Saturday, November 22, 2008

Things that sane people are not sitting around reading on a Saturday night

Here's an interesting piece Warren Buffet wrote back in the seventies, dealing with a paradox I've been at a loss to explain myself -- if equities represent an ownership stake in a business with real assets, why are they such shit in an inflationary environment (historically speaking, of course). So check out

How Inflation Swindles the Equity Investor

an unsually long and detailed piece from a bygone age of Buffettelia.

A propos of nothing, it's interesting to me how long Buffett has focused on the way the market works "in aggregate". Now that I've read years of his letters, I see that it is a theme with him. He pretends to ignore macro questions, and I really do believe that he spends little time thinking about what economists think growth will be next year in Argentina. 1.2% by the way. At the same time, he almost always has one eye on the overall state of the economy and the markets with respect to their historical norms. When he says to buy stocks, it's because they have historically returned 6% in real terms from the current levels of valuation. When he says that America will end up share-cropping, it's because the aggregate math of spending more than you earn simply becomes unsustainable at some point. And when he talks about the market, he always, always includes a disclaimer that in aggregate, we simply cannot beat the market. In fact, as he puts it in the article, in aggregate, we cannot even reduce our exposure (buyer for every seller). It makes me wonder if the only important things in investing are patience, humility, and not blowing up with borrowed money.

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