I often encounter this quote, and I often wonder about its provenance. In fact, in the eight years now over which I have had the privilege of writing for HedgeWorld, I have repeatedly been tempted to quote it. But I never have, and Iâ€™ll now divulge the reason.
It is supposed to have been John Maynard Keynes who said, as a warning to traders looking for a quick buck on some return-to-normalcy theory: â€śThe markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.â€ť
The words sound like hard-earned wisdom. Indeed, if they came from Keynes, they were. It was in May 1920 that he lost disastrously on currency speculation. His brokers were rather lenient with him and at one point allowed him to meet a margin call by pledging to them the future proceeds of his then new book, The Economic Consequences of the Peace.
But did he actually say this? I google the phrase and arrive easily at 226 sites where he is quoted to this effect. I have not, I confess, thoroughly chased down each of the 226 references. But when I do go to any one of them and look for the primary source in the old-fashioned fact checkerâ€™s sense â€“ a book with his name on the title page in which that sentence appears, or a collection of letters, or perhaps the name of a student of his who first heard it from his lips â€“ some Boswell for this Johnsonian aphorism — I come up empty every time.
This source takes it from that source who takes it from another, and so forth.
So I put it to you, dear reader. Does anyone know the origin of this felicitously worded expression?
Aphorisms can remain mysterious longer, perhaps, than I can remain curious.