The Ethical Investor: December 2010

Everyday, the hedgehog walks through the forest. And everyday, the fox comes up with a new way to attack him. (Foxes are clever that way.) And everyday, the hedgehog rolls into his protective shell, and the fox fails. “The fox knows many little things,” concluded the ancient Greek poet Archilochus, “but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

In this example, which philosopher Isaiah Berlin made famous in a 1953 essay, the hedgehog is superior, at least in a survival-of-the-fittest sense. But according to social scientist Philip E. Tetlock, in the human world, it’s the reverse.

Berlin used the two animals to classify great thinkers. Plato, Dante, and Hegel were hedgehogs. They each centered their philosophies around one big idea. Aristotle, Shakespeare, and Goethe were foxes. They saw the world in a more complex light — or, alternatively, they plucked insights from many different fields.

Tetlock used Berlin’s classification system to test today’s “experts” in his 2006 book Expert Political Judgment. He found that, while most experts are poor predictors, the “foxes” were correct more often. If you’re trying to predict the future, it turns out, you’re better off knowing many little things, rather than one big thing.

Now for the apology.   Continue reading “The Ethical Investor: December 2010”

The Ethical Investor: August 2010

I want to write an investment newsletter, but I don’t like the pay-and-email model. I want it to be transparent, and like everything I write, I want the information and analysis to reach as many people as possible. So here it is. I wrote this first edition last Monday, but it took a week to get some feedback and rejigger the format. If any of it is out-of-date, now you know why. I most regret that I didn’t post it in time for you to take advantage of this. — AWO

It’s a stupid time to start an investment newsletter.

Economists are worried about a “double-dip” recession, public and private debt are at record levels, the world has just escaped two financial crises in three years, and the Chairman of the Fed says the future is “unusually uncertain.” With record-breaking temperatures outside, a smart person would work on their tan until the economy returns to normal.

Trouble is, I don’t know what “normal” looks like.   Continue reading “The Ethical Investor: August 2010”

Best of the Week: February 21-27, 2010

10. Which Party Uses Reconciliation More Often? Looks Like Harry Reid Was Correct — Joshua Tucker and Health Care No Stranger to Reconciliation Process — Julie Rovner
9. Hood — Brian Mockenhaupt and Distant Wars, Constant Ghosts — Shannon P. Meehan
8. Depression’s Upside — Jonah Lehrer and Head Case — Louis Menand
7. Girls Gone Anti-Feminist — Susan J. Douglas
6. A Broken Economic Law — Louis UchitelleIn Search of…Crowding Out — Menzie Chinn, A Stimulus Opponent Who Can Actually Find His—! — J. Bradford DeLong, and 1937, 2010 — Richard Posner
5. Latvia’s Neoliberal Madness — Michael Hudson & Jeffrey Sommers
4. Doing What Comes Supernaturally: Stanley Fish on Fact and Value — Russell Blackford
3. Child Slavery in Uzbekistan — Craig Murray
2. Questions and Answers about the Financial Crisis — Gary Gorton, Due North: Canada’s Marvelous Mortgage and Banking System — Mark J. Perry, and The Troubling Resolution Revolution — Peter J. Wallison
1. The World Needs All Kinds of Minds — Temple Gradin and How Brains Learn to See — Pawan Sinha
BONUS: Division and Its Discontents — Steven Strogatz

Best of the Week: January 10-16, 2010

My Google Reader feed got screwed up. (That’s what I get for neglecting it for a month.) I’m not sure if I missed some articles in this week, or if I accidentally lumped them into yesterday’s “Best of the Week” post. I know I’m missing some Haiti articles, but Alex and I have our own posts on Haiti forthcoming; we’ll tell you most of what you need to know. I hope I managed to catch all the good articles. Sorry for any oversights. — AWO

10. How China Won and Russia Lost — Paul R. Gregory & Kate Zhou
9. Interview with James Heckman — John Cassidy
8. Obama Aid to Yemen Could Risk Backlash in Arab World — Jonathan S. Landay and U.S. Spending in Afghanistan Plagued by Poor U.S. Oversight — Marisa Taylor
7. Interview with Raghuram Rajan — John Cassidy
6. Assessing Stimulus Measures: Statistical and Economic Significance — Menzie Chinn
5. Ranting Against Iran Won’t Help Reform — Adrian Hamilton and Iran Not Committed to Building Nuclear Bomb, Pentagon Intel Chief Says — Nuclear Threat Initiative
4. 666 to 1: The U.S. Military Against al-Qaeda — Nick Turse & Tom Englehardt and The Terror Fringe — Thomas Rid & Marc Hecker
3. Too Big to Regulate? — Peter Fox-Penner
2. Iran, the Competition Over Eurasian Natural Gas, and the Revival of Classical Diplomacy in the 21st Century — Flynt Leverett & Hillary Mann Leverett
1. If It’s That Warm, How Come It’s So Damned Cold? — James Hansen, Reto Ruedy, Makiko Sato, & Ken Lo
BONUS: Homo Erectus Invented “Modern Living”? — Mati Milstein