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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wallstreet Logic and Biotech

Why is it that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson didn't originally ask for 1.5 billion dollars for his bailout plan? The original amount of 700 billion was a shock. The 800 billion seemed to be less appalling. Not only is it 100 billion dollars more, it comes right on the heals of the 700 billion. The most likely answer is that Paulson knew he needed a blank check but knew better than to ask for one. So he went about it this way. Creating an illusion of stability is the plan. Investors will buy into illusions.

This is clearly a Cargo Cult approach. We've noticed that during more prosperous times our bankers were flush with cash. Now they are all facing annihilation. If we slather them with cash then they will appear to be well again. But what about the fact that they ran out of that cash? Will they run out again?

Biotech financing works this way as well. We don't know how much we'll need. Give us millions and we'll get started. Give us more millions and we'll keep up the good work. And just keep on giving until we succeed. But we rarely succeed. Now we are watching our government give billions to individuals who also have a promise.

Another issue is whether or not the meltdown is really bad for us. Gas is now 1.85 per gallon. Real estate is dropping which is bad for the profits I would have needed to make a downpayment on the next place. But I now get to select from a whole new set of properties for my next place. I'll have less to put down but I won't need as much. It appears that our economy is merely correcting for a decade or more of inflation.

If 100 people live on an island with only enough food to comfortably feed 100 people then you have to figure out how to ration the daily intake. If you do it wrong then some will have too much and some will have too little. It takes a special kind of person to admit that they are getting more than their share. They must also decide who gets their extra food. What is needed is a governing body on this island that knows how to ration. Some will gather the food, some will prepare the food and some will search for new sources. All will need food. The important thing for the governing body is to not make any one group of the team so important that another is eliminated.

The main point today is that money fuels wallstreet and it fuels biotech. It's great when you have it but humiliating when it's gone. So somewhere along the way to failure we have to take a look at how effectively were using our limited resource, money. Once again... Dr. Richard Feynman:

"So we really ought to look into theories that don't work, and science that isn't science."

And I might add, look into it sooner than later.

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