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Let’s Play Pretend

11.16.07 | 3 Comments

Let’s say you have good chunk of money invested in a company-managed retirement account. Things seem to be going along okay, but then the market takes a dip. You start actually caring where your money is being invested and you discover that Human Resources (or whoever is managing the portfolio) appears to have been making some bad investments. Then rumors start circulating that maybe there’s more shenanigans going on in HR. They’re hiring unqualified people who "know somebody". They’re finding reason to fire, transfer, or force early retirement from people who have the political power within the company to oppose them. Meanwhile your company retirement portfolio appears to be heading for a train wreck.

Company morale is falling rapidly, and eventually HR is forced to defend itself. They send out an internal memo recognizing that its retirement account investments appear to be falling in value, but assure you that this is just a temporary dip in the market. Furthermore, they see this dip as an opportunity to buy low and sell high when the value of their investments climbs up again. Not only are they not going to cut their losses and move the retirement accounts to other, safer investements, they’re going to take advantage of the low rates and invest more heavily in that area. Rather than improve morale, half the company is ready to revolt–you included. Many start looking for jobs elsewhere. Rumors continue to circulate about other shady business practices out of HR. But then a curious thing happens. The quarterly earnings on the retirement accounts start climbing again. In fact, over the next year the investment shoots up in value and your retirement account grows 23% over its pre-dip level.

Here’s the question. In light of the crushed morale and all the other problems with HR, would you give credit where credit is due and admit they were right to ride out the market even when things looked bleak? Or would you just chalk it up to blind, dumb luck pulling them out of an Enron-scale train wreck?

Scott Adams wants to know if you’d ever admit the President’s was right about our troop surge in Iraq.


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Comment by Matt
2007-11-16 06:26:40

I think it is entirely too early to suddenly claim that the “surge” is working. Even in the linked “What if?” scenario he says:

“And the Iraqi government isn’t being helpful, by all accounts, which means the potential for fresh violence is always there. And our troops aren’t streaming home. And the occupation still costs a fortune. And Iraq’s infrastructure is a mess.”

When the effort is costing us almost 4 billion $$ each day and the plan is to begin bringing troops down to “pre-surge” levels (but has not happened yet, soon, we promise), I’m not quite ready to declare victory yet.

I’m also not entirely convinced that “stay the course” was worth the investment in the long-term. We may have a temporary slow-down in violence, but how long will it last?

Is the Iraqi police able to maintain the peace without the US Military? Was it worth the lives of US Troops we’ve lost? There are too many questions to have a clear answer on the “What if?” scenario. Declaring victory is a lot easier than proving the strategy actually worked for the long term.

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Comment by Prest0
2007-11-16 10:55:14

Hey Matt,

Thanks for taking the time to come over here and respond. We’re far from out of the woods yet, but I’m guessing based on your response that you’re in the “no” camp.

That being said, if you really start comparing reports then it’s pretty hard to deny that the violence has decreased significantly in the last year to six months. Areas that were dangerous to drive through with armored vehicles are now patrolled on foot. There are some parts of the country where soldiers have stopped wearing their body armor. This isn’t as widely or explicitly reported as bomb blasts because in the media, “good news is no news”. It’s just a natural by-product of the business.

I think only history will tell us if this war was worth the cost. Many people were critical of Regan’s runaway defense spending in the 1980s, but in retrospect it was a small price to pay for a bloodless end to the Cold War–a war that much more easily could have ended in nuclear winter. We are paying a terrible price for meddling in the Middle East. We won’t know if the price was worth it for at least another decade, and possibly for another generation.

Again, thanks for taking the time to come by and reply. It’s nice to know I’m not talking to myself. (Well, not only talking to myself.)

Comment by Matt
2007-11-17 11:33:45

I guess that is why I’m currently in the “no” camp regarding admitting the administration was “right” or not about the surge. I just don’t think the cost of staying-the-course, then throwing more troops into the mess, then staying-the-course even more…was worth it in the end.

The biggest cost for us has been the loss of American lives and livelihoods. How many families have been devastated by this? Not just the 3800+ troop deaths, but also the amount of wounded coming home. Extended deployments have not helped any either.

The billions and billions of dollars spent is a huge part of the cost as well. Just thinking of how many emergency “supplemental” requests for funds the administration has made since this thing started and whether or not $400 billion (and counting) is worth it.

Basically, I’m thinking there had to be other ways to accomplish the goals of stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. Throwing more troops and more money at the situation in the hope that we can outspend and outmanpower the enemy just does not seem like a solid strategy. Sure, it might less the violence in certain areas eventually…but at what cost?

Not only that, is the Iraqi government going to be able to maintain any of the gains or are we going to have to come back in a few months with another surge of troops and another $50 billion (or more) in emergency funding?


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