Friday, April 10, 2009

Pessimism Econo-Porn: Titillating Bleak Media Reports on the State of Economic Collapse

"Pessimism Porn," from NY Magazine:

My wife busted me again the other day. I had slipped away from her and the kids and into the fantasy world of the web. But not the kind of fantasy you’re probably thinking of. This was pessimism porn. A friend had turned me on to a futurist named Gerald Celente, who anticipated the Asian financial crisis and other calamities. Now, Celente says, the U.S. is heading for a middle-class tax revolt, food riots, and a Central Park engulfed by shantytowns.

The blog Calculated Risk is always a reliable turn-on. The guy who runs it combs the financial media for “cliff-diving” rates of this and that. One data point he often cites is the A2P2 spread, or the difference “between high- and low-quality 30-day nonfinancial commercial paper.” Turns out it “gapped” dangerously last fall. Worrying about the A2P2 spread is like having a dirty secret. I spend many fruitful minutes playing out scenarios: What do I do when my corner deli gets looted? What bridge do I take out of town? There’s something very exciting about it all.

Like real porn, the economic variety gives you the illusion of control, and similarly it only leaves you hungry for more. But econo-porn also feeds a powerful sense of intellectual vanity. You walk the streets feeling superior to all these heedless knaves who have no clue what’s coming down the pike. By making yourself miserable about the frightful hell that awaits us, you feel better. Pessimism can be bliss too.

Thomas Barnett's response to Pessimism Porn and the "titillating bleak media reports on the state of the economic collapse."

I made a decision a long time ago not to make my career a bet on bad things happening. I think that approach simply corrodes your strategic thought capacity. Human history is progress, so if you're constantly having to screen out the good to spot the bad, your vision will be unduly narrow. If you bet on progress, you can easily contextualize the bad, because progress is never linear. But if you bet on retreat, you must consistently discount advances as "illusions" and "buying time" and so on, and after a while, you're just this broken clock who's dead-on twice a day.

As I've said earlier, porn desensitizes. If you want to dull your senses along with the pain, it's a great way to go, but it narrows the intake capacity. After a while, you're simply blind from all that self-pleasuring.

HT: Capital Commerce Blog

3 Comments:

At 4/10/2009 8:26 AM, Blogger Braxton Hicks said...

Very thought provoking article. I still have memories of my Boy Scout days...so, I'm going to "Be Prepared."

 
At 4/10/2009 8:31 AM, Blogger Jeff Herron said...

Braxton, I love the comment and the handle. I'm not sure if the handle is meant to be a wry commentary on the article, but it made me grin!

I, too, think it best to be prepared. Maybe the bottom won't drop out tomorrow or next year or even in decades. But someday it eventually will. It always has before, so it's fairly reliable to predict it will again. And when it does, those who are prepared will live well. Those who are not may survive, but it won't be much of a life.

 
At 4/10/2009 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of "Pessimism Econo-Porn", here's my contribution:

VIDEO

If the current state of affairs doesn't disturb you, or give you pause, you're not paying attention.

 

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