PARIS – It snowed all day yesterday. It is still snowing this morning.
Paris is at its best in the snow. It is hushed and enchanting… like a beautiful woman who is about to tell a secret.
16 Million Dead
Last Sunday, we went to mass in a little church in a small town out in the French countryside.
As the priest delivered his sermon on the importance of following in the footsteps of Christ, we noticed two plaques on the wall – similar to those you see all over France.
“To Our Heroes” was the inscription on top. Below was a long list of names of the young men killed in the Great War of 1914 to 1918.
We were trying to imagine what Christ would have thought of a war to make the world “safe for democracy”… and what he would think of a church that celebrates the men who fought and died in it…
But what most impressed us was the number of names. Cassat. Cassares. Catillion. Etc., etc.
Where did they all come from? we wondered. And what must have happened to the village when so many of its young men were dead?
Who cut the hay? Who courted the young women? Who put on the white collar and joined the church?
And how could civilized Edwardian Europeans get caught up in such a desperately dumb war… and not stop killing each other until 16 million were dead?
The question haunts us. We return to it over and over. What is it that makes humans do things that – at least, when viewed from a distance – are obviously self-destructive?
The markets were noisy on Tuesday. A third day of wildly gyrating prices left stocks and bonds in retreat… as the financial press shouted out its outsized fears… and its calming little lies.
Yesterday we were beginning to see some green figures again. Tokyo and London were up slightly.
We still don’t know whether this will turn into the major plunge we anticipated. But already, it has delivered a message: Watch out!
We’re not the only ones who are worried. Bloomberg caught up with billionaire investor Carl Icahn:
“Passive investing is the bubble right now, and that’s a great danger,” he said.
“When you start using the market as a casino, that’s a huge mistake,” he added.
Eventually, Icahn reckons, the bubble will implode and lead to a crisis bigger than in 2009.
Spirit of Mischief
Who turned the market into a casino?
Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, and Janet Yellen at the Fed.
They made fake money too cheap for too long. And each time markets tried to correct – in 1987, 2000, and 2008 – they doubled down on their mistakes, bringing even more hot money into the casino.
Readers often accuse us of “criticizing” the president… or Congress… or the Fed – while never offering any constructive solutions.
But no, we don’t criticize, ever. And no, we don’t offer constructive solutions.
If we ever come up with any solutions at all, you can be sure they are completely unworkable and offered in the spirit of mischief.
And we wish to assure all our dear readers: We did not vote for Hillary or Trump.
We don’t vote for the same reason we don’t criticize and don’t offer solutions. Once you take sides, you can’t see clearly. You become part of the thing you’re trying to observe.
When you have a dog in the fight, you care about the outcome… and you see his teeth drawing blood every time the dust clears.
Win or Lose
That is the trouble with partisan politics.
If you pay attention… you begin to care. You begin to think it is all a matter of one team against another.
Red vs. blue. Conservative vs. Liberal. Them vs. Us. You either win… or you lose. So you naturally focus your emotional and intellectual energy on winning…
It is like going to war.
Reserved and intelligent voices may tell you why the fight is not worth it… why there are more important things at stake… and why a war will bankrupt the nation, destroy the government, and kill off its young men.
But once the cannons begin to boom, the wise voices fall silent… You think only of victory. Or survival.
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