Friday, August 3, 2012

Friedrich Engels: Global Macro With an Emphasis on Commodities

Sunday will be the 117th anniversary of Engels' death. Here's some stuff he thought about, in addition to co-writing The Communist Manifesto:
...The minor panic in the money market appears to be over, consols and railway shares are again rising merrily, money is easier, speculation is still pretty evenly distributed over corn, cotton, steam boats, mining operations, etc., etc.

But cotton has already become a very risky proposition; despite what is so far a very promising crop, prices are rising continuously, merely as a result of high consumption and the possibility of a brief cotton shortage before fresh imports can arrive. Anyway I don't believe that the crisis will this time be preceded by a regular rage for speculation; if circumstances are favourable in other respects, a few mails bringing bad news from India, a panic in New York, etc., will very soon prove that many a virtuous citizen has been up to all kinds of sharp practice on the quiet.

And these crucial ill-tidings from overstocked markets must surely come soon. Massive shipments continue to leave for China and India, and yet the advices are nothing out of the ordinary; indeed, Calcutta is decidedly overstocked, and here and there native dealers are going bankrupt. I don't believe that prosperity will continue beyond October or November — even Peter Ermen is becoming worried....
-letter to Marx, 24 August 1852

Good yucks huh? Maybe not.
Here are the bits that precede and follow his market report:
...There seems little doubt about the advent of the crisis, even if the recent bankruptcies were no more than precursors. Unfortunately the harvests in north-cast Germany, Poland and Russia show signs of being passable, and in places even good. Here the recent good weather has likewise borne fruit. But France is still in the soup, and that’s enough to be going on with....
The old boy is looking for a famine to get the revolution going:
...At all events, whether a revolution is immediately produced — immediately, i.e. in 6-8 months — very largely depends on the intensity of the crisis. The poor harvest in France makes it look as though something is going to happen there; but if the crisis becomes chronic and the harvest turns out after all a little better than expected, we might even have to wait until 1854.
Dude was a straight-up sociopath, know what I'm sayin'?