SHORT PUTNAM, BUY SPIDERS?

Katya Dolginova: ‘It is well-known that 80% of managed mutual funds underperform the indexes, net of fees, on average. This seems to suggest a hedging strategy – short the mutual funds, and buy the S&P index (in the form of SPDRs), for a ‘guaranteed’ profit. OK, so you can’t short open-ended mutual funds, but can you do it with closed ones? or do they not follow the same pattern?’

☞ Ha! Well, it’s a clever, if rotten, idea. Over time you would hope to come out perhaps 1% or 2% a year ahead, except that you’d be tying up a lot of capital to do it (why limit your expected investing success to 2%?). And you’d be taking a good bit of risk. (What if you accidentally did this with a fund that just happens to have a good streak?). Also, closed-end funds frequently sell at a discount to net asset value, so you may have to pay only 90 cents (say) to own $1 worth of stock. One reason for this discount is that the market, in refusing to pay full price, is in effect compensating for the drag of the fund’s expenses.

POLYGAMY

For those of you who may think gay marriage is not a fit topic for a financial journal, please note last week’s cover story of THE ECONOMIST (The Economist, for crying out loud!): The Case for Gay Marriage. Seems they first made the case in 1996, and, eight years later, they are sticking to it. (‘So at last it is official: George Bush is in favour of unequal rights, big-government intrusiveness and federal power,’ the story begins.)

Michael Axelrod: ‘I don’t understand your argument against polygamy. Why would you object to (say) three people forming a legally sanctioned union? After all polygamy has precedent in history, and some countries still allow it. What fundamental principle dictates that a marriage must be limited to only two people? Why can’t polygamists also demand equal protection under the law as gays have?’

☞ They can, but so far as I know, they generally don’t. Perhaps more to the point, they are not discriminated against based on something they have no control over – their skin color, their sex, their sexual orientation, their ancestry. That said, if they did sue for this right, and a state supreme court found in their favor, I would certainly have to be open to the court’s logic. Presumably, it would have something to do with promoting a social good. I don’t know what social good polygamy promotes, but I do know that allowing gay marriage encourages stable families, discourages promiscuity, and protects children, especially should one parent die. Don’t many polygamists seem to have a lot of 16-year-old wives? Why is there a compelling social interest to encourage this? If you find one, I would listen with an open mind.

John Stone: ‘I would think the key is the basic phrase ‘consenting adults.’ Children and animals can’t really give a considered consent but if three or more adults want to commit to each other, why not? After all we already have multiple spouses getting Social Security thanks to our hypocritical standards for divorce and so-called ‘serial monogamy.’

Dan: ‘I’m not taking a position on polygamy, but if the law permitted only heterosexual polygamy, then I would call that discrimination.’

Rick Neville: ‘I have no problem with gay marriage and I don’t really understand those that are so threatened by the idea. It seems to me, though, that much of the opposition is against calling it ‘marriage’ and not so much against granting all of the legal rights that married status provides. Would it be so bad to have all of the legal rights of marriage but simply call it a legal union? I mean, if the battle is won, why keep fighting over what seems to be a matter of semantics that is really meaningless but is so polarizing?’

☞ Well, this makes a lot of sense, except for two things. First, imagine how you’d feel if whites and Asians still could not get married in the United States, even though a way had been found to provide the same rights via Interracial Union. Hmmm. Second, so many hundreds of thousand of laws have been written with these specific legal terms, ‘marriage’ and ‘spouse,’ that it would be a monumental task to get them all changed.

John Stevens: ‘I’m a hetero who is in full support of gay marriage. In my view all people are supposed to be equal as guaranteed by the Constitution. If gays are not allowed to marry and enjoy these rights/privileges then no married people should enjoy them. You could still have religious marriage but it would have no legal bearing. There would be no death benefits, no tax advantages, no shared healthcare for anyone. We would all be equal. The sanctity of marriage would be protected as the ‘evil homosexuals’ still wouldn’t be allowed religious marriage under many denominations. For some reason the folks trying to protect the sanctity of marriage don’t like this argument. Maybe it points out just how unfair they are being to their fellow Americans.’

Tom Limoncelli: ‘The problem is that polygamy is the sexist institution of one man dominating many women. When the relationships are equal, and power is shared, and there are more than 2 adults involved, whether 3 people or 6, it’s called polyamory. There is a growing movement. (And by ‘movement,’ I mean there are organizations (polyamory.com, tristatepoly.com), conferences (lovethatworks.org), culture (polyamory.org) and institutions (lovemore.com). Of course, I feel that these groups are about 50 years ahead of themselves in terms of legal rights, etc.’

Martha: ‘You might enjoy this article, How Bush Helped My Marriage.’

 

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