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D.F. Krause
  D.F.'s Column Archive
May 31, 2006
America Wins in Vietnam; Commies Go Wall Street

It looks like we may win the Vietnam War after all. It’s just too bad we didn’t save ourselves 40-some-odd years of aggravation by withdrawing our troops in 1966 and sending a bunch of stockbrokers over there instead.


Well, better late than never. Today, Ho Chi Minh City is home to a burgeoning stock market – burgeoning in the sense that only 37 companies are listed. But it has 50,000 investors and market capitalization of 32 trillion dong, which is pretty impressive even after you realize that’s only $1.94 billion.


Perhaps even more impressive is the level of sophistication of Vietnamese investors. Consider Nguyen Quoc Truong, a 49-year-old restaurant owner who tells Agence France Presse what he knows about prudent investing – much of it apparently learned from his teenage nephew:


"The market goes down when many people sell, and it rises when many people buy. I choose the biggest company. It's safer. With a lottery ticket, you have less chance to win.”


I’d say that puts him at least on a par with most of the Wall Street crowd, not to mention the fact that he doesn’t know all the stuff they would be better off forgetting – like how you’re supposed to panic and sell all your stock whenever a bomb goes off in Iraq or a George Clooney movie comes out.


Communist stock markets. What a fantastic concept. We got rid of most of these people by building stockpiles of missiles they couldn’t afford, but the hangers-on who annoyingly remain? Securities and exchange for everyone. Communism either has to collapse under the weight of its own economic implausibility or just slowly give way to the only economic system that makes any sense whatsoever – free-market capitalism.


Why would the commies let this kind of thing get started? And after they worked so hard to keep it at bay during The War America Lost? Seems pretty simple to me. The fall of South Vietnam to the commies must have seemed like an awfully pyrrhic victory 16 years later when the Soviet patron state suddenly ceased to exist, leaving all the little client commies to fend for themselves. Everyone has reacted to the fall of the giant in different ways. In Pyongyang, Kim Jung Il sends his people to torture/death camps, puts out crazy missives and enriches uranium. In Havana, Fidel acts as a mentor to up-and-coming loonies like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, while trying in vain to keep his nation’s only true assets from becoming Yankees. The Chinese? They’re just trying to get revenge against Jack Bauer.


But in ‘Nam, it becomes increasingly apparently that America lost the battle but is winning the war. They didn’t establish a stock market in 2000 because Vietnamese TV needed an excuse to run numbers across the bottom of the screen. They did it because they understand Asia’s economic potential, and they want in. And they know that you cash in on economic opportunity by following America’s lead. No more help from Brezhnev and Gorbachev? Then come on in, Buffett and Icahn!


Of course, the usual hand-wringers are concerned. It seems that many Vietnamese investors see the stock market as a form of gambling, and are “playing” the market rather than conducting reasoned analysis and investing with a long-term strategy in mind.

And this is different from America how? Has anyone tuned in to Bulls and Bears lately?


“I like this play, Jonathan! I think it has the potential to be hot!”


“It’s a dog, Jonas! What do you think, Wayne?”


“I might like it! I’m not sure. Did you know I was on M*A*S*H?


No country that holds Celebrity Stock Pick contests should be lecturing Vietnam about the trading habits of its investors. These people are communists for goodness sakes. They’re supposed to act like financial neophytes! We’re capitalists, and yet for some reason we still care what Trapper John, M.D. thinks of the tech sector. (I hear Klinger is a little heavy in women’s apparel. Think about that one.)


It’s good to see communism waving the white flag of surrender in Vietnam. It can never co-exist with capitalism, and no self-respecting Stalinist can resist forever getting a piece of the action on concentrated frozen orange juice.  If they can resist the temptation to go the Vietnamese Idol route, there’s no limit to what they can achieve.


© 2006 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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