Policy, Politics, Psychology, Real life, Social development, Truth

Freedom of speech should be sacred

“There is no god higher than truth.” – Mohandas Gandhi

Update: just hours after I posted this article, Amazon.com sadly de-listed my book, “The Killing of William Browder.” (I assure you, there was no trace of hate speech in my book)

Across the Western world, government bureaucracies and large media corporations like Amazon, Google, Twitter and Facebook have been increasingly proactive in suppressing “hate speech,” always with bestest of intentions. However, these efforts are unnecessary and will likely prove counterproductive.

Warning about the danger of disastrous rise of misplaced power” in our societies, Dwight Eisenhower said in his January 1961 farewell address that, Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” can curb the power of the state, “so that security and liberty may prosper together.” Freedom of expression is the essential means of keeping the citizenry alert and knowledgeable. As such it should not be suppressed under any pretext, but encouraged and cultivated. Continue reading

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Psychology, Real life, Social development, Something completely different, Truth

Regarding the virtue of “hard work”

In the Western world, the idea of “working hard” is usually treated as a virtue in its own right. Any time I thought to question this “virtue” I’d invariably find myself on the defensive, as though my questioning of hard work was an affirmation of its opposite, laziness.

Whatever worthy objectives you want to achieve in life, the chances are, you have to work hard to attain them. Many objectives justify such hard work, like wanting to set the world record in some athletic discipline or to become a virtuoso musician or dancer. The same could be said about wanting to write a book, circumnavigate the globe, or any number of such feats. But people inclined to such endeavors do not need to be taught the value of hard work, so its cultural affirmation as a virtue would be superfluous and silly. Continue reading

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Asset management, Behavioral finance, Commodity price, Commodity risk, Market psychology, Market trends, Psychology, Risk management, Trading, Trend following

Lessons in asset valuation: the great warrants bubble of China

Investors exert a great deal of intellectual effort to determine the correct valuation of securities. Economic value is central to our decision making and it plays a major role in our intuitive psyche. In daily life, when we buy a loaf of bread or a tank of gasoline, we tend to have a good idea about what we think is cheap and what’s expensive. We like bargains, don’t enjoy being ripped off, and just as we are inclined to shop for value as consumers, we find value investing intuitively appealing. But here’s the critical difference between buying goods and investing: shopping for investments is speculative while buying stuff isn’t, and speculation activates the part of our mental circuitry that can heat up to a boiling point and overwhelm any rational consideration of value. Continue reading

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Asset management, Behavioral finance, Bitcoin, Commodity price, Market psychology, Market trends, Psychology, Risk management, Trading, Trend following

Of Bitcoins and bubbles

In my book, “Mastering Uncertainty in Commodities Trading” I argued that security prices “are driven by human psychology and its self-stoking collective action that can sustain major trends spanning many years.” That’s because in speculative decision making, our views about the actions of others can entirely override our rational appraisal of the underlying asset value.

The most recent example of this is the price of Bitcoin that has surged from below $400 in January last year to $4,300 this week. When we set up the Altana Digital Currency Fund several years ago, many people thought that digital currencies were just a strange fad and investors continued to show little interest in them – until very recently. Continue reading

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Asset management, Behavioral finance, Commodity risk, Complexity, Hedging, Market psychology, Market research, Market trends, Psychology, Risk management, Something completely different, Trading, Trend following, Uncategorized

Speculation in the natural world

Nature has … some sort of arithmetical-geometrical coordinate system, because nature has all kinds of models. What we experience of nature is in models, and all of nature’s models are so beautiful. – R. Buckminster Fuller

Nature’s survival strategies that bear the most similarities to activities of market speculators are those of predators. To live, predators must hunt and this activity includes elements of speculation. Like trading, predation requires knowledge, skills, judgment and decision-making. It also entails risk and uncertainty. A predator can’t be sure where her next meal is coming from. Each hunt is an investment of resources; it involves the risk of injury and loss of energy expended in failed hunts, which tend to be more frequent than successful ones. To survive and procreate, predators must consistently generate a positive return on this investment. Too much of a losing streak could turn out to be fatal. In his book, “The Serengeti Lion: A Study of Predator-Prey Relations” George B. Schaller painstakingly documented the details of hundreds of hunts by large cats in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. We have all seen wildlife television programs showing lions and cheetahs hunting, but Schaller’s work offers a much richer account of the life of predatory cats including their hunting behavior.

The anatomy of a hunt Continue reading

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Asset management, Behavioral finance, Commodity price, Complexity, Economics, Expertise, Hedging, Market psychology, Psychology, Stock market, Trading, Trend following

The illusion of expertise in financial markets

Participants in financial markets have to deal with uncertainty on a daily basis. Their need to research and understand markets has given rise to a massive industry delivering security prices, reports and expert analyses to traders and investors seeking to make sense of the markets and predict how they might unfold in the future.

The need to understand stuff is innate to our psychology: when something happens, we almost reflexively want to know why it happened. But the compulsion to pair an effect with its cause sometimes gets us jumping to conclusions. If such conclusions turn out to be mistaken or irrelevant, they could prove useless – or something worse. Consider two recent titles from the ZeroHedge blog, published 89 minutes apart: Continue reading

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Media, Policy, Politics, Psychology, Truth

Zika hype and how the media fail to serve us

Noam Chomsky wrote that, “Citizens of the democratic societies should undertake a course of intellectual self defense to protect themselves from manipulation and control, and to lay the basis for meaningful democracy.”

Any time the mainstream media latch onto an issue and make it a big story you can be sure that it’ll be spun, doctored and distorted so that the public can’t take a well-informed position on the subject. Examples of this are countless and pervasive. About a year ago, the Zika virus story suddenly burst forth, seemingly out of nowhere, linking the mosquito-borne virus with frightful birth deformities in infants of affected mothers, including microcephaly. The story led to mass trip cancellations, abortions, unnecessary carpet-spraying against mosquitoes (which killed millions of bees), and much hysteria in general. As it turns out, the virus is harmless. Continue reading

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