Monday, September 28, 2009

Endless Patterns

Here's part of the cheery beginning of James Kuntsler's blog entry today.

Whatever else appears to be going on in the upper stories and verdigris-tinged turrets of capital finance -- currency rackets, gold switcheroos, interest rate arbitrage games, concealment of losses under rugs and behind curtains, Chinese fire drills performed by Spanish prisoners, executive three-card-monte set-ups, boardroom work-arounds, accounting quicksteps, Peter-to-Paul-shuffles, check kitings, pigeon drops, Ponzi schemes, hugger-muggers, bezels, shucks, jives, and enough monkeyshines to make Lord Greystroke cry for mercy -- apart, in other words, from business-as-usual, such as it is these days, on Wall Street, there is a rising collective sense of anxious expectation that things are about to shake loose in the sad-ass shell of what remains of our economy.  And the most perplexing part is that there hardly seems any safe place to preserve one's savings.

Really gives you a warm fuzzy, no? Well, nobody reads Jim Kuntsler to feel good. (BTW, what I wouldn't give to have his talent for pouring out wonderful metaphors. Half the fun of Kuntsler is the gonzo writing ability he's got.) The upshot of the piece today is he doesn't trust experts, especially economists with all their computer models, reams of data and numbers--doesn't take a genius to distrust those people--to know what's going to happen. And he says he's not going to make any prognostications of his own, even if we're headed for awful inflation or awful deflation--although it will certainly be one or the other--having been off on the timing many times before. Instead, he's going to hold off any kind of prediction and just finish writing his novel. Good for you, Jim.

One of the respondents to the Kuntsler post, one "Walt," put it best: 

Reality is simply too complex to confidently predict the future, especially for economists whose existing viewpoints are the predicate of prophecy. We believe patterns we discern everywhere. They are endless.
Yes, oil is at or past peak. Yes, global temperatures are rising. Yes, our economy is a casino where the odds favor the house. That house is corrupt.
Still, we don't know confidently because the kaleidoscope is three-dimensional. We think we see something only to be disappointed. But the signs are still ominous. We know something is going to happen and it's likely to be bad. How bad? We don't know.

This is exactly what I think. If there's one thing that really gets me going, it's being confronted by unapologetic certitude in the face of mind-numbing complexity. I don't trust simple answers, ever. Because, except in Fantasyland, there are no simple problems.
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