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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

CYNISM

“The World is Flat” author and NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman has discovered nanotech as a key contributor to his thesis and as noted below, wrote: “"The eleventh flattener will be nanotechnology. We're going from large to medium to small to nano." Anyone watching global current events rise to a boil might feel more dramatically like the “World Is about to be Flattened”.

And speaking of flat, remember those flat melting clocks of Salvador Dali? You see Einstein once said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.” With the confluence of global events colliding as they are, Dali’s art seems quite prescient.

In my last column I wrote about control and its correlation to happiness. Here’s another thing to consider—call it the illusion of control. It makes us do some funny things in our investing behavior.

People demand more money to sell a lottery ticket they already possess—if they actually picked the numbers instead of numbers given to them with no choice or control. In similar vein, people will make bigger bets on a coin that hasn’t been tossed yet than one that’s been tossed but not shown. People often believe their choice affects outcome of independent events (like lotto tickets and coin tosses).
Sure enough, the same thing happens when investing. Overconfidence and an illusion of control makes people believe that their investments will rise right after they purchase them. And random fluctuations from Mr. Market can easily shake their original thesis, if they had one at all.My cynicism long established having been called the “Diogenes of Nanotech” by the “Mouth of the Markets” (Jim Cramer). Diogenes went around in daylight with a lantern, looking for an honest man.Oscar Wilde said a cynic is the man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. And fellow cynic H.L. Mencken said “the chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.
”Speaking of overestimating the value of money: there’s a good reason why we have loss aversion—that is, why we hate losses more than we like gains (roughly twice as much hatred for that love). Let’s use basic structural physics as an analogy. Forgive the pun, but I think visualizing this helps cement the concept. Imagine building a structure. Now think of your net worth as a pile of bricks. You’ve got big bricks on the bottom that make a foundation and successively smaller bricks stacked on top. The more you are worth, the less valuable each marginal dollar might be.
In our analogy, the smaller each successive brick gets. Well now if you had to remove a brick from the top of the structure, it would be a larger brick than whatever the next brick you would add to it. Thus the pain from loss is greater than gain.
Speaking of pain of loss, here’s something: Have you ever wondered the real reason that fast food restaurants offered your meal for free if cashiers didn’t give you a receipt? Hint: they didn’t care about you balancing your checkbook.
It was really just a shrewd tactic to keep their employees from stealing. It was harder for employees to steal if they had to give receipts for every purchase. Instead of spying on employees, the tactic shifted the incentive to the customer to subtly police the cashiers. Quite clever. This is actually a well known problem that pervades all of life: principal-agent conflicts. You encounter it knowingly or not every time you deal with your real estate broker, stock broker, and financial advisor—as well as company CEO, Board of Directors and shareholders of all companies you might be invested in. With just lamentations of CEOs at record levels of relative overpayment, and option scandals breaking out like a 14-year-old chocolate fiend on prom night, it’s not a stretch to see some executives as the equivalent of cashiers at the burger joint. Their incentives too often aren’t aligned.",


In every deal in which my Lux partners and I invest, the people are the single most important piece.After all, you can have all the recipes and ingredients you want, but without a skilled and truthful chef you might be left thinking, “tastes just like chicken."
As Buffett has said, "In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity,intelligence, and energy. And if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you.

BY j.wolfe

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