Nassim Nicholas Taleb on Skin in the Game

George Eaton:

“I consider myself in the same business as journalists,” Taleb says when I raise the subject of my trade. “But if you don’t take risks it becomes propaganda or PR.” Taleb, a man sometimes described as having praise only for himself, speaks admiringly of the New Statesman’s in-house philosopher John Gray. “My respect for him is so great… He, visibly, has skin in the game, he was not afraid to be a Thatcherite when it was unpopular and later an anti-Thatcherite when it was also unpopular.”

In Taleb’s universe, the fieriest circle of hell is reserved for bankers and neoconservatives. “The best thing that could happen to society is the bankruptcy of Goldman Sachs,” he tells me. “Banking is rent-seeking of industrial proportions.” Taleb, who became rich as a derivatives trader, is not a foe of capitalism but of “cronyism”. “If you’re taking risks, God bless you. This is why I accept inequality. I’ve seen people go from trader to cab driver and back again.”