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Weekly Readings: Volume I

November 27, 2012

I have no idea how to write a blog. Accordingly, I have no idea why I made a blog.  I don’t know what I want to write about, nor can I think of an interesting, unique spin on anything worthy of a new blog. However, in an attempt to procrastinate writing a paper on how the jurisprudence of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas helped to shape the developing field of environmental law, I decided that a good way to get started would be to read other people’s blogs, post links to particularly interesting reads, and talk about them. So here are some interesting things I’ve read this week:

“Revenge of the Reality-Based Community”

This article is lengthy but incredibly worthwhile. Economist Bruce Bartlett, former policy advisor to President Ronald Reagan and Treasury Official under President George W. Bush, discusses his shift from staunchly advocating supply-side economic policy to opening his mind to new approaches that may be more appropriate in this day and age. Beyond the discussion of the rise and fall of economic theories, perhaps the most interesting aspect to the article is how Bartlett describes gradually becoming shunned from what was once his own ideological base for simply proposing new ideas.

“I’ve paid a heavy price, both personal and financial, for my evolution from comfortably within the Republican Party and conservative movement to a less than comfortable position somewhere on the center-left. Honest to God, I am not a liberal or a Democrat. But these days, they are the only people who will listen to me. When Republicans and conservatives once again start asking my opinion, I will know they are on the road to recovery.”

He also explains a phenomenon that he calls “epistemic closure,” or a kind of close-mindedness he observed in the modern conservative movement that creates impediments to any real progress.

“Among the interesting reactions to my book is that I was banned from Fox News. My publicist was told that orders had come down from on high that it was to receive no publicity whatsoever, not even attacks. Whoever gave that order was smart; attacks from the right would have sold books. Being ignored was poison for sales. I later learned that the order to ignore me extended throughout Rupert Murdoch’s empire. For example, I stopped being quoted in the Wall Street Journal. Awhile back, a reporter who left the Journal confirmed to me that the paper had given her orders not to mention me. Other dissident conservatives, such as David Frum and Andrew Sullivan, have told me that they are banned from Fox as well.”

Bartlett’s piece provides a truly fascinating insight from a man unafraid to adapt his ideology across the spectrum.

“No One is Ever Wrong Anymore”

I recently discovered The Reformed Broker, the blog of financial advisor Joshua Brown, who brings the unique perspective of having spent years as a stock broker and quitting after becoming disillusioned with the industry. He provides a blunt and honest approach to the market that does not tread into the territory of cliche cynicism.

“Assume that most people in finance are good, some are scumbags and all of them are inherently flawed human beings and biased business people trying to sway you and your capital in their direction.  There is nothing wrong with this, it just is.  It will never change, even if Dodd and Frank and Sarbanes and Oxley holed up in Hawaii, had a vicious foursome as the waves of the Pacific lapped against the shore, produced a love child and crowned it Emperor of All Things Financial.”

This article in particular criticizes the tendency of brokers and analysts to never admit their own mistakes. He points to public statements from the likes of fund manager Bruce Berkowitz (which he summarizes as “I wasn’t wrong, the market was.”) and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (whose concession speech was “long on speech and short on concession.”).

He suggests the seemingly now-unpopular opinion that when looking to others for advice, guidance or opinions (be it financial or anything else for that matter) perhaps those who freely admit, acknowledge and analyze their own mistakes  are wiser than those who like to think they have made none.


From → Weekly Readings

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