Fact check

The old adage in finance, which isn’t sanctioned or canonical but nevertheless survived over the years, goes like this: “Cash is fact, profit is opinion.” Not all opinions are equally influential, and in the case of profit measurement the auditor’s opinion matters more than say, the marketing executive’s. But if both should one day find themselves together in a room, the marketer’s enthusiasm and the auditor’s stack of policies and standards will mix about as well as any politics. Cash, in the meanwhile, keeps them both whole.

We might be in for arguments and trouble should we get tangled up in Twitter’s fact-check rigmarole that’s gaining national attention, and bringing up the differences between an edited publication and a decentralized network probably won’t help. The mess that’s likely to ensue when we add network science, the public good, capital formation, media (and, come to think of it, accounting) to the untried chemistry experiment, is prone to make our heads spin in all sorts of ways. And when facts, some things that seem like facts, some things that don’t, the voices of varying volume and the opinions of varying importance are all blended, it’s probably too late to bring up first principles and the definition of one’s terms.

But we can always look to markets – which are an aggregate of judgments that are formed, which clear at some point where conflicting judgments find a common ground, which look to past, present and future (mostly that) and which directly or indirectly gravitate to cash (with all respect paid to accounting profit) – to guide us.

Here is what markets have been saying.

The edited media publication (picked at random, for there are many)
The social network (which resists editorial control as much as possible)
Twitter (which seeks to somehow straddle both)

No judgment, only facts.