Thursday, May 12, 2011


The world is an incredibly complex place. Extricating causation from events is a very perilous, but necessary intellectual activity. The subject of causation is an inherently confounding arena of thought because of the different perspectives of those who seek to find it.

For example, in the law, causation typically focuses on "proximate cause" and "cause in fact" ("but for A happening, B would not have happened"). But these tests carry with them the luxury of an arbitrary truncation of time for the benefit of establishing blame on the parties by use of specific statutory (or common law) infractions.

In the markets and in forecasting, it would be foolish to apply such tests. Simply looking at the proximate source of market movements or civil unrest leads to profound misunderstanings and an incomplete notion of global events. However, this is why financial "news" networks are so powerful. They produce "proximate" causes for geo-political and economic events that have taken years, not days, to come to fruition. Human beings are hard-wired (likely a remnant of our own evolutionary biology) to simply stop once the proximate cause is satisfied. Striking marcasite with flint causes sparks. The sparks cause fire. Fire has many uses.

Let's take a straightforward example. The Revolutionary War in America circa 1776 was faught over tax laws, unfair limits on representation, and the desire for a sovereign state among the oppressed people in the colonies.

Perhaps. But for people like myself, these are necessary, but not sufficient events that "caused" the war. The desire for "freedom" and such are such incomplete notions, what were the catalysts behind such calls for action?

The Bengal Famine of 1770 caused the war. The Famine itself was "caused" by the ineptitude and incompetance of the British East India Company ("BEIC") officers, who clearly did not understand the macro-economic risks of their short-term profit maximizing decisions. BEIC suffered huge financial losses, and, being the world's most powerful company in a well-developed Military Industrial Complex (where government is De Facto controlled by business interests), simply compelled The Crown to enable the Tea Act of 1773 on the other side of the world in a jurisdiction that was thought to be docile and loyal.

The Tea Act levied a tax on all tea in the those supplied by the British East India Company. These events "caused" the Boston Tea Party, an important catalyst for the Revolutionary War. They also "caused" Parliament to effectively nationalize the British East India company later that year.

Thus, it is important to note all potential economic causes for large geo-political events. There are several occurring at this very moment. As I have said before, nothing changes.

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