If stocks and commodities, as market analysts say, are struggling to find their place, their bottom or their 90-day moving average in a volatile market what kind of statement is this about the abrogation of individual responsibility? Seemingly there is a persistent and almost counterintuitive willingness to allow for the supernatural. On trading floors which have 15 super computers for every man, woman, and beast, unwittingly many of us will ascribe a stock, bond or currency movement to it's anxiety, uncertainty or other purely human emotional term. And yet, we live in a scientific world that largely believes in evolution and fact.
Let's look at this behavior as would any scientist in her study of any artifact of an extraterrestrial event, knowing the fragments would yield incredible knowledge of the make-up of the universe, or in the manner of a biological anthropologist in his study of the fossilized stool sample of a giant saber-toothed tiger in order to better understand it's feeding habits, the nature of the surrounding ecologic community, biota, the eco system, weather or food supplies, and on and on. And, we must ask". what possible value is there in studying the language of the stockbroker whose slang and colloquial expressions migrate the general observation of the market's movement to the good or bad, better or worse, from the third person objective to the first person conditional.
What does it mean when a theoretically smart and competent financial market maker imputes an internal humanistic design onto an asset class, suggesting an innately capable prescient animus in inanimate objects? It is true markets fluctuate and to the trained eye may appear to be seeking a mathematical formulation or spot regularly inhabited on a parabolic curve. But the fluctuation is the outcome of many forces. All of which are mechanistic or chaotic or the sum of each but not the results of a humane and prescient personality. Though it is perhaps true too human behavior is a proximate cause for some of the swings of one stock or commodity or another, it is not true there is any intent or prescience imputable to the thing itself. Inherent in the very statement, albeit nuanced and scarcely notable is the slippery path of imputing knowledge to inanimate things, and if we examine the 4000-5000 years our recorded history, this is curiously both the necessary and sufficient condition to commence, what we have euphemistically called, a "belief in the divine.'
All rational people know gold does not struggle to find it's footing in a global market anymore than the equities as an asset class are wary or anxious (or read any human emotion) to be somewhere or not. However our language reflects a profound and implicit, if unspoken, belief that such anthropomorphic behavior is not only possible but also likely. Extraordinarily, if we look back over the course of human history and study the view of those among us who believe profoundly or even marginally in the likelihood of god there is the very same behavior and practice of imputing rational and humane ability and capability to inanimate objects. It is true we can predict thunder storms, and sometimes earthquakes, famines, pestilence or war. It is not true that any of these elemental macro behaviors have any of the stuff of human thought, emotion or reason.
So why, one might ask, does it matter. Everyone flips a coin. Everyone plays rock, paper, scissors. And many people, to this day, kiss the blarney stone, cross themselves before getting up to bat, taking a test, having a baby, betting on red, or facing many of the uncertainties of daily life. What possible ill may come from such a tic or superstition beside a measure of good luck, even if we were to win anyway, a prophylaxis from warts, knowing we didn't touch the toad or the relief from not breaking a leg for not stepping on the sidewalk crack. In days before carbonization when water was impure, sickness and pestilence was known, though not scientifically, to be passed by unclean water, many inhabitants of large cities spent much of the day inebriated. Beer and the safety of carbonated yeast was the only water purification around, and when, before the industrial age, the family provided a network of safety, comfort and commonwealth, none of the derivative issues arising still from the stockbroker's abrogation of science meant much. We do not live in that world. Here a flap of a butterfly's wings in Tokyo immediately and absolutely effect the weather, the markets and quality of one's way of life. In short, it matters.
From a purely academic view most of us agree it matters little how one postulates the beginning of the universe, the basis of morality, the right of the might, the cause for commonwealth or any of the myriad of moral issues which impact more than just ourselves and devolve into the general structure of culture. The reasoning is quite simple for whether one believes in god or the devil, Baal or Dionysius. If our beliefs are held within, which is a natural process for all of mankind, then they do little but color, for better or worse, the lens through which we see humankind, life and our world. In the instance that our beliefs trickle past our immediate person and inform the immediate family of when to harvest, when to sow, when to pray and when to let go, there is again no harm or foul. When tribes and families in a more rural and agrarian setting were more appropriately separate then no right or wrong and no malfeasance or misjudgment could trouble any for whom we did not have direct responsibility.
Said another way, it mattered little if one believed in witchcraft, threw bones at the family dinner, saw the wrong constellation of configurations and whispered curious and mischievous wonderings about the future to a child or grandparent. Though laughter and sometimes fright and tears would result, there was, at the end of the day, an absolute and unspoken responsibility borne by the shaman to care of the others. The categorical imperative that each be taken care of as well as the other was unambiguous and emphatic.
As resources became scarce, or were thought to be scarce and hoarding or shortage from whatever occasion was a fact, the growth of the tribe, at one time in balance, was, upon meeting the trap lines of another, suddenly at risk. Shortage or the fear of shortage almost inevitably leads to discourse and acrimony, uncertainty and all of the elemental acts that inevitably lead to war. To be sure there are tribes, cultures and civilizations that can live with shortages and all the while still maintain a homeostasis through which all have a little less than is wanted or needed but the distribution is shared and the hardship, if it results, is balanced.
The extreme example in stark opposition to balance, even in shortage and with an allocation of resource insufficient to meet the population's need, but balance and harmony maintained, is the example of the Western civilization in the United States. In the U.S. 80% of the wealth, a shorthand term for resource, power, raw material, commodities and the wherewithal (power) to employ is controlled by 2% of the population and 93% is controlled by less than 10% of the living. Such imbalance of resource is not in and of itself an a priori reason for imbalance or the diminution of the likelihood of commonwealth. When there is uncertainty in determining the cause of, or a superstitious attribute connected fundamentally to, wealth, this allows for the possibility the excess of money sitting in my bank as opposed to yours is an act of chance or wonder or god or the mystery of the universe. Allowing for such a possibility we pass through or beyond the realm of reason, if only starting by the etiology employed, describing the failure of the wheat crop, the impoverishment of a culture, the famine in one part of a country or another and the serendipitous but unaccountable accumulation of gold and riches by one class rather than the other.