Whether it is more painful to be justly than unjustly accused is a difficult question to answer: sometimes I think the one, sometimes the other. Likewise, it is uncertain whether success or failure in life, wealth or poverty, is the greater test of character. But on the whole I have preferred the failures in life whom I have met to the successes, perhaps because I feel an instinctive affinity with them. Success is to failure as, in the opening sentence of Anna Karenina, happy families are to unhappy ones. There are so many interesting ways to fail, indeed an almost infinite number. Even the most unimaginative person can usually find an original way to make a mess of things. By comparison with failure, then, success is a dull dog. Give me a Chekhovian hopeless case any time rather than a dashing romantic hero.
Personally I have never taken the character test of riches, but I think I am ready for it now; at any rate, I am at least sufficiently mature. But never having cared very deeply for money (although I have also never had any vocation for actual poverty), it is too late in the day for me to take it now. I shall have to await my next life to find out. In this life I entrust my savings, such as they are, to advisers, in the hope that they are not of the Bernie Madoff school of finance and investment; but for all I know, or can be bothered to find out, they may be. After all, one can’t be interested in everything, and it so happens that my financial affairs have never really captured my Against the State: An ... Best Price: $5.02 Buy New $5.52 (as of 11:35 EST - Details) imagination.
Nevertheless, I subscribe to one of those free electronic investment newsletters (free but, it is implied, exclusive) that promises you an insight into the world of high finance, supposedly to the great benefit of your personal fortune, at least if you follow its advice.
Following its advice, however, would not be at all easy even if one were inclined to do so, since it is so contradictory. Yesterday, for example, it announced to me that the time had never been better to invest in the largest companies quoted on the most important stock exchanges of the world. It admitted that quantitative easing, the conjuring of money by governments from the air, had already inflated asset prices, but what, after all, was the alternative to such stocks? Where else could the money go? Many of those stocks returned five percent, much more than any but the riskiest bonds.
Today, by contrast, it warned me that a dramatic collapse in share prices everywhere was all but inevitable, and that there was only one way to avoid the crash (for oneself, that is; global economic disaster was unavoidable), and that was to buy as much gold as possible.
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