Eight of the 1919 Chicago White Sox gained infamy for involvement in throwing the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, who were the underdogs. Their names were “Chick” Gandil, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, “Buck” Weaver, “Happy” Felsch, “Lefty” Williams, Eddie Cicotte and “Swede” Risberg.
However, it didn’t go down the way many assume.
There were only supposed to be seven players involved. Fred McMullin, a substitute infielder who fielded well and hit meh, overheard the talk and threatened to rat if he wasn’t cut in. He only got to bat twice, both times pinch hitting, with one base hit for a .500 average.
Most were stars. McMullin was the only scrub involved. Gandil was a fine-fielding, good-hitting first baseman. Jackson’s hitting is a thing of fable and fame, and he wasn’t bad with the leather either. Weaver could hit and field third base very well. Felsch was a great hitter, especially in the clutch, but as a center fielder he was lockdown with a rifle arm. Williams was one of the league’s best pitchers. At his best, Cicotte’s array of pitches could give the league’s best hitters fits. Risberg was a decent-hitting young shortstop with good range, a future star.
The overall effect of the ban seems to have been to allow the public to believe what it wanted: that the rot was all excised, that the grand old game (which, remember, wasn’t that old) was ‘clean.’ This might explain why, in the late 1920s, Commissioner Landis wasn’t eager to have another scandal involving Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker. Imagine the damage that would have done–including making Landis look less effective.
It’s unlikely there’d have been a fix if ‘Commy’ hadn’t been the worst cheapskate in baseball. Sox owner Charles Comiskey (yes, the ballpark’s namesake) had some of baseball’s best players and paid them very poorly, knowing that the reserve clause prevented them from becoming free agents. It may be a myth that Comiskey rigged matters to keep Cicotte from winning thirty games and getting a big bonus in 1918, but the problem here is that even if it’s not true, anyone who knows much about Comiskey would believe him capable of such.
The real injustice is not that “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and his .3558 lifetime batting average (behind only Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby) aren’t in the Hall of Fame. The real injustice is that Comiskey, who had good evidence the fix was in and covered it up, is in the Hall–and was never banned. Then as now, if you were rich enough, you could get away with anything. Puta la madre, puta la hija.
Comiskey would have preferred to win the Series, but he had greater concerns. A long series meant a bigger gate. An aggressive investigation from the start would have cost him a lot of money at the gate, wrecked much of the equity in his franchise, and done no favors for the value of other teams. It would have been the right thing to do, of course, but would you really expect a major businessman to do the right thing even when it would damage his financial interests? Here, I’ll hold the ball, and you run up and kick it.
Landis’s draconian action largely ended gamblers’ involvement with ballplayers. It is safer to say that the bans made game-throwing far more circumspect. By the 1940s, even being seen with a gambler or organized crime figure could get a player in trouble (as Leo Durocher’s ghost would tell you).
The eight Sox were the only ones banned. Joe Gedeon, a Browns middle infielder with a very promising future, got a lifetime ban just for having known about the fix and not speaking up.
The eight Sox were convicted in court. In fact, they were acquitted. Then banned anyway, as Landis answered to no court.
Before Landis, there was no commissioner’s function. Oh, there was; it just wasn’t very effective. It was a triumvirate involving the AL and NL presidents, plus one other person. In practice, as its strongest personality, AL founder and president Ban Johnson ran the show. Johnson and Comiskey were bitter enemies, a backdrop that affected the entire investigation.
Rumors of a fix came as a surprise to anyone. By 1919, there were such rumors of some sort every fall, with scattered showers of gambling scuttlebutt all season. The difference in 1919 was that money poured into the betting in ways that professionals recognized as contradicting the usual pattern, and the odds favoring Chicago began to drop. And kept dropping, as you’d expect if a Sox star were injured and with an increasingly grim prognosis–which wasn’t the case.
Arnold Rothstein came up with a plan to fix it. Actually, Rothstein–a professional gambler and urbane but dangerous New York underworld figure–was skeptical at first when minions brought the plan to him. Not that Rothstein wasn’t capable of trying to fix it; he had no scruples of that kind. It wasn’t his idea at all. Many in baseball agreed with Rothstein that fixing a World Series was problematic.
Comiskey, his executives and manager Kid Gleason had no idea of a fix until late 1920. The Grabiner diaries show that Sox executives were seriously concerned as the Series unfolded. Gleason, a man as honest as Hal Chase was crooked, knew it in his gut. Catcher Ray Schalk, watching his best pitchers tank, knew it. Gleason was literally ready to kill over the matter.
The eight were banned immediately after the Series. No, actually, seven of the eight played nearly all of the 1920 season for the White Sox–most performing spectacularly. Only Gandil didn’t play again (for anyone in MLB) after the 1919 Series.
All the best players were in on it. Hall of Fame catcher Ray Schalk, Hall of Fame second baseman Eddie Collins, Hall of Fame pitcher “Red” Faber, and standout pitcher Dickie Kerr most certainly were not. Kerr managed to win two games with 3/4 of his infield and 2/3 of his outfield at least party to the fix. There was a social divide on the Sox, and those three were on one side, with most to all of the cheaters on the other. Other capable players on the square were right fielder “Nemo” Leibold, right fielder Eddie Murphy, first baseman “Shano” Collins and pitcher Roy Wilkinson. At one point, Cicotte (normally a reliable fielder; .9415 lifetime, #278 all time) seems to have made a couple of errors himself to help the fix along.
The fixers made bank. This’ll show you how dumb a lot of bumptious 1910s ballplayers were: some agreed to fix it for less than the winner’s share–and most never got enough to equal that. Want more evidence of their full-scale dumbness? When Comiskey and his pet lawyer Alfred Austrian confronted some of them, three signed away immunity, trusting ‘Commy’ and his attack dog to guard their interests. Ha. While I wouldn’t consider illiteracy (Jackson could barely, with effort, write his name, but someone had to read a contract to him, and he wouldn’t understand half the words) to equal dumbness, it sure looks like Weaver, Jackson and Felsch were of below average brainpower.
All eight actually threw the Series. There is good reason to believe that Buck Weaver was never in on the fix, and played to win. The hard part here is judging effort and timing without video evidence, and eyewitness accounts differ. However, it looks as if Jackson played to win. Gandil, by all accounts the ringleader and a cold-blooded customer, may not have. Williams’ and Cicotte’s pitching looks questionable, to go by their catcher’s opinion (and this old catcher naturally tends to trust a brother backstop). Risberg, who like Gandil evidently had a streak of thug in him, may have thrown it for real. Felsch is a question mark. McMullin hardly had the opportunity.
All the games were fixed. For one thing, the Sox won three games, so that’s doubtful. For another, most of the money never came through as promised game by game, so even players who had agreed to the sordid deal quickly became disgruntled. Some never got a dime.
In reality, we do not know and cannot know who played crooked, nor how often. We do know that Chicago was originally favored for reasons of superior talent backed by statistics, and lost to Cincinnati five games to three. And at least some of the Sox were, for some games, in the tank.
Having taught this to enough people, I figured it’s time to write it down and help the brothers out.
A lot of men have a hard time with anniversary presents for their wives. What the hell does she want? It depends on her, obviously, and one size never fits all. My philosophy is that she doesn’t want something practical, useful or that will go away (wilt, be eaten, etc.). She also doesn’t tend to want something that isn’t specific to her. The money matters a lot less than the thought you put into it, so there are not easy outs. Flowers and candy? Throwing money at the problem. Anyone can go out and buy that. Jewelry? If you have that kind of money and it’s something that would matter mainly to her, and not to just any woman. If you’re celebrating being married to her, she isn’t just any woman. She’s your wife. She’s special. She was better than the rest, and I should hope you still think so.
Sure, tickets to her favorite concert are an option, and those go away, which could be okay. But I cling to the view that something she can keep over the years, and remember what you meant, is most likely to be treasured. Five years from now, none of her friends are going to look at concert tickets, adore them and ask where she got them.
If you have time and are handy, making something is nice. Anything that is unique–that there is only one of, and just for her–sends a very welcome message. Something you already have, in a display you made that adds to it, is a good thing. Some years you just spot the perfect thing. And some years, it’s down to the wire, and damn it, nothing has shown up, no ideas, you’re stuck. You went out and looked at all the usual places. Nada. There isn’t any more time to mess around. This is a dilemma.
When that happens, do this.
You are going to deploy the ultimate weapon: women. You won’t even know any of them, and you don’t care. This is a sure shot. All you have to do is think a little bit beforehand, and cooperate when the time comes. I’m not making this up. I have done this more than once.
First: game face. It shouldn’t be hard for you to look a little frustrated, but don’t look angry frustrated. You’re going to a place where you are somewhat out of your element, and it is important to seem a little vulnerable. Many of us don’t do vulnerable well. You must. Drop your guard. There is something about a vulnerable man that lights up the ‘I must help’ indicators in women like a Christmas tree. It’s one of the greatest reasons to value them as relatives, friends and partners–and there are so many. Not every woman, no given woman all the time, but in the main, most of them most of the time.
Second: use your brain. Look back on the last year of her life and yours together, what was major for her. A big achievement? What all did she do? Think of something to celebrate, to commemorate, something you’re proud of about her. Something where she reached a goal, finished something, conquered something. It can involve you in some way but it should center on her role. Have that stuff in mind, because you’re going to need it.
Next, game face on, go to the kind of place she likes to look around, typically an artwork or craft type of place, small business, no chains. Make sure you go at a time when there are several women in the store, including a female shopkeeper/cashier. Go in, greet the shopkeeper politely, and look around a bit. Wait for her to ask if she can help you find anything. Your finger is on the launch button; push it. Keep wandering sort of aimlessly and dumbly, and say something like: “Well, I’m having trouble. Our anniversary is coming up. I’m really proud of my wife, she’s done a lot this year, and I want to get her something that will celebrate that. I haven’t had any luck finding the right thing.” Don’t be loud, but do not make any effort not to be heard by the other shoppers. Most of all, don’t be embarrassed about it. You want to be the man who just showed that he loves his wife and isn’t one damn bit ashamed of that, doesn’t give a shit who hears him.
Ignition. Now it’s a treasure hunt. The shopkeeper will start to ask you questions. Trust that the other women heard you. What does she like? What did she accomplish or do? What colors does she like? Any flowers or animals or symbols that mean a lot to her? What’s your budget range? Be completely honest. Answer anything and everything. If it’s about what she did, let your pride shine a bit. Before you came in, the shopkeeper was bored and most of the women were just puttering around. Now they have a mission.
See, this is the women’s world. It’s different, and this must be respected. In their world, change is swift and sudden, and they tend to handle it more smoothly than we do. Now the lines between shopkeeper and customer tend to blur, even vanish. The other women are likely to ask you questions. Answer everyone. This is fun for them on a couple of levels. Not only are they helping someone who seems like a very nice man, they have a goal. Their shopping day just got better and you are the cause. They like this.
Now all you have to do is come look at stuff when summoned. They will consider your budget, everything you said. Go around and look at the stuff. Don’t be afraid to say something wouldn’t quite work, but obviously, be polite, as to any volunteer taking time to help a stranger. If it surely wouldn’t work, explain why, so that adds to what they know. Keep checking out things, and in between, you of course keep looking, or making a show of it. You won’t be the one who finds it, but you have to keep trying for appearance’s sake.
Eventually someone will find something suitable, the kind of thing you would never have thought of as fitting, because you do not see the world through your wife’s eyes. Sometimes takes only a few minutes. The women are more likely to see it as she would see it. If you think the thing sends a radically different different message than the woman who found it, it’s fine to say so, but if your helper stands her ground, be prepared. That’s the signal for the other women to come over and weigh in. They will all agree with each other about the interpretation, exactly as custom specifies. At this point, custom and good manners require you to bow to their collective wisdom and agree with them. That’s the debate you should lose, and gracefully–because if that’s how they all see it, you probably just found the perfect gift. One year I was doing this, and one lady found a statuette of a female figure in chrome, head back, holding a platter (spiked for a votive candle) high in the air. I asked: “That looks like the barmaid bringing beer. Is that what I should be saying?” The women gathered around to evaluate the piece and weigh in. They all agreed that it looked very feminine and triumphant and strong, and not like a barmaid. Of course, I followed the script, and accepted their judgment without being grumpy. (At anniversary time, my wife loved it. Later, when I told her the barmaid story, she laughed and laughed. More to the point, she agreed with my helpers, and chided me good-naturedly for the utter, sheer, egregious maleness of my own first impression.)
At some point, they find it, and you know it. Now all there is to do is thank the women for their help, tell them you’re sure your wife will love it, pay for your purchase, and head out. Everyone is happy. You’re bailed out. The shopkeeper did some business and had fun. The other shoppers had fun, and helped a nice guy do something thoughtful. They loved the romance of it, the process of it, the newness and difference.
Not much was asked of you. All you did was show up, say the right things, answer questions, be appreciative and respectful, and pay the cashier.
This is not hard. And it will save your husbandly ass from a big disappointment.
If you blow it at anniversary time, it is now officially your own damn fault.
When I talk about investing with people, it’s natural that most of them don’t understand there are a lot of different types of orders. Most people know that you can place an order to buy or sell when a stock hits a certain price, but it gets more sophisticated than that. One form of sophistication is the trailing stop-loss order, which is available from any fully equipped discount brokerage.
It works like this. Suppose your shares of Baloney, Inc. (BLNY) are way up. You’re not eager to sell, but you think the markets are high, and you really don’t want to ride BLNY down the chute of a big selloff. Okay. You place a trailing stop-loss order to sell all shares, good till canceled (at Fidelity they expire after a max of six months). The trigger condition is a percentage that you choose. If you pick 1%, you must really want out, because a 1% drop in value is typical on a down market day–and isn’t even remarkable over two days or more. If you pick 5%, it would take a very big single day of loss to trigger that, or a loss of that size spread over multiple days.
The mechanics of this are a headache for the brokerage, but that’s why they get paid. Suppose BLNY is at 100 when you place a trailing stop-loss order to sell it, trigger 5%. As of right then, the trigger price is 95. However, if BLNY goes over 100, the trigger point is recalculated (each time it gets above the high) based upon a 5% drop from the new price. So if BLNY climbs to 120, without ever declining 5% from its highest price since the order, its trigger point will be 114. That is 5% less than 120. The brokerage keeps this stuff in a separate file so it can keep updating your trigger point. When it sells, we say that it ‘stopped out.’
Seems like cheating, doesn’t it? That’s what seasoned investors do any way they can legally or practically do: cheat. Of course, you have to realize what exactly occurs with this type of order. When your shares drop to the trigger point, your order converts to a market order (and it is not going back; the die is cast). You may not get your trigger price, though it should be close. There has to be someone wanting to buy the shares for that market price. A market order, the simplest form of order, simply says ‘sell this now at what the market will pay.’ No type of order can create liquidity (investor-speak for ‘someone wants this, so I can sell it’) if liquidity doesn’t exist.
Can this hurt you? Well, there is no crying in investing. Big kid tools are for big kid investors. Most people are thinking of crash protection, but remember that once a trigger point is established for the order, it will never go down. If you aren’t serious about protecting some form of profit (or avoiding further faceplant), better not place one of these, because the smaller your % loss specified in the order, the more likely it is that a moderate market shift could trigger your sale.
My own belief on stop-loss orders is that they are for times when you think the market is stupidly high, you’ve profited handsomely from it, and you’re ready to protect the profits. I’m at that point right now. There isn’t really a good reason for the markets to be as high as they are, at least not as far as I can see; banks still aren’t lending much, interest rates on savings are an insult, there’s no big job boom, and the economy is still fought over by the macaques, gibbons, chimpanzees and ourangoutangs in Congress, who are doing nothing to help it, being too distracted by ideological feces-flinging competitions. If there’s a big long market slide, I expect to buy these stocks back at discount prices. It’s not that I don’t like the companies’ prospects; it’s just that in investing, I don’t give a damn about anything but money. I gain no emotional satisfaction from holding Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) shares; I just think they are a good investment. However, I’m not stopping out of those, because I think they are such a good investment they will weather a market decline very well. I’m not stopping out of my dividend farms (closed-end bond funds), because I didn’t buy them for capital appreciation. I bought them so they’d pay me money every month. They will still do that, by and large, regardless of what their prices do.
We–you and I–didn’t invent this game. We have the right to play it for keeps, for our own reasons, using whatever tools are available to us. For me, one of those is the stop-loss order.
First, I offer you this to make this post less of a downer: “Callin’ in Sick Today”
When you are a ‘lancer, can you really call in sick? Depends how bad it is. If you are so sick and weak you lack the mental acuity to do your work in respectable form, well, you have no choice. I was in that state Monday, with a fever probably about 104º F. For you of metric countries, much above that and you have to be hospitalized. There was no way I could work. Sitting up was hard enough.
I could postpone stuff like this, for example. While I’m heartened that people read the blog, I don’t think anyone’s going to unsubscribe if there aren’t any posts for a week. I would have to postpone or cancel on-site stuff, such as a meeting or teleconference. But some of what you have to do, if you can do–even if you have to proofread for an hour, rest for an hour, proof for another hour, etc.–you must do. And for Tuesday and Wednesday, that was what I did. Could barely even eat, nothing sounded good. Lived on mixed OJ and club soda, and cleaned out all the popsicles Deb didn’t eat.
But it got done. And that’s the big deal. If you have a long rapport with a client, proven track record, maybe it doesn’t harm you to have a crisis that delays the result. But when the project is a biography of a nonagenarian who is understandably eager to see the final product, for a first time client, well, the amount of delay one might accept is very limited.
And since you’re a ‘lancer, you do it until it’s done. Your career depends on that approach. When work is there, do the work. You can play Candy Crush or nap some other time.
…Spanish for ‘Andean,’ is the distinctive sound of the Andes Mountains: Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile. Sometimes sung in Native languages, sometimes in Spanish, it is the most uplifting-sounding music I know.
You probably have heard one song of Andina origin, though you may not have grasped this at the time: El Condor Pasa, sung by many but made most popular by Simon & Garfunkel. The Andean condor is, naturally, one of the emblematic birds of the Andes. If you heard it accompanied by a flute, that approximated the pan-flute or pan-pipes that punctuate so much Andina. The genre contains a lot of fingered strings (I’m no expert on the different types of guitarlike instruments), sometimes violin, moderate emphasis on drumming, and rapid changes of pacing. Rarely is it a cappella, less rarely is it purely instrumental; mostly it is both sung and played.
Andina groups I like include Ecuador Inkas, Nativo, Quichua Mashis, Savia Andina, Illapu, K’ala Marka and Los Kjarkas. It can be difficult to find for sale, so when I trip over an opportunity, I buy some.
If you’d like to give it a try, visit this video of K’ala Marka up on some ungodly height just tearing it up. In spite of the modern touches and enhancements, if you are anything like me, you will feel and hear something ancient. If I had to pick a song and setting that emblemized what I love about Andina, that one has it.
…I admit that part of it was motivated by the desire to generate some passive blog traffic. Not all, of course, or even most. In the main, I picked it up because I wanted the information and didn’t want to wait for someone else to provide it for me.
I’m talking about the Baseball Name Pronunciation Project, of course, which I am developing on this site with the kind consent of The Baseball Reliquary, which owns the rights to the relevant research and intellectual property of the deceased Tony Salin, the author of the best baseball book you haven’t yet read (assuming you have read Veeck–as in Wreck, obviously). I began with Salin’s work, did a good bit of my own research, opened the doors to public input, and am continuing to hunt down credible pronunciations of past players’ names.
One of the most helpful tools has been Youtube. It has some old radio broadcasts, and one can look up the lineups and boxscore for that game and see who’s on the list. While I don’t 100% trust announcers to be correct, they are likely to be close–especially for members of the team they covered.
I’m still hoping to get some stiff corrections and input from the general public, and it may be so as the word gets out. Of course, if I knew one single very old major leaguer, I could solve a whole bunch of these–but I don’t. Or if I knew even one rather greying big leaguer. But I’m just not good at bothering people.
If anyone out there knows any old ballplayer who’d be willing to help out, please let me know. It would be a deed well done.
The Dow is ‘struggling toward 15,000.’ I don’t care, for many reasons, and you also should not care. You will be a smarter investor if you banish all knowledge of the Dow from your mind. Every time you see it, you get dumber.
Here’s a radical stance: the Dow could be construed as a form of ongoing terrorism, since (much like a bomb threat) it causes panic that need never be, and works to destabilize the economic underpinnings of society. It presents a widely accepted, grossly distorted picture of the market, and unfortunately, most of us are unwise enough to validate it.
I believe that the Dow Jones Industrial Average, commonly called the DJIA or just ‘the Dow,’ needs to be suppressed on the principle that free speech does not include the right to yell “fire!” in a crowded theater, nor make obscene phone calls, nor publicly advocate terrorist acts–if your free speech would cause unnecessary harm or panic, it can be prohibited. (It should also be suppressed because it’s stupid, even though policing the propagation of damaging stupidity has never worked. It would be a blow struck for brains.)
Two objections to this come readily to mind:
- “But it’s useful in some ways.”
- “You just can’t suppress free speech like that.”
1. No, in fact, it’s worse than useless, for it is misleading. It is based purely on share price (adjusted for splits since entry into the index), which is always an arbitrary number. Don’t believe me? Suppose a company goes public with $45 billion in market cap: $45/share for 1 billion shares. The company could just as easily have gone public at $90/share, issuing only 500 million shares. Same market capitalization, double the Dow impact. That’s just ridiculous.
In terms of day-to-day movement, imagine that Dow component BS rises from $100 to $101, a very minor 1% change. Another Dow component, FY, rises from $10 to $11–an enormous 10% gain. Dow doesn’t care about how much market value was created or lost. Dow considers both movements to have the same impact.
And this gets even worse. The Dow serves mainly as a useful tool for the financial media to get us stirred up, increasing our consumption of…financial media! This is partly because it is a Big Number. Well, it was not always a big number, but we react just as we did when it was smaller. I was alive, adult (by age if not by maturity), and losing money (buying stupid investments with money I could not afford to lose) when the market wrapped around a tree in 1987. The Dow lost 508 points, a 22.6% decline for the day. That was nearly a quarter of its value. It closed at 1738.7. We’d all agree that over 20% is massive.
If you are paying attention, and picturing the headlines of the day, you can see that a 100-point shift in the 1987 Dow would still have been a large percentage change, and a loss of over 500 would be (and was) a catastrophic decline. I will now take a bullet for you: I will look at the current value of the Dow. As I compose this, it is at 14974. Suppose it had the ‘triple-digit decline’ of which the media are so eager to shriek: a drop of 100 points. That would be a decline of less than 1%; about 0.67%, a very normal daily shift, and nothing for any investor who thinks for him or herself to freak about. Okay, now suppose we had a loss of 500. It would be about 3.3%, certainly a big day, but something that happens now and then. I was reading financial media then, as I read them now. They react to ‘triple digit Dow’ nearly the same way. It is as if your doctor treated every mole on your body as melanoma until proven otherwise, even though most moles are just brown spots. You’d live in constant terror of a horrible death which most people would not actually suffer. You’d overreact. You’d probably have them all removed, traumatizing and scarring your entire body–for nothing. The only people who would benefit would be those helping to spread the panic.
Welcome to the market.
Of course, if our precious financial media focused purely on percentage change, we would be spared this problem. It will not, and why should it? Said media are in the business of getting you worked up, getting you to read and watch and not relax. Fear is their product. Why would they change their practices in the interest of market stability, to their own detriment? Care about society over self? Are you mad? This is Wall Street’s publicity arm. Don’t talk to it about anything but purest avarice that burns with a purple fire. Talking about them caring about anything above self and profit is like talking to Kim Jong Un about caring about freedom for North Koreans to criticize his regime.
2. Let’s break that down. Can you legally suppress it? You sure as hell can. We suppress or restrict free speech all the time, generally for good reasons, from the crowded-theater example to the fact that saying “Go to hell, judge, I don’t have to take your orders” will get you jailed for contempt of court. A person using free speech to disclose national security secrets will soon learn the limits of that free speech–and sensibly so.
But is it practical to suppress the Dow? On the grand scale, surely not. I mean, any fool with a spreadsheet can easily continue the Dow math, rename the index, and post it online. Prosecuting this in full would be impossible, especially since nothing is stopping some dude in Malaysia (for example) from calculating it and posting it on his blog, in defiance of US law–which is not in force in Malaysia, any more than Malaysian law could prohibit me from posting stuff that the Malaysian government might not like. Try and get the Malaysian government to get interested in investigating and extraditing him for something that isn’t even illegal in his country, and let me know how that works out for you.
Well, what could we suppress in practice? We could certainly prohibit major domestic media from publishing it, since they are the most visible. A few examples of reporters and executives thrown in jail would cause a lot of bleating, but you can bet Marketwatch (owner of the index rights) would can it, whining the whole time about the police state. This wouldn’t apply law uniformly, but we don’t do that anyway. Tons of people cheat on taxes; they don’t audit everyone, just the ones they believe cheated big time. Tons of people pirate intellectual property; the RIAA doesn’t sue everyone, just a few people to make the point. Tons of people speed on the freeway; they don’t all get a ticket, just enough to remind of consequences.
The most powerful argument against this, I believe, is the ‘you can’t legislate intelligence’ perspective. Let me make it myself: “So what you’re saying is that this should be banned because ignorant people tend to validate and react to it, thus doing dumb things, flogged onward by media who can benefit from that. Why complain? If you yourself are not ignorant, you have an advantage and should profit from it. Why should dumbness be protected from itself? Shut up and take their money, like I do!” The rejoinder is: “First of all, Dreamboat Aynnie, it’s not all about me or you. Second, the core problem is that the psychological impact of the Dow distorts reality for enough people, helped by our adored media, to create instability which in fact doesn’t exist. The overall harm to the national economy is serious, with potential for panic which need never be. The national interest is more important than yours and my ability to profit.”
I don’t much advocate attempts to nerf Darwinism in action; if you want to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, I’m okay with you risking having your brains bashed out. Here’s the problem: it is likely to leave you in Schiavo mode, slurping up enormous resources and starting a fight over whether to withdraw your feeding tube. Indirectly, I will be billed for your choice. If there were a way for me not to pay for your foolishness, I’d say go for it. In practice, there is not, and I resist paying that bill. Anti-tobacco advocates feel the same way, and one can hardly blame them. One of the most oppressive examples of this is the homeowners’ association, in which people say ‘you can’t do that because it will lower my property value.’ I hate HOAs. And yet…I do have the choice to live somewhere without an HOA. I don’t have much practical choice about not participating in the national economy. The principle may be similar, but the difference in scope matters. Some dumbnesses can be addressed with law, to some degree, and others can’t.
Here is what outlawing it would achieve: greater public awareness of how rotten the Dow is. Instead of passively acceding to the notion that the Dow is useful, the public would hear how worse it is than useless, and might at least begin caring less about it. Sure, the public should educate itself, just as motorcyclists should wear helmets. If this did not cause needless market instability, no action would be necessary–just as if all bomb threats were spurious and false, and we ignored them all, we wouldn’t need to prohibit them. Moot point. We don’t ignore them all, they are accurate just often enough to take them all seriously, and thus anyone making a bomb threat deserves all that the law can throw at him or her. In the same way, the ongoing random bomb threat that is the Dow needs suppression insofar as the law has power to do so, and to be considered as respectable and valuable to society as a bomb threat.