Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Growing wealth in a black swan world

To recover from Taleb's The Black Swan, I found and read Peter Bernstein's Capital Ideas Evolving. It updates his earlier Capital Ideas. If anyone wants to see the unfolding of modern finance but presented in an "inside baseball" format, this is it.

Ever since the expulsion of ancestors Adam and Eve, most knew that black swans are a fact of life. But Taleb beats this idea into the ground while real people are making money -- and the world gets richer. We get richer in a black swan world. Taleb spends too little on this important idea but Bernstein celebrates and explains it better than anyone.

I am not giving anything away by quoting from his summary.
The miraculous vitality of markets is impossible to suppress,
as even communist countries have learned. But the great theories of
Capital Ideas have nurtured and guided the development of today's markets to a
much greater extent than most of the participants in these markets stop to
realize. In the most vivid manner, Adam Smith's Invisible Hand is always
in play, while Joseph Schumpeter's "perennial gale of creative destruction"
blows compellingly, to a point where as Schumpeter also reminds us, "Profit ...
is temporary by nature: it will vanish in the subsequent process of competition
and adaptation." (p. 246)