Trading in the Queen’s Hamlet
- Joshua M Brown
- September 16th, 2011
Good Morning, fellow Wall Streeter’s – here’s something I thought we may want to keep in mind: While we’ve been flipping pieces of paper back and forth amongst ourselves on the virtual trading floor, the country surrounding us has been slipping into a Third World sinkhole of late payments, humiliation and jobless Monday Mornings.
Witness: The US Census Bureau is out with a brand new report this week telling us that 46.2 million Americans are currently living in poverty. 15.1% of our fellow US citizens are poor people and the rate for children is even worse – 22% of the nation’s kids are living below the poverty line, almost a quarter of them. 50 million Americans under the age of 65 cannot afford health insurance, 16.3% of the nation. 13.5% of working age adults cannot find work. Median incomes are down 6.4% versus 2007 – even those with jobs are paid less each year for the pleasure of showing up,
This horrible existence goes on day after day while we, the fortunate few, sit here quibbling over earnings estimates and PE ratios and stochastics and support levels for a completely untethered “asset class” that bears little resemblance to the condition of the country in which it exists. Our stock market is reminiscent of the Hameau de la Reine (the Queen’s Hamlet) that Marie Antoinette built to amuse herself – a pastoral, working farm village encased entirely within the gardens of Versailles.
When at play in her miniature hamlet, the bored and insipid queen could pretend to be a shepherd’s wife or a farm girl, safely ensconced within a utopian replica of the French countryside hidden behind the palace walls. This while France starved and lived in a perpetual state of strife and hardship, millions of peasants reduced to begging and indentured slavery so that the Royals could wage wars of influence and play at their mock-farm games and such.
From her majesty’s Wikipedia entry:
The Queen sought refuge in peasant life, milking cows or sheep carefully maintained and cleaned by the servants. Dressed as a peasant in a muslin dress and straw hat, a light switch in her hand, with her ladies. The place was completely enclosed by fences and walls, and only intimates of the Queen were allowed to access it. During the Revolution, “a misogynistic, nationalistic and class-driven polemic swirled around the hameau, which had previously seemed a harmless agglomeration of playhouses in which to act out a Boucher pastorale.” For Marie Antoinette, the hameau was an escape from the regulated life of the Court at Versailles, in the eyes of French people, the queen seemed to be merely amusing herself.
Stock market participants are doing little more than frolicking in a manufactured false paradise where day-to-day prices reflect nothing other than the whims of these participants themselves and how they feel like reacting to the “news of the day” at any given moment. The market, which once existed primarily for capital formation, has become little more than a mock-capitalist game aimed toward enriching only the participants, contributing little to the rest of the nation.
50 million people live in poverty as we trade amongst ourselves and clip fees and commissions off of every loose dollar thrown our way. We have become little-girl queens in a Land of Make-Believe, walled off from the realities of the peasants who each day grow more wretched and disenfranchised.
Today I’ll make and take a dozen or so phone calls, will make a few investments and execute a few trades. The net result, hopefully, will be positive for the households I am responsible to and so, by extension, beneficial to my own interests as well. But my actions and the actions of the rest of my fellow stock market participants will mean little-to-nothing for anyone else. We’re trading and investing in our own little hamlet, playing at capitalism as the society all around us devolves into a feudal misery-scape just outside the walls of the garden.
Something to keep in mind.
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The Reformed Broker is a blog about financial markets and the economy. Joshua Brown is a New York City-based investment advisor for high net worth individuals, charitable foundations, retirement plans and corporations... More.