Monday, August 26, 2002

A keynote of libertarian philosophy is the rationality of the market. Here's an example of how that works in practice.

During the dotcom boom, a company called Liquid Audio had an IPO. Even though it had no viable business model, the market thought it was rational to buy the stock, and the IPO was a huge success, leaving the company with a gigantic cash hoard.

After the dotcom boom came the dotcom bust, when the market thought it was rational to sell dotcom stocks. And since Liquid Audio was such a stock, its stock price cratered --- indeed, to the point that the market is now valuing the company at less than the value of its remaining cash on hand.

A few stockholders have noticed, and since the company still has no viable business model, they are now trying to break the company up and pocket the cash. Which may be the first investment decision related to this company which has ever made sense.

Warren Buffett once famously commented that "Any player unaware of the fool in the market probably is the fool in the market." How do all those fools arrive in the market? American Enterprise Institute resident scholar John Makin blames hype from, among others, greedy brokers, fad-following journalists, foolish academics, and the two AEI colleagues of his who wrote the now-infamous "Dow 36,000". Much of what Makin has to say is smart and well-taken, though his opening complaint that stock funds put all their money in (gasp!) stocks is just bizarre --- if you want a fund that invests in bonds, and you probably do, buy a bond fund. But which of the brokers, reporters, profs, and AEI drones were responsible for all the professional venture capitalists who jump-started the Liquid Audios of the world in the first place?

(Links via Slashdot and Ethel).


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