Skip to main content

Why We Need a Roaring Bear on Wall Street

Image result for Adam Levitin

There is a kerfuffle underway about a statue called "fearless girl" recently installed in the financial district of Manhattan.

It isn't the biggest of controversies, but it does have some symbolic significance, and there is a pragmatic lesson here about how markets work. 

Since 1989, the financial district has featured the "Charging Bull," a statue by Arturo Di Modica. He originally located it directly in front of the New York Stock Exchange, but it was subsequently moved to a small park in the neighborhood.

In March of this year, a four foot tall bronze statue of a grade school aged girl (pigtails and billowing dress) standing in the path of the bull in the usual stance of defiance (legs spread, hands on hips, face forward toward the danger) made its appearance. Fearless Girl is sufficiently close to Charging Bull that they appear to be a single work, which has Di Modica furious.

The link above will send you to a WaPo story on the controversy, with an apt photograph. Bulls are of course masculine, and the face-off suggests female empowerment.

Personally, I take no position on the legal issues. I do think that if the original statue were going to be complemented, it would have made more sense to complement it with a Roaring Bear. This goes beyond the cliché that bulls and bears are the usual iconography of the financial markets, representing respectively buyers and sellers, longs and shorts, optimists and pessimists, prices rising and prices falling. No, there is a deeper point here. One that involves mass psychology and the way markets work.

American culture loves the bull, we're a culture in love with its own optimism. We tend to think that any price rise (at least an increase in the price of something that we're not dependent on buying) is a good thing. News programs on television regularly include a market segment which usually consists of a talking head reading off numbers of price index changes on a given day, with some interstitial text indicating happiness about an up move, discontent about a down move.

Of course the little girl is fearless in the face of such a bull. She's growing up in Manhattan, ingesting the presumption that bulls are wonderful.

This is all nonsense. As Adam Levitin (a fine representative of the econoblogosphere whose countenance I have put at the top of this blog entry) has put the point, "We should want market prices to be right, which should mean an indifference between short and long positions."

Indeed. Bears play as valuable an ecological role as bulls. When there are too many bulls vis-à-vis the bears, we ought to be fearful.


  1. eToro is the best forex trading platform for rookie and full-time traders.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

England as a Raft?

In a lecture delivered in 1880, William James asked rhetorically, "Would England ... be the drifting raft she is now in European affairs if a Frederic the Great had inherited her throne instead of a Victoria, and if Messrs Bentham, Mill, Cobden, and Bright had all been born in Prussia?"

Beneath that, in a collection of such lectures later published under James' direction, was placed the footnote, "The reader will remember when this was written."

The suggestion of the bit about Bentham, Mill, etc. is that the utilitarians as a school helped render England ineffective as a European power, a drifting raft.

The footnote was added in 1897. So either James is suggesting that the baleful influence of Bentham, Mill etc wore off in the meantime or that he had over-estimated it.

Let's unpack this a bit.  What was happening in the period before 1880 that made England seem a drifting raft in European affairs, to a friendly though foreign observer (to the older brother…

Cancer Breakthrough

Hopeful news in recent days about an old and dear desideratum: a cure for cancer. Or at least for a cancer, and a nasty one at that.

The news comes about because investors in GlaxoSmithKline are greedy for profits, and has already inspired a bit of deregulation to boot. 

The FDA has paved the road for a speedy review of a new BCMA drug for multiple myeloma, essentially cancer of the bone marrow. This means that the US govt has removed some of the hurdles that would otherwise (by decision of the same govt) face a company trying to proceed with these trials expeditiously. 

This has been done because the Phase I clinical trial results have been very promising. The report I've seen indicates that details of these results will be shared with the world on Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. 

The European Medicines Agency has also given priority treatment to the drug in question. 

GSK's website identifies the drug at issue as "GSK2857916," althou…

Francesco Orsi

I thought briefly that I had found a contemporary philosopher whose views on ethics and meta-ethics checked all four key boxes. An ally all down the line.

The four, as regular readers of this blog may remember, are: cognitivism, intuitionism, consequentialism, pluralism. These represent the views that, respectively: some ethical judgments constitute knowledge; one important source for this knowledge consists of quasi-sensory non-inferential primary recognitions ("intuitions"); the right is logically dependent upon the good; and there exists an irreducible plurality of good.

Francesco Orsi seemed to believe all of these propositions. Here's his website and a link to one relevant paper:

What was better: Orsi is a young man. Born in 1980. A damned child! Has no memories of the age of disco!

So I emailed him asking if I was right that he believed all of those things. His answer: three out of …