November 1, 2013
The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.
– Albert Einstein
Genius is a rising stock market.
– John Kenneth Galbraith
Any plan conceived in moderation must fail when circumstances are set in extremes.
– Prince Metternich
You can almost feel it in the fall air (unless you are in the Southern Hemisphere). The froth and foam on markets of all shapes and sizes all over the world. It is an exhilarating feeling, and the pundits who populate the media outlets are bubbling over with it. There is nothing like a rising market to help lift our mood. Unless of course, as Prof. Kindleberger famously cautioned (see below), we are not participating in that rising market. Then we feel like losers. But what if the rising market is … a bubble? Are we smart enough to ride and then step aside before it bursts? Research says we all think that we are, yet we rarely demonstrate the actual ability.
This week we'll think about bubbles. Specifically, we'll have a look at part of the chapter on bubbles from my latest book, Code Red, which we launched last week. At the end of the letter, for your amusement, is a link to a short video of what you might hear if Jack Nicholson were playing the part of Ben Bernanke (or Janet Yellen?) on the witness stand, defending the extreme measures of central banks. A bit of a spoof, in good fun, but there is just enough there to make you wonder what if … and then smile. Economics can be so much fun if we let it.
I decided to use this part of the book when numerous references to bubbles popped into my inbox this week. When these bubbles finally burst, let no one exclaim that they were black swans, unforeseen events. Maybe because we have borne witness to so many crashes and bear markets in the past few decades, we have gotten better at discerning familiar patterns in the froth, reminiscent of past painful episodes.
Continue reading here.