Bloomberg News writes up a talk in Montreal by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Highlights:
Canada's economy also benefits from the fact that homeowners, unlike their U.S. neighbors, can't take mortgage interest as a tax deduction, Taleb said. That removes the incentive to take on too much debt, he said.
"The first thing to do if you want to solve the mortgage problem in the U.S. is to stop making these interest payments deductible," he said. "Has someone dared to talk about this in Washington? No, because the U.S. homebuilders' lobby is hyperactive and doesn't want people to talk about this."
It's not just the homebuilders lobby that is invested in the home interest mortgage deduction, but real estate brokers and bankers and most of all American homeowners, a lot of whom vote. I'm not particularly a defender of the home interest mortgage deduction (though if it is eliminated I'd like to see another tax cut to make up for it). But the politics of eliminating it are not simple. They aren't insurmountable, but they aren't simple, either.
If given a choice between investing with Buffett and billionaire investor George Soros, Taleb also said he would probably pick the latter.
"I am not saying Buffett isn't as good as Soros," he said. "I am saying that the probability Soros's returns come from randomness is much smaller because he did almost everything: he bought currencies, he sold currencies, he did arbitrages. He made a lot more decisions. Buffett followed a strategy to buy companies that had a certain earnings profile, and it worked for him. There is a lot more luck involved in this strategy."