Psychology and the Death of The Contrarian

Populism (“political ideas and activities that are intended to represent ordinary people’s needs and wishes”  is on the rise. (Maybe Plutarchy is finally going down. Wrote this 2 months back .. Plutonomy, Plutocracy, Plutarchy ? Pluto is Not A Planet Anymore! )

Doesn’t take alot to notice and sympathise easily with the populists these days. The Muslim Brotherhood, French Socialist Party, Golden Dawn in Greece have found support. I think it must have begun sometime with the Arab Spring and Occupy Wallstreet, the odd Tibetan burning in between and the small but politically significant Singapore elections last year. Now people love Myanmar and everyone hates Syria. Even China let the blind dissident go to New York !!!

Just read Thomas Friedman on the NY Times Sunday and his pretty hilarious take of Moore’s law from a political angle, that The Quality of Political Leadership Declines With Every 100 million New Users of Facebook and Twitter.

Friedman goes on to observe the dilution of leadership. And I think it all started way longer than the 2011 uprisings. It was Reality TV ! The Survivor and Big Brother series gave voices to the common people and made celebrities of them, turning life into a big beauty parade. The connectivity of Twitter and Facebook, courtesy of the Apple Iphone has further amplified the voices on the ground and given life to hidden causes.

Popularism and The Tall Poppy Syndrome

I have this to say about populism. Populism is about supporting the underprivileged and the oppressed. There is no “popular” support for wealth and success. It is about challenging norms and disagreeing with the status quo.

There is no room for Tall Poppies in the popular movement. Official responses are met with skeptism and nothing is good enough.

The Markets and Populism

People are fed up of the markets. It is a Catch 22 and hostage situation whereby we hate the policy makers for creating havoc. And likewise for the Central bankers all valiantly trying to revive the dying markets.

It is becoming increasingly fashionable to criticise than praise.

Its tiresome and self perpetuating because the longer we dwell in this mindset of negativity, the longer it will take to extract ourselves from it.

Populism has struck a raw nerve in the marketplace and it is here to stay. Bankers criticising bankers,  economists criticising the central banks, investors criticising the traders and traders just blaming Greece and Spain.

For the past 2 days, I have entertained a mental struggle of epic proportions.  How to make things better for the economy and the world ?

1. Assad must fall.

2. Jobs must be created. Alot of jobs.

3. Spain, Greece and gang must accomplish the impossible (which is no overnight affair) job of reigning in their deficits.

4. A new growth engine must be identified for people to invest their hopes in like China did for the early part of the new millenium.

5. Bankers’ wages must fall and banks must stop taking risk.

6. Income inequality must cease.

Wow. Looks like a socialist world coming along. And the most glaring contradiction is the unreasonable expectation on Central banks. Blame Bernanke for NO QE and blame him again when markets head south. Maybe the best aspect of populism is that you DONT HAVE TO THINK VERY MUCH. Just blame.

Its the end of the road for the contrarian like me.  I have to go along with the crowd.

I struggle because I see green shoots but I am not allowed to see them. Because it is a crime to be positive in a socialist world.

And I am beginning to suspect, people just are not interested in being happy these days.

Ps: For the record, I bought into oil (DIG US) because populism or not, we still need to drive.