Money

How Sharpe Is Your Ratio?

“The Sharpe ratio is oversold.” — William F. Sharpe If the Sharpe ratio didn’t exist, I swear the financial industry would have to shut down. Originally developed by William F. Sharpe in the 1960s, he called it the “reward-to-variability ratio.” Sharpe first described the ratio in a paper published in the Journal of Business in …

How Sharpe Is Your Ratio? Read More »

China Proves the Point

“The founding of the People’s Republic of China marked the end of the humiliation and misery the country has suffered.” — Chinese President Xi Jinping Most people who advocate pacifism do so out of revulsion against the horrors of war, certainly an understandable, if utopian, position. But China’s Neo-Confucians adopted their anti-military stance mainly for …

China Proves the Point Read More »

Real Estate Trends

As we enter a new calendar year, the pandemic continues to impact real estate in multiple ways. The primary thesis is that for some real estate sectors, the pandemic has only been a temporary disruption, while for others, it has accelerated preexisting conditions. But even within those premises, there are also sectors that have been …

Real Estate Trends Read More »

China’s De-Militarization

“To enjoy peace, citizens must be ready for war.” — Plato, The Laws, fourth century B.C. “If you want peace, prepare for war.” — Sima Qian in the Shiji, or Records of the Grand Historian, China, 94 B.C. “Si vis pacem, para bellum [If you want peace, prepare for war].” — Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, …

China’s De-Militarization Read More »

The Real Lessons of the Iraq Wars

“If someone is victorious in battle and succeeds in attack but does not exploit the achievement, it is disastrous.” — Sun Tzu, “The Art of War,” Chapter 12 As we approach the end of this long series on The Art of Peace, let’s take a look at America’s adventures in Iraq. Iraq I Since the …

The Real Lessons of the Iraq Wars Read More »

Why We Ended the Program That Worked

“There is nothing more difficult than military combat.” — Sun Tzu, “The Art of War,” Chapter 7 In 1966, roughly 6,000 people lived in the village of Binh Nghia, a series of hamlets strung out along the Tra Bong River in far northern Vietnam, near the coast of the South China Sea, a mere 40 …

Why We Ended the Program That Worked Read More »

Seeking a Broad-Based Pittsburgh Economy

Q. What is Pittsburgh Works? How and why did it come about? A. Pittsburgh Works is a coalition that believes in the importance of having a strong and balanced local economy that includes and appreciates all of the important industrial sectors, including energy and manufacturing. We need jobs of all kinds for all kinds of …

Seeking a Broad-Based Pittsburgh Economy Read More »

Ignoring What We Knew

“One who excels at sending forth the unorthodox [army] is as inexhaustible as heaven.” –Sun Tzu, “The Art of War,” Chapter 5 In the case of Vietnam, we don’t need to speculate about how Gen. Sun Tzu would have conducted the war, for the simple reason that the U.S. military already knew how to conduct …

Ignoring What We Knew Read More »

Where the Dead Go

Stroll through Pittsburgh’s historic Homewood Cemetery on a clement day, and it’s hard not to feel oneself shuffling off this mortal coil for a spell. The serenity of the rolling, tree-lined hills against the backdrop of Frick Park; the acres of carefully maintained plots featuring everything from angels to obelisks to massive granite mausoleums; the …

Where the Dead Go Read More »

How We “Lost” Vietnam

Happy New Year! After all the stupidity, all the lies, all the inflated body counts, all the unnecessary deaths, in spite of it all, by 1968 an American victory in Vietnam was within easy grasp. Even Westmoreland could have managed it. Why? Because the enemy had made a spectacular and unforced error: the Tet Offensive. …

How We “Lost” Vietnam Read More »

“True, but Irrelevant”

Speaking of peace, Merry Christmas! As noted last week, some aspects of the domino theory were correct. Following the defeat of the Nationalists in China, South Korea would certainly have become Communist absent U.S. intervention. The same can be said for South Vietnam, although in that case the Communist takeover was only delayed (albeit by …

“True, but Irrelevant” Read More »

The Unknown History of Vietnam

“No country ever profited from protracted warfare.” –Sun Tzu, “The Art of War,” Chapter 2 Now that we’ve Sun Tzu-ized Korea, let’s take a look at America’s most destructive proxy war since World War II—indeed, more destructive than all the proxy wars in American history put together. Vietnam Since the beginning of the American Republic, …

The Unknown History of Vietnam Read More »

A Different Outcome in North Korea

“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy not coming, but on our readiness to receive him.” –Sun Tzu, “The Art of War,” Chapter 8 Let’s suppose that President Truman hadn’t had the good sense to put Sun Tzu in charge of Korea until almost too late—after the …

A Different Outcome in North Korea Read More »

Matthew Ridgway Turns the Tide

“War is the greatest affair of state, the basis of life and death, the way to survival or extinction.” —Sun Tzu, “The Art of War,” Chapter 1 When we last left the U.S. Army in Korea, it was in a shambles. The sudden and unexpected entrance into the war by the Chinese had shredded the …

Matthew Ridgway Turns the Tide Read More »

The Art of Peace, Part III: The Korean War

Let’s begin our exploration of the art of peace by applying the lessons of “The Art of War” to America’s many, and mostly disastrous, proxy wars since World War II. Maybe we can identify ideas that will help make future proxy wars—given that they seem to be unavoidable—less ruinous. Korea Following World War II and …

The Art of Peace, Part III: The Korean War Read More »

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

One reason why people haven’t bothered to write “The Art of Peace,” at least in recent decades, might be because, well, who needs it? Why attack the problem of peace intellectually when we’ve already—very successfully—achieved peace by simply muddling through? By “peace” I don’t mean “the total absence of armed conflict”—good luck with that. I …

An Idea Whose Time Has Come Read More »

The Art of Peace

More than 25 centuries ago, a fellow known as Sun Tzu (an honorific rather than a name—it means something like “Master Sun”) wrote a long treatise on military strategy and tactics that has come to be called “The Art of War.” “The Art of War” is only one of the Seven Military Classics assembled during the Sung …

The Art of Peace Read More »

Taming Your Investment Committee

“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” —Hippocrates, writing almost 2,500 years ago About a million years ago—in 2003, to be exact—I wrote a long white paper called “Reinvigorating the Investment Committee” (available nowhere). In that paper I discussed the origin of the family investment committee and described a long and discouraging list of problems with …

Taming Your Investment Committee Read More »

Proust’s Longest Sentence

Gilbert de Botton died in the late summer of 2000, only 65 years old. At the end of his life, he was pursuing yet another of his passions. In addition to investing money for rich people and collecting modern art, Gilbert was, amazingly, attempting to recreate Montaigne’s private library, which had been broken up and …

Proust’s Longest Sentence Read More »

Trying to Launch the Warhol Museum

When Ms. X and I arrived at GAM in London, Gilbert didn’t meet with us in his private office, where he and I had always met in the past. Instead, apparently in honor of Ms. X’s presence, he ushered us into his conference room. “We just finished rebuilding the conference room,” Gilbert told us proudly. …

Trying to Launch the Warhol Museum Read More »

The Mysterious Party

A few years after the events described in last week’s post, something happened that, at first, seemed to have nothing to do with Gilbert de Botton. I was sitting at my desk idly sorting through my mail when I came across an impossibly elegant invitation to a “garden party” being hosted by a very well-known …

The Mysterious Party Read More »

Gilbert

In my entire life I’ve attended one cocktail party in Paris, and on that occasion—this being some years ago—I met a fellow named Gilbert de Botton. (Gilbert, by the way, is pronounced “zhil-BEAR.”) Our first meeting didn’t start out well. The fellow who introduced me to Gilbert did so by saying, “Greg, please meet M. …

Gilbert Read More »

Top