The Zeitgeist – 3.14.2019

Every morning, we run The Narrative Machine on the past 24 hours worth of financial media to find the most on-narrative (i.e. interconnected and central) stories in financial media. It’s not a list of best articles or articles we think are most interesting … often far from it.

But for whatever reason these are articles that are representative of some sort of chord that has been struck in Narrative-world.

The Good and the Bad of Stanford’s Massively Successful Startup Scene [Bloomberg]

The self-dealing and shadow economy of prestige academia will all be Common Knowledge before this is all over, and it will rock our society more than any revelation of the self-dealing and shadow economy of Wall Street.

Cboe to Launch Suite of Derivatives-Based Strategy Benchmark and Volatility Indexes Based on MSCI Emerging Markets and EAFE Indexes [Press Release]

Welcome to the Hollow Market. JFC.

Democrats go to war with big everything [CNN]

If you think this is just a Sanders/Warren thing, or if you think it’s just a Google/Facebook thing, you’re wrong. This is a Zeitgeist thing.

No One Is Afraid of Slowing Growth at Momo [Fox Business]

It’s the triple play of Raccoon financial media!

Fox Business “places content” from Motley Fool.

Motley Fool writes a puff piece on a Chinese “social video and online dating specialist” company called Momo (you can’t make this shit up).

But since a Chinese social video and online dating specialist called Momo just isn’t momentum-y enough, “investing geniuses” David and Tom Gardner want to sell you the 10 stocks that are – hard as this may be to believe – even better buys than Momo.

Welcome back, carried interest [Politico]

I’m just surprised capital gains treatment of carried interest has lasted this long.

China Puts Margin Financing Under Scrutiny As Stock Market Froth Evokes Memories Of 2015 Rout [The Street]

My new favorite euphemism! Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go deeply reflect on my Juicero investment.

Will The ‘Fed Put’ Work On The Next Go-Around? [Seeking Alpha]



  1. “The self-dealing and shadow economy of prestige academia will all be Common Knowledge before this is all over, and it will rock our society more than any revelation of the self-dealing and shadow economy of Wall Street.”

    If the gyre is going to stop widening, education - the entire infrastructure - is going to have to move away from its aggressively liberal bias and back to a somewhat middle-of-the-road, truly-open-to-ideas-from-all-viewpoints model. If I understand the ET long game (not sure I fully do), then reducing the bias in education will have to happen. If it takes a massive scandal to do it, then so be it - as noted, it’s a long game.

  2. To what extent do you see your commentary (words and - even moreso - choice of pics) in this article as fiat news? I opened it expecting a bullet list of news items that are particularly ‘in-play’ in the popular press, but reading through i am tugged in various directions as if you are suggesting I take a certain (usually, snarky) POV towards the content… heck, I don’t even need to click through to read the articles since I’m already being told what to think about them!

    If you feel that’s not a correct characterization, what distinction do you see that makes the characterization inappropriate?

    PS: I dunno if this article is reflective of this Zeitgeist series in general, as I have not taken up the habit of regularly reading this particular series as yet.


  3. The most malignant aspect of Fiat News is in the decisions about what articles get written and published. In that sense, The Zeitgeist is more innocent because the choices are made by a nominally objective, auditable process that can probably be explained in a couple of sentences. It’s not totally objective, I’m sure there are parameters set by the operators, but the decisions are at least one level abstracted from a particular person’s beliefs or agenda. The ostensible goal is to be representative of everything that’s published. “If you don’t have time to read everything, read these 5 things and you won’t be missing much”, and I buy it.
    The commentary per se is clearly labeled as such and the reader has the fully-informed choice about how to react to something that is clearly just what some guy on the internet thinks about something.

  4. I suspect that the Carried Interest scam has lasted this long because Chuck Schumer has had his entire career funded by Hedge Funds.
    And he has protected that cherished tax break for the ultra rich guys

  5. To no extent whatsoever.

    Fiat news isn’t just opinion. It’s the presentation of opinion as fact. I highly recommend that you approach, read and understand every word we present on this website as our opinion.

  6. I can’t say that that isn’t true, but the point here is a narrative one rather than a fundamental one. The competing narratives are “Spurring long-term risk taking in private enterprise is good!” and “Carried interest is a rich people loophole.” There are shreds of truth in both that could be debated in wonky policy discussions, but what’s surprising in this relatively populist environment is that the former narrative is the one that has largely carried the day for a very long time.

  7. Ben and I disagree on this one. I think there is so much metastability in the common knowledge around prestigious post-secondary institutions that scandals like the ones we’ve seen will be shrugged off in weeks, if not days, with almost no impact on signaling power or the desire of people to attend them. It’s a belief that, for people more of our political persuasion, Mark, is a bit more pessimistic on the prospects of the kind of transition you describe than what I think Ben believes.

    The only narrative-space tactic that I can see (right now, anyway) breaking the existing status quo is to reframe the student loan issue around non-profit status and endowments of the big, elite universities rather than the current policy ideas of “forgiveness” at the generosity of the US taxpayer.

  8. I was thinking about this exact thing this morning when I read (buried deep in a news website) an article about Jussie Smollett pleading not guilty to 16 charges in court yesterday. Proving I can still be innocent (stupid), my first thought was, “gee, why isn’t that bigger news / being covered everywhere as, like it or not, it was a big story when it first broke.”

    Then it hit me, it’s not the story many in the media want to tell. A great example of your comment: “The most malignant aspect of Fiat News is in the decisions about what articles get written and published.” Well said. FWIW, the like button doesn’t seem to be working, as I tried without success to hit it for your comment.

  9. I don’t disagree, the power of the brand of those few schools is incredible and they lean politically the same way as the MSM does, so the incentive - consciously or not - will be to circle the wagons and stop it if there was ever a serous risk building.

    What would our political landscape look like if kids came out of school having had equal exposure to both political ideologies and, ideally, no pressure to conform to either, but encouraged to assess and be open minded? Nah, we can’t have any of that, there are elections to be won.

  10. Perhaps the disconnect is in the preamble to this (and, it seems, every) Zeitgeist article. I read it again, and still came away thinking, yep, this is purporting to be a news article (or i guess a meta-news article), in contrast to the rest of what I’ve read on ET.

    How would purveyors of fiat news (say, any regular Hannity episode for instance) respond differently vs. your response above? I dunno how to distinguish.

    OTOH, maybe it’s the snark more than the opinion that raised my hackles. Snark just seems to slip in so naturally and it’s such a subversively divisive rhetorical style IMO. A twitter diet (or even better, fasting) is the way I’ve tried to deal with it personally. So when it hits me in the face off Twitter, it’s a pretty negative experience. My problem, not yours, i guess.

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