Saturday, November 22, 2014

An Antidote to Magical Thinking

Here is a link to an opinion piece I really enjoyed from today's Boston Globe, by Carlo Rotella, Director of American studies at Boston College. [If you tried the link earlier, please click again on the article title, as I have repaired the link.]

The Boston Globe | Opinion

Why we need financial doomsayers

By Carlo Rotella | GLOBE COLUMNIST | NOVEMBER 22, 2014

Rotella begins by assuring us that he has little interest in finance, but "pounces on" each issue of Jeremy Grantham's quarterly newsletter. Why?

"To begin with, he’s a doomsayer, a Cassandra with a bracingly clear vision of looming difficulties... I appreciate doomsaying as an art form..."

Note: The article uses a more current picture of Grantham than this one from Google Images.

He quotes Grantham on one specific challenge we avoid facing: "We owe almost everything we have had in the way of scientific and economic progress and the growth of the world’s food supplies and population to fossil fuels" which are becoming harder and costlier to produce.

I love his conclusion about our self-delusion and (intellectually) lazy self-indulgence:

"We want to hear good news and assume that present conditions will persist, we tend to be bad with numbers and uncertainty, and we take comfort in short-term-oriented herd behavior of the sort that characterizes the financial industry. We need doomsayers like Grantham to counteract these tendencies."

The quote in a text box in the article goes beyond Greenspan's irrational exhuberance: "Grantham’s quarterly letters feel like an antidote to the magical thinking purveyed by Congress and hysterically optimistic stock-pickers."

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