Our Enormous Black Swan

Our Enormous Black Swan

Harold Wilson, British prime minister in the 1960’s and 1970’s, is quoted as saying that “A week is a long time in politics”. Ironically this quote came in the midst of the sterling crisis in 1964, and long before the UDI (Universal Declaration of Independence) of the Rhodesian government in November 1965. Well, if a week in politics is a long time, then a week in publishing is a long, long time.

This quote came to mind after the removal of Nhlanhla Nene as our finance minister on the night of 9 December 2015, and the swearing in of “who the F%%$$ is Alice” David van Rooyen the next morning, and then the reassignment of “who the F%%$$ is David” three days later, and the appointment of wise old hand Pravin Gordhan that very same night.

What had got me agitated, apart from the unmitigated disaster that had been visited upon our economy, was that just one day earlier, on 8 December 2015, I had written my Phoenix column for the February 2016 issue, looking at what lies in store for 2016, not expecting any major economic disruptions during the normally quiet holiday period. And in this piece (see previous article) I had tempted fate by saying that “one can only hope that our government does not destroy this outlook with some more damn fool moves!”

My attempt to get ahead of the curve, and to reduce my workload when I came back from leave, had misfired spectacularly, in one day, forget about a week! And all because of the machinations of one enormous black swan. And the female economists quoted in my previous article, must also be sitting in their offices, shaking their heads, and wondering if forecasting is really worth it while we have this enormous black albatross around our necks.

My referral to black swans and black albatrosses may have you confused, so let me explain. I quote from Wikipedia, “The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalised after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain: 1) The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology. 2) The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities). 3) The psychological biases that blind people, both individually and collectively, to uncertainty and to a rare event's massive role in historical affairs”.

The black swan theory applies to events, but for the purpose of this article I am applying this to an individual who is so dangerous and unpredictable that he alone is an enormous black swan. Of particular concern is that he makes decisions based on the needs and wants of females that are “close” to him, rather than on the critical needs of the South African economy, which makes this horrendous black swan a horrendous black albatross around our necks, with apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Let us just pray that another concubine does not get upset with Gordhan.

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