Friday, July 04, 2008

Blaming the prophets

In this week's Spectator, Christopher Fildes discusses the way short-sellers get blamed for market falls, although they take hair-raising risks in doing so. He paraphrases Fred Schwed on the unfairness of such criticism: "In good times, he said, nobody minded the short sellers except their families, who minded going bankrupt. In bad times they were a receptacle for blame." I'd go back further:

But who wants to be foretold the weather? It is bad enough when it comes, without our having the misery of knowing about it beforehand. The prophet we like is the old man who, on the particularly gloomy-looking morning of some day when we particularly want it to be fine, looks round the horizon with a particularly knowing eye, and says:

"Oh no, sir, I think it will clear up all right. It will break all right enough, sir."

"Ah, he knows", we say, as we wish him good-morning, and start off; "wonderful how these old fellows can tell!"

And we feel an affection for that man which is not at all lessened by the circumstances of its NOT clearing up, but continuing to rain steadily all day.

"Ah, well," we feel, "he did his best."

For the man that prophesies us bad weather, on the contrary, we entertain only bitter and revengeful thoughts.

"Going to clear up, d'ye think?" we shout, cheerily, as we pass.

"Well, no, sir; I'm afraid it's settled down for the day," he replies, shaking his head.

"Stupid old fool!" we mutter, "what's HE know about it?" And, if his portent proves correct, we come back feeling still more angry against him, and with a vague notion that, somehow or other, he has had something to do with it.

Jerome K Jerome: "Three Men In A Boat", Chapter 5

So, don't blame me, please, but I still think investors won't be out of the woods until 2010.


dearieme said...

Is that a subtle allusion to bear poo?


I'm not subtle. But you may call me Poo Bear.