Last month I mentioned my piece on falling scrap prices in China and how that was affecting the people living in a recycling village outside Beijing. The latest issue of the Atlantic has a nice story on the situation from the perspective of international scrap metal traders at a meeting in Shanghai.
So why does the price of scrap matter? Yesterday a reader (Ok, ok–it was my uncle) relayed to me a tale that explains it nicely. In 1985 he arranged for an economist to speak to an association of young executives to which he belonged. At that time the U.S. was still climbing out of a period of economic stagnation. The economist said he looked at the rising price of scrap metal as one of the most reliable measures of an improving economy. You may have heard of the economist. His name is Alan Greenspan.