Postcard from New York

I’m here for a week or so on a working holiday. My first New York winter is proving academically cold, subzero Celsius but the kind where you don’t feel chilly because you’re wearing six layers of clothing to stave off frostbite or imminent death. The Waldorf Astoria has amenity but is trading a little too heavily on its cachet and is in need of a nip and tuck.

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The year we went to the beach instead

It’s Sunday morning in Sydney, on the first day that hasn’t been raining in as long as I can remember. It’s perfect beach weather, and most people have sufficiently recovered from Christmas to return to some semblance of a normal sabbath. On television, four men in suits are discussing the dilemmas facing Australia’s economy and the commensurate political agenda to be expected for this year given the return of the shouty chamber this week. Suffice to say, I don’t think anyone was paying attention. How can we improve our plight in an environment of indifference?

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What I learnt from my mechanic

Back in the early 2000s I drove a Nissan Exa. It was this fun little underpowered hatchback thing that had roof panels that came out and made you look either cool or ridiculous, depending on who you asked. Anyway they weren’t particularly good cars and mine spent more time in my mechanic’s workshop than on the road. 

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It’s OK to not know

In the midst of a global correction it feels apt to write a piece on how little I know about what is going on.

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A Reduction of Subsidy is not a Reduction of Liberty

I have always lent more towards the user pays approach to life. I accept that this is unlikely to ever be the dominant social construct, but anything that moves us closer towards that outcome is generally going to be met with my approval.

In the lead up to the next budget, as rather ordinary economic conditions dictate a persisting fall in revenues, we can either spend less or borrow more. The challenge presented by the former is that we’ve become rather quite accustomed to spending money as a society on things, so much so that these things are now taken for granted.

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The Opportunity Cost of Everything, especially Time

I write following an intermission, not by intention, but certainly by rationality. In 63 days I intend to sit the second level of the Chartered Financial Analyst exam, an endeavour known for its gruelling preparatory requirements, demands on discipline, and breadth (if not depth) of content. So when I have had a spare two hours on a Sunday morning it has seemed only sensible to dedicate those hours to the textbooks rather than penning musings into the ether. With the luxury of a four day break for Easter I am afforded a moment to gather some thoughts, and not coincidentally these relate to time, its limited quantities and how it can be optimised.

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Why do we hate cats? or The Scourge of Short-Termism

I’m definitely a dog person. I had both as a child; the cat lasted longer. When I had the opportunity to adopt a fur baby as a nascent adult, it took the form of a border collie kelpie puppy that I named Murdoch. I hold no ill feelings towards cats, and I certainly don’t support their random extermination. Yet we seem as a society to be more than happy to kill cats just to find out whether they are in fact dead.

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Why I hope to never be a politician

Last night’s disastrous outcome of the Queensland state election was a watershed moment. Yes, there will be much written on the new normal of one-term governments, and the changing dynamics thus demanded. But the Federal implications of the result, either explicitly or implicitly, play to a broader problem that carries far more weight than a populist overthrowing of an unpopular leader.

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I am an agent for society

Most people seem to struggle with separating their actions for self from their actions for society.   Perhaps this is because we’re taught to not be selfish, or not be hypocritical, and therefore we value consistency between both endeavours over acknowledgement of conflict between the two. The principal-agent problem emerges when people put their own interests ahead of those they’re meant to be serving. It’s well known, but not often applied to individuals and society.

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Everything is Arbitrage

I have been working on formulating a framework to describe the various actors in equity ownership and their respective opportunity sets, purposes and rewards. I am not entirely sure this is novel, and indeed this may not only have been done elsewhere already, it may very well have been done better. I definitely need to go read more Markowitz/Treynor/Ross to see if I’m just rehashing old ground. Today’s piece is therefore less argumentative and more exploratory; simply just a collection of ideas.

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