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Fortune Telling

Time is the one thing that man has not mastered. For all of our ability to move around this little ball called Earth, we cannot change where we are in time. But can you imagine if we knew the future?

“Robert James Orff was born today in Saint Paul. He will graduate from Highland High School with honors, and get his degree in accounting from the U of Minnesota after five unenthusiastic years. He will go to work for the accounting firm of Sipher and Abscura for his entire career. After a series of disappointing relationships, he will marry Louise Fletcher (born next week) and they will have three children. He will retire to the Alabama at the age of 53. His death will be ruled an accident.”

Yes, some things are best left as a mystery. But there are consequences for our inability to know just what is going on. At least we can always look backwards and hopefully learn from history, right?

Life used to be quite simple for most people. Change happened slowly, and their horizons were often not bigger than the town they lived in. This may sound boring, and in many ways it was. What is remarkable is how much people counted on it being boring and predictable, and made sure they had plenty of things like life insurance.

Today, we live in a much more rapidly changing world. Anyone can lose their job at any moment – and along with it health insurance, their house, and nearly everything. Do people tend to buy insurance for all of this? The short answer is that such comprehensive products aren’t even offered. And it’s not just people that have this problem. Large companies do not buy insurance, but tend to either be self-insuring or use commodities futures to hedge their future. If you know about the Black-Scholes-Merton equation or what LTCM was, you know this can blow up when you least expect it to.

So, as usual, we have not learned much from history. We have much more risk than people did 50 years ago, and either less protection or snazzier protection that is known to fail miserably at times. And our world is, if anything, changing faster.

We have given our selves over to Empress Fortune, as she was called in the 13th Century text “Carmina Burana” (sorry for all the space – skip down a bit to continue

Sors immanis Fate – monstrous
et inanis, and empty,
rota tu volubilis, you whirling wheel,
status malus, you are malevolent,
vana salus well-being is vain
semper dissolubilis, and always fades to nothing,
obumbrata shadowed
et velata and veiled
michi quoque niteris; you plague me too;
nunc per ludum now through the game
dorsum nudum I bring my bare back
fero tui sceleris. to your villainy.

A changing world may seem exciting, but it is dangerous. As the old Russian curse goes, “May you live in interesting times”. Some of the things that we need to insure ourselves against are things that the market does not currently exist for us to do it properly. That is why people wind up without health care and have their homes in foreclosure.

We cannot predict the future, which is sometimes a good thing. The more our world changes, the more we can’t even hedge against likely future outcomes. As much as I dislike calling for government action, this is clearly a place where the market has shown itself to be inadequate. If you think that change is a good thing, remember what will happen if change gets beyond too many people and causes widespread devastation. Globalism can be shut down quickly if those who feel crushed by the wheel of fortune start to rise up and demand it.

A free people would never willingly accept Empress Fortune as their ruler. We don’t even know who she really is, after all.

3 thoughts on “Fortune Telling

  1. Pingback: Values « Barataria - the work of Erik Hare

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