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21st Century Witchdoctors

By Matthew Yglesias  

"21st Century Witchdoctors"

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Gawker has an amusing roundup of bad stock picks by prominent financial magazines.

Which reminds us of one of the enduring mysteries of the modern world — why is anyone taking investment advice from these financial pundits who go on TV and write in magazines about which stocks you should buy and so forth. There are very strong theoretical reasons to believe that these people couldn’t possibly know how to beat the market, and common sense suggests that if you did have some secret stock insight the smart thing to do would be to make money by investing rather than going on TV and telling you what to do.

I suppose this all becomes a bit less mysterious when you consider that in traditional societies you have high-status people with jobs in the field of witchdoctoring or entrail-reading and the like. One interesting question is whether or not the proportion of the population engaged in the “pretending to be able to see the future” profession has gone up or down over the past 500 years.

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