Classical Investing: The Music of Orpheus

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:32+00:00 January 9th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Can modern investors learn something from an ancient love story? Orpheus among the animals. Source: Wikipedia I’m a sucker for a good story, especially an ancient one. Many of our oldest tales tell us something about ourselves – about our hopes and dreams and fears and tendencies. The very fact that these stories have been preserved from antiquity tells us that they have a special relevance: they speak to us on many levels. Such is the case with Orpheus. Orpheus was a musician, poet, [...]

Wheel of Fortune?

By | 2017-07-17T12:22:25+00:00 October 2nd, 2015|Global Market Update|

Where are you on the wheel of fortune? Wheel of Fortune. Source: Wikipedia When I was growing up one of the most popular TV game-shows was “Wheel of Fortune.” Contestants would solve a word puzzle similar to “hangman” and spin a giant carnival wheel to win cash and prizes. The show has run for over 30 years. It’s appeal is that it encourages viewers to play along--to try and guess the mystery phrase before the contestants. But before there was a TV show, there [...]

Diversifying Our Lives

By | 2017-07-17T12:22:26+00:00 September 28th, 2015|Global Market Update|

Diversification works. “Fright of Astyanax” by Benjamin West (1797). Source: Getty Museum. This drawing was owned by Thomas Jefferson and exhibited in his parlor at Monticello. That’s the secret to the success of many major products. Coca-Cola was created when someone accidentally added carbonation to medicinal syrup. Play-Doh was supposed to be a wallpaper cleaner. Toothpaste started as a homemade powder made from salt and burnt bread until someone noticed Parisian painters squeezing their pigments out of lead tubes and applied the lesson. Steve [...]

The End of the Exchange

By | 2017-07-17T12:22:39+00:00 September 8th, 2015|Global Market Update|

Are open-outcry markets over? Source: Wikipedia In Japan, around the year 1700, producers and consumers of rice decided they needed a place where they could exchange promises to buy or sell that year’s harvest. The market was in Osaka. At the time, samurai were paid in rice, and they needed to know what their pay was worth. This became the world’s first futures exchange, and it facilitated the growth of Japan’s economy, as their currency shifted from rice to coins to paper money. Two [...]

The Consolation of Markets

By | 2017-07-17T12:22:46+00:00 May 29th, 2015|Global Market Update|

Where do we find financial value? Lady Fortune with the Wheel of Fortune. Source: Wikipedia In sixth century Rome, the philosopher Boethius was awaiting trial—and eventual execution—on a trumped up charge of conspiracy. While in prison, he wrote The Consolation of Philosophy, an immensely influential work that outlines how to be content in a world beset by treachery and evil. The key, he explains, is to look beyond our outward circumstances to the “one true good” we find within. Current conditions are always in [...]

Impossible Dreams

By | 2017-07-17T12:22:58+00:00 April 30th, 2015|Global Market Update|

Are there limits to technology? Photo: NASA. Source: Wikipedia Ever since we began to use simple tools, people have been fascinated with technology. But technology also represents a danger. The same tools that lift us from the mud can destroy our fortunes. A hoe can uproot as well as plant. The Ancient Greeks described this ambivalence in the story of Prometheus, who brings fire to humanity in defiance of Zeus and is punished for his act. […]

Apple, ETFs, and Theseus

By | 2017-07-17T12:22:58+00:00 April 21st, 2015|Global Market Update|

Why do stock indices matter? Temple of Theseus, Athens. Source: Trustees of the British Museum Theseus, the founder-hero of Athens, lived around 1200 BC. In order to keep his memory alive, Athenians are supposed to have preserved his ship, taking out planks and timbers as they rotted, installing new materials in their place. Over time, all of the original wood was replaced. After some centuries, philosophers asked, was Theseus’ ship in any sense the “same” ship? […]

The Investment Odyssey

By | 2017-07-17T12:22:59+00:00 April 10th, 2015|Global Market Update|

Investors face all kinds of temptations. Trustees of the British Museum. BM 1843.1103.31. Source: British Museum There’s a passage in Book 12 of Homer’s Odyssey that describes the Sirens—beautiful creatures with the faces of girls and the bodies of birds. Their magical song promises knowledge, but it actually lures sailors to their deaths upon the reef surrounding their island. “There is no homecoming for the man who comes upon them unawares,” Odysseus is warned. […]

Classical Investing, Part 4: The Golden Mean

By | 2017-07-17T12:23:02+00:00 February 27th, 2015|Global Market Update|

Aristotle’s Ethics has some pretty useful insights. Raphael: School of Athens; Source: Wikipedia Aristotle talked about the “golden mean.” He linked happiness and virtue to finding the balance between excess and deficiency in any particular trait. For example, the mean between cowardice and recklessness is courage. In politics, the mean between anarchy and tyranny is democracy. In the investment context, Aristotle’s “golden mean” would advocate finding a “golden balance” in your portfolio. […]

Classical Investing, Part 3: Time for Truth

By | 2017-07-17T12:23:02+00:00 February 26th, 2015|Global Market Update|

Sophocles’ Oedipus show us another investing principle. Source: Dorling Kindersley In Oedipus Rex the hero begins an inquiry to find out what happened to the former King of Thebes, who disappeared mysteriously. Although it looks like he’s going to incriminate himself, Oedipus doggedly looks for the truth, even gainsaying the Queen who claims that some things are better left unknown. […]