Traders Aren't Economists, They're Gamblers

Some thoughts on who our economic enemies are from contributor Ben Stein.

A word of warning: There are serious troublemakers out there and they are the real powers in the universe today.

They are called "traders."

They lurk in board rooms and offices and homes and sometimes nowadays, they are not even human. They lurk in software programs and infinitely small circuits on infinitely small chips.

Every day, they wake up or get switched on, trying to figure out, a way to jam my gears.

Now, to be sure, probably they are not actually thinking about Ben Stein, my own old self. But they are thinking about how to trade stocks or bonds or commodities or options or some darned thing that will move the markets and make money for them.

They are not economists. They don't sell millions of shares every few seconds because they did a study of the world's economies and came out with careful, measured results.

No, no: They are gamblers. They gamble on whether the other traders will trade in the same direction they trade, and if they do, and if the trend gains momentum and "breadth," as they say, they go along with the crowd until the crowd shouts "switch," and then they switch to doing the other thing.

They can turn markets upside down with their massive money power and their trading speed.

When they do, when they move the markets on some trivial bit of news like something meaningless that happened in Athens or Lisbon, they scare the wits out of governments and legislatures and central bankers, who think the traders might actually know something (even though they rarely do).

They make us think there is an oil shortage. They make us think the world is about to go broke. It doesn't matter if it's true; the traders can make us think it's true, and make money.

And their power extends into my own intestines. When they are in a mood to move the market up a lot, I feel great. When they are in a mood to move the market down a lot, I feel terrified, and tell my wife we have to eat leftovers that night and every night from now on, even though I know it will all change in a day or two or in a year or a decade.

They have their clever little hands wrapped around my guts, and the world's guts. And they're just guys and gals who put on their pants one leg at a time. But, wow, do they have power! And they answer to no one but the other traders trading against them.

It is terrifying. All hail the almighty power: Money and lots of it.