Thursday, August 08, 2002

Comparative Economics, Lesson 1

If you had bought $1000.00 worth of Nortel stock one year ago, it would now be worth $49.00. With Enron, you would have $16.50 of the original $1,000.00. With Worldcom, you would have less than $5.00 left. If you had bought $1,000.00 worth of Budweiser (the beer, not the stock) one year ago, drank all the beer, then turned in the cans for the 10 cent deposit, you would have $214.00. Based on the above, my current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle.

This is making the e-mail rounds. Not being a beer drinker, I naturally recast it:

If you had bought $1000.00 worth of stock one year ago, the news from Wall Street would depress you utterly. If you had bought $1,000.00 worth of books a year ago, you would have had countless hours of pleasure and learning, and you would still have a thousand dollars’ worth of books you could reread, lend to friends, resell at a yard sale or used-book store, or in a pinch use for insulating your house, setting fires, or making confetti. Plus you’d have had the advantage of seeing the world through the authors’ eyes, and you might have a few deathless words in your mind. Based on the above, my current investment advice is to keep reading.

Or, as Robert Benchley put it, circa 1930, “Since I graduated from Harvard, I’ve earned about $2,000. I’ve had $500 worth of parties, restaurants, and theatre tickets, and $1500 worth of candy, all of which went into making bone and muscle and some nice fat. All the investors had was $2,000 worth of whatever stock it was that looked so yellow along about last November.” (Quoted from memory; accuracy not guaranteed.)

Of course, having spent tens of thousands of dollars on books over the years, and thousands to pack and ship half of them out west, I’m naturally interested in defending my particular extravagance. We’re still unpacking books, and we’re facing the crisis of where to put them all.

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