hype and clarity
was grey and overcast, cool and muggy at Central station and everything
was wet. It felt like all of Sydney's weather credits had been used
up on the Olympics. My fur was damp and mouldy and the water dripping
off the platform roof felt like it was seeping into my soul.
was tailing a code warrior to see who his contacts were. His partners
in a glitzy dot com startup suspected he was selling what they grandly
called "confidential technology" to their rivals, but it looked
to me like a hysterical reaction to their inevitable demise. When they
rang to ask if I'd take the job I checked up on them. They were burning
whole sackfuls of cash every day, they had no incomings, and their rivals
were doing no better.
It looked like a safer job than the alternative, which was an investigation
of Tom Domican's industrial relations consultancy. The dot coms were
going to hell on bicycles and I didn't mind relieving them of a wad
of cash along the way.
target got on a train, so I followed and sat down behind him. He was
a compulsive mobile phone screamer with a shaved head and a Californian
accent, and it wasn't hard to evesdrop.
I can confirm to you absolutely the technology works on our test environment
when installed ...", he affirmed for the whole carriage.
wasn't a long ride. He got off at St James and I followed him across
Hyde Park to the Australian Museum, where he joined a woman for lunch
at the café. I lurked in the Museum shop on the other side of
the foyer and took a couple of snaps of her for identification purposes.
target returned to the office after lunch and I walked back to Werrong
Lane in the rain. I bought the papers and went back to my desk. The
papers were damp and limp and only the most incurable bull would have
found comfort in them. After several decades of Keynesian pump-priming,
Japan was a quagmire of bad debt. The Phillipines were a basket case,
Indonesia was spinning out of control and Russia was sliding back into
the autocracy which it has never really escaped. The price of oil was
rising relentlessly, the Nasdaq was staggering downhill, the Dow-Jones
was wildly overvalued and people were beginning to notice.
of the great debates about the 1929 Crash concerns whether the slump
was triggered by problems in the so-called real economy or whether it
was just a ghastly accident of stockmarket psychology", Old Possum
remarked, when I later joined him for a drink at the Brushtail Café.
his history of the crash, John Kenneth Galbraith came down on the side
of the ghastly accident. Personally, I don't believe that's correct,
but in a way it's a fruitless debate, for how can you separate the dancer
from the dance?
world economy is like a wild ecosystem, but with this difference: it's
made up of one species, humans, who are capable of changing their behavioural
responses very quickly and the shift in the psychology of a zillion
participants can suddenly feed back into the system.
they're all in a mood to believe the hype of a golden future full of
fabulous profits and fat dividends the stockmarket rises to impossible
heights. Then suddenly both the rational judgements and the instincts
of millions of people converge in the thought that things are heading
downwards; it's all an illusion; it can't last; it's time to cash-up
and get out."
decline and the premonition of decline reinforce each other. For a while
the economists and the politicians talk the economy up and when things
get desperate, the big players try propping up the market, but these
are puny forces in the face of a big slide."
and now there's the election debacle in the US, and the prospect of
four years of a hung legislature and a president without much authority",
I said, feeling glad I slept in the ceiling above an office I owned.