Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

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Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Although there is no evidence for it, it is a scientific fact.

If you haven't seen this video then probably have a go now, otherwise none of this will make sense.

I'm still thinking about the Internet Sensation of a couple of days ago, that "trader" Alessio Rastani (not least because I made a bit of an ass of myself on Twitter by passing on the rumour that he was literally a YesMen hoax, sorry about that folks). In terms of whether I spotted him, I'd say I did and I didn't - within minutes of seeing the Youtube video, I had pegged him as a self-publicist and pud-knocker, but I didn't really suspect that he wasn't a trader at all - I just presumed that he was a self-publicising pud-knocker who worked for a bank, there are quite a few (I had him pegged for either a desk junior who had been sent along as a prank, or an overpromoted head at a really terrible brokerage desperately trying to drum up business). The real false note was the immediate citation of what "the big funds" were going to do; something about it rang really false, like if the interviewer had said "Name me three hedge funds" he wouldn't have been able to.

And so it turns out that what he was, was a daytrader and trust fund type (from the fact that he has an Italian first name, an Iranian surname and an American accent while living in London, I bet I could get his home phone number through six degrees of separation). Basically an amateur, sitting at home occasionally having a punt on the Dow e-Mini future (it is worth $5 per tenth of a point on the DJIA). Basically, he wasn't even standing to the guys at Goldman Sachs in the same relation as a blogger to a journalist; more like the same relation as the Aga Khan has to a granny who puts 50p each way on the Grand National.

And this was the guy who apparently speaks for the culture of traders, according to Robert Peston, and others. The fact that he's become the poster child of the Zero Hedge blog tells you pretty much all you need to know about that blog. It's a very Bourdieuvian situation – what we have here is a guy who is a wannabe trader, who goes on TV saying the sorts of things he thinks traders might say (because of what he's heard and seen in media portrayals), and everyone believes him because he's saying the sort of things they expect to hear from a trader. When it turns out that he's no more a trader than he is a nun, everyone says that despite the fact that he's not a trader, his interview tells us a lot about what a real trader would have said (if, more or less per impossibile, one had agreed to appear on a show on a nonfinancial channel, during market hours), because … well, because he sounds like he's saying exactly the sort of things that everyone knows traders say.

I am slightly nostalgic for the days in which Walts stuck to pretending to have been in the SAS, and using slang from Andy McNab books.

But on the other hand, of course … well, Andy McNab actually was in the SAS, and so was Chris Ryan, for all that the two of them write like the biggest wannabe fantasists out there. Are there plenty of traders who dream of a recession?
Well, I said that I thought the guy didn't know what he was talking about, and that he seemed like a wannabe, narcissist and pud-knocker. I didn't say I thought he didn't sound like a trader. Plenty of guys internalise that sort of macho bollocks, just like plenty of us love Wall Street (the original). But the actual emotional psychology of being short a falling market? Well I know that quite well from the inside – one shouldn't necessarily privilege first hand accounts because "I was there" is always a source of unreliable narration, but I do – and it isn't quite like that. I would say that the way you feel when you're short the market into a crisis is not unlike the kind of guilty sense of vindication that lots of people of the Left will admit to (if they trust you, and usually after drink has been taken) having felt in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. It's not pleasure at all, but it's a recognition that a difficult and unpopular thing that you did turned out to have been correct. Cassandra must have felt it as the towers of Ilium burned, so I bet the Greeks had a word for it.

If you take that basic emotional state, bind it up with a more than normal degree of neediness for recognition, and filter it through a person who's better at talking quickly than considering their words, and temperamentally inclined to express themselves forcefully, then that's how you get speeches like Rastani's. That's not how it happened, but those are the excuses I'd be making if had turned out that the guy was the real deal.

The stuff about Goldman Sachs owning the world though? My arse. Only the Economist thinks that. Nobody who has ever traded securities in a public market, in size, for a living, thinks that any individual has any control over what happens at all. You will get people talking a lot about what "the market" can or can't do, will or won't stand for, but that's the sense in which sailors will talk of "the sea".
0 comments this item posted by the management 9/29/2011 01:07:00 PM

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