Saturday, February 6, 2021
Thursday, February 4, 2021
...............................about hedge fund managers.
My point here is more about politics than finance. Our class enemy are not evil geniuses practising some arcane magic; investing successfully requires little intellect. Instead, they are beneficiaries of emergent processes such as principal-agent failures and deference towards the rich and of the cronyism that gives them special treatment from the state. There are no wizards, just common little humbugs.
Up here in the High Doganate, we are reactionaries, not squishy “conservatives.” True, there is only one of us up here, but I speak for the majority. The number of politicians we trust is even smaller. We don’t think there is a political solution, to anything.
-David Warren, from this blog post
..........................the importance of learning to make fewer stupid decisions. Morgan Housel concurs:
Most of this industry is devoted to finding greatness, which is inevitable because it’s what captures attention. But an occasional great decision can quickly become irrelevant unless you consistently avoid the blunders that move the needle even more. It’s not exciting, but we should spend more effort on ensuring we’re capable of doing the average thing all the time before we spend a moment trying to do a great thing some of the time.
“Let scholastic sophisters entangle themselves in their own cobwebs; I am resolved to take my own existence, and the existence of other things, upon trust; and to believe that snow is cold, and honey sweet, whatever they may say to the contrary. He must either be a fool, or want to make a fool of me, that would reason me out of my reason and senses.”
"So the conclusion is not, 'Do nothing and a great idea will come to you.' The conclusion is, 'Do everything because you never know where the great idea will come from.'" . . . "Remember: It's easy to experiment, but hard to change. None of these people started with a grand vision and then worked toward it. These people were not goal setters or planners; they were adventurers." . . . "Each quandary is a call for experimentation. Each experiment a question put to the world. Each answer is a journey. Let life plan the itinerary. Your job is to pack light and bring a camera."
Wednesday, February 3, 2021
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
What is strange about the modern world, in other words, is its utter economic unpredictability. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb puts it, the Great Enrichment was a "black swan" event, deeply unpredictable, not to be reduced to a probability distribution with finite variance. The premodern world, by contrast, was highly predictable in economic shape. Dukes would go on collecting rents, merchants would go on making modest fortunes from trade, peasants would expect to earn what their fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers had earned—unless they could pull ahead by tricking neighbor Nat, the fool, into selling the Nether field for less than it was worth.
-Deidre Nansen McCloskey, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital Or Institutions Enriched The World
Think of your many years of procrastination; how the gods have repeatedly granted you further periods of grace, of which you have taken no advantage. It is time now to realize the nature of the universe to which you belong, and of what controlling power whose offspring you are; and to understand that your time has a limit set to it. Use it, then, to advance your enlightenment; or it will be gone, and never in your power again.
-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2:4
Monday, February 1, 2021
If we don't understand the statistics, we're likely to be badly mistaken about the way the world is. It is all too easy to convince ourselves that whatever we've seen with our own eyes is the whole truth; it isn't. . . .
And yet, if we understand only the statistics, we understand little. We need to be curious about the world we see, hear, touch, and smell as well as the world we can examine through a spreadsheet.
My second piece of advice, then, its to try to take both perspectives—the worm's eye view as well as the bird's eye view. They will usually show you something different, and they will sometimes pose a puzzle: how could both views be true? That should be the beginning of an investigation.
Life is an adventure of passion, risk, danger, laughter, beauty, love; a burning curiosity to go with the action to see what it is all about, to go search for a pattern of meaning, to burn one's bridges because you're never going to go back anyway, and to live to the end.
The greatest enemy of individual freedom is the individual himself.
Conflict is the essential core of a free and open society. If one were to project the democratic way of life in the form of a musical score, its major theme would be the harmony of dissonance.
Political realists see the world as it is: an arena of power politics moved primarily by perceived immediate self-interests, where morality is rhetorical rationale for expedient action and self-interest.
Humor is essential to a successful tactician, for the most potent weapons known to mankind are satire and ridicule. A sense of humor enables him to maintain his perspective and see himself for what he really is: a bit of dust that burns for a fleeting second. A sense of humor is incompatible with the complete acceptance of any dogma, any religious, political, or economic prescription for salvation. It synthesizes with curiosity, irreverence, and imagination.
Curiosity, irreverence, imagination, sense of humor, a free and open mind, an acceptance of the relativity of values and of the uncertainty of life, all inevitably fuse into the kind of person whose greatest joy is creation.
In this world laws are written for the lofty aim of “the common good” and then acted out in life on the basis of the common greed.
The human spirit glows from that small inner light of doubt whether we are right, while those who believe with complete certainty that they possess the right are dark inside and darken the world outside with cruelty, pain, and injustice.
There can be no darker or more devastating tragedy than the death of man’s faith in himself and in his power to direct his future.
Sunday, January 31, 2021
For at present we all tend to one mistake; we tend to make politics too important. We tend to forget how huge a part of a man's life is the same under a Sultan and a Senate, under Nero or St Louis. Daybreak is a never-ending glory, getting out of bed is a never-ending nuisance; food and friends will be welcomed; work and strangers must be accepted and endured; birds will go bedwards and children won't, to the end of the last evening. And the worst peril is that in our just modern revolt against intolerable accidents we may have unsettled those things that alone make daily life tolerable. It will be an ironic tragedy if, when we have toiled to find rest, we find we are incurably restless. It will be sad if, when we have worked for our holiday, we find we have unlearnt everything but work. The typical modern man is the insane millionaire who has drudged to get money, and then finds he cannot enjoy even money. There is danger that the social reformer may silently and occultly develop some of the madness of the millionaire whom he denounces. He may find that he has learnt how to build playgrounds but forgotten how to play. He may agitate for peace and quiet, but only propagate his own mental agitation. In his long fight to get a slave a half-holiday he may angrily deny those ancient and natural things, the zest of being, the divinity of man, the sacredness of simple things, the health and humour of the earth, which alone make a half-holiday even half a holiday or a slave even half a man.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton, from his essay, What Is Right With The World
Today's persuaders don't want you to stop and think. They want you to hurry up and feel.
Don't be rushed.
.........................................about feed-back loops:
Find a feedback loop and you will find people who underestimate how crazy prices can get, how famous a person can become, how hard it can be to change people’s minds, how irreparable a reputation can be, and how tiny events can compound into something huge.
Nor does talent exist in a vacuum. Outstanding performers in part of a company may, when transferred, suddenly fail. . . . Hypotheses abounded but what everyone learned is that ability and environment are inextricably linked. As anyone who's suffered a terrible boss will recognize: given the right circumstances, everybody can be made to fail. Because achievement derives in part from context, forecasting individual talent omits half the picture.
-Margaret Heffernan, Uncharted: How To Navigate The Future
* although the weather people seem to have gotten the latest snow forecast right
I am approaching the subject of this lecture with considerable trepidation. I know that among my hearers there are professional historians whom I greatly respect, and I should not at all wish to seem desirous of instructing them as to how their work should be done. I shall write as a consumer, not a producer. In shops they have a maxim: "The customer is always right." But academic persons (among whom I should wish to include myself) are more lordly than shopkeepers: if the consumer does not like what he is offered, that is because he is a Philistine and because he does not know what is good for him. Up to a point I sympathize with this attitude. It would never do for a mathematician to try to please the general reader. . . . But history seems to me to be in a different category. The multiplication table, though useful, can hardly be called beautiful. It is seldom that essential wisdom in regard to human destiny is to be found by remembering even its more difficult items. History, on the other hand, is so I shall contend a desirable part of everybody's mental furniture in the same kind of way as is generally recognized in the case of poetry. If history is to fulfill this function, it can only do so by appealing to those who are not professional historians.
-Bertrand Russell, as excerpted from his 1954 essay, History As An Art
One generation's masterpiece can obviously be then next generation's colossal bore, which does not change the nature of the object in the least.