Bing Blog

Our economy, the headless chicken

Headless Chicken

When I was a lad, my summer camp took us to a farm. We were mostly city kids with a few suburban nerds like me thrown in. We petted the goats. We took a look at the cows being milked by huge machines. Some of us even got to ride on a pony. And then, for the piece the resistance, they took us all back behind the barn to watch a chicken get its head cut off. Why? You tell me.

The farmer explained to us that even after its head was cut off, the chicken wouldn't know its basic status, and would continue to run around for a while. He seemed to feel this was interesting, if not amusing. So he lined the chicken up on a very scary, very scarred block, and chopped its head off.

Boom! There was a mighty fountain of blood and, as foretold, the surprised chicken hopped to its feet and began to run around the yard. Some people laughed to see such sport. Others simply watched in amazement. After a while the erstwhile chicken stopped running, stood still for a while, then simply tipped over onto one side and, after twitching for a couple of seconds, lay still. Its body had finally recognized its true condition. An organism can live without a brain for only so long.

Which brings me to our economy. About 18 months ago, it seems to have lost its head. Who chopped it off is a matter of conjecture, although all those sharp financial instruments invented by Wall Street were certainly on the scene. One thing is for sure, though. The poor thing is still running around the farmyard without one.

Every day I get to work and see a bunch of news stories from august business magazines, Web sites and papers, tracking various developments, and several dozen chattering analysts reports, all of this activity attesting to the fact that the bloody victim is still racing around as if its head were still on its shoulders. Right now, at this writing, I believe it may be possible that we're in the phase where the thing is just standing there in shocked stasis, preparing to keel over. It certainly feels that way.

On the bright side, history shows us that it is possible for a chicken to live a long time without its head, as long as a tiny portion of its autonomic system remains intact. It's never really healthy again, but it can hang around a long time in that condition. So maybe all is not lost.

There is no record, however, of a chicken in this extreme state having its head actually replaced. Who knows, though? If some of our best minds put their heads to the task, maybe it can be done.

We can always, I suppose, enjoy the audacity of hope.

44 Comments Add Comment


You are a bad man.

You mean bad as in good?

Mr. Bing: I do not think that our economy is "headless". To continue to use your analogy, Mr. Bing, our problem is that there are certain glands and nerves in the head that require treatment because they are not functioning right and are firing all kinds of wrong information to other parts of the brain, or are not processing information right, maybe there is an aneurysm or two that needs to be extirpated, maybe a tumor that needs chemo, but we are far for being "headless" Mr Bing. What we need right now is the right Brain Surgeon and team of nurses to perform surgery. Headless economy is the one that Somalia has right now, we are far from it.

Great analogy stan. One can think of many sorts of analogies in the human respect.

One that comes to my mind is that of Pvt. Slovik. He's been gone since before the climax of WWII; but, he's still jumping around and isn't going away in the minds of veterans.

He's reminded of by the farmer that took the chicken behind the barn and ......

Bing, you have a way with words and thoughts. I forgot about Mike, the Headless Chicken. Thanks for a hearty laugh to start my afternoon.

The feeling that you describe -- I think you are correct! Now we have to hope for a head transplant. I don't think a face transplant will be quite enough.

Good analogy. I found, after reading dr. amity shlaels's book on the depression, that business was treated like a religion. business men were the new prophets and capitalism would would follow it's righteous path of natural order. we still see this today with less regulation meaning survival of the fitest and it is okay to take advantage of people if they are dumb enough to fall for it. its so darwinist that is is truly surprising that republican fundamentalists are the strongest supporters.

i think the problem is much deeper in society and we are seeing a phase of anti-intellectualism, a dark ages if you will. The hope that i have is that president obama is stocking our leadership positions with "adults" or intellects who understand that simple models of our financial system are inappropriate. to give an idea of how much the headed chicken must know, look at course requirements and research in ph.d. level economics. statistics and multilinear regression are often replaced by stochastic analysis. econ majors must have a year of calculus and then some advanced mathematics past calc. one must take 2 years of calc, real analysis, then stochastic.

i am hopeful that once we get rid of the chickens running these complicated systems, and put in charge men and women with this level of mathematical modeling, things will get better. for those who argue simple theory as a solution, throw the advanced calculus models at them and ask for an explanation of how their theory works.

May we have another age of reason.

This is an interesting story from your youth that apparently stayed in your memory bank for some future use-nice application!
If we convince big business that workers are consumers that will keep them in business, we may be able to dress the wounds.
Imagine a world where business does not report to wall street, a world where all earnings are invested in keeping consumers employed at a reasonable wage. No outside board members voting large option awards for key players because it is recognized as an industry standard. No golden parachutes, no trickie accounting to avoid taxes. Take away the tools(puts, calls, etc...) used by wall street to gamble away our futures. and finally, transfer all analists to productive tags like making companies profitable. The deficit has to be repaid with corporate contributions!

Wow, Laurel's sentences are too long! It is not that people are too stupid to interpret long sentences, but people who write in very long sentences do not realize (or may not care) that it is much better to communicate, if in fact one is trying to communicate and not just pump out self aggrandizing jargon, when one writes in a concise style and does not write in very long sentences which seem to run, like a headless chicken running without life, but running nevertheless, for an entire, or for substantially an entire paragraph.

Well...we didn't lose our "political head" so far. At least 60% of us.

Yes, the chicken is running around avoiding its preordained death. But the great part is... there are more chickens. These ones are younger and have great potential. We need to stop looking at the dying chicken and start focusing on the replacements.


Proabably closer to perfect, delicious, or better yet, perfectly delicious. The chicken aside.

In bygone years my mother, killed her own chickens. She said it merely required a deft twist or wringing of the neck. She further went on to descibe the plucking, boiling, etc.. I was both amazed and impressed.


That, of course, would be, Stanley and please excuse the missing comma in sentence one.

No problemo.

Bing, America has been running around for the last 8 years without a brain connected to it's body.
Yesterday that changed with the new president. Lets hope we can get this chicken up and running again before somebody throws it in the pot for the soup lines that are forming everywhere.

On a nostaligic note, gonna miss the old days when mom and the rest of the ladies used to kill 50 or so chickens,pluck and can them, while the men sat around and drank and showed off their new rifles.

simple days with less stress

Agree with Isaac, yeah, we are having a rough time but to say "headless" and about to collapse and die,,, I think that is extreme,,,, Because of my work, I have lived in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, those countries used to chronically be in the situation we are facing right now, somehow they have survived, they are heading to another one this time, but they will come around,,,The US is bigger and better, better institutions,,,is not going to be easy but we are not headless.......

Laurel: your model is too complicated, that is why we are were we are,,, Lehman Bros, Citi, BofA, AIG, et al, presented complex mathematical models, complete with algorithms and statistical hocus pocus and abracadabra and look at the results,,,,,,keep it not too complicated

What an interesting article! The concept of the economy ever having had a head startles me. I had always envisioned it as a headless, vast, interconnected plethora of Rube Goldberg machines set in motion by people parting with money for whatever reason.

It's true the rolling balls, triphammers, and whirlygigs are slowing and stopping but I thought that was just people thinking thrice about letting go of lucre, leaving legions languish lucreless.

If instead this is really a case of decapitated capitalism, exactly where has the head rolled? Whatever is done, let's not leave it lying unattended in some corner where it will frighten children.

Troy is right. I was born and raised in Argentina(left the country at 16). I lived in Brazil in 2005 and I travel for business around Latin America a few times a year. This is a walk in the park compared to those chronic-crisis countries. We'll make it thru with or without "head".

JC & Troy

i think the US had a lot to do with keeping those countries solvent. where's our US?

hopefully the headless chicken planted his seed before it met it's fate and we are rebrorn a more educated society.

but, you can hope in one hand and.........

The visual images are so great. Ed added a Rube Goldberg image to the Headless Chicken. I can't wait to see the full length animation.

Bing, you've got some cool bloggers.

Hmmm. Chicken, eh? I would think that Medusa (she of the snaky hair and the looks that kill) would be more like it. Or, perhaps, a nine-headed hydra, capable of regrowing its heads, as is our economy. But watch out, because the heads that grow back are just as poisonous as the ones that were chopped off.

I remember a long time ago (in 2001 at the height of the dot com boom) I told a friend of mine "These executives do not know what they are doing, when things are going well, they are heroes, but if things go wrong, they are lost". It is not that the chicken no longer has a head, the head it had before was brain dead, so having no head makes no difference.
Corporate America and Washington is based on 'favoritism and cliqueism' is no the best who rise to the top, but rather the 'best self promoters'. The minute corporate america, washington and the USA in general move away from this 'image' bs and start focusing on thosewho can deliver, will be the day american will once again be great. is the few extraordinary individuals who made america great..not the massess of morons running around addicted to tv and movies and radio and all this image bs.

Ouch! Nothing hurts like the truth.

Yes, the consumption bandwagon has probably had its head chopped off. Hopefully enough of the other chickens will see the virtue of being a slim chicken rather then one bloated by years (or decades) of excess consumption.

The lean chickens run faster!

With my name I could get my head chopped off in here. Of course, many of my subordinates would probably find that it imparts a distinct improvement to my management style.

So I'm posting this without having read thru any question is do you reattach the severed head, a cloned head derived from the DNA of the severed head, or another head removed from the body of a completely different chicken altogether?

I don't know the answer...

And, good points about the 'reading impaired' out there...I'll keep my sentences short, and simple.

Next you'll prefer grunts and farts, as a means of communication.

Now, now.

I liken the economy to that guy Bernie in the movie "Weekend at Bernie's" where Bernie's been dead for awhile, but people keep parading him around, propping him up or posing him in different positions to try to convince people he's not dead. You'd think after awhile people would start noticing the stink.

I's only Rock and Roll...but I like it...

Now Now Indeed!

Bing does have a very cool blog...I'm having about you?

After these cumulative blog comments it seems an animated dancing headless grunting and farting chicken deserves a special place marching as an intro in everyone's next quarter's powerpoint. With sound of course.

if you cheated in school, you will cheat in the work place. during the 80's while in college,90% of the students cheated. guess where their at now. with a degree that was not earned, they are now the brains of america. america is a joke. need i say more? losers

To the Obama "intellects" writing comments here: The stock market and subsequently the economy would make a tremendous recovery if Obama would simply say he intends to extend the Bush tax cuts. The sell-off is due to fear that Obama intends to raise the capital gains rate as he stated. If investors expected lower taxes they would be likely to invest in equities.

Joe, after all this, you still believe there is any rationality to the way the market behaves? My conviction is that Wall Street is the one American institution that is not infused with a certain hope that things will get better under the new Administration, that it does not share in the dreams and aspirations of the nation of which it is only nominally a part.

When we do the headless chicken presentaion, I would suggest "Highway to Hell" as the musical bed.

In fact, it should be playing in the background of all this testimony before Congress.

So many have trouble singing our national anthem anyway. Tough tune.

bing, maybe the folks on WS were still too preoccupied reading analyst reports, listening to experts on 'The Street' and tinkering with their financial models to notice an inauguration taking place.............

dear matt,
i see you are upset enough to write a comment attacking my sentence structure, not the content. i am obviously not an english major, more of the mathematics type. they are not run-on sentences; i do not capitalize because of partial paralysis in my arms.

i look forward to your comments in the future, please knock off the personal attacks.


Hey, Laurel, I think Matt may have been kidding around a little. I think his "attack" was actually a huge, run-on sentence.

Watching the financial channels in the morning, you see these greasy characters that you wouldn’t let change your oil standing down on the trading floor bloviating about what the market is up to or down to today. And you think, these are the people whose actions determine whether I ever get to retire or not. But what can you do, your company dropped the pension plan and that leaves your 401(K), and it’s in their hands, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Curosity leads me to wonder: with all the people out of work, how are the professions holding up??

The legal and medical professionas, seems to me, are advertising more, and more intensely.

Michigan has 10.6% unemployment; this may wake up the "small people" in Hawaii.

When the "small people" start chattering---who knows what's happenen????

All this while I am having lunch at my desk: grilled chicken.

Well, I don't pay to much attention to psychics. That said. Sylvia Browne wrote a few years ago of a time when we would have no more stock market, no IRA, no retirement funds like now. She also stated that we would go back to growing some of our food and making some of our own clothes. Given the state of things in the last year, I think that "chicken" might bight the dust before the 2020 mark that she predicted.

Between the condition of our market and Sylvia, I have a new found awe of turning on Street Signs with Erin on CBNC every day to see what the last scenario is. On a side note: If you are ever in a mood for a daytime drinking game, take a shot every time Erin mentions Jamie Diamond. I think someone might have a crush, there.

RE "I had always envisioned it as a headless, vast, interconnected plethora of Rube Goldberg machines set in motion by people parting with money for whatever reason."

Everyone knows that Rube Goldberg machines are set in motion by a bird pecking a string. As Bing has astutely ascertained, our bird has no head with which to peck, hence the economy is fuxored.

Will Obama's Geithner get approved to head our chicken, and will he peck the string?

All of this talk of cutting off the heads of chickens has got me scared for the whole lot of you. I'll bet all of you sadistic bastards probably eat eggs too. You just wait. In a million years, I'll be at the top of the food chain cutting your heads off and devouring your unborn!

What a wonderful way to end the week, Chickenman.