Buyer Beware; Consumer Beware; Reader Beware – Searching for the Truth-Finders and Truth-Tellers (one message of The Big Short)

We live in a world of misinformation. It’s not a new world. (Remember the “Snake Oil Salesmen” of yesteryear?) But today, there’s just so many more places to write and say and spread such misinformation.

big-short200_custom-s6-c30The book The Big Short is a book that, among other things, tries to filter through all the ways that misinformation was at the heart of the financial collapse of 2008.

Was anybody telling the truth?

Sometimes, the people weren’t telling the truth because they did not even understand what they were doing. In other words, they weren’t lying, they were just… dumb.

Sometimes, the people were just reluctant to translate what they knew into understandable language, in order to keep their place as the “trusted expert.” I love this quote/excerpt from the book:

It’s too much to expect the people who run big Wall Street firms to speak in plain English, since so much of their livelihood depends on people believing that what they do cannot be translated into plain English… (p. 218).

And other times, the people were out-and-out liars. They knew that what they were saying was not true, but there was money to be made, and untruth was just one of the weapons in their arsenal.

Here’s a key quote/excerpt from the book:

Re. the conflict of interest within a firm, where a firm “makes bets on stocks and bonds on its own account at the same time that it brokers them to customers, it faces great pressure to use its customers for the purpose of its own account. Wall Street liked to say they build Chinese walls to keep information about customer trading from leaking to their own proprietary traders. Vincent Daniel offered the most succinct response to this pretense: “When I hear ‘Chinese wall,’ I think, You’re a fucking liar.” (p. 205).

Everybody likes to point fingers at the “other guys” for the collapse of 2008. But it’s pretty clear that the fingers need to pointed in every direction – including at one’s own nose for the ones who played a role in this financial disaster.

And, here’s what I think – it truly is buyer-beware, consumer-beware, even when (especially when) buying and consuming information. Two key questions: What to believe? And, Who to believe?

And, if you can figure out how to find this kind of person:

A truth-finding, truth-understanding, and then truth-telling person

then you’re on the right, best, safest track.

But, alas, there aren’t all that many people like that out there, it seems. At least, there weren’t that many in 2008.

By the way, are you that kind of person – a truth-finding, truth-understanding, and then truth-telling kind of person?


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