Thursday, May 26, 2016
Golf, economics and fundamentalist investing
Golf offers a few lessons that would help economists as investors if they would pay attention. The chief lesson is get back to the fundamentals. Fundamentalism has become a curse word lately, but in Christianity it originally meant one who held to the doctrines of the virgin birth, deity, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that is, the fundamentals of the faith. Fundamentalists were distinguishing their concept of Christianity from the modernists who denied all of the fundamentals but for some strange reason, or out of pure dishonesty, continued to call themselves Christians. Twenty years ago a few journalists intent on advertising their ignorance began misusing the word and today a fundamentalist is the vilest murderer on the planet.
We should rescue the term from ignorant journalists. (Other words need rescuing as well, such as liberal and justice.)Those who practice the fundamentals of any discipline are fundamentalists and the fundamentals are important in most areas of life. In football the fundamentals are blocking and tackling. With investing, fundamental analysis is extremely important. In golf they’re grip and swing, according to the golf masterpiece, Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book. Penick recommends revisiting the fundamentals when you’re golf scores suffer from inflation. Are there any fundamentals in economics that could rescue the field from the macro confusion that threatens it today? Yes. The fundamentals of economics are in micro.
Two schools of macroeconomics exist – Austrian and mainstream. But the mainstream world is split between paleo-Keynes, neo-Keynes, monetary and neoclassical. In spite of their common origins, they imitate their socialist counterparts in other fields by fracturing and fighting over insignificant details. All of them pretend that micro doesn’t exist and try to build their systems through correlations of aggregates, such as aggregate demand, aggregate supply, savings, investment, exports, money supply and GDP.
On the other hand, Austrian economics builds up its macro on the certain fundamentals of micro. There are no schools in micro. Micro is just micro because the principles of micro are the most certain in all of economics. No good economist disputes the laws of supply and demand, or diminishing marginal returns, though mainstream macro pretends they don’t exist.
The focus of Austrian economists on the fundamentals has enabled them to craft the best business-cycle model in the field. Mainstream economists are still stuck, after eighty years, with “crap happens!” They call it “shocks,” but it’s the same thing.
So if you find you investing landing in the rough, try getting back to the fundamentals: the market follows profits and profits follow the business cycle, the Austrian business-cycle.