By JLP | September 24, 2012
Today’s quote of the day comes from Chapter 12 – Investment and Speculation in Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy*, one of my favorite books:
Speculation is often misunderstood as being the same as gambling, when in fact it is the opposite of gambling. What gambling involves, whether in games of chance or in actions like playing Russian roulette, is creating a risk that would otherwise not exist, in order either to profit or to exhibit one’s skill or lack of fear. What economic speculation involves is coping with an inherent risk in such a way as to minimize it and to leave it to be borne by whoever is best equipped to bear it.
He uses the example of a wheat farmer and futures contracts to illustrate his point:
A futures contract guarantees the seller a specified price in advance, regardless of what the market price may turn out to be at the time of delivery. This separates farming from economic speculation, allowing each to be done by different people, who specialize in different economic activities. The speculator uses his knowledge of the market, and of economic and statistical analysis, to try to arrive at a better guess than the farmer may be able to make, and thus is able to offer a price that the farmer will consider an attractive alternative to waiting to sell at whatever price happens to prevail in the market at harvest time.
Speculation serves a purpose in that it reduces risk in the economy as a whole.