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Monday, October 17, 2011

Financial Experts and other Mohicans

There is a line in one of Rulon Hurt’s favorite movies, the 1992 film “Last of the Mohicans” where Cora Munroe, played by Madeleine Stowe, speaking to her fiancé with whom she is disenchanted but who keeps pressuring her to marry him, says, You've complimented me with your persistence and patience, but the decision I've come to is this. I would rather make the gravest of mistakes than surrender my own judgment.”

What a well spoken sentiment! And, oh, how many people wish now they had not ‘surrendered their own judgment” by listening to the experts “complimenting them with their persistence” leading up to the last economic crises.   

But there are so many experts and they are so persuasive! And surprisingly for every expert on one side of an issue there appears to be an equally credible expert on the other. Global warming? Financial deregulation? Corporate taxes? Health care restructuring? Take your pick. Passionate experts, all well versed in the oratorical arts, bombard us daily with their well-researched, well-supported, and contradictory conclusions.

In regards how to fix the U.S. economy, I once saw a two-panel cartoon labeled “Economic Experts”. The first panel was of a huge muscular man in a suit lifting a very small, skinny man off the ground by his lapels and screaming into his face “SAVE!!” The second panel was the identical cartoon with the same two characters but this time the expert is screaming “SPEND!!”

To combat this confusion, I’ve developed a personal 4-point method for sifting through experts:
1. Ignore the arrogant experts. At best, their egos blind them to the facts; at worst their arrogance and lack of humility is a cover-up for deception and ill-intent.
2. Be wary of experts who claim that people who disagree with them are unpatriotic. Okay, I can accept that if someone disagrees with you they are a total idiot – but unpatriotic??? Most people make decisions based on self-interest – let’s not kid ourselves.   
3. Follow the money. History proves that many highly accomplished and well educated people wearing expensive suits can and will defend any position – if paid enough money.
4. Do consider the opinion of experts that you trust but never surrender your own judgment. 

In any case, with these four principles in mind, you might consider viewing the movie “Inside Job”, the winner of the 2010 Oscar for best documentary about the causes of the 2008 world-wide economic meltdown. It shows the experts on both sides of the issue and is a sobering indictment of the U.S. financial industry and the members in both parties who aided and abetted their monstrous fraud. And, by the way, one of the film’s surprising revelations was that those same apologists in the Bush administration who fought regulation of the derivatives industry are alive and well and plying their same trade in the Obama administration today.   

My next posting will be on an interesting email I received in regards the name ‘Yohaba Melekson’. Little did I realize that name's significance when I chose it for the heroine in Einstein’s Trunk.

Best regards,

Jim
Zurich

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