East Meets West

East Meets West

Discussions across the Continent

August 12, 2009

East meets West:

Highlights with Harald Duell, stockbroker and dweller of the lands of New York.

Prospect: We left off talking about the market recovery, but lets first return to what’s wrong with the world.

Harald Duell: Instant gratification. The notion that you should get rewarded right away when you want something.

Prospect: How is that manifest?

Harald Duell: Nothing matters. Nothing is real.

Prospect: Jean Baudrillard and simulacrum; nothing is real, everything is just a simulation of itself, including the individual self.

Harald Duell: Exactly. This is different from when you and I were young. Back then, we thought our feelings and thoughts were real, they had consequence, they meant something so we took them seriously.

Prospect: Right, we took responsibility for the world.

Harald Duell: Yes, if you look at the changes in psychology of the time you see a rejection of Skinner and behaviorism and a movement toward existentialism. Even in music, you see it. Jimi Hendrix, All Along the Watchtower. Even Hotel California, "you can check out any time you want, but you can never leave". It was a different way of looking at reality.

Prospect: And of humanness. I recall Maxine Hong Kingston and her description of different ways of being human.

Harald Duell: Right. Some people are hollowmen.

Prospect: What kind of society can you build on instant gratification?

Harald Duell: Well, you’re seeing it.

Prospect: People with short term goals, short term needs, a throw away society.

Harald Duell: Sure.

Prospect: Even the very rich?

Harald Duell: I could tell you stories from my neighborhood of terrible lives, ruined by getting too much of what you want.

Prospect: The same problems as the poor have, drugs, domestic violence, child abuse.

Harald Duell: Terrible drug addiction, sex addiction, and abuse. A consequence of getting too much of what you want.

Prospect: It’s like that in Germany?

Harald Duell: Yes, everywhere in the West.

Prospect: How is Germany different?

Harald Duell: Germany is rigid. Everything there is text, there is no context. In the United States, there is more flexibility. Germany has become small minded, provincial.

Prospect: What does it take to have a meaningful society?

Harald Duell: The advantage comes when you have people who want to discourse, an intelligent, reflexive populous.

Prospect: Russia was supposed to be the new capitalist engine, what happened?

Harald Duell: Nothing changed. The old Russian oligarchy is still in charge. The average guy doesn’t really have a chance to get ahead, so capitalism is failing there. You have to have people with skin in the game. People have to feel like they have something to win, and to lose.

Prospect: What about China?

Harald Duell: I haven’t been to China in 20 years, but I know the economy is working.

Prospect: We’ve mentioned in past discussion that China has been giving the United States the same lecture the World Bank used to give Developing Nations.

Harald Duell: China owns the United States.

Prospect: We’re in trouble, that’s for sure. What about the end of oil?

Harald Duell: Not true.

Prospect: We aren’t nearing the end of oil? Paul Roberts.

Harald Duell: No, there is plenty of oil left. The Arabs have to sell oil. Right now if you go to the airport in Abu Dhabi you’ll see rows of Mercedes and BMWs, abandoned.

Prospect: Why?

Harald Duell: Because, executives who haven’t met their responsibilities, they know they’re in trouble, so they just leave. No, there’s plenty of oil and they have to sell it to the West.

Prospect: What about Global Climate change?

Harald Duell: Of course there’s global climate change. Right now I’m living in a rain forest here in New York. It’s been raining so much everything is molding. That was never like that before.

Prospect: And, is it human caused?

Harald Duell: Of course. Well, maybe not entirely, but what we’ve been doing, pumping billions of tons of carbon into the air, how could that not make a difference? Yes, we’re doing it.

Prospect: So, should we all drive a Prius?

Harald Duell: God, what a bad idea. The Prius is a terrible idea, it has a huge carbon footprint just to make it. It has the weight of all those batteries, and in a crash, there will be spillage everywhere.

Prospect: What do you think about Obama’s health care plan?

Harald Duell: I think he’s terrible, he’s arrogant. He hasn’t given back one of the powers Bush stole for the Executive Branch. He isn’t addressing health care at all, he’s just making sure the insurance executives get their $100 million dollar bonuses. The real problems with healthcare we’re not talking about at all.

Prospect: There are plenty of problems with the insurance system we have.

Harald: It costs me four times as much for insurance in New York as it does across the border in Connecticut. Four times. How do you explain that? Obama isn’t going to change that. America is the world’s pharmacist now. It used to be Germany, but the U.S. took the lead. With that much investment, don’t expect the cost of health care to go down.

Prospect: How is healthcare in Germany?

Harald: Terrible, it’s a mess, just like everywhere.

Prospect: Would you rather have Bush or McCain?

Harald Duell: Oh, please. What Bush did, he did that on his own. Don’t think New York wanted retaliation for 911, Bush did that all on his own.

Prospect: Yes, I remember Not In Our Name http://www.notinourname.net/

Harald Duell: Yes, Bush was the worst. We have nobody to choose from.

Prospect: Before we sign off, how it the economy doing from where you are?

Harald Duell: It’s coming back. The stock market is coming back, everything else will follow.

Prospect: OK. Let’s chat again next week.

Harald Duell: I’ll be thinking of topics.

Aug 5, 2009
This week we introduce Harald Duell, our correspondent from the mysterious East, New York City to be exact. Harald has been a licensed stockbroker for over 20 years, working in New York, London and Berlin, but he also has a degree in psychology, which might give him an edge.

Aug 5, 2009This week we introduce Harald Duell, our correspondent from the mysterious East, New York City to be exact. Harald has been a licensed stockbroker for over 20 years, working in New York, London and Berlin, but he also has a degree in psychology, which might give him an edge.

He’s also takes part in the annual "Swim Across America" challenge; Harald’s page is here

Harald doesn’t stand on the floor of the NY stock exchange, yelling, waving stubs. He does his work by quietly researching companies. It turns out that research, and not the Ouija board, is the correct way to pick a stock. It involves telling the future by careful analysis of the past.

Harald and his family live in Larchmont, a quaint village of seven thousand or so in the prestigious portion of Westchester County 30 minutes form Manhattan. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner lived in Larchmont until very recently. If you want to be a stockbroker, it’s where you live. Money magazine named it 11th of the top 100 places to live (Sierra County wasn’t on the list).

The world Harald lives in is very different from Sierra County. It’s also very much the same. It is those similarities and differences we’ll discuss each week.

Until recently, Harald was flying between Frankfurt and New York every month or so. We talked about long commutes.

Prospect: You lead a very exciting and romantic life, trotting the globe.

Harald Duell: Ha! Very exciting! Suffering jet lag, not knowing where to call home, sleeping next to strangers on crowded TransAtlantic flights, having your family grow up in your absence. Very romantic.

P: But at least you became very wealthy.

HD: Ha! Very wealthy. I ride a bike I put together from parts. I save money wherever I can.

P: But, you work for the very wealthy, surely some crumbs fall off.

HD: They do, sometimes, but in order to take part you have to dress right, live in the right place. It costs a lot of money to do that.

P: But, you live in the kind of neighborhood you can’t find here in Sierra County.

HD: I do. The Larchmont Yacht club is here; there are some massive homes in the neighborhood. A house 15 minutes from us pays $100,000 a year in taxes.

P: It must be nice to be so wealthy; a lot of people in Sierra County struggle; some drink to get by. Are people there happy?

HD: You might think so, but a big house doesn’t make you happy. People here can also have miserable, alcohol driven lives. Some people have very big houses, and the only purpose is to entertain the right people. But, they can still be lonely.

P: Is it the same in Berlin, and in London?

HD: Some things are different, because the people have different ways of looking at things. But, a lot of things are the same. I have a very good friend in Edinborough; we talk about people we’ve known in Stuttgart, Frankfurt, London, New York. They’re all the same. People everywhere are the same.

P: I have a friend here who not too long ago was a timber worker. His job disappeared, he got laid off. He gained weight, his emotional and physical health declined. Do stockbrokers suffer from that?

HD: Sure they do, it’s exactly the same thing. When we’re not working we sit around, gain weight, and we get stressed out about it, and discouraged. I’ve made the decision not to let that happen to me, so I work hard at it.

P: People are the same all over the world.

HD: That’s right. We’re all the same, but we’re different than people were in the 1950s.

P: How?

HD: Today, everyone wants instant gratification. They don’t want to work for something, they want it now.

P: That’s a subject for next time. Is the economy coming back?

HD: It is coming back, judging by the houses that are selling in our neighborhood. I think the economy is starting to recover.

P: It will take longer to hit California.

HD: California is really screwed up, so it will take longer.

P: OK, let’s talk next week!

Harald left us with some recommended reading. The first book is Road to Serfdom by Fredrich Hayek; it’s an old exposition on liberalism. The second author is the existential psychologist Rollo May.

Got questions for Harald? He won’t give stock advice, because he’s still a licensed broker.





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