Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Fed, Lunatics and Anonymity

I want you to take a moment if you haven't already, and click the link here and watch CNBC's interview with former Reagan OMB director David Stockman. You don't have to wait very long for the money quote for at about the 1:30 mark Stockman unleashes with this classic that will go down in history;

"The Fed, and the lunatics who are running it, are basically telling the whole world untruths about the cost of money, about the cost of risk, about how you allocate capital."

And yes people that just about sums things up. Regular readers may notice that this very fact is something I have been harping on since this Twilight zone began. I also realize that we live in a country where pedigree and breeding count for much more than substance so maybe just maybe people might listen to a former OMB Director rather than an anonymous blogger. 

While on the topic of anonymity, which is a subject I have wanted to write about for some  time, I have a few things to say. Those not wishing a cure for insomnia may want to change the web channel now.

Few discuss it but I'd like to point out the distinct and sacred place anonymous writing and speech has in this country's society. I have come across some lucid well thought out defences of anonymous speech with few better than "Tyler Durden's" over @ZeroHedge, who put it this way;

"Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and the First Amendment in particular; to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation- and their ideas from suppression- at the hand of an intolerant society."

We have all been taught or told the admonition not to judge a book by its cover yet few seem to remember this when the subject of anonymity comes up. People tend to forget that Mark Twain wrote under the psydonym 'Samuel Langhorne Clemens'. Founding fathers Alexander Hamilton, James Hamilton and others wrote under the nom de plume 'Publius' for the Federalist Papers. The widely read Economist magazine is basically and entirely anonymous publication. 20 yr old college juniors could be writing in it, with the help of fancy proof reading and editing gurus, for all we know.

Think to the venom of the economic debate in this country we have. I have often said that if many of the economic and financial pronouncements, analysis and conclusions of Fed governors, Treasury officials, senior Wall St. executives, Ivy league MBA's were uttered by a high school drop out who is roofing your house (no offence to roofers the country over who bust their ass but I need an example right now) we would dismiss them as horseshit but when an Ivy league educated, former Wall St. executive tells the planet Armageddon is coming if we don't bail out his golf buddies we check our brains at the door as we bow down and worship thy pedigreed guru.

Martin Luther King Jr's famous quote "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character" epitomizes the not judging a book by its cover mantra

I bring this up because Finance and Economics has an extraordinary infatuation with pedigree and your DNA stock. I have seen statistics that are a bit dated but I would believe to still hold true that approximately 90+% of Econ faculty members have their PhD from a top 10 school. Yes, I know top 10 based on what? Content of the work, the merit of the ideas or on the DNA makeup of the family semen?  

Years ago I got into a civil yet passionate debate with an Administration professor I had- who was also the VP Academic at my university -regarding school policy of putting your name and student number on all papers and exams. I argued vehemently but without success for 'student ID number only' as this would remove bias on the part of professors. I had seen another university's study showing a student final grade hovered very near his first piece of works grade. So if you first paper was a B odds showed you were B+ to B- range bound. The statistical spreadsheets bore this out. I do know of people who submitted papers that 6 years prior were good for an A but for a C+ student were only good for a B-. Needless to say he was a good man with a good heart who I will always respect and admire but he was caught in a system that as they saying goes "the nail that sticks out gets hammered".

Either way I hope you enjoyed what Stockman had to say, and maybe just maybe in the future we all can look more closely at the content of the idea rather that the packaging said idea comes in. Have a great day!

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