Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gambling?

Last year, I remember listening to a leading Harvard economist speak of our economy and how it works. The show was on NPR, and the gentleman went on to explain that our economy largely works on the concept of speculation. People invest money in what they believe will be the next big moneymaker. From stocks to commodities to properties, investors place their money where they believe it will grow.

Confirming something that I had been thinking for a while, he went to explain that essentially we have left our traditional power economy of production and innovation. While he did not advocate moving back the clock, he did advocate for some extreme maneuvers by our government and economic sector to regain some of our industry and especially the investment in innovation. He cited India as a country balancing their economy very well as they are growing manufacturing, technology, service, and financial sectors within their economy.

His greatest condemnation of our economy came toward the middle of his talk: He said, "We essentially have a gambling economy." We gamble our money on stocks and "investments" in hopes that they will go up. Yet, as we are seeing this week, they don't always go up.

I wonder why so many Christians and Christian institutions are so adamant against gambling, yet they are very pro-stock market? Isn't gambling, gambling? Or is white-collar gambling different from blue-collar gambling? What makes a very sophisticated approach toward Texas Hold-'Em (in which the professionals make lots of money...and have been proven to not lose money) different from playing the stock market?

Some might say that there is always a "loser" in gambling. Well, there's always a loser in stock markets, too. Never does every stock go up, and often as some stocks go up, it causes a selling in different stock sectors causing them to fall.

To be honest, I get a little tired of Christian hypocrisy when it comes to gambling...it's something we do all the time in many facets of our lives. There are so many different issues we need to address beyond gambling. If it were gambling as an addiction and we addressed the other addictions as well, I'd be all for it. Let's address overeating, drugs, alcohol, pornography, overspending, overindulging, etc. Rather, I feel it is another cheap shot by "the righteous" who don't do those sorts of things, yet are obese and living beyond their income. Do I think gambling is good? Not really. My issue is how hard we often come down on sins that are "below us" while not listening to God condemn the sins "within us."

Well, here's to gambling the stock market and the billions that have been lost in two days...let alone for the year. Perhaps, we should have played Poker...at least it's governed by statistics and laws of mathematics.

4 comments:

Jason Morris said...

well put...and isn't it interesting the the United Methodist church is so strong in their stance against gambling...speaking out against the development of casinos...yet they put our retirement into the stock market. seems kind of strange.

Mark said...

Thanks, Jason!

Michael said...

Actually gambling and the stock market are quite different. If you look at one moment in time (let's say one day) they actually look about the same. If I take $1000 to a casino or $1000 to the stock market I might win or lose that day. But over time the stock market has shown to increase wealth for all but gambling will eventually take all of your money. They are quite different over the long haul!

Mark said...

Well, that's the common logic.

But, I would challenge that logic with some mathematics.

Certain games have extremely low probabilities of winning. Some have higher probabilities.

Understanding those probabilities and adjusting strategies accordingly are what master poker players do.

Just like in the stock market: Those with understanding make money. Those blindly playing, lose.

Btw, ask investors in 1929 if they made money in the Stock Market? Ask those who lost everything in 1987? Or those in 2001 who lost millions and have yet to get it back?

It is gambling on a bigger scale, but I would admit, it is a safer gamble as we are gambling on our nation's ability to keep an economy running.