View Full Version : Mobs, Messiahs, and Cauliflower…..

09-03-07, 01:56 PM
CLEVER CAULIFLOWER - BILL BONNER AND LILA RAJIVA (http://mindbodypolitic.com/?p=357)

Authors of Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets: Surviving the Public Spectacle in Finance and Politics (Agora Series) (http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0470112328/ref=sib_dp_pt/105-7681348-4242855#reader-link)

What most men don’t understand is that most of our beliefs about the economy – and everything else – are forms of self-medication — “Stocks for the long run,” “Globalization is good,” “Dow 36,000.” We repeat slogans to ourselves because everyone else does. Man is first of all a herd animal and fears nothing more than not being part of the herd.

In fact, the reason lies even deeper, in the deceptive nature of thought itself, even for instance, in the way we think about risk. Our thinking seems to be skewed only to certain sorts of risk - where what ends up happening depends only on a few stable factors. But often the abnormal event is the one that happens so rarely that it isn’t even reckoned with most of the time.

What we are talking about here is fat tails - events that lie so far outside the normal course of events that we tend to push them equally far away in our consciousness, events that are so devastating that when they do occur, they cancel out every other consideration. There may be only a very slim chance that the human race will be wiped off the face of the earth, it is true. But it would probably pay us to take that slim chance very seriously.

And here we run into the problem with slogans about something like global trade in genetically modified food, for example. Just because a fat-tail disaster might smack us in the face at any moment, does that mean we are in favor of more, say, government regulations on food production?

Here, we are forced to hem and haw. Government regulation tends to be ineffective, in many cases. And since regulators are frequently drawn from the same industries they are supposed to be regulating, we think they tend to be counterproductive in all the others.

So, we are neither prescribing policy nor proscribing it. We are merely grumbling in our curmudgeonly way that we liked the old genetically unmodified world better. We have no desire to eat strawberries armed against frostbite with herring genes or cauliflower with an IQ higher than ours. We like our food au naturel, unrefurbished, unhedged, and in default drive. Unless it is communion wine, any transformations of nature need to pass the smell test first. We need to be protected from them, as surely as we need to be protected from bad checks, assault, murder, and another Michael Jackson trial.

You see our problem, dear reader? We would like the state to stop telling us what to do-whether it is in airports, in our schools, or in our bedrooms — but we dig in our heels equally at efforts by global corporations to improve our water, our potatoes, or our boeuf bourguignon at the expense of our local culture and with subsidies from our tax dollars.