Frequently Asked Questions
January 1999

Where did you get the idea for

About a year ago (February 1998), I noticed the stock market mania had been going on for a while, with the S&P 500 rising many multiples of earnings.  I was still in the market after ten years but was thinking about getting out.  After doing my research I decided to get out in May 1998.  This turned out to have been excellent timing, since the stealth bear market began then, but I attribute the timing to luck.  Some may say I missed the big ride, but they don't know that my day job depends on the stock market, so diversifying out of it when the risk is high made sense for me.  While doing my research I became fascinated with the phenomenon of financial manias.

From a section on the 1719-1720 South Sea Bubble in Burton G. Malkiel's A Random Walk Down Wall Street, Fourth Edition, page 36:

Whom the gods would destroy, they first ridicule.  Signs that the end was near were demonstrated with the issuance of a pack of South Sea playing cards. Each card contained a caricature of a bubble company, with an appropriate verse inscribed underneath.  One of these, the Puckle Machine Company, was supposed to produce machines discharging both round and square cannonballs and bullets.  Puckle modestly claimed that his machine would make a total revolution in the art of war.  The eight of spades describe it as follows:
      A rare invention to destroy the crowd.
      Of fools at home instead of fools abroad.
      Fear not, my friends, this terrible machine.
      They're only wounded who have shares therein.