Monday, August 8, 2011

This Time It's Different...

Around late 2000 or maybe 2001 I was sitting in a meeting listening to Richard Bernstein expound on his market sentiment indicator when he suggested I obtain a copy of Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation by Edward Chancellor to gain a better understanding of bubble manias, particularly the Internet bubble of the time. Well, Mr. Bernstein must have made that suggestion to a lot of people because by the time I heard about it, this 1999 book was already extremely difficult to find anywhere. Ten years later, after more bubbles have risen and burst, I spent a sunny lunch break leisurely wandering through my favorite outdoor used book seller, when I finally chanced upon a copy of this elusive book. Seeing the price knocked down to just three dollars, I had to obtain it.

Chancellor takes the name of his book from an old expression that the Devil will get anybody who is too slow. So you better hurry up and not be last. Something akin to what we used to say, "last one there is a rotten egg." In a financial strategy that is knowingly built on the "greater fool" theory, being the last one to sell as an asset's price is rising will be your ruin, or as an anonymous pamphleteer warned against the South Sea Bubble, "the Devil take the hindmost."
Chancellor starts off in Rome 200 BC where they had all of the necessary ingredients for bubble formation including modern financial instruments and a culture of gaming.

More to come...


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