Posts Tagged ‘IT’

Example of mal-investments?dot-com bubble

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

In our previous article, The first step in an economic slowdown?mal-investment in capital, we mentioned that one of the causes for slowdowns in the business cycle is the presence of mal-investments. Mal-investments will eventually have to be liquidated, resulting in a cyclical slowdown of the economy. In that article, we discussed about the structure of capital, which gives rise to the concept of mal-investments, which is unique to the Austrian School of economics. It should be emphasised that unlike other schools of economics, the Austrian School makes a distinction between overinvestment and mal-investment. It is the latter that is of primary concern in Austrian theory. Today, we will look at a real-life example of mal-investments and its effects.

During the dot-com bubble of 1996-2000, the NASDAQ flew from around 1000 to around 5000. Credit for ?investments? were abundant and plentiful. Any stocks related to the Internet were soaring well beyond its fundamentals. Spending on IT projects were mushrooming up everywhere; loss-making dot-com companies were floated; consumer spending, which were fuelled by the monetary print press (and not from sound savings), remained strong; Real-estates in the Silicon Valley sky-rocketed. Indeed, IT investments were running very high.

This is an example of a mal-investment.

Entrepreneurs, as a whole, invested as if all capital goods will be available at their disposal to ensure the success of all their plans. From the hindsight of today, it is clear that this was not true?there were shortages of programmers, network engineers, and technical managers. We recalled the days when a fresh IT graduate, who hardly had any experience and skills on the latest technologies, could fetch a salary of more than AU$50,000! Consequently, all the idealism of wealth through technology crumbled when reality sets in. As many IT start-up companies realised, the cost of staying in business was so prohibitive that eventually, a large number of them had to be liquidated. Today, only a few survivors remained alive. The resulting deflation of the bubble led to a recession (albeit the mildest one ever).