Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Seeking Lehman

Every so often I discover writers/bloggers/analysts and find their writing so compelling that I end up 'bingeing' on their output for a time. Ben Hunt is one such a writer and also Chief Investment Strategist at Salient Partners.

Ben writes like Adam Curtis edits: sampling and savouring an eclectic mix of movies, novels and plays to form powerful and compelling insights into contemporary politics, economics and finance, with some investment guidance along the way. Though it's usually a lot clearer where Hunt is going with his narrative than where Curtis is going (sometimes even after the latter has been and gone).

A few examples - first up from a brilliant essay on Virtue Signaling:
Look, I get it. The Democratic candidate isn’t Clinton, it’s Clinton™. Having chosen (or more accurately, anointed) a profoundly hypocritical and opportunistic pragmatic candidate, Democratic mouthpieces are now in the uncomfortable position of manufacturing enthusiasm rather than channeling enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is something you can easily fake when you’re winning big. But when the game gets tight … when it looks like (gulp!) the game might go the other way … well, that’s when thoughts of self-preservation and virtue signaling start to creep into the most adamant Democratic partisan. In fact, particularly the most adamant Democratic partisans. They WANT to believe. But Clinton™ is just so hard to sell out FOR.
He's equally scathing about Trump by the way.

And one of his best, on Magical Thinking (you'll never think the same way about Central Bankers and eggs ever again):
It matters whether or not we call things by their proper names, because the words and the spells motivate human behavior like nothing else. It matters whether or not we sleepwalk our way through our own fin de siècle, because the really bad people and the really bad ideas that periodically wreck our world can’t be wished away. It matters whether or not we become courtiers ourselves, because the courtiers always fall the farthest. The problem with magical thinking run amok and its perpetuation of a fantasy world is that sooner or later the dream of the delusional king becomes a real world nightmare for real world people. It’s time to wake up.
Finally on The Narrative Machine:
I’ve written at some length about Brexit and the Narrative that emerged in its immediate aftermath, a Narrative that not only stopped the immediate sell-off in global risk assets in its tracks, but actually reversed the market decline and drove financial asset prices to new highs. To recap, I called Brexit a Bear Stearns event rather than a Lehman event, predicting that creators of Common Knowledge (what game theory calls Missionaries) would successfully characterize the event as an idiosyncratic fluke rather than a systemic risk, exactly as the collapse of Bear Stearns was portrayed in the spring of 2008. In other words, Brexit was NOT a Humpty Dumpty moment, where all the Fed’s horses and all the Fed’s men couldn’t put the egg shell back together again.

Do, as they say, read the whole thing.

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