Nassim Taleb's Weird Wish List

Felix Salmon says Nassim Nicholas Taleb's FT listicle is "necessary and impossible." I'd say it's impossible and ... odd. Some of the items seem perfectly reasonable, if also perfectly idealistic: as Salmon says, observing that "nothing should ever become too big to fail," in a world in which just about every modern economy is too big to fail, is a bit quixotic.

And many of the items have a strange aphoristic feel to them: What is fragile should break early while it is still small. And: People who were driving a school bus blindfolded (and crashed it) should never be given a new bus. And: Do not give children sticks of dynamite, even if they come with a warning. It's like Confucius, crossed with the metaphors of a tenth grader.

But what's frustrating is that Taleb doesn't even make a feeble effort to produce policy prescriptions. The closest he comes is to say that we need to change our capitalist structure "voluntarily":


Let us move voluntarily into Capitalism 2.0 by helping what needs to be broken break on its own, converting debt into equity, marginalising the economics and business school establishments, shutting down the "Nobel" in economics, banning leveraged buyouts, putting bankers where they belong, clawing back the bonuses of those who got us here, and teaching people to navigate a world with fewer certainties.

Are you confident that these prescriptions are possible or desirable, or will produce a world that is better-prepared to deal with uncertainty? (Getting rid of the faux-Nobel prize in economics? Really?) I have trouble believing that Taleb really believes this will do the trick.