Posts filed under “Really, really bad calls”
“We are in the business of making mistakes. The only difference between the winners and the losers is that the winners make small mistakes, while the losers make big mistakes.” -Ned Davis
I began my career in finance on a trading desk. You learn some things very early on in that sort of situation. One of the most important things is that while it’s OK to be wrong, it can be fatal to stay wrong.
Unfortunately, that standard doesn’t apply to people whose work isn’t evaluated on a daily and objective basis via their profit and loss results. In many fields, such as politics and policy-making, there are lots of shades of gray when it comes to being right or wrong.
And quite bluntly, that is a shame. As a society and a nation, we would all be better off if the people who are consistently wrong paid some sort of price for those errors. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen enough these days.
Some bad policy decisions will lead to the occasional elected official being turned out of office. That — unfortunately — is the exception, not the rule. I doubt history will rank George W. Bush and Barack Obama among our great presidents , but both were re-elected despite being unpopular. Between gerrymandered congressional districts and apathetic voters, even the most incompetent elected official has almost lifetime tenure.
What underlies all of this nonrecourse bad policy? It is much more than corporate lobbying and partisan politics. The worst of today’s political malfeasance is being driven by failed ideologies. Zombie ideas that refuse to die have become enshrined in our collective intellectual legacy. The people behind these have been insulated from the economic costs they impose.
Blame the billionaires.
The bond market seems to have had its own flash crash this week. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond dipped briefly below 2 percent, as panicked equity sellers looked for a safe place to park their cash. Treasuries, of course, are the world’s option of choice, the safest and most liquid port during…Read More
Over the years, I have discussed how little I care for predictions (see “The Folly of Forecasts“). We have chatted about how poor Wall Street is at making forecasts, wondered why they keep at it and revealed the secret to making better predictions. But the bottom line is that you humans are terrible at forecasting…Read More
One of the things I like to do in all of my musings is to find some thing or person who is wrong about an investing-related subject, then trying to figure out where they went awry. On occasion, small pearls of wisdom can be derived from this analytical process, as in this discussion on narrative….Read More
The human capacity for making bad decisions about technology seems to be limitless. In many ways, this parallels bad approaches to trading and investing: Lots of unfounded rumors, emotional decision-making, poor risk-reward analysis, an inability to perform simple math. The spasms of technology silliness surrounding the iPhone 6 are just the latest in a never-ending…Read More
Another classic from Jason Zweig’s archives: On this day in 1988: Buy Stocks? No Way! hollers a headline in Time magazine. Wild horses couldnt’ drag me back into stocks. Rather than gamble in this market, I might as well go to Las Vegas, retail investor Curtis Beusman tells Time. Eleven months after last years…Read More
Cassandra Does Tokyo is a former hedge fund manager and ex NY Trader, who is now living abroad. This was originally published on September 23, 2014 ~~~ When people prattle-on about tax, it is mostly made from ground-level, with a focus on tax rates. When my most rabid libertarian friends weigh in on the subject,…Read More
Today is an auspicious anniversary, though it’s one I suspect many people may not recall. On Sept. 23, 1998, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and William McDonough, then president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, managed to orchestrate the rescue of the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management. It was a strange…Read More