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Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

I’m pretty sceptical about our ability to understand something by way of empirical testing in things like medicine, nutrition and economics because it is extremely difficult to isolate the variable you are measuring. And then you’re often forced to engage in some heroic extrapolation to apply it to the problem you’re trying to solve. In fact, I think that much macroeconomics, at least when it is based on this process, is bunk.

So this bring me to an article in the NYT about organic food

One of the things that I mistrust about the organic food market is that it is exclusively based on intuition and branding:

The modern organic movement in the United States was started by a handful of counterculture farmers looking to grow food using methods that they believed were better for the land and produced healthier food. It was a culture built on purity and trust that emphasized the relationship between the farmer and the customer.

You haven’t gotten rid of this kind of risk:

Although the rules governing organic food require health inspections and pest-management plans, organic certification technically has nothing to do with food safety.

And…

Organics has grown from an $11 billion business in the United States in 2001 to one that now generates more than $20 billion in sales, so the stakes for farmers, processors and certifiers can be high. But the agency overseeing the certifying process has long been considered underfunded and understaffed. Critics have called the system dysfunctional.

All this sidesteps the main issue I have with organic food, which is this:

What reason do I have to believe it’s any different than non-organic food? Because it’s “natural”? What on earth makes me think that “natural” is somehow good? We “naturally” don’t have vaccines or antibiotics or life expectancies north of 30ish.

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Professionally, I’m an intermediary. 

My job is to negotiate a deal between two or more partes. This job is stressful because I get paid if a deal is done irrespective of whether it was a good deal or not. 

The other counterparties’ job, in effect, is to maximize the number of good deals they do. This happens by employing three skills: 

1. The ability to generate the largest possible sample of the universe of deals.

2. The abilty to identify the bad deals.

3. The ability to discard bad deals without compromising #1.

The problem is that #1 is designed to give me hope and #2 is designed to crush most of those hopes. A rollercoaster indeed.  #3 isn’t actually all that important and #1 isn’t actually all that hard. #2 is where all the skill is, which means that people are much more likely to overcompensate at it to the detriment of #1.

This job requires a certain kind of emotional intelligence; you’ve got to be able to be sensitive enough to identify  and respond to peoples’ wants, cares and emotions but not sensitive enough to care too much them, or your own, for that matter. 

Intermediation carries an extraordinary amount of operating risk because if you’re no good at producing good deals, you can’t make any money. 

Our counterparties are exposed to the risks that others can’t do their jobs properly. As many an investor found out in 2008.

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I find these blog tools to be hilarious. Who on earth needs people to give them rss feeders?

Surely you can find someone who can provide this service better than randoms in the blogosphere.

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