Archive for March, 2008

I’ve been thinking for a while that the Pink Panther films hold some useful lessons (no, really), but not exactly the ones that the Econophysics blog has come up with in a timeless post from late January.

In a virtual way, I have been standing right next to Econophysics blog for nearly a year. Right here, to be precise. But, for all sorts of reasons, I’ve been looking the other way, and it’s about time I offered some acknowledgement. For those who don’t follow finance, let this be a little pointer to someone who knows a lot more about it than I do and can offer up some enviable insights that the Knackered Hack can only really prod bluntly at. So this is a long overdue hat-tip to a blog that can help explain what has been going on, and make some judgements about the politics of it all, and whether the tools of finance have been used wisely or not. It’s also worthy of note that only yesterday Econophysics was listed at I can’t imagine how that might happen; maybe the panther, or the invisible hand, strikes again.

As Clouseau might say: “Monsieur Econophysique iz a critique of ze système yeu kneur…” — the system that delivered us the credit crunch, that is. In this post, he explains how those responsible for the crisis manage to get us to look the other way, to focus on the rogue trader like SocGen’s Jerôme Kerviel for example, while a more sophisticated fraud is being perpetrated. Econophysics characterises this fraud as a hypocritical shrugging of the shoulders by its architects while they simultaneously seek a government bailout on a millennial scale. These same people would scorn support for a social system that might aim to rescue more quotidian personal recklessness or misfortune lower down the social scale. To quote Econophysics:-

What about the politicians that looked the other way when all of this was going on? They weren’t being wined and dined by the Jerome Kerviels of the world nor were they concerned about what would happen to ordinary Joes and Joannes that voted for them when the supposedly non-rogue, but (in some ways) far more crazy financial dealings of those who were wining and dining officials blew up. No, it was the business-world’s equivalents of ‘Sir Charles Lytton’ [David Niven] that did attend the Grandes Ecoles, the Ivy Leagues, etc., that got our leaders and regulators to look the other way.

And looking the other way is at the heart of our crisis. One of the basic tricks of magicians is to use devices that distract the audiences’ attention from what they should be focused in on in order to not get tricked … smoke and mirrors. A good magician knows that human beings are more likely to be interested in the stumbling and bumbling Inspector Clouseau rather than the coldly calculating Phantom.

The mess that we are in is because we believed in a mirage, a possibility suggested in an excellent article by David Leonhardt of the New York Times. Just as Inspector Clouseau repeatedly escaped death by pure dumb luck, we had managed to escape financial disaster (until now that is) by Clouseau-esque good fortune.

I’ve been wanting, for some time, to write about what I’d term “the Clouseau Complex”: Peter Sellers’ depiction of lucky incompetence as brought to life by Inspector Clouseau. For me, Clouseau is the comic epitome of what so many of us know about success and failure: that there are some people who can get themselves into positions of authority and continue to succeed while everyone who comes into contact with them (except their superiors and the general public, perhaps) knows the entirely random route through which their successful results have been achieved. But my real-life examples of the Clouseau Complex will have to wait for another post.

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Google can be a cruel, deflating thing. You come up with a great idea (like “the Stand-up Economist”, or Arsebook) and then, by googling, you discover that someone else with a greater talent has gotten there first. Or possibly second, but they got off their backside and actually did something about it.

So, hats off to Yoram Bauman. Yoram claims to be “the world’s first and only stand-up economist”. By chance, the Knackered Hackette and I also coined the title “the stand-up economist” a few years back. But we stuffed it away in a miscellaneous ideas file where it languished. Frankly, it wasn’t going to get off the starting blocks here at Knackered Towers as we were lacking the two principal incentives:- Continue reading ‘the stand-up economist’

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Tweet A friend sent me this story, which has Nassim eating dim sum somewhere in London with Bloomberg. For those who did not think my own coverage (almost a year ago now) contained enough finance, this more than makes up for it. But then, I think we now know that bad things happen big time […]

Tweet Another public service announcement to attract readers to decision science lectures in London. After Dan Ariely last week at a the LSE, there is a bit of a cluster of the titans with Bruno Frey coming to the London Business School next week. Dan Goldstein has more details at Decision Science News. Wikipedia says […]

img075 For those anxious for more Kino to justify my pathetic plea to help recover that lost guitar, something to keep you going till I get more of a handle on all that material.

This was about as close as I got to Viktor Tsoi: too close, as you can see, for my camera to focus on him properly. As Iwan pointed out a good resource that archives a lot of the tracks online, here is some music to finish off the long Easter weekend (in the UK at least). Ironically entitled Poslednyi Geroi (The Last Hero), it was my favourite track from the album Noch’ (Night), released shortly after I met Viktor, Yuri etc.

I have not had time to select a good translation — that will remain a work-in-progress. As there is a lot of music I enjoy in English without understanding the words (even as a native English speaker) and I was singing uncomprehendingly in Latin over the weekend, I hope you won’t mind too much.

The Last Hero, Kino – Press Play

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