The Market Was Down

Newsmedia commonly personify “the market,” announcing “the market climbed today on news of a stellar jobs report” or “instability in Thailand sent shares tumbling.” Perhaps this simplification is a symptom of the unpredictability volatility of stock prices, a result of broad apathy towards the mechanisms behind the loose moniker “market,” or merely shorthand convenience for journalists. Whatever the cause, the market exists in the public imagination as a mysterious, moody beast. B.J. Novak’s short story “The Market was Down” takes this anthropomorphism to its logical extreme. He writes:

“Why was the market down? No reason. Well, stupid stuff. Actually, to be honest, maybe it was Spain at the beginning, but it was really only worried about Spain because it woke up looking for something to worry about. Then, before long, the market started worrying about bigger things, things that didn’t seem to have an answer. If the market had never existed, would anyone miss it? Would anything really be different?”

The whole story can be found on Marketplace’s website as text or in narrated form (about four minutes long). It’s amusing to read, but also keenly probes the nature and the implications our perception of “the market.”

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