People develop systems and people will make mistakes. Some will alter their system or jump from system to system as each one has a losing period. Others will be unable to resist second guessing the trading signals. Whenever I go to a money management conference and sit down with a group to have some drinks at night, I always hear the same story. “My system worked great, but I just didn’t take the gold trade, and that would have been my biggest winner.”
There is a very important message here: People don’t change. That is why this whole game works. In 1637, tulips in Holland traded for 5,500 florins and then crashed to 50, a 99 percent loss. Well, you might say, “Trading was relatively new then; these people were primitive; capitalism was still in its infancy. Today we are much more sophisticated.” So you go to 1929 and find a stock like Air Reduction which traded at a high of $233 and after the crash fell to $31, a decline of 87 percent. OK, you might say, “The Roaring ’20s were crazy times, but now things are surely different.” Move ahead to 1961 and you find a stock called Texas Instruments trading at $207. It eventually dropped to $49, a decline of 77 percent. If you think we have gotten more sophisticated in the 1980s, all you have to do is look at silver prices, which in 1980 reached a peak of $50 and subsequently fell to $5, a 90 percent decline.
The point is that because people are the same, if you use sufficiently rigorous methods to avoid hindsight, you can test a system and see how it would have done in the past and get a fairly good idea of how that system will perform in the future. That is our edge.