I keep coming back to a comment from Mark Cuban in the weekend Washington Post. When asked, among a host of others, what book he would recommend to people trying to make sense of the current financial/economic turmoil, amidst a sea of high-tone choices from economists, investors, and others, here was Mark's answer:
I don't think there is such a book. In my humble opinion, people who actually believe they can understand all the issues are the ones that got us to where we are today. In reality, there are so many variables and so little data, it's all a guess. I don't think a book exists that can explain it. Is there a book out there called "No One Has a Clue What Is Going On and the Whole World Is Guessing"?
No, Mark, there is no such book. No one knows anything and we are making this up as we go along. People continually act surprised at how many big-brained sorts missed the current market conflagration as it developed, but should we really be surprised? That's what happens every time, and feeble attempts to apply the lessons learned last time around almost always lead to focusing on things other than what is causing the new problem.
I know, I know, it sounds nihilistic. But in some sense it's liberating: If no one truly knows anything -- beyond the simplistic bromides, like plant your corn early, avoid excessive leverage, etc. -- then the world is your Etch-a-Sketch, isn't it?