Wednesday, February 14, 2007
HOORAH FOR BLOOMBERG (never thought I'd say that!)
A famous series of jokes attempts to define political systems. In communism, for example, you have two cows, your commune seizes them and charges you for milk. In a
democracy, you have two cows, the cows outvote you 2-1 to ban all meat and dairy products, and you go bankrupt and starve to death. Similar thinking can be applied to financial markets. Here, then, is the world of money recast in bovine terms.
You have two cows. You come home from the fields one day to find Henry Kravis chatting to your spouse at the dining-room table. Two days later, you have no spouse, no farm, and no table. Two guys the size of sumo wrestlers have saddled up the cows and are riding them around the farmyard.
You have two cows. China has 1 trillion cows. Guess who sets the price of milk?
You have two cows. One is Brazilian, one is Australian. They yield 25 quarts of milk per day. That's half as much as three years ago, when you traded your less lactiferous German and U.S. cows for them. You are thinking of swapping for a pair of Namibian cows. They only have three legs but, hey, they produce 26 quarts per day.
You have two cows. You repackage five of them into a Collateralized Lactating Obligation, pay for a AAA credit rating, slice the CLO into 10 pieces and sell it to investors, skimming the cream from the milk for yourself. Three of the cows fall ill,
and the credit rating plummets. You get to keep the cream.
You have two cows. A guy in an open-necked shirt drives up in his Bentley and offers to take care of them for you in return for a year's supply of steak and 50 percent of their milk. They won't be allowed to leave his compound for two years. Six months later, you have half a cow, producing sour milk. You have to be willing to lose rump today to get rib-eye tomorrow, the hedge-fund guy mumbles through a mouthful of
sirloin and champagne.
Assume two cows.
Carbon-Emissions Trading You have two cows. They produce 1.2 tons of methane gas per
day. After a hefty donation to the re-election campaign of your local representative, the government gives you enough emission permits for six cows. You sell three permits, buy another cow, and apply for a European Commission grant to build a methane-gas power station.
You have one old, tired cow. A recent heart transplant may have come too late to save the beast.
You have no cows. You slap advertisements on everyone else's cows. The milk floods in. You use the proceeds to reinvent the cow.
Nobody wants your cows. You design the cutest little milk bottle. Now, everybody wants your cows.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
You have 26,467 cows. They are strapped into the milking machines 24/7. Some of them have more hay than they could ever hope to eat. Others aspire to one day having more hay than they could ever hope to eat. The cows with the most hay end up with
big government jobs.
You have two cows. How boring is that? You pay a month's supply of milk to a consultant, who advises you to sell one cow and buy two aardvarks instead. The aardvarks die. The consultant charges you four months of your (now reduced) milk supply and advises you to sell half of your remaining cow and buy a wombat.
The wombat dies. The consultant charges eight months of milk for a copy of his new report, Two-Cow Strategies for Alleviating the Impending Pensions Crisis.
You have two cows. Comrade, those cows are an environmental hazard. We suggest you hand one of them over to us.
You have two cows. You buy insurance against them dying, and tuck the contracts into the middle of that tottering pile of documentation on your desk. One dark night, Henry Kravis sneaks off with your cows. By the time you track down the paperwork, your now worthless contracts have expired.
You have two cows. You pledge one of them to me as collateral in a swap for some of my pigs. I pledge the cow to my neighbor as collateral in a swap for some of his sheep. He pledges the cow to his cousin as collateral in a swap for some of his cousin's goats. Better pray the livestock market doesn't crash and we have to try and round up that cow.
You have lots of stocks and bonds, but no cows. Are you crazy? Cows are the hot new market. Here, buy this exchange- traded cow futures contract. It can't lose. It gained 40 percent in the past six months.
You have two cows. You wear a cap you made out of tin foil so that the tiny black helicopters can't read your thoughts. You spend your days blogging about how the government's decision to abandon the cattle standard in 1933 was part of a global
conspiracy by the world's central banks to destroy the value of your herd.
(Mark Gilbert is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)
at 5:13 am