Explaining Southern California's economy

Why Ron Paul and Mark Spitznagel will not go quietly into the Republican night

Ron Paul Begins Final Campaign Swing Through Iowa Before Caucus

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ron Paul speaks during a campaign event. He plans to go to the Republican National Convention in Tampa and be placed on the nominating ballot.

Mitt Romney may be the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, but Texas congressman Ron Paul never planned to go away quietly before the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August — and neither did one of his staunchest supporters, L.A. hedge fund investor Mark Spitznagel.

It’s partly Spitznagel’s doing that Paul held out for delegates at one of the campaign's final acts, the Nebraska state Republican Party Convention, which took place a week and half ago, more than a month after the state's primary. (Paul failed to gain a plurality, dooming his chances at speaking in Tampa.) All along, the hedge funder helped keep Paul in the race, both by raising money and by providing the campaign with intellectual oomph.

Spitznagel, who runs Universa Investments, which he founded in 2007, lives in Bel Air and operates out of an office in Santa Monica. Why is the Michigan native so far out west, anyway? After all, hedge funds are supposed to be in Connecticut. Or at the very least, Manhattan. That wasn't Spitznagel's scene. "I wanted to get out of that groupthink of Wall Street," he said on the phone recently. "Everyone there is crammed into a handful of blocks." But it's perhaps more than just the non-NYC quality of L.A. that has made it a comfortable place for Spitznagel. 

Read More...

Nassim Taleb is SO down with Ron Paul

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.

Read More...

Meet Mark Spitznagel, Ron Paul's L.A. hedge-fund guy

Ron Paul Continues Iowa Campaign Tour

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

LE MARS, IA - DECEMBER 30: Republican presidential hopeful U.S. Rep Ron Paul (R-TX) speaks during a town hall meeting at the Le Mars Convention Center on December 30, 2011 in Le Mars, Iowa.

Ron Paul — Republican presidential candidate, GOP congressman from Texas, father of Sen. Rand Paul, libertarian, and dogged foe of the Federal Reserve — is touching down in Los Angeles on March 20 for a fundraiser. If you think Paul, with his desire to return the U.S. to the gold standard (bimetalism, actually, using gold and silver) and his tendency to subject Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to lengthy disquisitions on inflation, is a litle bit different, just wait until you get a dose of the guy who's hosting this Bel Air shindig, at the former residence of Jennifer Lopez.

He's Mark Spitznagel, a very successful hedge-fund manager whose Universa Investments is based in Santa Monica. There are hedge-fund managers and there are hedge fund managers. Spitznagel is definitely in the latter category. He plies his trade in an exotic corner of the industry, making huge bets on statistically improbable events, now colloquially known as "black swans," after the 2007 book of the that title by Nassim Taleb.

Read More...