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Taleb`s Value to a Politician

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As has been widely reported, Britain´s leading conservative politician David Cameron recently shared a podium with iconoclastic bestselling author Nassim Taleb. The composer of "The Black Swan" used the occasion to say certain things that instantly and rabidly captured the headlines, prompting some pundits to loudly wonder whether Taleb is the right kind of guru to hang around for someone aiming to become the next Prime Minister of one of the leading nations in the globe. Whether that fateful encounter with the love-him-or-hate-him philosopher will hurt or help Cameron´s ambitions remains to be seen. In the meantime it may be useful to remind ourselves that Taleb´s life and work do, in fact, offer lessons that many a politician around the world could do worse than borrow from. I have selected the following set of eight valuable take-aways for the aspiring statesman/woman:

Be skeptical and inquisitive: Taleb is known for enthusiastically questioning sacred dictums and for not slavishly bowing at the altar of perceived verity, not shying away from embarking on the path less travelled and giving up the comfort of group-think; such criticisms-generating strategy has brought him extreme success, both as an investor (betting against the "normal" taking place in the markets) and as myth-debunking intellectual (producing path-breaking idiosyncratic insights and tearing down to pieces previously-unchallengeable Nobel-endowed theories)

Be not afraid of sacrifices: Taleb has shown the capacity and tenacity to accept and withstand severe burdens on the way to his objectives, in the end successfully achieving victory; in the markets, he stuck with a rather painful and sleep-depriving strategy (buying options, betting on the rare event) because it was the approach closest to his view of the world; in the literary arena, he ran away from safe me-too avenues and relentlessly adopted the maverick censure-inviting writing style and philosophical ideology most faithful to his persona

Be not afraid of taking risks: Taleb´s life is a portrait of risk-taking gone right, a paragon of passion-following gone triumphant; the student who fell in love with options and unseemly became a top trader; the trader who became infatuated with the probability of the rare and built an entire, hugely profitable, career based on it; the aspiring author who needed to share his view of randomness with the world and who agreed to no advance payment from the publisher in order to release his, eventually wildly-successful, tome; the consolidated guru who neglects the safeness of protective de-activism and, louder and more influential than ever, reminds us of the failures of our leaders and assorted experts

Be persistent and resilient in your self-belief: Taleb has stood his ground and conceded no inches in the face of unremittingly unending brutal enemy fire; the payout from such self-respecting intransigent defiance has been phenomenal, as event after event ultimately and stubbornly prove him wise

Be concerned about the world´s safety: Taleb has a long track record of voicing warnings as to the dangers to the system (and thus all of us) posed by entrenchedly accepted practices and ideas; wordly developments such as the recent crisis highlight how on-target such counsel was; many people now understand that unlike those who self-servingly continue to defend failed and lethal dogmas, Taleb´s message puts a premium on social stability and salubriousness

Be cooperative with the media yet unshackled to it: Taleb has enjoyed a fruitful collaboration with media entities all around the globe, and the support and interest of the latter has contributed greatly to his success; but he has not refrained from calling to task those journalistic efforts that he deems erroneous and misinforming, proving that in the media he seeks a partner in the truth-finding quest rather than easy, possibly-corrupting, adoration

Be intellectual yet suspicious of intellectualism: Taleb embraces high-minded idealism and philosophizing in his quest for understanding, but is deeply suspicious of diploma-waving pedantic charlatanism that, Aristotelianistically, attempts to Harvardify society by replacing experience-honed intuition and common sense with the totalitarianism of definitions, lemmas, and equations; do not be seduced by those who lecture birds on flying or who demand that you define piety before you can be allowed to be pious, even if their verbose may appear seductively intelligent, for they can cause harm

Be constantly aware of Fat Tony´s superiority over Doctor John: Taleb is the PhD and Ivy League graduate who would much rather hang around with (let alone put economic and social trust in) an innumerate high school-dropout chum from Brooklyn who thinks freely and undogmatically about world affairs, than with a distinguished savant who´s one hundred percent chained to the iron ball of naïvely blind theorizing; never forget that many times the common folk are way wiser than the presumed wise men who tend to have the leader´s ear