Taleb Says World Is More Fragile Today Than in 2007

Oct.31 — Nassim Nicholas Taleb, scientific advisor at Universa Investments, discusses the factors causing global fragility, hidden liabilities in global markets, and what he sees as safe trades in the current market. He speaks with Bloomberg’s Erik Schatzker on “Bloomberg Markets.”

High-end real estate will be the first to fall.

The Republican Grovelling at the White House Was an Alarm Call for 2018

This has been a year of extraordinary accomplishment for the Trump Administration,” Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, said. “Thank you, Mr. President, for all you are doing.” Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, added that passing the tax bill “could not have been done without exquisite Presidential leadership.” Senator Orrin Hatch, of Utah, spoke directly to Trump, saying, “You are one heckuva leader, and we’re all benefitting from it.” And Congresswoman Diane Black, of Tennessee, put it even more bluntly. “Thank you, President Trump, for allowing us to have you as our President,” she said.

It is well known that Trump, his ego as fragile as an eggshell, demands constant flattery. But this was cravenness of a level rare even for Washington. Perhaps the Republican senators and representatives were taking their cue from Mike Pence. At an end-of-year Cabinet meeting that was held shortly before the celebration on the South Lawn, the Vice-President praised his boss fourteen times in three minutes—once every 12.5 seconds, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake pointed out—and after Pence had finished his obsequious speech, other Cabinet members chimed in with their own gushing tributes.

.. Not only do we have a chronically insecure President with Napoleonic pretensions. We also have Republican leadership that is happy to feed those pretensions in order to get its way. For much of 2017, many Trump antagonists, myself included, have taken consolation from the belief that he wasn’t achieving much.

.. The appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court received a lot of attention, of course. At least equally important, though, was the appointment of more than seventy conservative judges to lower courts. And right-wing zealots have also been parachuted into the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and other regulatory agencies, where they are busy stripping away many of the protections that previous Administrations put in place, such as clean-air regulations, workplace rules, and guarantees of net neutrality.

.. the introduction of tax breaks for private-school tuition fees. Ted Cruz wasn’t exaggerating when he described the latter provision, which he proposed, as potentially the biggest piece of federal school-choice legislation in history.

.. Paul Ryan has already signalled what that means: a renewed assault on Medicare and Medicaid.

What’s the Matter With Republicans?

Why do working-class conservatives seem to vote so often against their own economic interests?

My stab at an answer would begin in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many Trump supporters live in places that once were on the edge of the American frontier. Life on that frontier was fragile, perilous, lonely and remorseless. If a single slip could produce disaster, then discipline and self-reliance were essential. The basic pattern of life was an underlying condition of peril, warded off by an ethos of self-restraint, temperance, self-control and strictness of conscience.

.. Today these places are no longer frontier towns, but many of them still exist on the same knife’s edge between traditionalist order and extreme dissolution.

.. Many people in these places tend to see their communities the way foreign policy realists see the world: as an unvarnished struggle for resources — as a tough world, a no-illusions world, a world where conflict is built into the fabric of reality.

.. The virtues most admired in such places, then and now, are what Shirley Robin Letwin once called the vigorous virtues: “upright, self-sufficient, energetic, adventurous, independent minded, loyal to friends and robust against foes.”

.. The sins that can cause the most trouble are not the social sins — injustice, incivility, etc. They are the personal sins — laziness, self-indulgence, drinking, sleeping around.

.. Moreover, the forces of social disruption are visible on every street: the slackers taking advantage of the disability programs, the people popping out babies, the drug users, the spouse abusers.

.. In their view, government doesn’t reinforce the vigorous virtues. On the contrary, it undermines them — by fostering initiative-sucking dependency, by letting people get away with their mistakes so they can make more of them and by getting in the way of moral formation.

The only way you build up self-reliant virtues, in this view, is through struggle. Yet faraway government experts want to cushion people from the hardships that are the schools of self-reliance. Compassionate government threatens to turn people into snowflakes.

.. a woman from Louisiana complaining about the childproof lids on medicine and the mandatory seatbelt laws. “We let them throw lawn darts, smoked alongside them,” the woman says of her children. “And they survived. Now it’s like your kid needs a helmet, knee pads and elbow pads to go down the kiddy slide.”

.. they perceive government as a corrupt arm used against the little guy. She argues that these voters may vote against their economic interests, but they vote for their emotional interests, for candidates who share their emotions about problems and groups.

.. I’d say they believe that big government support would provide short-term assistance, but that it would be a long-term poison to the values that are at the core of prosperity.