The big guys do rely on these, much like high frequency trading in stocks. This should be shut down, and does involve theft of money from people. However, it isn’t what these farmers are worried about. Most market manipulation involves taking advantage of tiny arbitrage possibilities and doing it a lot, not producing huge price swings.

  65. 65
    lamh32 says:

    Is anybody watching this Countdown interview with Dean??

    Did he really just say:

    Dean: “To compare the Civil Rights Movement with this is not appropriate”

    Also, he may have thrown Glenzilla under the bus, he said that he had an interview with a guy that thinks anyone who disagrees with building the Islamic Center is wrong, didn’t he just have an interview with Glenzilla today???

    Sure bet, all those “Obama walk-backer” are feeling really silly right now. Compared to Dean, Obama’s comments last Saturday, was an act of courage!!!

  66. 66
    gypsy howell says:

    @lamh32:

    I don’t think Keith let him skate at all. Boy Howard, you *really* stepped in it deep. That was simply awful.

  67. 67
    jl says:

    I agree that plots to manipulate the price may not be the biggest problem.

    And price instability in itself may not be a bad thing.

    In representative agent models (all farmers, all consumers, all speculators are the same), everyone forms expectations consistent with the structure of the economy, and there is unlimited computing capacity, the price cycles that appear are often consistent with social welfare maximization.

    Problems arise when there are heterogeneous agents, some people, especially speculators, do not form expectations consistent with the structure of the economy, and agents have limited computational capacity. In fact, some weirdo ad hoc speculation strategies arise precisely because no one has the ability to figure out the wonderful bestest optimal strategy.

    One comforting belief that appears not to be true is that

    speculators who use ad hoc arbitrary trading strategies that move the market away from social optimum will always be weeded out and disappear because they lose all their money.

    This comforting belief appears not be true and such speculators can survive over long term to produce interesting results.

  68. 68
    lamh32 says:

    @gypsy howell:

    I’m sorry, I’ve seen Keith go in a lot harder for a lot less. Remember the “primary Obama” special comment kerfluffle???

    This interview with Dean was nothing.

  69. 69
    me says:

    @gypsy howell: It seems, according to Dean, the victims families have a veto over every development in Lower Manhattan.

  70. 70
    gypsy howell says:

    @me:

    It was simply horrifying. What the hell is the matter with everyone in this country?

  71. 71
    El Cid says:

    Often in the 3rd world, the problem isn’t so much consolidation of producers — although there is that — but in products like cocoa, oligopsony, or a small elite of buyers.

  72. 72
    El Cid says:

    What is motivating Dean? Just hates Muslims? Thinks it’s better for Democrats to look like they think that Muslims ought to give in to the people who hate them for comity’s sake?

  73. 73
    demo woman says:

    @me: Many 9/11 families did not want it rebuilt. They wanted it a national park. Where is the outrage. It’s hallowed ground.

  74. 74
    Cat Lady says:

    @gypsy howell:

    Good question. I’m not getting out of this boat – I’m down to this bunch here on BJ, my sister, my husband, 5 or 6 friends and a couple of co-workers. Everyone else can else can fucking DIAF.

    /Obot

  75. 75

    turn off your cable, burn down your satellite dish, then/or blow up yer teevee. You will feel much better in the morning.

    But I haven’t figured out a way to quit blogs. Still working on it.

  76. 76
    me says:

    @demo woman: And how large would this park be? The WTC site only? The WTC site plus three surrounding blocks so it includes the Park51 site? From the Battery to Greenwich Village?

  77. 77
    Paris says:

    The real problem is that Democrats in power is causing ‘uncertainty’ in the market.

    (I notice E.D. is all over this phenomena. Free Markets!!!)

  78. 78
    Suffern ACE says:

    @lamh32: Well, I will grant Dr. Dean part of that. This is a civil rights issue but not the civil rights movement. We’re hoping not to ever have the need to have another civil rights movement ever again.

    Hopefully Dean took the time to call out certain politicians and media personalities for a virtual tarring and feathering of the founders of this project so that we can be fair and balanced. I mean, if it is callous of the Park51 group to have a center there because it makes the victims upset, might it also be callous of certain media elites and politicians to tell lies and wander about waving their arms wildly in front of those victims to make them even more upset than they ought to be? Hopefully he took the time out of his busy schedule to talk about how, say, calling Rauf a “Warrior Iman” as Guiliani did also does nothing constructive.

    Kind of like scaring old people with the idea that Obama is planning to put them to death…you know. Should scaring old people for profit and votes be a social issue of equally valid discussion?

  79. 79

    @demo woman:

    It’s hallowed ground.

    Well yea. The WTC was considered an icon of American economic power. It was why it was chosen for bombing. That, and they were big shiny objects in the sky. Hallowed ground is fine and dandy, but must turn a profit like everything else. Can’t have no hallowed ground slacking.

    I snark

  80. 80
    lamh32 says:

    @gypsy howell:

    BTW, speaking of Countdown in general, did the writer from time really say that WH is feeding America’s “Islamaphobia” by issuing the statement they did. I could personally care less that the WH issued a statement, I’m not one of the kooks who believes the Obama is a secret Muslim crap, but isn’t blaming Obama and the WH for the stupidity of Americans believing that Obama is a Muslim, like blaming the woman who was raped for not fighting hard enough to advert the rapist?

    Really Keith, really???

  81. 81
    jwb says:

    @General Stuck: I’m with you there. I don’t read many political blogs any more either, but BJ has a good mix of links coming across that I can get a sense of the spin without having to be exposed to the daily idiocy, which is really toxic no matter which direction it is coming from. (And I don’t mean that in the sense of Broder equivalency, but in the sense that political warfare is not merely a metaphor and the warfare has real distorting effects on the discourse and the representation of the world.)

  82. 82
    matt says:

    @nodakfarmboy: Thanks for the detail. Now I’m wondering how much of this stuff was in the air when I was growing up. Much less, most likely; we were only hobbyists with 40 acres and 100 sheep.

  83. 83
    kdaug says:

    What the hell is “hallowed ground”, anyway? Ground where someone died? That’s a lot of real estate.

    And how long does it remain “hallowed”?

    I suspect a lot of native Americans would consider a whole shitload of current strip malls “hallowed ground”.

  84. 84
    lamh32 says:

    In a diary over at DKOS on Dean’s interview on Countdown, a commenter posted this, and seriously, this is so how I feel about Dr Dean right about now!

    After hammering Obama for a nearly a year over health care compromises, and outright saying Obama is “weak” he’s willing to compromise the 1st Amendment?! He’s willing to cave to demagogues who liken Sufi Muslims to Nazis?! That’s buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuullshit.

    I don’t ever again want to hear about how “strong” and “courageous” Howard Dean is.

    Here’s the diary: WHAT Compromise? There IS No Compromise.

  85. 85
    El Cid says:

    The entire island of Manhattan is now hallowed ground. All buildings should be knocked down and a huge, huge memorial should be built, and all Americans should be required to visit it twice a year and declare their hatred for all Islam.

  86. 86
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Emma: Narnia?

  87. 87
    demo woman says:

    @El Cid: Someone on this blog did say “corporations please refudiate, it’s a stab in the heart”

  88. 88

    @jwb:

    but in the sense that political warfare is not merely a metaphor and the warfare has real distorting effects on the discourse and the representation of the world.)

    Ain’t it the truth. And, as always, the first casualty of war is the truth. I only read a few news site aggregates that are moderately liberal, but not so much as spouting PL talking points all day. Like TPM and Political Wire. BJ is the only blog I read now, and I don’t mean so much to quit, but to discipline myself to not get involved in pointless flame wars every day. Went a few days managing to stay out of them, and had a little one today. So that is progress. There are some good serious people on this blog, that at a minimum respect the truth and getting as close to it as is possible. But there has also been an element that has and is increasing that insists on dogma as the permanent discussion.

    I don’t want to stop commenting, and just reading. But have to learn to be selective more.

  89. 89
    kdaug says:

    @General Stuck:

    There are some good serious people on this blog in this world.

    Fixed.

  90. 90
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @kdaug: Maybe this blog is the world. Of course, by saying something like that, I get eliminated from the list of good serious people. Damn.

  91. 91
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    @gypsy howell:

    I watched the whole thing and boy is Howard ever wrong about this. How in the fuck do you enter into ‘negotiations’ with the Park51 group with the precondition that they are not building where they want to and call it negotiating?

    Howie is right about a lot of stuff but he is dead wrong about this issue.

  92. 92
    maus says:

    @General Stuck:

    And I used to argue with a certain folks here about the big grift of the oil industry speculators. And others would chime in that that is the system, so it must be ok.

    Something makes me think that your narrative and/or recollection is unreliable here.

  93. 93

    @maus:

    Something makes me think that your narrative and/or recollection is unreliable here.

    Well, I don’t have the time to rummage through threads of two or so years ago. So whatever that something is, spit it out, otherwise you will just have to live with the uncertainty., or disbelief.

    edit – and from my more recent recollection of interactions with you, I doubt you have believed anything I’ve said.

  94. 94
    Suffern ACE says:

    @DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal): And exactly who is supposed be negotiating on whose behalf? Right now, you can say that this “debate” or whatever it is is simply a civil matter. Because Newt and Sarah seem to be the public personalities who are most upset by this, or Sean Hannity, or Rupert, are they then entitled to represent “Public Sentiment” in negotiations? I can say, that if the state itself gets involved in these “negotiations” in which the outcome is already determined as representatives of “the people”, well then this becomes a very different type of thing.

  95. 95
    cleek says:

    @General Stuck:
    at least blogs give us a chance to yell back at the person who ‘said’ it.

    yelling at the TV just annoys the cat.

  96. 96
  97. 97
    Maus says:

    @General Stuck: Nah, I don’t disagree with you all the time, but the cassandra complex-sounding argument that people defended oil speculators as noble seemed a bit strange, or selective in memory. OTOH, the phrase “someone will defend this” gets a lot of use on the Internet for a reason.

  98. 98

    @Maus:

    I don’t disagree with you all the time, but the cassandra complex-sounding argument that people defended oil speculators as noble seemed a bit strange,

    LOL, when you put it this way I understand and agree. But it happened, likely as much for something to argue about with an old foe, that no longer is. And that is all I have to say about that.

  99. 99
    techno says:

    @nodakfarmboy: Thanks for your contribution. I spent part of my childhood in NW North Dakota–dad was a Lutheran preacher. One guy in our church had 14,000 acres in 1965. So I was disabused of the image of the stupid hick farmer a LONG time ago.

    My problem, whenever I am faced was folks making their assumptions about the “idiocy of rural life” (to quote a phrase) I usually just get pissed off. So thank you for explaining the reality of growing wheat in such a dispassionate way!

  100. 100
    Jay in Oregon says:

    @El Cid:

    Can he not feel the feather-light pushes from the invisible hand?

    I’m late to the party, but I’m throwing in another vote for “Show Me Where The Invisible Hand Touched You” as a category or tag.

  101. 101
    nodakfarmboy says:

    @techno: Thank you. I appreciate the kind words.

    Growing up on a farm and being at the whim of nature helps put the fickle essence of life in focus for one at an early age. The rains come, and the rains go; scab and crop disease creeps insidiously, and over all, hangs the threat of the season ending storm. When the crop comes through, the promise of a truly Merry Christmas still holds weight. A bad crop, and a lean year is in store for the family. And the toll it takes on your parents is readily apparent. I won’t be so stupid as to argue that it’s a situation unique to farmers, but the whole sense of being the playthings of nature is an odd experience to grow up under.

    Eric Sevareid, a wonderful journalist, memoirist, and (in my opinion) perhaps the greatest native North Dakotan, summed up life in North Dakota farm country pretty succinctly in his autobiography “Not So Wild a Dream”:

    “Wheat was the sole source and meaning of our lives. We were never its masters, but too frequently its victims…it was rarely long outside the conversation.”

    Nature is an arbitrary and capricious master. And the stress it can place on a person who’s fate is tied to its twists and turns is significant. But, I like to think that growing up in such a unique environment was good for me, and will serve me well. I guess I’ll find out as I make my way forward!

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