Really Voodoo Economics

You want opinions? Here's an opinion. I think this bull is freaky. More to the point, I think its presence--right down on the bottom of Manhattan, on Wall Street, the beating heart of money talk in America if not the world, is freaky. Rather, to be specific, the thing I think is freaky is the total absence of a big old bronze bear. We all know what the bull and the bear mean; a bull market is good, a bear market is bad. Somebody thought of that and it stuck. So the two are a matched set, aren't they? Shouldn't they go together?

But of course, no Wall Street financier wants to look at a bear every morning. What an ominous symbol of the ever-present potential for disaster that would be--of course they'd rather look at the cheery good omen of the bull, symbol of a vigorous market in which they all get to wear designer suits. Understandable enough; nobody likes to name a fear.

And that is magical thinking.

Sympathetic Magic, probably the most common sort of magic and probably the oldest, is essentially the practice of seeking to influence the world by representing what you'd like to see. If you want buffalo to come by so you can hunt them, dress up like a buffalo and dance--or paint a bunch of people hunting buffalo on the wall. If you want an enemy to suffer, make a little effigy and stab it with pins. If you want the crops to be fertile, lie down in the same field and do your best to set a fertile example. If you want to ward off sickness, name it only in a whisper if at all. Instead, name what you do want to see. Pantomime the world as you wish it to become.

All well and good. But in all its forms, this is undeniably mysticism. Isn't it a little odd to see it in the hard-bitten financial center of a nominally secular society? Do they believe that representing the bull, without representing the bear, will affect reality? And if they don't, why leave out the bear?