At Last, Rational Plans to Assess & Stabilize the Economy
by The Opportunity Agenda, Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 02:16:31 PM EDT
What We Can All Learn from Truckers & Poker Players
For many of us, reading the latest economic indicators has become the new masochistic pleasure in our mornings – surely other people have a tickler reminding them of the latest BLS Employment Situation Summary and the Gallup mid-month underemployment statistics? The problem with those indicators is that even when they show improvement, they still reflect a dispiriting reality. This is why a recent article about a new economic indicator holds such appeal. First, it reveals facts about our economy that are divorced from the personal impact reflected in other statistics. Second, it actually has a cautiously optimistic tale to tell.
The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index, essentially, tracks the diesel fuel purchases of professional truckers, providing a graphic description of the movement of goods across the country. While the system has its drawbacks, it does provide some data regarding industrial production. In fact, if economists had been paying attention, it would have provided a warning about the recent downturn.
In addition to new data sources, it appears that the primary engine driving our economy has a new source of intellectual fuel. For those who have been worried about the continued instability on Wall Street, recent dips notwithstanding, there is finally a new source for traders. Apparently, the latest crop of bright young minds spinning economic gold from straw is emerging, not from ivy-covered halls of learning, but from the ranks of online poker players.
While this may seem, at first, like a reason to shift your 401K to gold bars hidden inside your mattress, it might not be as crazy as it appears at first glance. Online poker players, at least the ones who can make a living at it, have to possess many of the skills of a successful trader: calculation, the ability to quickly assess a situation, the temperament to bounce back from a loss, and a drive to make money. Apparently, for some firms, a quick hand of poker is the capstone of an interview, telling employers what they need to know about a prospect’s ability to make split-second firm decisions with a lot at stake.
Although there’s an argument to be made that many of our recent economic woes can be blamed on a risk-taking ethos (Derivatives 101), there’s also an argument to be made in favor of a shift in focus by Wall Street. After all, our retirement savings might have an incrementally better chance of growth in the hands of a hungry young trader who’s learned by eating only what she kills.
While this may seem flip, the take-aways from both of these news items is a shift in emphasis necessitated by our current economic reality. Both forecasters and moneymakers are learning to look at things from a 45-degree angle, as opposed to doing things the way they’ve always been done.
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