By Barry Ritholtz – December 31st, 2010, 10:00AM
The Big Picture
On the last day of the year, I like to think back about the truths I learned this year. Some were revealed accidentally, others were the work of challenging data analysis. We happened upon some Truths during deep contemplation, and occasionally stumbled across them accidentally.
And of course, there was Wikileaks.
Regardless of your method, with a little digging, truth seekers were regularly rewarded. When you find it, often, it is not pretty; the Truth will destroy long held, cherished myths. But if you are an investor, you must go through this process on a regular basis.
If you can identify where the masses’ subjective view of reality is wrong, and then time when they begin to realize this, there are good investment returns to be had. A bonus of this process is some small measure of personal enlightenment.
In 2009 and 2010, I learned that Corporate America took over the political process via their exhaustive lobbying efforts. What was once a Democracy is now a Corporatocracy. Just because I personally despised this result did not prevent me from profiting from it. Hardware, software, and research all cost money. I can promise you it is much easier to fight the powers that be when you have an unlimited Amex card — and cold hard dollars fiat printed Fed money — to help you.
Exactly how far has the takeover gone? The corrupt US Supreme Court provided a sympathetic venue for the creation of corporate rights never envisioned by the Founding Fathers; Congress has become a wholly owned subsidiary of America, Inc. The White House talks a good game of smack, but genuflects in order to beg for job creation.
Politicians do the bidding not for the people, but for the corporate establishment. Those people who want to blame the barking, snarling government for all the woes of the world do not want you to look further up the leash to see who is giving the commands. These corporate apologists pretend to be philosophers, but in reality they are mere Fellatrix, bought and paid for by their lords and masters.
Fearing a corporate takeover of the nation isn’t nearly as radical as it sounds. Thomas Jefferson reviled the idea of big corporations: “I hope we shall…crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and to bid defiance to the laws of our country.” Jefferson knew the influence bankers could have on a nation’s soul, and he was horrified by it.
No less a figure than Dwight D. Eisenhower — five-star Army general, Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II, responsible for planning and supervising the successful invasion of France and Germany, who then became the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961 — warned that “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” He knew it was not just the military, but the entire existing corporate structure that sought to take advantage of their influence in order to thwart legitimate competition, skew Federal contracts, and exempt themselves from taxation and regulation.
What might Eisenhower have said about the bailouts, and enormous decrease in banking competition?
The surprising thing about this anomaly is that there are enormous incentives to find the objective truth. Often, it seems like the reality gets buried under a mountain of conflicting interests, with power and money and influence on one side and We, the people on the other.
However, the credit crisis and collapse has taught us one very important lesson: If you continually search for that nugget of reality, if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and sift through the vast mounds of horse shit that Wall Street and Washington regularly serve up, there is indeed, a pony somewhere in there.
That is your job in 2011: Go find the pony . . .
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