Competitive Thinking

Normally I post a few times a day on Twitter (@sumner), which I have set up to automatically be re-posted to Facebook. I like to post Twitter size concepts of things that I read, usually with a link. Then, if there’s any conversation about it, it usually occurs on Facebook. I don’t have much of a Twitter following for any interactive discussion. Longer ideas I put up here, but there’s no dialog here.

The topics of greatest interest to me seem to be politics, economics, science, business, greed, hubris, hypocrisy, and irrationality. There’s plenty of interesting examples, and always controversy. Controversy is created in my own mind by the very nature of a particular topic. That’s why I post something about it. Usually there’s a predominant misconception involved, a twist, sometimes I accurately perceive it, sometimes I don’t, that usually involves some combination of naturally occurring or culturally programed biases. Often times it’s a matter of framing the subject.

By the very nature of most problems, they are complex. Solutions often seem to be a choice between the rock and the hard place. Some people shy away from reviewing life’s complex puzzles, in favor of whatever is the status quo. These folks usually never participate in my Facebook discussions. They’ve got me hidden from their timeline. Other people think that by posting a controversial topic I’m evangelizing for that particular socio-economic-political religion, usually for what they consider the Religion of The Left. “Name calling” is very popular among these people. Obtuse links to justify positions are a speciality. Open idea discussion is not a speciality.

I consider my posts an offer to engage in “competitive thinking”. Admittedly it’s not a popular game. Particularly to play fair. But life is hard. Determining what’s real, what’s important, and what’s just noise created by behavioral biases is not easy. Add in the necessity of not only making money, but keeping money, exploring confidence levels via competitive thinking is a good exercise. It’s just that only certain people can keep up with the game.


A tweet that I did:

Sumner Nelson (@sumner)
10/31/14, 15:32
Lesson: Now that derogatorily labeled “Obamacare” has been proven a resounding success, everyone will continue calling it “Obamacare”. D’oh!

And there are some article describing studies that came out:

  1. Business Insider: One Map Shows Exactly What Obamacare Has Done To The Country
  2. Forbes – Rick Ungar: Key Study On Obamacare 2015 Premium Rates Is Out And You Won’t Believe What’s Going To Happen
  3. NYTs: Is the Affordable Care Act Working?
  4. Forbes – Rick Ungar: Warning: More Good Obamacare News Reported Here-May Not Be Suitable For All ACA Detractors

Get A Job!

“They ought to get a job!”: A common refrain of a middle class far closer to destitution than to the award-winning 1% self-described “job creators.” It’s an attitude condemning their near like-kind rather than their destination of ultimate desire. I usually ask, “How many jobs have you created for the job seekers?” It’s not as if the availability of jobs is a natural occurrence, like raindrops or leaves off of a tree.

Of course, jobs infinitum are available, but at what price? In India, my executive friends make some modest tens of thousands of dollars in compensation, but have live-in cooks, gardeners, and drivers who make what must be some few tens of dollars per day equivalent.

Pushing people into jobs begs the question: What if the jobs being produced don’t pay compensation substantial enough to support existence in the economic society? At what point is this economic abuse? Whether abuse of the employee, other individuals seeking survivable yet competitive employment, the employers competitors, or the taxpayer who ends up subsidizing the low-wage earners, and in doing so subsides the employer.

Or should this just be interpreted as a modern day version of state supported quasi-slavery?

What We Know For Sure

Here’s what we now know for sure:

  • Trickle down economics is a sham.
  • The world was actually a better place with Saddam in power
  • The American Enterprise Institute’s successful Romneycare plan in Massachusetts was in fact scalable into a successful nationwide Obamacare plan.
  • Financial recessions ARE different from demand recessions.
  • Outlawing something doesn’t make it go away. It turns the market over to organized crime, and the settling of disputes occurs with violence rather than in courts.
  • There is nothing structural for the foreseeable future that will slow the increasing wealth capture by a shrinking group of plutocrats.

Shape-Shifting Reptilian Humanoids

Shape-Shifting Reptilian Humanoids

Shape-Shifting Reptilian Humanoids

Most world leaders, including quite a few U.S. presidents, and the top financial 0.1% are actually seven foot tall shape-shifting reptilian humanoids from a different planet who start wars and are responsible for horrific events of all kinds in order to promote fear and hatred, which gives them strength and reproductive capacity.

Maybe you already knew that.

Threat and Error Management

Treat and Error Management has been a part of air carrier training for the last half dozen years or so. It’s a mental training process to identify potential threats early so as to prevent them from becoming a major problem, and to manage flight’s inevitable human errors early enough to insure a safe outcome. It’s also a great mental framework for normal walks of life.

I recently entered into a Facebook conversation about defensive weapon carriage by realtors and pointed out one of the new threats needing management by adding a weapon to the realtor’s handbag: incorrectly brandishing a weapon in a misperceived defensive situation during an otherwise commercial professional setting could have serious future career and financial repercussions. There is a rich history of weapons mistakes made by law enforcement and military. The layman professional will certainly have a greater propensity to make more mistakes than continuously trained weapons handlers.

Just mentioning this potential situation to avoid was roundly disparaged by contributors who I assume find weapons carriage the answer to everything modern. It was a threat to a preconceived belief. Kill it.

To not be able to talk about a complex idea because a simple preconception blocks the way is a threat itself. A threat to the blocked mind. It reminds me of one of Barry Rithholz’s points that he’s learned by blogging for ten years.

People lie to themselves. When confronted with facts that directly disagree with their beliefs, most people prefer to disregard the facts. Psychologists even have a name for this sort of perception error: cognitive dissonance.

For a data guy like me, this is both utterly fascinating and somewhat disturbing. I have repeatedly admonished readers about letting things like politics and narrative divert them from reality-based, data-driven investing.

Whenever I encounter someone who refuses to accept reality, all I can do is shrug and remind myself that someone has to be on the losing side of the trade. It might as well be him.