Money

A Great Mind Ponders Grim Alternatives

For readers who missed part 1 of this series of posts, I am summarizing a fictional novel written almost forty years ago. When George suggested that Grace Atkinson be summoned to the deliberations on the Eastern Shore, not everyone was enthusiastic. For one thing, Grace was recovering from a stroke. Moreover, as one Panel member …

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Positioning Client Portfolios: PNC, Confluence Financial Partners, J.P. Morgan, Huntington

Each year in the summer issue, we ask a group of Pittsburgh’s leading investment experts to answer a question for our readers in 250 words or less. This year’s question: “The coronavirus has led to the first bear market in more than a decade with widespread uncertainty remaining. How are you positioning your client portfolios …

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Working in the Coronavirus Era

Q. How do you expect the aftermath of the coronavirus to change the working conditions for the American workforce? A. It’s definitely going to change working conditions. It’s also going to change the way we arrange work. Social distancing is going to change the workplace. The recovery is going to be gradual. I think you’re …

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The Plan That Would Have Changed the World

For readers who missed part 1 of this series of posts, I am summarizing a fictional novel written almost 40 years ago. Gen. Willy Green sat staring at the file on his desk, still not quite believing what it contained. The second document in the file—the one right after the red-outlined official form that told …

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Positioning Client Portfolios: Federated Hermes, Northwestern Mutual, Bill Few Associates, Schenley Capital

Each year in the summer issue, we ask a group of Pittsburgh’s leading investment experts to answer a question for our readers in 250 words or less. This year’s question: “The coronavirus has led to the first bear market in more than a decade with widespread uncertainty remaining. How are you positioning your client portfolios …

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The Top Secret File

For readers who missed part 1 of this series of posts, I am summarizing a fictional novel written almost forty years ago. When we left George and Jenny Leader’s soiree last week, the 13 people at the dinner table were locked in intense discussions about what sort of government could have elected (that is, reelected) …

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America 2.0: An Old Novel Idea

When I was serving in the U.S. Army in the early 1970s, I spent a lot of time patrolling in my Military Police Jeep and boring myself silly. Being a cop is a bit like being an airline pilot: hours of boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror. To relieve the boredom, I wrote a …

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Race, Global Warming and the Experts

Last week we considered the possibility that, precisely to the extent that human equality is the most important issue facing the world, to that extent liberal democracy can claim little legitimacy. It is certainly true that liberal democracies have produced greater equality and have more successfully combated racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry than …

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The Rawls Dilemma

John Rawls, the most important political philosopher of the twentieth century, was born into a prosperous middle class family in Baltimore in 1921. He attended a private school in Connecticut and went on to Princeton. Rawls’ internal life replicated the moral trajectory of many thoughtful people in the Western world, beginning with a deep interest …

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The Stumbling March of Reason

“When the theological content of the idea [of human rights] was abandoned, nothing was put in its place.” —James Griffin, “On Human Rights” Earlier in this series of posts we revisited the Age of Enlightenment, examining the back story of the ideas that led to the creation of liberal democracy. That’s also a good place …

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Coronavirus Investing

Editor’s note: We’ve asked a group of the region’s leading wealth managers to respond to this question: “The coronavirus has led to the first bear market in more than a decade with widespread uncertainty remaining. How are you positioning client portfolios in this fraught environment?” In today’s online feature, a group of advisors give a …

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How Equality Came to Challenge Freedom

“[Liberal democracy] celebrates certain values: reasonableness, conversation, compassion, tolerance, intellectual humility and optimism.” —David Brooks “Nice guys finish last.” —Leo Durocher As I noted last week, the American governmental system in particular, and most modern liberal democracies in general, were well-designed to manage the tension between the two most fundamental rights we have as citizens: …

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The Trouble With Rousseau

“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” —The first line of Rousseau’s “The Social Contract” Even by the loose standards of his era, Jean-Jacques Rousseau lived a bizarre life. Rousseau’s mother died giving birth to him and he was mostly raised until his teen years by an uncle. At that point, his …

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The Practical View

“In the beginning all the world was America.” —John Locke The most important thing to understand about the Age of Enlightenment is that it contained both a practical cast of thought and a utopian cast of thought. The practical strain is associated mainly with Anglo-Saxon thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Mill and others. The …

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Has Liberal Democracy Passed Its Expiration Date?

“Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” —Winston …

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Viral Investing, Part II: What Should I Do Now?

“Profit from folly rather than participating in it. Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful. I prefer buying things. Otherwise, it’s a little like saving sex for your old age.” —Warren Buffett   “The true contrarian only buys when it makes him feel physically sick to press the buy key.” …

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Viral Investing

“You make most of your money in a bear market, you just don’t realize it at the time.” —Shelby Cullom Davis Given the recent market volatility driven primarily by the outbreak of COVID-19, I thought I would share my current views. But first, a word about terminology. COVID-19 (coined, for reasons best known to them, …

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A Remarkable Life

One morning, I received a call from my Zurich lawyer, Dr. Andreas Froriep, who informed me that someone was trying to find out who was behind Arran Isle Improvement Association AG. I burst out laughing. It’s true, I suppose, that the Arran miscreants and their shyster lawyers could litigate in Switzerland for a decade or …

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Ending the Abuse of the Aristocrats

The history of tenant abuse by aristocratic landlords goes back in the UK for a thousand years. But the twentieth century turned out to be the Revenge of the Downtrodden. Beginning immediately after World War I, which decimated Britain’s male aristocrats, the Brits determined to destroy their aristocracy, and destroy it they did. Certainly the …

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Selling the Castle

If you want to be called Lord Joe, Earl of Arran, you have to own Lochranza Castle and about 1,000 acres surrounding it. The castle was built in the early 1200s and in 1262 King Alexander III granted the castle and its lands to Walter Stewart, the Earl of Menteith. Robert the Bruce supposedly hid …

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Buying Your Way Into Nobility

We’re talking about the “subtle maneuvers” we were using to try to drag the charming-but-antediluvian Isle of Arran into the modern era and prevent Lady Jean from hobbling off to the poorhouse. Putting the old ladies to work One day, I arrived on Arran after spending a few days in Edinburgh talking with Lady Jean’s …

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Scotch to the Rescue…

Before I describe the “subtle maneuvers” we orchestrated on Lady Jean’s behalf, I want to emphasize that these weren’t all my ideas. They were an amalgam of many conversations with the accountants, estate managers, attorneys, Charles Fforde and Lady Jean herself. I was merely a kind of midwife presiding over their birth. On the other …

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