President Obama might have, most of the time, big-gun public intellectuals like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich in his camp. Mitt Romney has Harvard economist Greg Mankiw advising him. And Ron Paul? Mr. Black Swan himself, Nassim Taleb, says that Dr. Paul is the only candidate who's "saying the right things" and has the "guts" to take on the Federal Reserve.
Not surprisingly, it actually seems pretty black and white with Taleb. He's worried about hyperinflation (not regular old run of he mill inflation-inflation, mind you). And he thinks that the only way to fix the financial system to treat government like cancer — in the video above, which I picked up from the Paul campaign's website, he refers to "metastatic" government at least twice. Taleb is himself a cancer survivor, so you can understand his metaphor in that light. But there are plenty of other people who are making this argument. That said, they don't have Taleb's intellectual heft.
Paul has actually managed to attract several pretty smart guys to his campaign. In addition to Taleb, who says that he's left his library to throw his support behind the GOP congressman from Texas, Paul is allied with Mark Spitznagel, an L.A.-based hedge-fund founder and Taleb protege. What they all share is a belief in...well, the possibility of disaster. Taleb and Spitznagle have both been involved with "black swan" investment funds, which bet big on totally unexpected events. Both men have gotten rich off this strategy.
Paul, meanwhile, has a multi-million-dollar investment portfolio that one investment advisor described to the Wall Street Journal as "half-step away from a cellar-full of canned goods and nine-millimeter rounds." In other words, a the portfolio of a guy who's expecting...a black swan event!
The interesting thing about Paul is that, post-financial crisis, his once-fringe views have found a much bigger audience. Taleb makes the very useful point that Paul's message, debatable though it may be, appeals to young people who might have voted for Obama in the last election. Youthful Obaman idealists have become youthful Paulist pessimists.
If you're on the left or right, you have to take Paul more seriously than ever before. Because his views could, as Taleb indicates, form the basis for a third-party platform.