Friday, May 01, 2009

A summary of the economists' event and some thoughts

To sum up the event: Nobody really knows what's going on, not even the really smart guys, and one smart lady. Everyone is convinced that things must change, but all anyone has is theories. Right now, we are playing a game of "which theory is best, which should we choose?" The slightly unsettling part is that we have to try one to see if it'll work.

These are interesting times, indeed.

Ferguson came out as the unpopular one and that's because he is pro-private sector and against accumulating too much government debt. (Which actually doesn't seem to unreasonable to me, but then again, I'm a neophyte.) I was a bit surprised that Soros--given his reputation--was all for regulation (with some restraint, however).

Another note, and this might not have been clear in the coverage: No one really expressed any feeling of panic. (Though Ferguson was getting awfully passionate.) They all said things are looking better than worse. No one was VERY optimistic--there was an air of cauton--but no one said out loud that things were just rotten. If this is true, it's reassuring.

After the event, I stayed on to send out a couple of e-mails and wrap up my computer gear. Most of the place had cleared out, and when I looked up from my computer, I saw an immaculately groomed blond woman. She was either in her 30s, or a very well maintained woman in her 40s. Her make-up was perfect and her hair was styled into a kind of post-WWII poof. Behind her was Mr. Soros. He is shorter and older-looking in real life than he is on TV. The woman was clearly a part of his party. Then Krugman appeared. He is also shorter and heavier that he appears in pictures. He was with a woman, too--she was less notable--then they all started talking about dinner plans. Though I could not confirm it, it did seem that the financial folks would dine together.

It took me a good 15-20 minutes after the fact to realize I was arm's length from George Soros, the billionaire, and Paul Krugman, winner of a Nobel Prize. In the world of economics, these guys are rock stars! However, it also made me recognize that the problems of the world's economy, as well as the solutions to them, rest in just a few people's hands. (More than the two of them, of course, but not all that many.) And these guys are just guessing, too! (They devote their lives to this stuff, of course, so I'd imagine they are in a position to make better guesses.)

Back in my political, pink hair and nose ring days, I used to hang around a bunch of really smart philosophy people. (This was in Boston.) We'd read the papers and talk about politics, the economy and what could be done to improve the state of the world. At that time, I have to admit, we were all pretty convinced that there were definitely some conspiracies going on. "The Man" was most certainly trying to bring someone down. But now, I'm really not so sure about any of those ideas. Of course, I'm still a skeptic, but it really does seem to me, that when it comes to the economy, international policy and perhaps other things, no one really knows what's going on. Everyone just tries really hard to do their best.

To me, the economy is like a living animal. You can feed it, starve it, train it, beat it, love it, or tie it to a tree, but at the end of the day, it's still an animal with a mind of it's own, and you can't really always predict what it's going to do. I am coming to the point-of-view that most people usually just try to do what's right. However, we are all limited: Not just in understanding, but also by the finite number of years we all live, by communication (the left hand doesn't always know what the right foot is doing) and by the fact that to get really good at something, you have to give up other pursuits (thus limiting the creative process that is inherent to mental cross-training). Throwing a master conspiracy into all of that is just impractical.

In any case, I digress. It was great to hear what these folks had to say, even if there were no clear answers to life, the universe and everything. It's stuff like this really makes living in New York so worthwhile.


Xeb said...

And 'ME', 'I' make living in NY worthwhile!! 'Na'?

Maile said...

Yes, of course you do. But you don't have quite the influence on global markets.

throbbing boto said...

Everyone knows that the world is controlled by illuminati banker ninjas. the comfort we can take is that they're so rich that they're past personal greed and simply need to keep the economy going. The economy got to expand to finance technological endeavors that would save the planet. The best that the world got out of it was hybrid cars and twitter. I fantasize about the secret powers that be incinerating billions of dollars (where did all of the money go?) to make the money we do have actually worth something. When spray on ozone deployed by satelite and manmade icebergs appear on the technological horizon the economy will blow up again.

Like the other smartest minds on the planet I am of course just guessing.

Hiya, Maile!