The Upside of the Downside

Posted by: Michelle Conlin on January 6, 2009

upside is downside.gif

Waiting for the elevator today at the BusinessWeek mothership, I bumped into a certain managing editor. He of the frayed Brooks Brothers, the dependable cardigan.

He was sporting a baseball cap emblazoned with “L.L. Bean” on the bill.

“Nice hat,” I said.

“It’s old,” he responded.

“Old is the new new,” I said.

In the elevator, we continued the riff: down is the new up. Losses are the new profits. Black is the new…Black.

The chatter is all Gothic. But it reminds me of what a certain Greek billionaire once said, one who never missed in the market even though he lived on an island removed from screens and 24-hour TV. “Beware of noise and bubble,” he said.

I think by noise and bubble he meant black-and-white thinking, the pessimist’s favorite baton. Yes, these are widly difficult times. But the downside has upside. Bottoms often come bearing gifts. An old L.L. Bean hat—still fabulous.

This idea that there is upside in downward mobility is the theme of Matt Miller’s new book, The Tyranny of Dead Ideas, excerpted here.

My favorite bit is this:

“Psychologists say that narcissists obsessed with their own “specialness” can be cured only when they learn to accept their ordinary humanity. Something like this acceptance in the realm of economic life lies ahead for the U.S. We can’t control every aspect of our economic trajectory in this new era. But with the right presidential leadership, we can influence how we think about what is happening - and, more important, what we do about it.”

Any economist who can flawlessly argue the link between narcissism and the US. economy is one very non-noise-and-bubble guy.

Reader Comments

Tony Rollo

July 27, 2009 4:19 AM

We subscribe to BusinessWeek. Since I am a speedy reader, I read the "dead idea" book in a store while sipping a frozen mocha. "Psychologists say that narcissists obsessed with their own "specialness" can be cured only when they learn to accept their ordinary humanity." That MUST be a reference to the President's economic adviser Larry Summers. I've never seen so much arrogance on C/SPAN before. "...with the right presidential leadership, we can influence how we think about what is happening..." I have an idea - what about FACTS? You can influence me to try a new coffee flavor, but when it comes to our great nation, we don't need influence from our leadership, we need facts not feelings. Thanks.

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