Nassim Nicholas Taleb

O autor do best-seller The Blak Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, publica no the Guardian uma carta aberta dirigida a David Cameron, denunciando o modo como algumas das causas mais severas da crise económica global não estão a ser enfrentadas como deveriam. A lição também nos serve:

Be careful, too, of the so-called science of economics. Economists have been no better in their predictions than cab drivers. We have an “expert” problem, in which the expert provides you with misplaced confidence, but no information. Because we think, correctly, that the dermatologist, the baker, the chemist are true experts (they know more about their respective subjects than the rest of us), we swallow the canard that the economists at the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Bank of England and the US Federal Reserve are also experts, without checking their record. (…)

If we are to have regulators, we need them to operate along conservative lines and conserve the rich knowledge and understanding of risk transmitted through generations of practice, of trial and error. We replaced the heuristics of the elders with arrogant (and incompetent) beliefs, breaking, in the name of science, the chain of knowledge. Old, conservative bankers and traders have been replaced by keen young mathematical analysts, yet anyone who listened to a grandmother who survived the Depression would have been warned against debt and been better prepared than Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan, respectively chairman and former chairman of America’s Federal Reserve.

The solution is obvious: build an economy that increases the role of well-tested traditions. Ban financial derivatives that require advanced mathematics rather than trial and error. Look at mother nature. There is a complex system built around sound principles that has insured both evolution and survival. It does not let anything get too big to fail. It breaks things early. I don’t understand why people who stand against tampering with nature accept tampering with the economy that would have organically grown too. Work on building a “robust” society, capable of withstanding errors, in which the role of finance (hence debt) would be minimal. We want a society in which people can make mistakes without risk of total collapse. Silicon Valley offers a good example, where people have the chance to fail fast (and repeatedly).

The best blueprint is the very opposite of the Obama administration’s economic policies (its foreign policy is commendable). It has been administering pain-killers without addressing the cause of disease. Obama is strengthening those who do the wrong thing. Take the “cash for clunkers” programme. It is a handout to those who bought the wrong – uneconomic – car. He is penalising people who did not make a mistake. The same applies to other “rescues”. By raising taxes after the crisis, the administration is hampering evolution. Those who do well in difficult times end up paying more tax and those who lost money in the crisis pay less. The rich who got us here are being rescued by regular Joes and being subsidised by the tax system.(…)

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