Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Shiller Reconsidered

Rereading Shiller's Irrational Exuberance, I found the following subchapter:

Twelve Factors that Propelled the Market Bubbles:

1) Capitalist Explosion
2) Cultural and Political changes favoring business
3) Information technology
4) Monetary policy
5) Baby Boom and bust
6) Business media
7) Analyst forecasts
8) Defined contribution retirement plans growth
9) Mutual fund growth
10) Decline in inflation
11) Growth in discount brokers
12) Rise in gambling

As the Talmud says, 'when a debater’s point is not impressive, he brings forth many arguments'. With this many causes, one wonders why bubbles happen as often as they do. I think many of these 'causes' are symptoms of the same underlying cause, or handful of causes. The essence of bubbles, as opposed to their description, is not in this book. To say this bubble was uniquely caused by these 12 factors, is journalism, because it does not generalize.

1 comment:

DA said...

I've recently finished reading Galbraith's Affluent Society. He has an excellent chapter titled 'conventional wisdom'. He talks of how people are comfortable with things they understand and seek simple reasons and explanations to complex issues. Markets are extremely complex with many participants and moving parts.

If someone gives a single reason as to the cause of any bubble, most likely they are wrong. Greenspan did not cause the subprime mess, eventhough his policies were a major driving factor. As much as I hate Taleb, he does make good point about people seeking simple ex-post explanations to complex historical events. Shiller should be applauded for taking a more nuanced approach to examining the bubble.