Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Futures on Intrade's Future

These are uncertain times when we should place a premium on transparency.

Knowing the likelihood that your customer, supplier or counterparty will be in business in a year or two is valuable information. Being able to hedge against the closure of a business that you are exposed to have risk management and wealth preservation potential.

Intrade has always strived to list innovative markets that give maximum transparency in real-time on uncertain future events.

We have now just listed 4 new markets on whether will open and operational at the end of June 09, December ’09, June ’10 and December ’10.

The markets can be accessed here…

We may list additional markets on other businesses in the future.

Monday, November 3, 2008

"This Too Shall Pass"

And when it does, what follows can be the best if we use our best resource.

The phrase "This too shall pass" and the associated ring story were made popular by Abraham Lincoln. King Solomon searched for a cure for depression. He tapped the collective wisdom of his wise men for advice: Make yourself a ring and have thereon engraved the words "This too shall pass" they advised. The King carried out the advice and every time he felt depressed, he looked at the ring and his mood would change and he would feel cheerful.

A wise crowd behind a wise man.

Like me you may be jaded by the non-stop talk about financial crisis, recession, wealth destitution, damaged societal welfare and worst of all depression. But let’s put things in perspective.

Yes, our global financial systems have suffered what may be described as a near fatal heart attack, and while they are still very ill the best financial surgeons are pooling their talents to solve the problems. The surgeons, aka government leaders and central bankers, are working hard together to stabilize and reduce the likelihood of another financial heart attack.

The origins of the financial crisis (a credit but more latterly a liquidity crisis) is that we all have bought vast amounts of property that produced toxic by-products that clogged the arteries of the financial system. It is true that we could not have bought these properties had money not been lent to us. It is also true that some of our lenders, although not all, were aware that the lending they facilitated was risky.

Before the financial crisis our economies were not in great shape. Yes they were growing a little, but many economies had become "fat and happy" and very inefficient after almost 10 years of prosperity. Ireland was the poster boy of the" fat and happy" club.

Now, partly as a result of the crisis, our economies are not growing or worse are actually contracting. This means that people are losing jobs, losing homes, losing “nest-eggs” and a sense of security for the future. Millions of people are stressed and worried about their future and their contentment and peace of mind are damaged. We may still be fat, but not nearly as happy.

The financial and economic shocks to our systems, and indeed our psyches can perform a very useful service. Yes they will be painful, but pain whether it is financial or physical alerts us to our problems.

While we all (you, me, bankers, regulators, the media etc) are responsible for the current correction what’s important now is focusing on the specifics of the problems, to ensure we do not undermine the positive impact that a recession can have while avoiding the evils of a depression.

We all caused our current problems, and we must all be involved in the solution, not just the government or regulators.

Those we have placed in leadership positions in our countries are stepping forward but neither they nor we should be short-termist. They should not keep economically defunct industries, practices and procedures alive with borrowings, but they should increase investment in our competitiveness and productive capacities. It that means an increase in borrowing which it will then so be it.

Our countries have huge amounts of natural and neural basic resources, but to increase our wealth we must increase our intellectual and physical capital, i.e. we really need to make changes to our education system, our attitude to work, our attitude and use of resources, and national and international infrastructure. Education seems #1 to me.

A laser focus on such matters is no magic pill. These are medium and longer term deliverables (i.e. more than can be achieved in 4 years). They will not provide the immediate feel good factor as we suffer withdrawal from the almost instant gratification that the explosion in consumer credit facilitated.

Our #1 untapped resource is the vast collective intellect that we have only started to use. Harnessing the "wisdom of the crowd" has a very big potential role in improving all of our lives. If we do it, we all have a voice and will feel part of the solution as well as the problem. We can solve some wicked problems, like climate, resource, growth, social, and economic challenges. In simple terms, there exists between us the best information on how we solve our key challenges. If our leader’s embrace and permission new systems like prediction markets to operate in a transparent prudent way I am convinced that we can contribute in no small part to the solution.

Recall, that US Department of Defence believed a prediction market could provide valuable information on growth, risks and social issues. Hundreds of academics, dozens of Fortune 500 companies, and millions of people believe that prediction markets can help provide valuable information on economic, financial, social and environmental issues.

Improved ways of working, regulating, and consuming are all within our grasp if we tap into our greatest resource. Our intellect! And the great thing about I.Q. reserves as distinct from our oil reserves is that they increase the more we use them.

We have harnessed the energy of a small atomic globe in the last century, and we can harness the collective intellect of our much larger one in this century. The only question is when? The leader's that we have or are about to elect need to be as brave and innovative we are.

And whether you are a president, a plumber, or a regular person just like me no matter what today or tomorrow holds never forget the wisdom that a wise group gave a wise king.