Friday, April 17, 2020

Some Reading While We Wait

Staying home and social-distancing is a pain but it does have an upside. It creates an opportunity to catch up on reading and perhaps gain a new perspective. The following are some excellent columns and one video that may help pass some of that time profitably.

The video is a nine-minute YouTube explanation of a key economic issue, opportunity cost. It uses a Boston College football game as an example and features Nobel prize winners Robert Solow and Paul Samuelson.

I was also sent a link to Known Unknowns, which author Allison Schrager describes as "a newsletter that is coming to terms with uncertainty." The April 13 issue of Known Unknowns is about making sense of the market and features a discussion with economist, Zvi Bodie. The newsletter is free and you can subscribe (as I did) by supplying an email address at Allison's website,

Don't stop with this issue of the newsletter, follow the links to other columns, like "better understanding of risk and uncertainty", and you will be well rewarded.

Peter Neuwirth provides an excellent column with outstanding writing at I thoroughly enjoyed his recent insightful essay, Making Smart Bets in the Age of COVID-19. The column leans heavily on the studies of Nassim Tabem. A key bit of wisdom can be found in the conclusion, "At the end of the day, we also believe that what is most important is that you be aware of the bets you are making as you are making them, that you become aware of the emotional and cognitive biases that may lead you astray, that you avoid all-in bets when you can, and that you make your life as anti-fragile as you can."

The April 16 issue of the Retirement Income Journal includes a column on the CARES Act by George A. (Sandy) Mackenzie. The author summarizes the column as "an updated summary of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and then turns to the growing debate over how best to aid American small businesses—businesses with less than 500 employees—and their workers."

What am I reading in addition to these?

First, I am reading The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry. It not only provides a detailed history of the 1918 "Spanish Flu" epidemic but of the political environment prior to World War I. It is fascinating and one can draw parallels to the current Covid-19 epidemic.

Lastly, unrelated to any of this, I'm reading Agency by William Gibson. Agency explores different timelines in which the last US election and Brexit turned out differently.

There's a lot of good stuff to read out there right now. I hope you find some of these enlightening. Stay safe.

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