Thursday, October 9, 2008

Animals are Panicking (we spook easy)

I'm not sure it's a safe distance. But there's something about the cognitive impairments of outsiders like me that can score a ringside arrangement at the main event -- the end of wealth as we know it.

We feel no pain -- only wonder that we have the season box all to ourselves, reclining in seats that couldn't be scalped in markets gone by. The anxieties of looming job losses, spiraling health costs, and threadbare necessities? That's garden variety stress. But the anxiety as a flashpoint for pain? That can only be suffered by a "player" -- someone having financial self-destiny wrested away by nothing more diabolical or mysterious than uncertainty -- the fear of not knowing what's next.

Even spectators like me get that the asking price is under water. How far the mighty markdowns have fallen. How shallow the argument that market forces were meritocracies. That globalization tamed Darwinian impulses and imposed its own self-correcting cycles, capable of absorbing bubbles, and feeding new safe havens for tomorrow's betting pools ... um ... I mean hedge funds.

The spectacle? It's the late, great 2008 global meltdown. Even when the parachutes won't open and the main attractions have long since stampeded for the exits I can't take my gawking eyes off the stage of our sub-prime time together. So trickle-down was more convincing as a theory. So rising prosperity did not lift all boats.

And about us being in it together? It depends more on how you define who "us" is.

Certainly the panic is not based on the manufacturing arm of the treasury. This is the new century. There is no tangible or electronic material that can't be over-supplied into distribution. Liquidity is not the problem in our most fluid circumstances. The problem is that mutual self-interest isn't holding that liquidity like it used to. Instead we're squirreling away our acorns in mattresses that are about to inflate even faster than the gas prices on escape routes from low elevation areas.

Speaking of evacuations how must those folks in Galveston be feeling knowing that their town was wiped off the map twice -- first by Hurrican Ike and then by this great capital flight of universal distrust.

I think what fascinates and saddens the most is how this calamity was not due to natural causes, or an act of war or terrorism, or a scarcity of some precious resource. In the war room of foreseeable doom scenarios this one wouldn't reach the radar. Menacing foreign powers are doing as poorly as us and oil at $88 / barrel doesn't even elicit a Bronx cheer?

We are not made of sterner stuff. We cave at the instant the alarm sounds. We have no more spine than the politicians we indulge to shield us from what we need to understand: That $700 billion rescue package? That's $700 billion we have yet to be taxed on goods and services not yet produced. But what's another breatheless emergency on top of another cash infusion?

Here's one stab at defining the future of certainty by a dumb, numb bystander: Until we're as certain about the "we" as the "it" in the "we're all in this together, we're not getting anywhere.

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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.