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Contributed by Bill Bonner
Publisher of: The Fleet Street Letter

OUZILLY, FRANCE 
MONDAY, 25 DECEMBER 2000 

 

Today:  The Ghost of Christmas Future


THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE 


It was 4AM. I had no doubt about that. The clock said as 
much.

And who am I to argue with clocks? If ever we cannot trust 
them, the country is done for. 


But what were those voices? At such at an hour. 


The first to speak was a soft, feminine voice, talking to 
someone
on the landing outside by door, "It's not the way it used to 
be." 


"What do you mean," replied the man, in a voice that was 
neither
young nor old, with a slight impatience. 


"Of course, I don't know why I bother," she went on, "I 
don't
think it matters to you anyway." 


"What doesn't matter to me," he replied, with growing 
restlessness... 


"Me!" 


"Oh, come on... what are you talking about?" 


"I mean, you are not interested in me anymore. All you think 
about is your stocks. You and that damned computer! Here it 
is, even at a Christmas Party, and all you ever talk about 
is stocks! Broadcom. Qualcom. Dot.com. Does every word you 
speak and every thought you have have to involve money?"


"You're being silly..." 


"No I'm not. It's you who are being silly. And you know why 
you spend all your time watching stocks? I'll tell you - 
fear! You're afraid of life. You're afraid of me. You 
condense all your hopes and aspirations... all your dreams 
and fears... into one simple master-passion - making money 
in stocks." 


"All you care about is making money," she went on. "You're 
afraid to care about anything else! Not about me. Not about 
Christmas... not about anything. Even now, why you're eager 
to get home so you can turn on your computer and see how 
much money you've lost today." 


"You are exaggerating," he protested, "besides, I think 
we're at the bottom. As soon as my stocks come back, I'm 
going to sell them all. And I won't worry about them again. 
It's just that I've taken a beating recently...and it's not 
easy. But that doesn't mean I feel any different about you. 
And besides, it's not about money anway...it's about our 
future." 


This conversation trailed off, as the holiday revelers moved 
off to their final destination of the evening - an apartment 
near mine. 


I went back to sleep. Having failed to profit from the 
greatest period of wealth creation of all time, I could 
sleep in peace. 


And yet... I did feel sorry for them. 


***


While this was taking place, Ebenezer received his third and 
final visitor of the night. 


"I am the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come," said the spirit. 


And away they went, the two of them. Ebenezer was scared. 
Perhaps he feared the future. 


The spirit conducted them beyond a full, bright moon... to 
where the moon shone no more. It was as if a tide of night 
had washed the stars out of the sky. It was black. And cold. 


And then, all of a sudden, a city arose all around them. Its 
narrow streets, and very high buildings, reminded Ebenezer 
of somewhere. Yes, it was lower Manhattan. The financial 
district. It was Wall Street. 


On the street, groups of men and women were speaking. But 
they had worried, haggard faces. 


"What troubles them so, Spirit?" asked Ebenezer of his 
guide. 


"You must see for yourself," replied the Phantom, and they 
drew near a group on the corner of Broad and Wall. 


"Amazon...?" asked one, "are you kidding? The bankers got 
less than 2 cents on the dollar. Shareholders got nothing. 
Not even a scrap of paper to put on their bathroom walls." 


"At least the bankers got something," answered another. 
"They were lucky." 


"Yeah, but who cares?" 


"A guy I know cares. He owned the bank stocks." 


"You'd think they would have held up better." 


"Well, you would have thought a lot of things." 


"Well, you would have thought you could've gotten more than 
a turkey for a Christmas bonus. I remember last year, I got 
a more than $2 million. This year - a turkey." 


"Some guys didn't even get that." 


"Where are you living now? I heard you moved?" 


"Yeah, we moved in with my wife's mother. We had to give up 
our apartment." 


"What, that place overlooking the park on the West Side? 
What'd you do with your last year's bonus... didn't you pay 
for the place?" 


"No... I took out a mortgage and put my bonus into Qualcom. 
It did so well, I remortgaged at 125% and leveraged up." 


"Jeez... you must be hurting." 


"Nah... it's the bank that's really hurting." 


"I'll tell you who's really hurting, one of my customers in 
Baltimore. The guy just wouldn't take no for an answer. He 
bought the dips. Ha. Ha. Each time the big techs went down, 
the guy bought more. The guy died and the banker went to his 
place - took everything. Even the sheets off the bed." 


Ebenezer couldn't believe his ears. 


"What has happened?" he asked the spirit. 


The phantom of Christmas Future made no response. Instead, 
he stood erect, pointed his finger... and in an instant the 
two were standing once again at the little window in East 
Baltimore. 


"Our time is short," said the spirit. 


The two gazed in the window. The scene was not the 
boisterous happy one they had seen earlier. Instead, Bob and 
his family sat still, quiet - as if a dark shadow had passed 
over them and the fire in their hearth had gone out forever. 


There, in the corner was a crutch, partially hidden by a 
Christmas tree. The tree, though dressed for the season, 
failed to tilt the scales toward the gaiety it implied. 


Ebenezer noticed something missing. 


"Why, where's little Tim," he asked, dreading the answer. 


"Tim is no more," said the phantom. 


"I have seen enough," said Ebenezer. "No more shadows. I 
understand the lesson you are trying to teach. I am not so 
dull than I cannot grasp your point. I acknowledge it. Some 
losses are real... and more important than money. I will 
send Bob and his family a sympathy card." 


"Come..." said the spirit. "Your lessons are not complete." 


A second later Ebenezer recoiled in terror. They were in a 
bedroom, stripped of its curtains, sheets, even the pictures 
were off the walls, leaving light patches of wallpaper where 
once hung Ebenezer's collection of great artists works of 
the mid 20th century. The Pollacks, the Miros, the Warhols - 
he hated every one of them... but they were great 
investments. More than once, he muttered to himself, "They 
ought to pay me to own these things.." But what had become 
of them? 


And the figure on the bed, the corpse, it was covered only 
by a large, plastic garbage bag, so carelessly laid on that 
even a gentle breeze would have left the body naked, exposed 
to the world as though a ghastly piece of art in a modern 
exhibition. 


Ebenezer shuddered. 


"Why?" 


Oh cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up thine altar 
here, and dress it with such terrors as thou hast at thy 
command... 


Strike, shadow, strike... so that we may see his good deeds 
flow from the wound. 


No voice pronounced these words. But Ebenezer heard them 
anyway. 


And then, a moment later, they were in some other place. It 
was a cemetery. 


"We don't need to come here," said Ebenezer. I know whose 
tombstone you will show me. But before we look, answer me 
this. Are these shadows of the thing that Will be, or are 
they shadows of things that May be only." 


The spirit was immovable. His finger beckoned to the 
tombstone. 


Ebenezer moved forward. He looked. And there it was. His own 
name, chiseled in stone. 


He fell to his knees, and reached for the spirit's hand. But 
spirits are elusive as profits in a bear market. Finding no 
hand to comfort him, he formed his own in prayer. 


In agony, his voice trembled: 


"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all 
the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the 
Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I 
will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I 
may sponge away the writing on this stone." 


He blinked, and the spirit was gone. So was the graveyard. 
He was back in his bed. 


The room was his own. The bed was his own. Best of all, the 
Time before him was him own. And his to make amends in! 


Oh what a feeling of delight! To be alive! A new day! A new 
life! And to understand, for once, what really matters. How 
could he have been such a fool, for so many years, in so 
many ways? Well, it was too late to think about that...and 
no time for it either. This was a time for action. For 
something new. "A new era," he said to himself...


...and chuckled to himself. He couldn't remember the sound 
of his own chuckle. So he did it again. What an amusing 
sound. Chuckle. Chuckle. Ha! What fun.


New era? Yes, this was the real new era. A new era, indeed, 
with a new kind of wealth - the only kind that really 
mattered.


He was so excited, he fluttered out of bed as though a robin 
from its nest. 


He rushed to turn on his computer. 


"SELL!" His fingers rushed over the letters so fast, the 
computer could barely keep up. 


"I don't know whether they're going up or down," he laughed 
to himself, "but I don't care anymore. I'm free of all this 
nonsense forever." 


Opening his window, he saw a young boy on the street corner. 


"Hey, boy," he shouted. 


"Who are you calling boy?" came the resentful reply. 


"Oh never mind," said Ebenezer. Times have changed. And he 
made up his mind to change with them. 


"Oh, my, the markets are closed today," said Ebenezer to 
himself. "It's Christmas. Sell? To whom! No one will be 
buying or selling stocks today. How wonderful. Everything is 
wonderful now.


Bubble, schmubble. I'm going to go see my old friend Bob. 


"And get that kid of his properly checked out at Johns 
Hopkins. I think Itec may have a new drug that can help 
him." 


"Hmmm... I should probably buy some stock in Itec. Great 
company. And it's been knocked down 50% since last year. Buy 
the dips! This could be a big winner when the techs come 
back...I could make a fortune on this one.. But who cares! 
This is a new era..." 


*** 


I confess, dear reader, that I do not know if the story is 
true. I just know that it ought to be true, even if it is 
not. 


And I know how it ends too. With these immortal lines from 
dear Tiny Tim, saved by new technology from Itec:


Merry Christmas. And God bless Us, Every One! 


Your friend and faithful servant, 


Bill Bonner
 
 
 
 
About The Daily Reckoning:
The Daily Reckoning... "more sense in one e-mail than a month of CNBC."  That's what readers are saying about The Daily Reckoning.

Bill Bonner, recognized internationally as a brilliant writer, entrepreneur
and publisher of The Fleet Street Letter, offers you his daily market
commentary absolutely FREE. For the first time, outsiders are getting a peek into his powerful and profitable investment insights. Bill's practical contrarian advice empowers even average investors to protect their hard-earned wealth and achieve amazing gains.

Bonner writes his email letter from Paris, France, each morning --
describing the wacky, wonderful world of investment, politics and everything remotely related. Irreverent. Sharp. Honest. Thoroughly, unabashedly contrarian. It's also among the fastest growing e-letter on the Internet.  It's a brand new service... but it has a distinguished history..

For nearly 62 year, The Fleet Street Letter, the oldest investment
advisory letter in the English language has consistently delivered
invaluable economic and political foresights to savvy investors. Current readers regularly enjoy impressive investment gains even as the market falters. Here's more from his online readers...

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Open your mind with the most stimulating e-mail newsletter that you'll ever read, The Daily Reckoning. To receive this free daily email newsletter click here now.

 
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Last modified: April 01, 2001

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