Beware the Chartist: He Brings You False Science

by Burton S. Blumert

“How come they didn’t predict this?”

~ Overheard from an anonymous fellow as he plunged off the Flat Iron Building,
NYC, Oct. 1929

I’ve always tried to be civil in the presence of Chartists.

I am also polite in the company of snake charmers and bungee jumpers, but if my daughter announced one day, “Daddy, I’m in love with Lancelot. He’s a ———-“(fill in the blank), I would immediately retain a top-notch team of de-programmers to bring the poor girl back to her senses.

Come to think of it, bungee jumpers don’t inflict pain on others, and the world’s no worse because of them. They are a spirited group and good for an occasional laugh, especially when their cord breaks.

As for snake charmers, what if we found ourselves overrun by venomous serpents as happened in Ireland once upon a time? The “charmers” could act as non-combatants until a St. Patrick came on the scene to wipe the critters out. (Unfortunately, the charmer’s magic is useless against the most deadly of all snakes, The Political Viper.)

There’s a certain unworldly aura that surrounds anyone who devotes his life to out-staring a snake.

These worthies must have a tough time earning a living, yet they too, do little harm while practicing their craft. The fact that snakes seem to tolerate them should be regarded as a plus.

Note, how I’ve already come to terms with having a bungee jumping fellow, or a snake charmer as a son-in-law, but my tolerance ends when it comes to Chartists.

Let me be clear. I am not talking about Chart Makers, diligent folks who map the crust and waterways of the planet. Nor am I degrading the Chartists, those English political reformers, active between 1838—48. (I think they were bad guys, but knowing our LRC readers, I’ll find out soon enough.)

I’m talking about those arrogant snobs who promote the belief that the future performance of markets can be predicted from analyzing yesterday’s lines and dots on a page.

This group is deadly dangerous: They leave empty bank accounts and broken spirits in their wake.

Look, if there are customers willing to pay the Gypsy lady to read tea leaves, that’s OK with me. After all, she entertains her clients — but never presents herself as possessed with a body of scientific knowledge.

Even the Voodoo Priest who predicts the future by reading animal entrails, never confuses the source of his dark knowledge with human reason.

Of all the mystics, only the Chartist pretends a rational basis for his gobbledygook. The Chartist further elevates his status by including himself in a larger, even more virulent group that label themselves as “market-technicians.”

Surely, one would think that the devastating losses suffered recently in the equity markets would have exposed these charlatans and their false religion. But, no, their followers are like zombies. Never questioning, and in constant search for that blip on the chart that pierces the shrouded future.

“You’re just looking for trouble, Blumert,” said my wife as she burned the toast. “You have friends who make their living as technicians. Worse yet, you must have dozens of customers who believe in that stuff. They’ll be offended.”

“If that’s the price I must pay in the pursuit of Truth, so be it,” I proclaimed.

“Pursuit of Truth? You’ve been annoyed ever since that fellow told you he didn’t like the looks of the gold chart,” she said while scraping the blackened toast.

“Is that so?” I muttered sardonically. “If he spent more time understanding the fundamentals, he would know that his gold chart was nonsense. He’d be better off predicting that you’ll burn the toast again tomorrow.”

November 18, 2003