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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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The Other Two Kinds Of Debt

The Other Two Kinds Of Debt

“Any corporation, private or governmental, that wishes to provide for a sound and equitable continuity of its business must take steps towards the systematic retirement of debt immediately after it has been incurred. Postponement of all payment for property or privileges by those who presently enjoy their benefits is calculated to bring uncomfortable consequences to them or those who succeed them.”
— Engineering Economics, by C.R Young. 1949
(Read on Guerrilla-Capitalism.com)

We frequently hear pundits and talking heads talking about how short-sighted government policies and unfunded entitlements are in essence “stealing from the future” or at best “borrowing from the future” and I found myself thinking about the difference between the two ideas.
Normally when we think about “the two kinds of debt” we think productive versus unproductive debt. Exemplified in the Richard Kiyosaki “Rich Dad / Poor Dad” series, we learn that productive debt is that which you incur and then use in a way that will help pay itself off.
Examples include vendor or bank financing on buying a business that you would then pay back with the earnings from said acquisition, something I’ve done a couple times over my career; or taking out a mortgage to buy an investment property. From there you would use the rent to pay off the mortgage.

I emphasize paying off the mortgage here as opposed to simply servicing the debt with minimum payments or interest only, and we’ll see why shortly. Contrast this with unproductive debt, which is borrowing money to go on vacation or buy consumer goods, or do anything else with it that leaves you with the bill afterward. As Kiyosoki frequently stresses, it’s the difference between debt that makes you money vs debt that costs you money.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Falling Interest Rates

Amassing Unproductive Debt

Last week, we discussed the marginal productivity of debt. This is how much each newly-borrowed dollar adds to GDP. And ever since the interest rate began its falling trend in 1981, marginal productivity of debt has tightly correlated with interest. The lower the interest rate, the less productive additional borrowing has in fact become.

Left: the first IKEA store located in Älmhult in Sweden, near the residence of the company’s founder (nowadays the store is a museum); right: a Task Rabbit car. Given the valuations at which TaskRabbit was able to raise funds recently, it is a good bet IKEA paid a small fortune to take it over (waiting for the QE-induced bubble to burst may have been cheaper). [PT]

Let’s look at a recent event: the Ikea acquisition of TaskRabbit. You might wonder, why does a home goods company need to own a freelance labor company? Superficially, it seems to makes sense. Ikea products notoriously come in flat packs, but consumers don’t want to fuss with all the little parts. They just want finished furniture. Ikea has been using TaskRabbit to hire people to assemble it in their homes.

Isn’t this like that caricature of the billionaire who buys, say, the Planters Peanut company because he likes to eat salted nuts? Ikea could be a customer of TaskRabbit, hiring its temporary workers as needed, without owning the company. In fact, it had been doing that for years.

The acquisition price was not disclosed, however, we can guess that it was high. TaskRabbit was a Silicon Valley darling with a bright future. Its value proposition is right for this economy. It had raised $50 million, presumably at rich valuation multiples.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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