Intellectual Yet Idiot

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When you are a child you may often be asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always had problems with even faking it like “I want to be a doctor.” I suppose that is the reason I have worked a “real” job—where they expect you to come on time and not leave early—only about three years of my adult life.

I liked American actor Jack Nicholson. He seemed like he was always having a good time. But the one person that I would encourage my four sons to understand and perhaps emulate is Nassim Taleb, he of his book and concept The Black Swan.

Taleb is described as a scholar and mathematical statistician. The key to understanding Taleb is that he was a hedge fund manager and a derivatives trader of currencies and commodities.

Mark Twain is credited with saying “never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.” I would add something like “don’t mess with a man or woman that makes his/her living successfully trading ‘The Markets.’”

United Kingdom politician, former member of the European Union Parliament and prominent figure in the campaign for Brexit, Nigel Farage is another example. His father was a stockbroker and Farage was a commodities trader at the London Metal Exchange and in the US.

Love him or hate him, George Soros is one of the most prominent global political forces that made his first billion trading currencies. The point is that real-world experience with money, and the challenges money management brings, gives a practical advantage.

Nassim Taleb embodies the concept of “A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of sheep and does not turn when a small dog barks.” He is not afraid to say what he believes and does not care who might be “offended” by his views. That is rare in a time when critical thinking outside of the mainstream perspective is considered blasphemy.

In his 2018 book Skin in the Game, he relates the idea of “IYI”— Intellectual Yet Idiot. These are people that do not know what they are doing but not only think that they do and expect everyone else to agree. “These self-described members of the “intelligentsia” can’t find a coconut on Coconut Island. Their main skill is the capacity to pass exams written by people like them.”

“The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited. With dietary advice reversing after 30 years, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, and the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, people are perfectly entitled to rely and listen to their grandmothers.”

Jerome Powell is Chair of the Federal Reserve. One commentator said, “How could a man with such an undistinguished career of working as an underling on Wall Street and as a mid-level government bureaucrat, become the most important man in the world?”

His predecessors—Janet Yellen and before her Ben Bernanke—were both academics and government employees with no “Skin in the Game” of having to actually help turn a profit, meet a payroll, or manage either public or private money.

No wonder the world economy is a mess. Compare their resumes with our central bank governors and you will understand why the Philippine monetary system and by extension the core economy is as good as it is.

 E-mail me at [email protected] Visit my web site at Follow me on Twitter @mangunonmarkets. PSE stock-market information and technical analysis tools provided by the COL Financial Group Inc.

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