Is Gossip Virtuous?  

Monthly Market Commentary: March 1, 2015

Gossip is controversial. Gossip columnist Liz Smith opined that, “Gossip is one of the great luxuries of a democracy. It is the tawdry jewel in the crown of free speech and free expression. You don't read gossip columns in dictatorships.” Other people had different views and were far more critical of gossiping. According to Rita Mae Brown, “Gossip is irresponsible communication,” while Bertrand Russell observed that, “No one gossips about other people's virtues.”

However, since the anthropologist Robin Dunbar maintains that two-thirds of all human conversation is gossip, we need to deal with it as much as we have to accept rumors as part of unofficial channels of communication within political and economic systems that do not provide the information we require.  

For years I have had this nagging suspicion (actually I was convinced) that economic data were being manipulated and I heard countless rumors about the questionable “adjustments” made by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which were simply concocted to embellish the true state of the US labor market.

Luckily, some people in the know have recently come out and voiced similar concerns about economic statistics published by the government. Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO at Gallup (a highly reputable organization), recently penned a blog aptly entitled, The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment (www.gallup.com February 3, 2015). Clifton writes:

“Here's something that many Americans - including some of the smartest and most educated among us - don't know: The official unemployment rate, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, is extremely misleading.”

Recently a Gauguin painting was sold by the Staechelin Family Trust (old Basel family) to the Qatar State Museum for reportedly US$300 million (see Figure 23). My friend Kenny Schachter (k@remove-this.roveprojects.com) whose latest report I am enclosing is convinced that within the next ten years a piece of art will be sold for one billion dollars.          

I also enclose Emrys Westacott’s “The Ethics of Gossiping” for readers who are interested in the subject.          

Pulitzer Prize winning author of children’s books and poetry, Phyllis McGinley opined that, “Gossip isn't scandal and it's not merely malicious. It's chatter about the human race by lovers of the same. Gossip is the tool of the poet, the shop-talk of the scientist, and the consolation of the housewife, wit, tycoon, and intellectual. It begins in the nursery and ends when speech is past.”

However, may I suggest that you gossip “politely” and with “grace” because as Buddha said: “The tongue like a sharp knife... kills without drawing blood.”

With kind regards
Yours sincerely  
Marc Faber 

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