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November 28, 2003

Information Vs. Knowledge


The facts roll across the bottom of your screen, the newspaper summaries roll into your e-mailbox, the custom search pages fill with articles of all types.  You can easily spend your entire day watching prices and volume and trend lines flash across another screen while talking heads pump up and pump down in a corner reserved for gab. Do you really think any of this will make you a smarter investor or one whit wealthier? Maybe.


My goal is quite the opposite.  What I am seeking are not the momentary byte grabbers who seem to fly along with every trend but instead those of us who have been on the inside, who know how easy it is to manipulate and who have a general distrust for anything that is being presented on a platter to the lumpen consumer.


Yes, the US economy is on a roll.  We have all heard the good news.  Yes, all the indicators are pointing to a repeat of the boom we saw in the 90’s.  So why am I so skeptical?  In the 90’s there was something going on; hyped, hyperhyped, superhyped? Yeah, but still there was a fervor that captured the whole world’s imagination.  Japan, the champion had hit the skids and the new guy standing tall was the US, no longer weighed down his fat girth and rust belt but newly robust in his information age, Silicon Valley superhero robes.


We had reached a new age and all the world was jealous.  We got it, they didn’t.  We were in our cubes from 8 in the morning to past midnight building the virtual world of the future while they were fighting for shorter workweeks and subsidized villas on the Cote D’Azur.


Information and Eyeballs were the new currencies.  Still, the old one, the dollar grew stronger and stronger as smart money from all over the world flowed into our financial markets—the cleanest, best managed, best run companies in the cleanest best-managed markets in the world.  It was quite a moment and the Euro, the symbol or a new Europe fell from its original 1 Euro= $1.18 to I Euro = $.80.  People from all over the world quit their jobs and came to Silicon Valley for the great gold rush.  An IPO a day, then two or three a day.  How could you not remember? 


And guys like Warren Buffett?  Well, they just didn’t get it.  And guys like me, crowing “bubble”.  Chicken Littles we were.  Why wouldn’t you want to price some start-up that was losing money by the buckets-full at three times the value of General Motors?  Information was money. Remember!  How could you forget?


But really, something was happening. New businesses were being born and some of them would stay around and change a lot of people’s lives.  Imagine, say, collecting just about anything without EBay to set the real price and availability.


The Internet is a communications environment like nothing to go before it and most of us cannot imagine living without it always on in the background and foreground.


So what, I ask rhetorically, is it that is fueling this present boom and if things are so great this week, Thanksgiving week, why is the dollar going down like a one-eyed prostitute in Bangkok?  Okay, you’re right. Unkind language.  But still, why if everything is so hunky dory are interest rates staying down, the dollar crashing and the markets shrugging?


Could it have to do with the fact that we have an election year coming up and some of the least principled political leaders in our much-besmirched history?


Short the dollar, friends.  I, who’d like to see my assets rise vs. the rest of the world, instead of drop like soaked bread in a goldfish bowl, just can’t see things turning around anytime soon.


I think that is based on knowledge, not just information, folks.  But maybe you know different.  Maybe Alan Greenspan is going to push gold down as a symbolic way to weigh down the Euro.  I don’t see it but I hear some of you saying it.


Remember, among certain folks, gimmickry beats discipline every time.







Copyright 2003 Richard Mendel-Black All Rights Reserved


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Posted by dymaxion at 05:57 PM

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