A few months back, the irrepressibly witty Paco introduced to me via his blog a book entitled A Conspiracy Of Paper. Having to do with 18th century London, stock-jobbing, the South Sea Bubble, the fringes of Jewish culture and the intertwining of Judaism into western modernity, and unwitting expectations before impending financial doom, it hits pretty much all of my buttons. After reading the book, I highly recommend it to anybody, as it handles these topics within the story of a salty lad trying to solve his father’s murder. For this post, I wanted to pick out a couple of passages that struck me.
First, on the nature of markets (and movers within these markets): “Exchange Alley, sir, is no game of fists within a ring, in which might prevails. It is not even a chess game, in which all pieces are laid upon the board and each player sees all and the most accomplished man sees best. It is a labyrinth, sir, in which you will see only a few feet before you; you can never know what it is that lies ahead, and you can never be sure from which direction you came.” The character goes on to note that there are people who can see the moves of others, but I think the above description depicts the nature of market activity extremely well from the point of view of an individual, and makes more impressive the implicit coordination which occurs.
And second, on lying in particular and mores in general:
“I shall go mad,” I announced, “if I must always suspect people of telling me lies so that I shall know they are lying. What ever happened to telling a man lies he meant a man to believe?”
“The problem with you, Weaver,” Elias announced,” is that you are too invested in the values of the past.”
The above would crack up a Straussian…