”Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.”— Malcolm Gladwell
“Your recounting of the recent flight experience reminded me of the old days,” writes reader Don B, a far-off look in his eye.
“I worked for the airlines in the ‘70s and times were obviously different. Most of our pilots were Air Force and had flown both military and Air America flights during Vietnam.”
One night we were fogged in at IAH,” he recounts:
…the last flight out was able to take off, but Ops was holding the last flight in. Then all of a sudden, the Ops Desk cheered.
Later, the pilot told us: I knew that the last flight out was an air freighter, flight 55 and it was coming up soon. I watched and the jet blasted washed away the fog and the runway was visible. I pancake landed the 707 and we were in Houston.
Probably couldn’t do it that way today.
A hard landing indeed, and one for the books.
“I had three uncles that were pilots during WWII,” another reader, David N, adds:
Two were instructors because they were too old for combat duty. Both continued as instructors after the war. I took flying lessons from one of them.
A cardinal rule he kept throwing at me was about pilots getting into trouble while in the air due to weather. He would state that if you are paying attention to your surroundings you should be able to spot thunderstorms well in advance and either find a place to land or fly around it.
I think the foregoing could serve as a good analogy for someone looking to invest in the markets i.e., be aware of your surroundings, and when ‘weather’ threatens, find a place to land or fly around it.
We find it interesting that the flight analogy serves so well to describe the economy and its forecasts (and failures). There is something about the ability to let go that is required in flight and in economics; without that moment of intuition, that leap of faith, flight is not possible.
Like the pilot who chooses to be aware of their surroundings rather than rely on the radar to predict stormy weather, the economist might find that how people are actually acting around us says more about the state of the economy of things than more quantitative means of measurement.
Keynes called this nuance the “animal spirit.” And despite his distinct and lasting belief in the anthropocentricity of markets and his doctrine of market manipulation and stimulation, he admitted regularly that human action is subject to unpredictable, often strange proclivities.
In his 1936 tome The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Keynes writes with fervor:
Even apart from the instability due to speculation, there is the instability due to the characteristic of human nature that a large proportion of our positive activities depend on spontaneous optimism rather than on a mathematical expectation, whether moral or hedonistic or economic.
Most, probably, of our decisions to do something positive, the full consequences of which will be drawn out over many days to come, can only be taken as a result of animal spirits—of a spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction, and not as the outcome of a weighted average of quantitative benefits multiplied by quantitative probabilities.
Rational thought is often looked down upon in classical economic thought. Past economists, back to Adam Smith, have almost ignored the role of the irrational in economic decisions, instead explaining action through the lens of “rational self-interest.” And yet, conventional financial analysis, and what we might call textbook economics, confines itself only to rational, quantifiable facts when even our markets are called bulls and bears.
Lest we forget that this is a beast we are dealing with.
We wrote about “The Great Complacency” a few days ago. We might revisit it again, adding the claim: Having been to Miami, New York, Memphis, Pittsburgh (LA and Utah, Charleston SC), people are ubiquitously optimistic… Austin, Chicago, Tampa.
There is clearly a massive economic dislocation occurring between what we see in the news and what we feel in our cities and in our towns. Before we go, Might we conduct our own survey: How are we feeling about the current state of affairs? Please reply here, if you feel so inclined.
Follow your own bliss,
The Wiggin Sessions
P.S. “Hey, you cats goin’ to the golden Rule Symposium? Have a blast!” writes reader John B.
Reader Susan J adds: “Looked at the Agenda. The Rule Symposium 2023 is going to be an exciting time! And, I’m especially pleased that all my heroes, plus one heroine, are among the featured speakers!”
Take a peek at the 2023 Rule Symposium in Boca Raton, FL here.
Addison Wiggin is an American writer, publisher, and filmmaker. He was the founder of Agora Financial and publisher for 18 years. An acclaimed New York Times best-selling author, his books include: Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt, The Demise of the Dollar, and The Little Book of the Shrinking Dollar. Addison is also the writer and executive producer of the documentary I.O.U.S.A., an exposé on the national debt, shortlisted for an Academy Award in 2008. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his family. Addison started his latest project, The Wiggin Sessions, powered by Consilience Financial, in March 2020. He films from a homegrown studio in his basement.