Monday, March 02, 2009

Community of the Wrong

The financial writing community all must have large long-term contracts, since we keep hearing advice on the air from the very prognosticators who were telling us the fundamentals were sound during the election. It's ludicrous that salesmen for a financial community that has brought about disaster, now spread throughout the world, are still operating under the pretense that we should follow their advice, and keep supporting the failure.

This morning, a very sound post on this idiocy was carried in one of the major shills for the financial industry, WaPo. It would be nice if the this practice of carrying actual facts would continue.

It's weird and disconcerting that after all that has happened there are still so many experts out there willing to dispense wisdom with utter assuredness, day after day, despite having been so spectacularly wrong in the past.
So how can advice-givers be trusted?

The answer, I think, is to share our own doubts and talk openly about our own anxieties, which requires speaking in a language we're not especially cozy with in America. I had dinner recently with a friend who'd lost his job as a trader and who'd spent much of the past few months going to a career counseling service, trying to get back on his feet. He described seeing two different advisers, one who was relentlessly upbeat, telling my friend that he'd be back on Wall Street in no time, and another who was not only much more pessimistic about job prospects but who also talked openly about the stresses these times impose upon a marriage. That second counselor even spoke about what he and his own wife, who'd lost her job, were going through, and the possibility that my friend should leave New York, maybe transfer his skills to another, less lucrative field and downsize his life. He said that things weren't going to be what they were, that there was going to be loss and compromise, and that maybe this was okay. "Everyone there wanted to see him," my friend said. "At least it felt like he was living in the same world as the rest of us, which was kind of therapeutic."

The language of psychotherapy -- the recognition that few things in life are black and white, that it mostly consists of perplexing shades of gray -- seems immensely more helpful now than the self-assured, directive lingo we've all become accustomed to speaking or hearing. The advice I trust the most now comes wrapped in doubt. Here's what I'd do, and this is why I think it's right, but I'm not sure. What's implicit is the acknowledgment that very little is a sure thing, that if we follow this advice, we're following at our own risk, and that every potential gain also carries within it the possibility of loss.

The perpetrators of crimes against us all are appearing daily - cast as sound advisors - until our MSM stops accepting continuing carnival barkers as factual analysts.

We have blogs for sound advice, and the 'evening new' for entertainment. While the public in general chooses to treat shills as Wise Old Men, those who are actually sound of mind and able to discern where our interests lie will continue to walk away from the unsound right wing ads for a failed ideology which insists it is 'news'.

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