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Saturday, 17 December 2011

Sweat The Small Stuff

I enjoyed a great conversation with the Renegade Economist on Thursday. On the humorous side, it reminded me that:
"Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige's wall, there was this one: "Matters of great concern should be treated lightly." Master Ittei commented, "Matters of small concern should be treated seriously." Ghost Dog (previously cited here).

But, seriously, it's stunning how little of the detail is really understood by our institutions. Instead, they are obsessed with erecting grand schemes that are shaped most by surprise events beyond our control - 'black swans'. These grand schemes, like the 'single market' and the Euro, are brittle political constructs that neither minimise our exposure to the downside of surprise events nor maximise our exposure to the upside. Worse, they distract us from coping with structures that emerge organically outside the artificial regulated sphere as well as day-to-day outcomes that we might otherwise have avoided within it. It was typically five years too late before any financial regulator demonstrated any understanding of the shadow banking system lurking outside the walls, for example. And our regulated financial system has suffered from within due to poor due diligence on sub-prime debt, lack of scepticism amongst auditors, analysts who rarely say 'sell', banks who are fined millions for lax controls, and tax incentives that concentrate investors' risk and fail to deliver finance to creditworthy people and businesses.

Retail is detail, they say, but so is everything else. We need to align our tax and regulatory system with our actual or desired end-to-end activities, bottom-up, rather than with artificial, paternalistic institutional visions for the future.


Image from Core77.
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