March 2nd, 2009
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| posted by david
When three bodies spin around each other, their movements can be approximated if there is a dominant one such as is the case with the Sun, the Earth and Mars. If this status quo is disrupted, no super-computer can accurately predict the movement of three spheres revolving around each other under a simple force like gravity, a fact, whose implications, few people seem to register.
The economy has many more than three moving parts and the status quo has been disrupted, becoming temporarily unpredictable. No esoteric hedge fund model on earth will guarantee consistent short term gain until the system settles down, and you do not need to know anything about economics to be certain of this. It doesn’t make sense to look at wobbles, only past trajectories.
Although historians and academics as often perceived as quixotic theorists who are naive to the machinations of the real world, this is a period when the only reference point is the long term, where the strategists trump the tacticians and where short term speculation is largely pointless even if there are colossal opportunities based upon secular trends, because there is proven unpredictability coupled with massive social and political dangers.
This is a period when the people that smoke pipes and wear cardigans, draw modest salaries that are guaranteed for life and reside in collegiate ivory towers are suddenly in a relatively envious position and get listened to, perhaps for no other reason that people are fickle and don’t listen to ‘losers’.
Nevertheless, they should be the ones listened to for a bit. You shouldn’t be reading the newspaper every day (they won’t be around for much longer anyway), or watching the stomach churning lurches in the stock market, perhaps you shouldn’t even be looking at the weekly snapshot of the Economist magazine, but you probably should be reading the canny, non-hysterical analysis of someone like Niall Ferguson.
We’ve previously linked to clips of Harvard historian, Niall Ferguson’s excellent series to accompany his latest book, ‘The Ascent of Money’, which will sell much more owing to the descent of the latter. PBS have now put the whole series online.