Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose

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In 1942, fresh from reading Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire
, 22 year-old Isaac Asimov published the first short
story in what would become the most famous and influential science fiction
series of his or your lifetime – the Foundation
Trilogy
. In these books, Asimov invented the fictional science
of psychohistory, a combination of
history, sociology and mathematics that could make accurate predictions about
the behavior of crowds.

The scientists who developed psychohistory called themselves the
Foundation, and they wrote down their research and principles on a giant screen
called the Prime Radiant. The Radiant displayed
the Plan, a path forward that recognized how we humans are hard-wired and
soft-wired to respond to Narrative and other invisible social interactions in estimatable
ways.
It was a path to be followed – not to prevent the inexorable and
inevitable Dark Age – but to reduce its length from an unimpeded 30,000 years
to “only” 1,000 years. All the wisdom in the world is insufficient to stop the
great cycles of human history. We do what we can.

The Plan goes awry only a few centuries into its efforts, thrown
askew by a unique mutant psychic named the Mule, a force totally unforeseen by
the Plan. The Mule’s great power is the ability to manipulate the emotions of
any human, a power he first uses to make a planet’s population fearful, then,
once conquered, to make them intensely loyal. First the Mule takes over the
machinery of Empire, turning the supposed leaders into his puppets. Then he
diminishes the Foundation into near irrelevance. And so the galaxy descends
into a 30,000 year Dark Age.

But the Radiant survives, kept alive by a small band of
psychohistorians determined to get humanity back on the right path, no matter
how long of a game they must play. This is the
Second Foundation
, established at the same time as the highly public
Foundation, working in anonymity and behind the scenes. Hunted by both the
Mule’s Empire and the still powerful Foundation, it is the Second Foundation,
using similar mental powers as those of the Mule, that ultimately prevails.

Their secret for survival and success? The Second Foundation hides in plain
sight.

And
you thought this was an investment blog.

I
won’t go into long detail on the first two essays in this new Manifesto – Things Fall
Apart (Part 1)
and Things Fall
Apart (Part 2)
– except to say that they are
examinations of what it means to have a polarized electorate and a monolithic
market. In politics we have what Yeats
called a widening gyre,
where a steady
stream of extremist candidates, each very attractive to their party base, pulls
all voters into a greater and greater state of polarization, leaving a center
that does not and cannot hold. In
markets we have a black hole
,
where the massive performance gravity of passively managed U.S. large cap
stocks pulls all investors into its clutches over time, subverting both the
reality of and the faith in portfolio diversification. Both phenomena have a
common cause – the extraordinary and coordinated monetary policies (including Narrative-control
policies) in place for a decade within every major economy on Earth – and both
phenomena are remarkably powerful, as the $22 TRILLION in central bank asset
purchases over the past ten years exerts enormous “gravity” to render apart in
politics and crush together in markets.

But the polarized electorate and the monolithic market are not stable. They’re not permanent. Both our political and market lives are governed by the Three-Body Problem, a physical geometry first noted by Henri Poincarè in 1887, where multiple bodies that act on each other – like stars and their gravity or humans and their strategic interaction – form a system that, in the lingo, has no general closed-form solution. In other words, the future of a Three-Body System cannot be predicted. There is no algorithm, no Answer with a capital A, that solves the Three-Body Problem. At best we can estimate the future position of objects in the system, with exponentially greater information processing power required the farther out into the future we try to look. So even though the polarized electorate and the monolithic market aren’t permanent, we have NO IDEA how long they will last or where they will end up.

That’s a
problem, because humans crave the Answer, in both our political and our
investing lives.  We are hard-wired to
seek it. And just because the Answer does not exist … well, that doesn’t mean
that people aren’t constantly going to fool themselves into thinking that
they’ve found it. That doesn’t mean that raccoons and true-believers alike
aren’t constantly going to sell you on an Answer. That doesn’t mean that
readers of this note who want me to tell them what to invest in or
who to vote for aren’t going to be disappointed.

Oh, a rhinoceros.
― Eugène Ionesco, Rhinoceros (1959)

There’s one essential book for understanding the social dynamics of the brutish know-nothing State, and it’s Ionesco’s Rhinoceros. Or you can watch the play. 

To see your fellow citizens and family members transformed into rampaging rhinoceroses, not in a miraculous sort of way but in an ordinary “oh, look, there’s another rhinoceros” sort of way … absurd, yes?

No. Not at all.

Spoiler Alert: the scientists and logicians are the worst.

In both
politics and markets, the Answer is, by definition, totalitarian in nature.
That’s what it means to be a general
closed-form solution. It explains everything.
Gold bugs and central banker fan boys, Trumpkins and Bernie Bros … they’re all
oh-so confident that they have the Answer. They’re all half-way to becoming
rhinoceroses, to use Ionesco’s perfect imagery.

But, Ben, if there’s no Answer, what do we DO?

Twiddle
our thumbs? Mutter darkly about the Fed for the umpteenth time?

[looks uncomfortably in the mirror]

Fall
back into snarky cynicism?

[looks around even more uncomfortably]

Isn’t
this just the path to nihilism, where we end up prancing around like comic
villains in The Big Lebowski, except
our prancing is done on Twitter instead of the parking lot of a bowling alley?

[okay, now you’ve gone too far]

No, Donny, we’re not Nihilists.

We have
nothing to fear from Nihilists.


Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
― Peter Berg, Friday Night Lights (2006)


“Friday Night Lights” is a great book, a good movie,
and a great TV series – an amazing trifecta of creative accomplishment by Buzz
Bissinger and Peter Berg. It’s about high school football in Odessa, Texas.
Which is to say it’s about how to make your way in a fallen world. Or not.

What’s the secret to life, the universe, and
everything? Clear eyes, full hearts,
can’t lose.

It’s
not an Answer. It’s a Process.

In
markets, we hear all the time about the “investment process”, about how that’s
the most important thing in predicting the long-term success of a portfolio
manager. And that’s exactly right. It really is the most important thing.

In
sports, we hear all the time about how we should “trust the process”, about how
that’s the most important thing for the long-term success of a sports franchise.
And that’s exactly right. It really is the most important thing.

Process
is the most important thing in every
walk of life.

Clear
eyes, full hearts, can’t lose
isn’t just a sports slogan. It’s a process
for living a non-alienated life, a life of meaning
as a citizen and as an investor. It’s a process for perceiving the invisible social dimensions that subsume and control
the visible social world of politics and economics. It’s a process for resisting the corrupting blandishments
of the Nudging State and the Nudging
Oligarchy
.

Because
all of this has happened before.

Sola scriptura. Sola fides.
― Martin Luther (1483 – 1546)

As the story goes, on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther posted “95 Theses” on his blog the door of the Wittenberg church, and so began the Protestant Reformation. At the core of Luther’s call to action against what he saw as the raccoons the corruption infesting the Catholic Church were two principles of Process: sola scriptura and sola fides.

Sola scriptura
means “by the Bible alone”. It is a rejection of the prevalent idea, then and
now, that the only way to be free of sin is to work through a priestly caste
that interprets the Bible for you and tells you its “true” meaning. Instead,
Luther believed that ALL baptized Christians are a priesthood in and of
themselves. We’re ALL wise enough to see the Truth for ourselves without the
intermediation of self-interested and self-aggrandizing institutions, and we’re
ALL smart enough to evaluate good counsel on the merits of the advisor and his
arguments, not his position or title or anointed status. 

Sola fides
means “by Faith alone”. It is a rejection of the prevalent idea, then and now,
that good deeds can buy you a place in heaven. As in literally buy you a place
in heaven, because supporting the Church with your donation of land or gold is defined by the Church as a good deed,
indeed. Instead, Luther believed that salvation is free for everyone. Rich
or poor, man or woman, young or old … just live an authentic life of Faith. That’s how you get to heaven.

Everything
Luther said 500 years ago rings so true for me today, not in a religious sense
but in an intensely secular sense. In
both our political and our economic lives, we are confronted by a priestly
caste of pundits and politicians and central bankers and economists who
interpret the World for us and tell us its “true” meaning.
Game theory
calls them Missionaries. Luther would understand this game.

We
are told that the path to a Better World is through “good deeds”, where those
good deeds are defined by
self-interested and self-aggrandizing institutions as:

  • voting for ridiculous candidates
  • investing in ridiculous securities
  • borrowing ridiculous sums

Voting
for Roy Moore or Bob Menendez for the U.S. Senate in 2018 because the
Republican or Democratic Party tells you this is what makes you a “good
Republican” or a “good Democrat” is exactly like buying an indulgence in 1518
because the Catholic Church tells you this is what makes you a “good
Christian”. So is putting your money into a structured security because a Wall
Street bank tells you this is what makes you a “good investor”. So is having
both parents work and still borrowing vast amounts of money for your child’s education
because the Nudging Oligarchy tells you this is what makes you a “good parent”.

It’s all as much of a con in 2018 as it
was in 1518.

You don’t beat a con with an Answer, because
an Answer IS a con. You beat a con with a Process … a Process for making sense
of the world with your own eyes, and a Process for acting in the world with
your own heart. Martin Luther had his Process. We have ours.

What do
we DO, you ask?

  • We train our mind’s eye to see clearly the invisible dimensions of NarrativeAbstractionMetagame and Estimation, dimensions that subsume and control the visible worlds of politics and economics. In so doing, we visualize the worldly truths of citizenship and investing for ourselves, not as some received truth broadcast by the Missionary caste.

  • We use that visualization of these wordly truths with a full heart, meaning that we act according to the principles of Reciprocity and Identity, principles that organize a pack of like-minded and truth-seeking individuals for long-term success. In so doing, we defeat the alienating efforts of the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy over time. Every time.

That’s
what we do.

That’s the Process.

For
every stock you buy and every vote you cast, the Process requires that you ask
yourself:

  • What are the Narratives (story arcs) I am being told?

  • What are the Abstractions (categorizations) presented to me?

  • What are the Metagames (big picture games) I am playing?

  • What are the Estimations (the roles of chance) shaping outcomes here?

  • Am I acting to promote Reciprocity (potentially cooperative gameplay)?

  • Am I acting in a way that reflects my Identity (autonomy of mind)?

Okay, Ben, but how do we do THAT? How do we train
ourselves to see Narrative, Abstraction, Metagame and Estimation? How we apply
those visualizations to specific questions we have about markets and politics?
What does it mean to say that we should act for Reciprocity and Identity in
order to succeed as citizens and investors alike? How do we implement the Process?

This is the why
of Epsilon Theory
.

This is the
reason we started a totally independent publisher, Second Foundation Partners,
with zero obligation to any asset manager or loyalty to any political
organization. We are here to write and speak and consult and train and advise
on how to put a Process based on clear
eyes, full hearts
into practice for the benefit of as many citizens and as
many investors as share our goals.

Epsilon
Theory
is the
Radiant.

Epsilon Theory is the
giant screen we use to display our research and our principles. Second
Foundation Partners will have other initiatives and subsidiary methods to spark
and wage this New Reformation. But Epsilon
Theory
is the core.

Through Epsilon Theory, Second Foundation
Partners will share the tools and techniques we have developed for seeing and
acting on the six Process dimensions of Narrative, Abstraction, Metagame, Estimation,
Reciprocity and Identity.

What can the citizen or non-professional investor
expect from Epsilon Theory to support
the Process?

  • To see the Narratives, Abstractions, Metagames and Estimations … example after example of how invisible social forces – story arcs, categorizations, big picture games and the role of chance – shape both our individual decision-making as well as our collective decision-making.

  • To act for Reciprocity … example after example of the underlying game theoretic structures of common market and electoral interactions, so that investors and voters can avoid paths that encourage single-play games and sub-optimal Competitive equilibria.

  • To act for Identity … a forum for expressing and discussing the small-l liberal virtues that support an individual autonomy of mind, and a structure for organizing a non-partisan bottom-up movement to promote those virtues.

What can the professional investor or advisor
expect from Epsilon Theory to support
the Process?

  • To see the Narratives … Natural Language Processing (NLP) visualizations of unstructured texts, and an analytic framework for understanding how market-moving and election-shaping narratives wax and wane.

  • To see the Abstractions … Information Theory visualizations of structured market data and behavioral interpretations of that data (like technical analysis), together with a critical perspective on macroeconomic cartoons, investment style boxes, derivative securities (like ETFs) and factors.

  • To see the Metagames … non-myopic Minimax Regret strategy applications for financial advisors and capital allocators, in contrast to the Utility Maximization strategies that dominate current economic theory.

  • To see the Estimations … a focus on “invisible” structured data indicators of investor sentiment, such as money flows and option open interest, and the stochastic (random) processes that underpin ALL market outcomes.

  • To act for Reciprocity … a resource for identifying the underlying game theoretic structures of common market interactions, so that investors can “play the players” in a way that encourages repeated games and optimal long-term outcomes.

  • To act for Identity … a forum for expressing and discussing the small-l liberal virtues that support an individual autonomy of mind, and a structure for organizing a non-partisan bottom-up movement to promote those virtues.

I know,
I know … a lot of ten dollar words in that list. If you’ve been reading Epsilon Theory for a while, though, most
of these ideas and tools will be familiar to you. If they’re not, you can get
up to speed on your own terms and your own speed, because every note we’ve
written on Epsilon Theory to date,
and every note we will write on Epsilon
Theory
in the future, will be available to everyone to read, free of
charge. I’ll say that again, with feeling. Epsilon Theory is now and will continue
to be a free publication.

Will we have a professional offering and a consulting practice where we will charge professional investors and institutional clients real money? Yes, we will. Will we have a premium version of the Epsilon Theory website that we really, really hope everyone will subscribe to? Yes, we will. Will we run ads on the non-premium Epsilon Theory website? Yes, we will. After all, in the immortal words of Don Barzini of Godfather fame, we are not communists.

But
here’s what we’re not doing. We’re not putting up a paywall. We’re not
restricting any of our content.

We are
hiding in plain sight.

I’m
going to close out this note with a quote and a few thoughts on the notion of
Identity, because it’s the common strand between the professional and civilian
readers of Epsilon Theory. Also, of
all six strands in the Process rope it’s probably the one that feels most
amorphous and least familiar to the Epsilon
Theory
audience. It’s also the most important. Especially here at the (new)
beginning.

Marchese:    So
you think liberals who talk about Trumpism’s effect on a declining discourse
are being hysterical?

Penn:             I do. But
I’m not sure I want to talk about you as being part of one team and me as being
part of another. … There was this sentence said to me — at the time I heard it,
I ridiculed it and now it seems like the most profound thing ever said. You
know Siegfried & Roy?

Marchese:     Of course.

Penn:             I was having lunch with Siegfried
and he was telling this story about dating a woman. I guess he saw a quizzical
look on my face and he said in his German accent with his coiffed hair, “I am
not gay. I am not straight. I am Siegfried.” I think that’s the only real truth
I’ve ever heard. I don’t want to be atheist, libertarian, gay, straight. I
don’t even want to be a man anymore. The only team I want us to be talking
about is all 7 billion of us human beings.

― Penn Jillette, interview by David Marchese for Vulture (August 14, 2018)

I’ve
always liked Penn, but didn’t quite know why. Then I read this interview. Now I
know why. Penn is right, by the way. It’s a profound statement. It’s the only antidote to the Rhinoceros
disease.

“I
am not gay. I am not straight. I am Siegfried.”

What’s
the most important quality to instill in our children? Courage. I don’t give a damn how smart they are, or how beautiful
they are, or how accomplished they are. I mean … I do, but that’s ego talking.

The
only thing I really care about for my
children is that they are brave enough to say, “I am.”

Just
do THAT.

It
goes back to what got Martin Luther all riled up in 1517 and has me all riled
up today. It’s not necessarily a BAD thing to give gold or land to the Church.
It’s not necessarily a BAD thing to buy a structured security. It’s not necessarily
a BAD thing to go into debt to pay for your kids’ educations. It’s not necessarily
a BAD thing to vote for the candidate of your choice, even if that candidate is
(I can’t believe I’m writing this) someone like Roy Moore or Bob Menendez.

But
are you doing it for the right reasons?
Because if you’re
not, then it IS a bad thing.

And
yes, I know “there for the right reasons” is a bagholder quote from just about
every episode of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, as the earnest
contestants lash out at the pretty boy or pretty girl who’s caught the eye of
the star but is just out for 15 minutes of fame, not “for love”. But it’s also
the gist behind a decidedly non-bagholder quote from another German thinker who
lived 200 years after Martin Luther.

Do what is right, though the world should perish.
― Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804)

And
yes, I know this is Kant riffing on a far older Latin quote, not original to
him. But it’s the key to his notion of duty and the categorical imperative and
the whole Kantian enchilada, if we can use a foreign cuisine term with a guy
who famously lived almost his entire life within a 10 mile radius of Königsberg.

The
truth, though, is that for the first 50 years of my life I thought this was a
really stupid quote.

Seriously, you wouldn’t pull a few fingernails off the terrorist who knows the secret to the bomb that’s about to detonate in a crowded Times Square? I’m no Jack Bauer, but c’mon, man. Seriously, you wouldn’t tell a lie to protect a friend from a criminal? Seriously, you wouldn’t do ANYTHING to save the freakin’ world? Clearly this is foolish. Clearly John Stuart Mill has it right when he says we should make rules that do the most good for the most people, including a rule that sometimes you have to break the rules if enough people are going to be harmed badly enough. Like, you know, the end of the world kind of bad.

But then a few years ago I was thinking seriously about this quote, also by Kant – Freedom is the alone unoriginated birthright of man, and belongs to him by force of his humanity – when I realized that you couldn’t have one without the other.

When you start down the instrumental path … when you start
cutting corners and telling white lies and selling just a teensie-weensie piece
of your integrity to accomplish what you calculate will be a MUCH greater good
that’s CLEARLY worth this small and inconsequential sacrifice of your duty … it
ALWAYS ends terribly. Whether we’re talking about a nation or a company or a
family or an individual … it always ends terribly. Why? Because once you start
down the instrumental path, there is no limit to the instrumental path. There
is NOTHING that is not theoretically contingent on a “greater good”, including
all those rights and freedoms that you hold oh-so dear. And who defines what
this greater good might be in a social system? You? Don’t make me laugh. We
know who decides what the greater good is … it’s whatever collection of
self-interested and self-aggrandizing institutions wield power at the time of
the decision, at whatever scale of social system we’re talking about. Which
means that YOUR freedom and YOUR rights are NEVER inalienable in any social
system that acts contingently, even if it’s just on the small stuff. Because it
never stops with the small stuff.

You want freedom? You want an autonomy of mind and spirit? You
want that as an inalienable right? A right that is yours simply because you are
a human being? Well, that comes at a price. And the Kantian price is this: everything
you do, you must do for the right reasons.

It’s really as simple – and
as difficult
– as that.

What are the right reasons? You don’t need me to tell you. You already
know what they are, in every situation you’re in. You have a moral compass. But
I’ll tell you anyway. Acting for the right reasons means acting in a way that
reflects who you ARE as a moral human being. It means acting for your identity as a moral human being, not as
a propitiation to some god or
potentate, not as an exchange for
some “greater good” that someone else
has talked you into pursuing. Not even for gaining a Supreme Court seat. Not
even for denying a Supreme Court seat.

I’ve written these words a couple of times now in Epsilon Theory, and I’m happy to write
them again.

Our core freedom – our autonomy of mind and spirit – is not granted to us by the State or the Oligarchs. It is not theirs to give. It is not a reward for good behavior or an allocation from a central pot. It is, as Kant writes, our birthright. It has always been our birthright. It cannot be taken away.

But we can give it away. 

And that’s what we do when we act instrumentally rather than for our identity as a moral human being, when we treat other human beings as a means to an end rather than as an end in themselves. We give away our birthright of freedom. We take on a process of lying – continually, habitually – until one day we can’t even remember where the truth ends and the lies begin. It’s all just one big narrative that we’ve constructed about ourselves, which is the most powerful and the most damning narrative of them all.

And that’s when we become a Rhinoceros.

On the other hand …

when we vote and invest and advise and make and speak because it
reflects our “I am” … when we vote and invest and advise and make and speak
because it is
in service to our pack, meaning in service
to those who share and honor and reciprocate our “I am” …
that’s
when we become a human in full.

Do this,
and you will be AMAZED at how so many of the decisions that we ceaselessly wring
our hands over – decisions like portfolio construction and strategy evaluation
and manager selection, decisions like who to vote for and how to participate as
a citizen – are resolved so quickly and so well and so solidly.

There’s
a positive energy – I wish I had a
better term for it, but really I don’t – that comes from knowing your “I am”,
from acting for the right reasons and from finding your pack. It’s a positive
energy that can carry you for life, in any walk of life.

All it takes is the courage to act for Identity.

Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling. Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

“Come on, girl,” said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he could no longer restrain himself. “We monks don’t go near females,” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?”

“I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

― Nyogen Senzaki, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings (1957)

We
live in an Ekido world, a cowardly world of abstraction built upon abstraction,
where every narrative can and will be used against you at every level of
society and at every level of metagame. We live in a world where our personal
outcomes are determined more by the roll of a die than by our own qualities or
smarts.

But Epsilon Theory is a Tanzan pack, and you are welcome to join us.

We don’t
have an Answer. But we do have a Process.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.

PDF Download (Paid Membership Required): http://www.epsilontheory.com/download/15361/

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Joseph McConnell
Member

Just wanted to say thank you. Grew up dirt poor but smart as shit and got sucked into the worst of our narrative-driven ‘elite’ institutions (Ben Bernake was my econ professor – vomit).

Went to actual war a few times in the interim for my troubles. I remember being on a patrol base in Iraq, late 2008, a few random explosions here and there to punctuate the discussion of the US economy falling apart. Telling my soldiers (a bunch of 18-year-old kids from shithole places in the south and midwest like me) how those guys knew what they were doing, necessary to save the economy, yadda yadda yadda. They called bullshit, I disagreed at the time. They were right. Heaps and heaps of bullshit.

Wife has a similar story. Both of us spent the better part of a decade wasting our lives ‘changing the world’ for big tech and big law. We lit it all on fire a few years ago and haven’t looked back. Have a three-year-old daughter now and have tried to live something close to what you have here since she came around. Couldn’t put it into words as well as you have. Godspeed.

P.S. You should read the Stormlight Archive if you can spare time for a fantasy epic- best encapsulation of how to be a decent human in a fallen world I’ve read in a very very long time.

0
chudson
Member
chudson

I consider myself very well read. You sir, are a struggle to read; and I mean that as a compliment.

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Eric Cheung
Member
Eric Cheung

I’ve enjoyed Epsilon Theory for the past 2 years and it’s been a wonderful source of education and it goes beyond finance. I find myself drawn to this type of discussion and world view and subscribe to several people with similar styles and perspectives.

However, it dawned on me that my desire for intellectual contrarian financial discussions might be a narrative I’m biased to accepting. The narrative is as follows: Someone on the outside like myself who doesn’t want to be “scammed by the financial system” will use his intelligence and true grit to persevere above the financial charlatans who are currently making money through ignorance. My biggest concern is that this narrative isn’t true and these intellectual discussions of human nature mapped to financial markets with $10 words thrown in is just an illusion to hide the simple fact that…I’m really an idiot. Is it possible that in the pursuit of understanding how foolish others are, we simply just constructed our own narrative and abstractions that commit very same sins as those of who look down upon?

Hope no one is offended. Still love Epsilon Theory though! I just wanted to pose to the community to see if anyone had similar concerns.

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Rusty Guinn
Admin

For what it’s worth, neither I nor Ben would take any offense at this line of thinking, because…well, because we wonder about the same thing. It was what I had in mind just last week when I was writing Deadly. Holy. Rough. Immediate. (http://www.epsilontheory.com/deadly-holy-rough-immediate/) The basic issue you’ve got your finger on, I think, is that we are all constantly telling each other stories. All communication is passed through a filter of “how I want this person to think,” and “I want all these people to see that finance is full of abstractions and Narrative” is absolutely a story we are telling you.

The question – in my opinion, anyway – is (1) who we will trust, knowing that they will be telling us stories (and we them), and (2) who will work with us in good faith to cut through abstractions in our communication with each other to be more real, tangible, authentic and direct. It’s hard for us, too.

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Eric Cheung
Member
Eric Cheung

That really helps a lot. Much appreciated 🙂

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Clive Hale
Member

People just love stories don’t they? As a kid “once upon a time” was a magic attention grabber. Very little changes so as you say always ask why you are being told what you are being told.
Ben – the idea of having a process was there in plain sight all the time! I do so enjoy your writings You have helped me to understand why I feel the way I do and feel a lot less “helpless” into the bargain.
I am really looking forward to following your new adventure as well as being a part of it in any way I can. Do let us know when you are going to be in the UK ????????
All the best Clive

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Tanya Weiman
Member
Tanya Weiman

I just became a Member of the Pack, and I wanted to comment on this piece as I found it very beautiful and profound, and I believe Ben described it as sort of a new manifesto. I’m firmly ensconced in BigLaw but I’m not an attorney, I work in accounting.

Ironically as I was hemming and hawing over subscribing here, and whether I should do the monthly vs. annual subscription (yup, accounting!), my company announced a bonus due to the end of our (successful) fiscal year which made it very easy to say, “Yes, annual subscription please!”.

I love the thoughtful posts that make me realize things that would never have occurred to me otherwise. I try to surround myself with many different voices so I have a less narrow perspective, and Epsilon Theory has become a huge part of that.

Ok have to bring this home, but one quick shout-out to Andrew Horowitz’s Disciplined Investor podcast (NOT sponsored), because that is where I first came across Ben. He was describing a financial concept using the work of Eadweard Muybridge. Mind. Blown.

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Tanya Weiman
Member
Tanya Weiman

Just to be clear, I was going to subscribe regardless — but the bonus made it much easier to choose the annual subscription.

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Russell Taylor
Member
Russell Taylor

As a kid and again more recently I read the Foundation series and was also taken by the idea of psychohistory – I think calling the publishing house Second Foundation Partners is an inspired choice.

There were two other ideas that came out of those books – the impact of geography (specifically the center vs the periphery) and technology (particularly the distribution of the diffusion of technology as it impacts on the evolution of the overall picture). Along with narratives + abstractions + metagames + estimates (the NAME factors as a proxy for psychohistory) is there a place in the thinking and discussion for how geography and technology as broad concepts can influence the evolution of the overall picture we are seeing? Or is this out of scope from the discussion?

Finally the idea of process is a good one – being part of a conversation (a good example of one kind of process) – is heartening and I look forward to making my own small contribution to that conversation with you all. Thank you for making this space possible.

Cordially from Sydney Australia

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Ian VanReepinghen
Member
Ian VanReepinghen

Just joined up w/ the Premium subscription and catching up on your notes. I was thinking about indebtedness and identity and how those of us who haven’t made it yet, like you have, pay the bills; it reminds of the movie Gladiator – an obscure part of the movie is when Maximus asks his servant “Do you find it hard to do your duty?” to which the servant answers, “Sometimes, I do what want to do, the rest of the time, I do what I have to.” I sacrifice what I think is right all the time; but it’s because I blew my savings on prior (ad)ventures I tried – it’s fine but I am “captured” again, back in corporate life;l it’s nothing unethical but I do go along with things that are irksome yet it pays me and I can easily pay the $200 for your subscription – the hope being I am moving ahead long-term towards more and more freedom, autonomy,..liberation; which is why I find it interesting that there’s prohibitions against “debt” in Islamic religion, though I don’t know the whole religious underpinning, but it makes sense – right? Freedom and debt are seemingly obviously at odds yet debt is so prevalent and some benefit from it’s broader and broader use – and I work for a consumer company, we make more money this year if people over extend and buy more than they should; in my race to more autonomy it would sure help if some others gave up some – I don’t know we are all so interdependent; my wife and I just sat down and tried to plan out our finances next 10 years and specifically to save a lot more going forward, too bad for the high end coffee shops, real vision think tank, the apparel companies we love, the wine shop downstairs… if credit/debt isn’t growing on the whole, aren’t we all just either losing or hoarding?

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Dale Saran
Member
Dale Saran

Ben, enjoyed this piece very much. Without meaning to offend, I would note that Ayn Rand (who draws a lot of hate, some of it justifiable, much of it not) said this very loudly… And unfortunately, rather pedantically. She was, however, an Aristotelian and influenced greatly by the Stoics. So, if my mention of Rand puts some off, I suspect citing the Greeks won’t.

The Stoics are certainly smiling from somewhere at your point about “doing the right thing” – without compromise. Utilitarianism is, at its heart, the road to hell; paved with all of the possible good intentions, it begins at Evil because it treats people as some kind of collective. At the heart of being Good – with no quotation marks – is treating no one as a means to an end. All human beings are imbued with a unique moral dignity by virtue of being human. Full stop.

It is amazing how much of the Good follows from that simple proposition; Contrariwise, it is amazing how much bad follows from a rejection of that proposition.

There is no amount of Evil that can’t be justified – twisted into “good” – by a reference to a “collective,” no matter how seemingly well-meaning. Make it Team Red, or Team Blue, or Marxism, Catholicism, Nazism, Maoism, or any other collective identity, and it follows (“…as the night does the day”) that you wind up with gas chambers, or some post-modern equivalent.

About the only good news in any of this is that somehow, in spite of our natural tendency to tribalism, human beings retain an ability to reach beyond this for transcendence. We’re going the wrong direction in this country, but people seem to sense it. That’s good news, to my mind, or at least reason for hope. Most folks can’t quite articulate why or what with all of the Narrative being crammed down their throats from government-controlled education, the idiot box, and social media, but there’s at least an awareness…

I hope your pack continues to grow as the people take your proffered red pill, but I would also hope that people never misapprehend the point that Penn made: we should be a pack that seeks to exclude no one, offers a hand up to all, and remains humble to our own limits and possible errors. Looking forward to more in 2019; this is a wonderful place to read something outside of the dreck that clogs the airwaves and Net.

(Joseph, thank you for your service.)

Semper Fidelis,

dale

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