Old Tigers and Old Economies – golf, bubbles and age

Old Tom Morris

Old Tom Morris in 1880.

Over the weekend, Tiger Woods and a bevy of would-be Master’s champions played golf; there were so many story-lines that it was hard to follow.  There were the foreigners, the youngsters, the old guys and the former champions all seemingly with their moment at the top or near the top of the leader board. The most consistent story of the weekend was of  course Tiger.  Tiger is the biggest name in golf and has been since he won the Masters for the first time 14 years ago.  The Tiger story-line this weekend was the same as it has been for the last couple of years – will this be the tournament where we see the “old” Tiger? That young man who for years was seemingly unbeatable with the longest drive on the tour and a deadly accurate putt.

The Tiger question strikes me as being very like the comparable economic question; is this the month the economy comes back?  That is not exactly the way it is asked or implied by the headlines and economic reporters, but it is close.  In short, after two or three or four years, depending on what measure you use as the starting point, we are still, at some level, hoping for a return of the “old” economy.  But I think both Tiger and the economy have undergone some fundamental changes that indicate the “old” one is gone.  Indeed it might be more accurate to say the young one is gone is gone and the current one is really an older version of itself.  That does not mean either or both are done, but it does mean they might not be quite as robust as they once were.

Can Tiger hit the ball as far on his drives as he could 5 or 10 years ago?  It seems not and that mean he has to be better at long putts, because he has longer putts to make.  Can we build as many new houses, buy as many new big cars or get as much credit to buy anything else our hearts desire?  It seems not and that means we will be forced to buy less; buying less means building less and so on and so forth.  Tiger returning to his winning ways as those of days and wins when he was 25 years old is a feel good story, but more of a fairy tale that a likely outcome.  The economy returning to the credit fattened ever expanding bubble of the days before the current recession is more of a nightmare – if it could happen it would only mean another recession and that would most likely be worse than the current one – but like Tiger it is highly improbable.  For both Tiger and the economy we can hope for better days in the future, they are possible and even likely.  But we also must learn to be satisfied with a good solid fourth place finish – it isn’t losing.


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