Let’s stop whipping ourselves into a frenzy, shall we?

November 8, 2007, 4:28 PM UTC


Hi there. I’m sitting in the Admiral’s Club at London Heathrow, which may, as they say, be the busiest airport in the world but is most certainly the most hectic, confusing, and exhausting to negotiate. They have two x-ray lines: one for the normal stuff, another reserved just for shoes. Weird. I’m sure there’s a good reason for it. Like, there’s a guy looking at the machine who is specifically trained to evaluate footwear and nothing else. I wonder what he does for kicks.

Anyhow, I read a really stupid thing the other day and it made me think how close we all are to crushing ourselves in a real honest-to-God panic the way those soccer maniacs do to each other every couple of years. One person gets spooked, then another, and pretty soon people are trampling over each other like lemmings eager to hurl themselves over the nearest cliff. I hope I’m wrong. But it’s starting to look that way, and as usual a lot of the biggest and most determined lemmings either work or feed on Wall Street.

I was reading about the bank failure in Second Life over the summer, which coinciding with the subprime meltdown in real life. People trading in Lindens suddenly got a feeling that they were going to have trouble converting them back into dollars or something and there was a run on the make-believe financial institution that held their virtual lucre and pretty soon they had to close the so-called bank. What a mess.

Imaginary people trading in fictional currency whip themselves up into a state in which they create a situation in which they lose actual money. One is temped to sneeze at such fatuosity, except I think it’s really possible that the same thing is now going on in what we laughingly call the “real” world.

First there was debt that undermined the momentary health of some financial institutions, entities so large that they take multi-billion dollar write downs the way we would endure the loss of a $20 bill from our pockets. Then the industry that created the problem started talking about whether we were actually in a recession, when in fact the figures show that really, we’re not.

Once analysts, the media, gossipy brokers, boozy bankers and nervous investors start that story rolling, they need to follow it up with more reports, speculation, gossip and wind. So they did, in short order. Pretty soon the word “stagflation” started bouncing around.

This morning I looked at the front page of the Financial Times and yeah, now we’re not talking about recession, as we were last week, or depression, the concern of a few days ago, but inflation, the greatest bugaboo of all. “Stocks tumble as inflation fears grow” the headline screams. It’s only noon here and I already need a drink.

You know what? I have a reasonable, sane suggestion for the FT, the analysts, boozy brokers, et. al. Here it is: Shut… up. Please. I’m begging you. Let me put it another way. Go home, all of you. And don’t talk to anybody or write anything at all for the next three or four days. You don’t know anything anyhow, so it should be easy.

Look at it this way: It’s nearly Friday. You’ve had a busy week, moving the markets down, scaring everybody with all the horrendous words that make people run on banks, sell stocks, start stashing cash under their mattresses. Inflation. Stagflation. Recession. Depression. Recession. All of the above! Aieeee!

Take tomorrow off. Go pet your dog or something. You guys are going to create all the things that you’re frothing about if you’re not careful. And it won’t be Linden dollars this time.

Sometimes silence is golden. And last time I looked, gold was good in any currency.