Our annual Wooden Nickel Awards are intended to recognise those who have provided outstanding disservice to the financial world, making investors wish they'd never gotten out of bed throughout the entire year.
The winner of each category will be presented with a tasteful counterfeit of a coin that is worth nothing in the first place. It is lovingly handcrafted from heartwood of the Pinus obtusa, a tree that grows best in Scandinavia. For those of you not in the forestry business, the Pinus obtusa represents a triumph of genetic engineering, blending features of two distinctively different types of wood. It is soft enough for the most unsound ideas to get through, but is impervious to anything approaching common sense. Pinus obtusa is the official tree of the Nobel Prize Committee.
The British, as usual, win more of these awards per capita than denizens of any other nation. Their ability to combine incompetence with style remains unequalled.
The Fractal Investor 'Falling Headfirst Into the Hole I've Just Dug' Award
This can only go to Gordon Brown, former British more-or-less everything. His two main achievements were to help America engineer the 2008 financial crisis, and to lose the recent general election to a coalition even less convincing than our wooden nickel.
One of our criteria for national leaders is that they don't understand the difference between economics and arithmetic. Mr. Brown has gone us one better, as we are now convinced that he doesn't even understand arithmetic.
Great men rarely fail alone, spending much of their time sliding off the shoulders of pygmies. So honourable mention should be made to those minions in the Treasury and Bank of England who made doubly sure that Mr. Brown was facing in the wrong direction. There's nothing as effective as a British civil servant to dampen your powder before the misfire.
The Fractal Investor 'Flat Pack Not Worth Assembling' Award
Or book not worth opening, perhaps. A dead heat here between George W. Bush and Tony Blair, for creating a new form of literature: the memoir without a memory (or much else, come to think of it). Both books illustrate the fluffy mentality of one gentleman and the vapid brain of the other (take your pick which is which).
The books modestly make little mention of their authors' role in providing financial insecurity to millions. Or of the virtually Churchillian military masterstroke they concocted by attacking two countries where the enemy wasn't, thus eliminating hundreds of billions of dollars which could have been invested in something worthwhile.
The Fractal Investor Life-Time Under-Achievement Awards
We have long stressed that investment is a long-term scenario. The financial world is now so vast that even the most ham-fisted are unable to gum up that much of it in a single year. So in keeping with this mentality we have introduced two new prizes, as follows:
The Fractal Investor 'Why Is My Ship the Only One Sinking?' Award
This can only go to Alan Greenspan, for his long-term incomprehension of virtually every issue put before him. His famous phrase 'irrational exuberance' could be taken to imply false optimism about his own skills, as he presided over several booms and busts, exported American problems to countries that could ill afford them, and was the chief architect of the dollar's ongoing collapse. Who needs a sandbar when the pilot himself is aground?
The Fractal Investor 'Please Reinforce the Glass Ceiling' Award
This is our contribution to 'positive discrimination' (read mindless quota-filling), and strives to recognise those feminists who have most undermined their own cause and so drawn attention away from the many working women who genuinely deserve attention.
This is a group award, and goes unreservedly to that gaggle of middle-aged, fattish women who were mysteriously labelled 'Blair's Babes' (perhaps to reflect that gentleman's - or Peter Mandelson's - weird taste in women).
These have now sunk into well-earned obscurity, so we hope they appreciate The Fractal Investor's bid to further submerge their reputations. Several of these ladies had Cabinet roles bearing on the worlds of business and finance. Because of their general inabilities and inane remarks, they were frequently moved from one area to another to ensure that the Blair/Brown era's ineffectiveness was spread across as wide an area as possible.
Looking to the future
We always open to suggestions for new categories of awards as well as your thoughts on deserving individuals or groups. The number of bumbling nitwits in the investment and financial worlds is expanding exponentially, though of course no nominee would know what that means. Who is your own favourite booby?