Copybooks, Markets, and Tigers….Oh my!
I am reminded of one of my favorite poems by Rudyard Kipling (first introduced to me by my father) titled The Gods of the Copybook Headings. The premise of the poem is that man falls and fails with each generation to the extent that the new generation fails to remember the hard-fought lessons and wisdom of the past. It is a great read—thought dated in its analogy—and reiterates a truth common to us all.
The Capital Markets
Over the last few weeks, the stock market—being the bastion of sanity and stability that it is—took a header. Billions of dollars in market-valuation were wiped out more quickly than they ran up and gains for the year turned into losses. Friends and business associates alike screamed in pain. Before the final tallies were taken each day, fingers were rapidly pointing at villains du jour—to the right and the left. Stock proponents blamed comments made by Alan Greenspan (“He has retired, now he should keep his mouth shut!”), the larger fall in China’s Shanghai indices (“Currency controls restrict the markets!”), and banks themselves (“Sub-prime mortgages are destroying value!”). Even perpetual Bears—who go through life expecting a market’s fall—were aghast that their hoards of hidden gold bullion did not rise in glorious counterpoint to the falling market they have been predicting, lo these many years (several articles and blogs are adequately represented by the following headline from MarketWatch: “What forces are trying to hold down the price of gold?”).
The Tiger and the Monkey
There are several versions of a good story involving a tiger who looks up into a tree and sees a small monkey. The tiger says, “Come on down from the tree little monkey and play with me.” The monkey says, “No, no. I shall not, for you shall eat me up.” The tiger replies, “My days of eating monkeys are over, dear friend. Besides, you are so small! A tiger like me prefers much bigger game. Come down from the tree and play with me.” The monkey say, “I cannot trust you because you are a tiger and will eat me up!” The tiger looks up longingly and proclaims, “You are wrong small friend. I am simply lonely and desire your company. Come down from the tree and play with me for just a little while.” The monkey jumps down from the tree to play with the tiger. Quickly, the tiger seizes the little monkey and as the monkey is about to be devoured, he cries, “But you said that I am your friend and you would not eat me!?” To which the tiger replies, “What do you expect? I am only a tiger.”
Markets are Markets
Markets go up and markets go down—sometimes quickly—taking their revenge upon those who have forgotten that the market is, after all, just a market. No doubt I will have regular occasions to recall Rudyard Kipling and his fine work of poetry again in the future. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it?