Monday, September 20, 2010

Ditto what Barry Ritholtz says

- by New Deal democrat

This was posted by Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture this morning. I agree with every word of it:

There are those folks who have an approach based on a defendable methodology. There approach to evaluating markets or the economy could be based on fundamentals, it might be derived from quantitative metrics, it could be valuation, balance sheet, macro, momentum, GARP, trend following, technicals, long/short, psychology, sentiment, contrarian analysis.

Call it plug & chug: It doesn’t really matter what the methodology is, so long as it begins with some objective input, runs through a process of sorts, and determines an output.

There are folks in this camp who I am happy to occasionally disagree with. They force me to sharpen my own analysis, be more specific, consider alternatives....

Anyone who has an objective approach to evaluating the ever changing mix of inputs to the markets or economy or stocks. These folks are often intellectually curious, have flexible minds, and a high degree of integrity. Whether I agree with their conclusions or not, I respect their process.

Then there is that other group. They are all conclusion, zero input. Process is irrelevant to them, Outcome is all.

They work backwards. They start with a conclusion, and sift through all the data to justify that conclusion. They do not change their minds. They do not care about facts or data or input. They never admit mistakes. “Truth,” as we have discussed in the past, is an irrelevant inconvenience.

They are ideological jihadists.
If you want to get to the heart of what sets me off, this is it. Mix in ideological jihadism in with a heavy dose of insults directed at those who disagree with them, and you have a particularly dishonest and toxic brew. There are several popular writers at the place that Bonddad and I came from who fit this mold exactly. I have kept book on them and their errors have been legion. It boils down to starting with an ideological worldview and then finding whatever data set fits. When the data set turns against their ideology, it no longer exists.

As it happens, over the weekend I drafted a few posts describing several such data sets, that were biblical truth when they suited a pre-conceived conclusion, and disappeared into the ether when they didn't. I know some readers do not like it when we call out "Doomers" who fit this mold, but really, just as in the case of Mish, you should take certain writers with entire shakers of salt once you realize that they fit Barry Ritholtz's description.