Q3 2013 Shareholder Letter
"Is it possible that the average citizen understands our country's fiscal situation better than many of our politicians or prominent economists?
Most people seem to viscerally recognize that the absence of an immediate crisis does not mean we will not eventually face one. They are wary of believing promises by those who failed to predict previous crises in housing and in highly leveraged financial institutions.
(...) When an economist tells them that growing the nation's debt over the past 12 years from $6 trillion to $16 trillion is not a problem, and that doubling it again will still not be a problem, this simply does not compute. They know the trajectory we are on.
When politicians claim that this tax increase or that spending cut will generate trillions over the next decade, they are properly skeptical over whether anyone can truly know what will happen next year, let alone a decade or more from now.
They are wary of grand bargains that kick in years down the road, knowing that the failure to make hard decisions is how we got into today's mess. They remember that one of the basic principles of economics is scarcity, which is a powerful force in their own lives.
They know that a society's wealth is not unlimited, and that if the economy is so fragile that the government cannot allow failure, then we are indeed close to collapse. For if you must rescue everything, then ultimately you will be able to rescue nothing.
They also know that the only reason paper money, backed not by anything tangible but only a promise, has any value at all is because it is scarce. With all the printing, the credibility of our entire trust-based monetary system will be increasingly called into question.
And when you tell the populace that we can all enjoy a free lunch of extremely low interest rates, massive Fed purchases of mounting treasury issuance, trillions of dollars of expansion in the Fed's balance sheet, and huge deficits far into the future, they are highly skeptical not because they know precisely what will happen but because they are sure that no one else--even, or perhaps especially, the policymakers—does either." (Klarman, Q3 2013)
2012 letter Seth Klarman
"If economics were a hard science like chemistry, you’d mix a little of this with a bit of that and the concoction would lead to strong economic growth, full employment, rising home prices, buoyant financial markets, and low inflation every time. But economics is a soft science, and real life simply doesn’t work so predictably. Though economists might wish otherwise, economics is, at its core, behavioral. Modern economies are too complex to be reliably modeled; their connections and correlations are lose and imprecise, the second- and third-order effects largely immeasurable the fickle vagaries of individual and aggregate human behavior utterly unknowable. Put an economist in a powerful government job and provide levers that can be pulled to start the printing presses, set reserve requirements, fiddle with the Fed funds rate, expand the Fed’s balance sheet, and deliver indecipherable communiqués, and that economist will feel compelled to pull those levers. He or she, like a monkey with a typewriter, might even give us Shakespeare (or Adam Smith) on occasion. But mostly that economist will spout gibberish, a mélange of untested and potentially counterproductive measures that unleash all manner of unintended consequences." (Seth Klarman, 2012 letter)