Writing stories about the random fluctuations of the stock market


According to Paul Graham

One would like to believe elections are won and lost on issues, if only fake ones like Willie Horton. And yet, if they are, we have a remarkable coincidence to explain. In every presidential election since TV became widespread, the apparently more charismatic candidate has won. Surprising, isn’t it, that voters’ opinions on the issues have lined up with charisma for 11 elections in a row?

The political commentators who come up with shifts to the left or right in their morning-after analyses are like the financial reporters stuck writing stories day after day about the random fluctuations of the stock market. Day ends, market closes up or down, reporter looks for good or bad news respectively, and writes that the market was up on news of Intel’s earnings, or down on fears of instability in the Middle East. Suppose we could somehow feed these reporters false information about market closes, but give them all the other news intact. Does anyone believe they would notice the anomaly, and not simply write that stocks were up (or down) on whatever good (or bad) news there was that day? That they would say, hey, wait a minute, how can stocks be up with all this unrest in the Middle East?

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