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CSotD: Stop the Game, I want to get off

The Gamestop/Reddit gambit creates one of those “Where do I start?” sorts of days, but certainly Alex (Telegraph.UK) is an excellent place, even though he wasn’t commenting specifically on that.

I often — perhaps too often — admit that Alex can be kind of nerdy for those who have not been immersed in the business world, but I’m not going to get too deeply into the weeds about short-selling and so forth today. There have been plenty of explainers elsewhere anyway.

Today’s Alex brings up the con-man aspects of financial mumbo-jumbo, and whether Clive squirreled away his assets in bitcoins or Beanie Babies or old copies of Superman comics is secondary to his larcenous intent.

The fact is that none of those things have any real intrinsic value, but, then, neither would diamonds, either, if the diamond cartel weren’t at once promoting their value and suppressing their supply.

 

There’s a thing that goes around claiming that the Wizard of Oz is an elaborate fable about bimetallism and other financial issues of 19th Century America, and like most elaborate fables, it starts with a simple theory and then stretches a whole lot of stuff to fit.

The movie version makes much of the idea that Dorothy’s dream is infused with the traveling con-man, Professor Marvel, who doesn’t appear in the book at all, while, in the book, it isn’t a dream.

But the Wizard is, indeed, a con, or, as Dorothy calls him, “The Great and Terrible Humbug,” who confesses

I have fooled everyone so long that I thought I should never be found out. It was a great mistake my ever letting you into the Throne Room. Usually I will not see even my subjects, and so they believe I am something terrible.

 

And so here we are, and leave it to the geeks at Joy of Tech to cut through the crap and expose the Great and Terrible Humbug, and to admit that the story is a lot more fun when you don’t quite understand how it could have happened.

 

I’m with that girl: I much prefer the romance depicted in Steve Breen (Creators)‘s cartoon, in which a mere stripling topples the mighty giant.

But here’s an oddity: A

Juxtaposition of Matt Davies

(January 28)

(January 29)

Davies (AMS) had it right when the news broke, that little guys had learned to game the system, but, as the story developed, he modified his commentary to depict the vandals not as little children but as a collection of small investors who ganged up on the Giant Monster, who, sure enough and predictably, thinks it wasn’t fair.

Which, as the spoilsport in that Joy of Tech cartoon dourly pointed out, took both savvy and resources to pull off, and, besides, the notion that Redditors are a bunch of kids in their parents’ basement is a media myth to begin with.

It was only a children’s crusade in the classic sense of the original Children’s Crusade, which was led by a group of adults who gathered up their troops and sold most of them off before they got anywhere near Jerusalem.

While, at the risk of stretching that analogy as badly out of proportion as the bimetallist Oz theoreticians do, I’d point out that some people felt the Crusades were a noble undertaking to free the Holy Land and some people felt they were a racist attempt to impose Christianity on Muslims, and then some of us just enjoy the swashbuckling action.

So how’s about we look at this

Juxtaposition of People Who Know WTF They’re Talking About

 

Both commentators are beyond simply “well-qualified” to comment on economic issues, and, if AOC gets diverted by a pissing match with Ted Cruz, that’s the swashbuckling part.

What they both comment on is how the stock market is awash in special privileges and secret handshakes, to which I would add White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s observation:

It’s a good reminder, though, that the stock market isn’t the only measure of the health of our econom- — of our economy.  It doesn’t reflect how working and middle-class families are doing. 

She’s right: It’s over-promoted, by traders and by lazy journalists who chart its fluctuations instead of reporting on ground level realities.

To which I add a bit of anecdotal evidence:

When I was doing educational programs for newspapers, I found myself saddled with the Stock Market Game, which was alleged to teach kids how the market, and our economy, work.

Which it didn’t, except to the degree that it did.

Classes formed teams that ran a mock portfolio for six weeks or so, and, at the end, the team that had earned the largest profit won.

The first few years, I sent them copies of Tulipomania, and had local brokers mentor teams, in hopes of dispelling the notion that the market is solely about short-term profit taking.

I even arranged with Intuit to provide free financial software to classes in each age division that submitted the best essays on what they had learned.

But the brokers dropped out because the game taught a toxic view of investing, and almost no classes tried for the free software because their teachers just wanted them to crunch numbers and make graphs.

However, I remember one team that put half their money into a low-priced tech stock and then, when it doubled, rolled their massive profit into utilities, which never change.

Then they sat back for four weeks and rode the numbers to victory.

They were inmates in a local juvenile facility, tough young gangbangers who had gotten caught screwing with the system one way or another, but now had found a way in which screwing with the system was not only legal but could make you rich.

I don’t think that’s the lesson they were in there to learn, but it was the lesson the Stock Market Game taught them.

I checked with colleagues around the country and heard from many who had had the same experience: Juvies recognized a con when they saw one, and readily figured out how to bust it.

Which makes it more than an anecdote.

 

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