Mark Spitznagel

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Mark Spitznagel
Spitznagel at Bloomberg Tower in New York City, 2016
Born Mark William Spitz-Nagel[1]
(1971-03-05) March 5, 1971 (age 45)
Ann Arbor, Michigan[2]
Residence Michigan, Florida (Miami)
Nationality American
Occupation Hedge Fund Manager
(Founder & Chief Investment Officer, Universa Investments L.P.)
Known for Derivatives trading, tail-hedging
Political party Libertarian Republican
Spouse(s) Amy Spitznagel
Academic career
School or
Austrian School of Economics
Alma mater New York University,[2] Georgetown University,[3] Kalamazoo College[4]
Influences Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Mahatma Gandhi
Contributions Tail-hedging, The Dao of Capital (Wiley 2013)

Mark Spitznagel (born March 5, 1971) is an American hedge fund manager, derivatives and commodities trader, author, and sustainable farmer. Spitznagel is known for his pioneering “tail-hedging” (or “safe haven investing”) and frequently bearishAustrian”-based stock and commodities trading, his hugely profitable billion dollar derivatives bet on the stock market crash of 2008,[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12] and for having allegedly caused the stock market crash of 2010.[13]

Spitznagel “gained credibility in the investment world by predicting two market routs in the past decade, first in 2000 and then in 2008,”[14] as well as predicting the “2000s commodities boom.”[5] He is considered “one of Wall Street’s most bearish”[15] as well as “biggest and boldest investors.”[16]

Spitznagel is the founder, owner, and Chief Investment Officer of the multibillion-dollar hedge fund management company Universa Investments, L.P., based in Miami, Florida.[4][5][7][8][10][17][18][19][20][21] Spitznagel reportedly has large Chinese and Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds among his investment partners,[22] and he has since closed his funds to new investors.[5] Prior to becoming a hedge fund manager, Spitznagel had been an independent pit-trader at the Chicago Board of Trade[4][5][7][8][10][18] and a proprietary trader at Morgan Stanley in New York.[4][8] Spitznagel has a graduate degree in Mathematics from New York University (Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences) and undergraduate from Kalamazoo College in Michigan.[2][4]

Spitznagel built a large farm in Michigan, Idyll Farms, that pastures dairy goats and produces award-winning artisanal chèvre. He is the author of the 2013 book The Dao of Capital, called by Forbes magazine “one of the most important books of the year, or any year for that matter.”[23]

Spitznagel has been a significant supporter of the Republican Presidential campaigns of U.S. Congressman Ron Paul and U.S. Senator Rand Paul—including as Senior Economic Advisor.[24][25]

Universa Investments[edit]

In 2007, Spitznagel founded the hedge fund Universa Investments, where he is the Chief Investment Officer, and which specializes in profiting from (and thus providing a type of insurance against) extreme market risk.[26] Universa “made one of the biggest profits on Wall Street during the 2008 financial crisis” (according to CNBC),[27] scoring returns of over 100% as the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index lost over a third of its value,[5][7][8][10][19][20][28][29] and making Spitznagel “a fortune” according to The Wall Street Journal.[5]

Spitznagel has said that he specifically targets very “lumpy returns” in his trading (what Forbes has called “a string of mediocre results interrupted occasionally by spectacular years”[30]) which he says “ultimately keep away competitors.”[8] As Spitznagel describes the “extreme asymmetric payoffs”[31] of his approach:

We tend to lose or draw—most of the time—these small battles or skirmishes. But, ultimately, we win the wars.[32]

Tail-hedging, safe haven investing[edit]

Spitznagel is a pioneer in so-called “tail-hedging,”[33] or “black swan” investing, an investment strategy intended to provide “insurance-like protection” against stock market crashes, generally by owning far out-of-the-money put options on stocks. Spitznagel considers his tail-hedge strategy “a less conventional and somewhat more exotic” (as well as superior) form of safe haven investment. (Spitznagel says that he “has spent his life trying to create the best safe haven investment out there.”) While he has called his strategy “in many ways functionally equivalent” to gold as a safe haven, he has also claimed (in a 2016 Barron’s article What’s the Best Safe Haven for Investors?) that the “explosive protection and nonlinearity” of his strategy make it “the one safe haven that is as good as—and even better than—gold.” (According to Spitznagel, conventional safe havens such as U.S. treasuries, Swiss franc, high dividend-paying stocks, hedge funds, fine art, and U.S. farmland have crash returns that are very low and even negative, so “they simply do not provide any insurance protection.” He also called VIX futures “a real stinker of a trade.”)[34]

Spitznagel calls himself “a hedge fund manager that actually hedges for his clients. This is something of an old fashioned idea in this day of just gambling on the next Fed bailout.” He describes his “highly nonlinear, insurance-like” strategy which “explodes in value” in a crash[34] as an investment that “is there presumably so you can do something risky that you wouldn’t otherwise do.”[31] The New York Times has described Universa investors’ ability to profit even in a bull market, and how Spitznagel’s strategy allows his investors to hold long stock positions that they often otherwise wouldn’t.[15] He has said that his strategy specifically allows his investors to be “responsibly long” the stock market.[35] A 2015 video (Spitznagel on the Paradox of Higher Returns with Lower Risk) shows Spitznagel in front of a white board explaining his tail-hedge strategy in basic terms, specifically how the “asymmetry” of his payoff allows his investors do well “in both up and down markets.”

Some have called Spitznagel’s tail-hedging strategy “doomsday” investing,[36] for which, according to Forbes, he has many “copycat” followers.[37] Spitznagel is presumed to employ positions such as out-of-the-money puts on overvalued equities[5][7][9][10] (for example, Lehman Brothers,[38] about which he has responded “It’s a regrettable aspect of our trade that we tend to do very well on others’ misfortune”[39]), which he regards as primarily a value-driven bullish play on cheapened markets, providing dry powder specifically when asset prices are depressed[9] (making him “the inverse Warren Buffett[40][41]). As Spitznagel has said, “I would call the greatest investment strategy there is, attributable to John D. Rockefeller, ‘Buy when blood is running in the streets.’”[42]

“Spitznagel’s strategy stems from his skepticism toward government efforts to revive the economy,” and as markets rise he is “content with descriptions that his fund had small losses each year as he wagered against the market.”[15]

For profiting off market crashes, “I’m always in this position where I look like the jerk,” Spitznagel has said. “The jerks should be Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan,” because of Federal Reserve actions that create asset bubbles, or for the ways in which the Fed intervenes to stave off the inevitable consequences of those bubbles.[1] Spitznagel says that he has basically been investing against the Federal Reserve and its monetary policies his entire career,[43] and he has called central banks “the root of all evil in the market.”[44]

The Wall Street Journal alleged that a large purchase of put options by Spitznagel in the minutes leading up to the 2010 Flash Crash (when the Dow lost over 9% of its value during the day) was among its primary triggers[13][45] (and for which Spitznagel was subpoenaed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission[8]). He wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in his defense.[46]

Spitznagel has publicly made several (“Cassandra-like”[44]) market calls. In June 2011, CNBC reported on a research piece by Spitznagel which predicted a 20% correction in the S&P 500 stock index.[47] The S&P 500 subsequently lost 20% within four months (as Spitznagel’s funds reaped from 20% to up to 10-fold gains[6][48]). In a May 2015 Bloomberg TV interview (“Meet the World’s Most Bearish Investment Manager”), timed almost to the day of the high in the S&P 500 after which he made $1 billion (or 20%) in the August 2015 stock market decline,[49] Spitznagel called himself “the most bearish investment manager that you will find today. There may be someone hiding in their basement who’s more bearish.” (Bloomberg called him “the world’s most bearish investor”.) He also called the stock market the second greatest stock market bubble in the last one-hundred years.[35] The following September, he said “If August was scary to people, they ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”[32] In a December 22, 2015 piece for Pensions & Investments magazine (Revisiting the ticking time bomb), Spitznagel wrote: “The crash should commence right about now.”[50] According to Absolute Return, this was “a rare instance of Spitznagel issuing a market timing call. That call has proven prophetic: the S&P 500 shed more than $1 trillion in market cap during the first week of 2016.”[51] (Regarding timing a crash, Spitznagel said in 2013, “I think it's probably naive to think we can pinpoint such a thing. If history is any guide, we should expect it sooner than later. But, history need not be a good guide because we're in this monetary experiment the likes of which we really haven't seen.”[27]) But Spitznagel’s market calls haven’t all been negative: In June 2016, just before the market recovered from its Brexit-plunge to make new all-time highs, Spitznagel dismissed Brexit as “a lot of fear mongering,” saying “the decentralisation of power away from hubristic central planners is exactly what the world needs more of,” and “the centralisation of power is the source of the very risky environment we’re in, not the decentralisation.”[52]

In 1999, Spitznagel and author and financial mathematician Nassim Nicholas Taleb together created the first ever tail-hedging fund, Empirica Capital,[9][53][54][55] and “became close partners, Spitznagel the disciplined trader, Taleb the more abstract theorist.”[1] Taleb went on to popularize the “black swan” concept in his books, whereas Spitznagel went on to found Universa and thus modify and implement the strategy (which became a major hedge fund investment asset class[9][36]). Taleb has said that he “advises Universa but does not have specific knowledge of the firm's strategy,”[56] contrary to occasional press crediting him with Universa’s investing.[57] Taleb has said “One thing Mark taught me was that when someone isn't afraid of losing small amounts, they’re almost invincible.”[5] “Mark’s portfolio is robust.”[9]

Ironically,[58] Spitznagel is largely indifferent to the concept of “black swan events.” In a 2015 New York Times op-ed titled The Myth of Black Swan Market Events, he connected every similar high point in the Tobin's Q-ratio since 1900 (specifically in 1905, 1929, 1936, 1968, 2000, and 2007) with past monetary interventionism and subsequent stock market losses (of -19%, -85%, -36%, -29%, -44%, and -50%, respectively), which he called “perfectly predictable, by economic logic alone”—and thus implied that another crash is coming.[59] So, according to Spitznagel, a crash ”is not a black swan. But the reason I’m going to still call it a black swan is because the markets still price it as a black swan.”[31] As he wrote in The Dao of Capital:

Truly, the real black swan problem of stock market busts is not about a remote event that is considered unforeseeable; rather it is about a foreseeable event that is considered remote. The vast majority of market participants fail to expect what should be, in reality, perfectly expected events.[3]:244

Commodities trading[edit]

In July 2009, Spitznagel launched a new strategy betting specifically on “a big leap in prices of commodities such as corn, crude oil,” and precious metals—a notably “huge wager,” according to The Wall Street Journal, where Spitznagel “bet his reputation.”[5] Over the next two years, the prices of corn, crude oil, gold, and silver gained approximately 100%, 50%, 100%, and 200%, respectively, in what has come to be known as the “2000s commodities boom.”

Spitznagel has strong Austrian views against fiat money, saying “As dollars are clearly a decaying asset, there’s sound economic logic behind gold’s long-term appreciation.” However, regarding the run up in gold prices and his gold trading, Spitznagel has said, “How many people acquire gold only after it goes up, and dump it when it doesn’t? I’d recommend the opposite strategy.”[60] Spitznagel is also skeptical of gold ETFs, as “they come with significant risk of not enough physical gold backing the paper.”[34]

In November 2013, he even called the market valuation of the cryptocurrency bitcoin “scary” and “dangerous”[61] (and bitcoin subsequently lost almost 80% of its value in just over a year).

Spitznagel began his trading career right after college as a fledgling pit trader in the commodity futures pits at the Chicago Board of Trade.[5][7] He described his time as a young trading clerk idolizing trader Lucian Thomas Baldwin, studying his “disciplined control in alternating between tremendous patience and overwhelming aggression.”[3]:16 As the youngest trader in the bond pit at twenty-two,[1] Spitznagel was mentored by 50-year veteran corn and soybean trader Everett Klipp (a.k.a. the “Babe Ruth of the Chicago Board of Trade”),[2][5][7][62][63] who had Spitznagel “pretty much brainwashed by the age of 16” to “limit losses by having him immediately exit trades as soon as they moved against him.” Klipp likened it to “quickly folding a hand” in poker,[5] and his mantra was “you’ve got to love to lose money, hate to make money.”[8]

As Spitznagel recalled the end of a trading day in the pit:

Even if I’d lost money, I would be happy going home knowing that I’d traded the way I wanted to trade.[1]

Libertarianism, Austrian economics[edit]

Spitznagel is an avowed libertarian, and says that “his investing philosophy is really an extension of his deeply held libertarian beliefs about government intervention in the marketplace” and the distortions therefrom.[1]

Spitznagel wrote a book in 2013 titled The Dao of Capital: Austrian Investing in a Distorted World about the Austrian School of economics and its application to investing. Austrian economist and Mises Institute Fellow Peter Klein said Spitznagel’s book did “a remarkable job summarizing, synthesizing, and extending the great Austrian tradition, and weaving it into a wonderful set of practical lessons.”[3]

In Spitznagel’s book he coins his investing approach as “roundabout investing” or “Umweg”, named after the Austrian concept of Produktionsumweg. He also refers to it as “Austrian investing”, as the theories inform his notorious very concentrated bearish bets[64][65][66] in his tail-hedging funds.[5][7][8][10][13][19][20][28][29] Paul Tudor Jones has said of Spitznagel’s book that “Mark champions the roundabout,” and “shows how a seemingly difficult immediate loss becomes an advantageous intermediate step for greater future gain, and thus why we must become ‘patient now and strategically impatient later.’”[3] Spitznagel likens his process to “life’s roundabout road to success”[67]—“the art of taking a circuitous path to an endpoint,”[14] delaying gratification and taking small setbacks now to gain enormous positional advantage later.[68] Spitznagel has described the challenge in the words of Frédéric Bastiat (“We pursue a small present good which will be followed by a great evil to come, rather than a great good to come at the risk of a small present evil.”)[55] and Bob Dylan:

We do what feels the best in the short run. “Let me forget about today until tomorrow,” that kind of thing.[69]

While Spitznagel neither publicly advocates gold as an investment nor pushes for a return to the gold standard (both of which are typical strong Austrian positions), he has written that “gold’s millennia of safe haven attributes remain very much intact,” and considers gold and his “Austrian investing” the only “two safe havens truly worthy of the name.” He has also lamented “the sad monetary degradation of the Swiss franc” away from its hard currency safe haven status.[34]

In his writings, Spitznagel has extolled the views of Ludwig von Mises, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, and Frédéric Bastiat,[70][71][72] and criticized the interventionism of Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke[46][73] (calling him “easily the most significant market manipulator in history”[74]). Specifically, in his Wall Street Journal article Christmas Trees and the Logic of Growth, and subsequently in The Dao of Capital, Spitznagel made an analogy of the lessons learned from previous wildfire suppression policy in Yellowstone Park (what he calls the “Yellowstone Effect”) to the Fed’s bailout and crash-suppression policies (and resulting malinvestment).[73] In a conversation in National Review he said:

A crash, or the liquidation of assets that have grown unimpeded by economic reality (as if there were more nutrients in the ecosystem than there actually are), looks to academics and bureaucrats—and just about everyone else as well—like the system breaking down. It is actually the system fixing itself. We live in an economic age where we’ve simply lost our ability to look at the world in this way, though I suspect we’ll be reminded of it again sooner rather than later.[55]

Spitznagel frequently criticizes the willingness of investors to rely on central bank market interventions as the reason to take on ever greater investment risk, and blames that complacency for eventual crises. He has said

We have become a herd of sheep, and the Fed is our shepherd driving us into good pastures. But, as (Swiss psychiatrist Carl) Jung said, the shepherd's staff soon becomes a rod of iron, and the shepherds turn into wolves.[42]

Moreover, Spitznagel has been highly skeptical of the general perception that central banks are actually in control of markets, calling it an “illusion of control”:

In many ways, central banks are the tail wagging the dog. We think that central banks are so big relative to the market, but, in fact, central banks are tiny relative to the market. Central bank balance sheets are twenty-trillion dollars, the whole global securities and derivatives market is a half-a-quadrillion dollars. The only thing central banks have going for them is this collective psychology. It’s an illusion of control.[31]

Ron Paul, Spitznagel, and P.J. O'Rourke in Las Vegas, 2015

He has also blamed the Fed for increasing wealth disparity, drawing on the works of Mises, Rothbard, and Hayek,[75] and his Austrian positions have made him a target of notable Nobel and Keynesian economist Paul Krugman.[76]

Spitznagel has also been an active libertarian Republican through his involvement in multiple U.S. presidential campaigns.

Spitznagel, along with entrepreneur Peter Thiel, has been the principal supporter of the Republican Party presidential primary campaign of (Texas Congressman) Ron Paul, a friend and fellow Austrian economics advocate who “shares his contempt for the Federal Reserve.”[41] In 2012, Spitznagel hosted multiple fundraisers for the congressman[11][12][40][41] (including a party at Spitznagel’s Bel Air home[77]). Spitznagel has been called “arguably Paul’s main economic theorist/popularizer outside an academic context”[40] who “could be Treasury Secretary to a future president Paul, Ron or Rand.”[41]

Spitznagel was Senior Economic Advisor to the 2016 Republican Presidential campaign of (Ron’s son) Rand Paul.[25] The New York Times said “the two share a similar outlook on the government’s role in the financial markets: that it should not have one.”[24] Paul has said “As one of the leading voices in the country on economic policy, Mark has been a key friend and ally, and I’m thankful for his always-ready advice.”[26] Spitznagel and Paul have written together how Federal Reserve policies “disproportionately favor wealth,”[78] called the Fed “a political, oligarchic force, and a key part of what looks and functions like a banking cartel” (in Time magazine),[79] and declared “the Fed should set markets free” (in The Wall Street Journal).[80]

In a 2015 Fox Business interview, Spitznagel said:

Great myths die hard. And I think what we’re witnessing today is the slow death of one of the great myths in human history: this idea that centrally planned command economies work, that they’re even feasible, and that they can be successful. It’s one of these enigmatic mythologies of the last hundred years in particular that we've been grappling with. Let’s remember that in the last hundred years a lot of blood has been shed over this mythology. And here we are today, how did we get here again?[32]


According to Malcolm Gladwell (in a New Yorker article and in his book What the Dog Saw), “Spitznagel is blond and from the Midwest and does yoga. He exudes a certain laconic levelheadedness.”[53][54] Nassim Taleb likened Spitznagel to Herbert von Karajan in sartorial appearance[53][54] (as well as in their penchant for planes, automobiles, and ashtanga yoga[44]) and said Spitznagel invests “like a German engineer, fearless and with an iron discipline.”[1] (Spitznagel’s paternal ancestry is Swiss,[81] and his surname means “sharp nail” in German.[82]) Forbes described the “unruffled,” loafered Spitznagel as looking “better prepared for a yacht race than for doomsday.”[83]

As Richard Bradley wrote (in a Worth magazine profile): “You wouldn’t call Spitznagel warm and fuzzy; he’s not the kind of guy who’ll greet you with a bear hug and a slap on the back. But he’s funny in a dry, understated way, thoughtful and candid. Asked a question, he’s more interested in delivering a genuine answer than one intended to reflect well upon him.[1]

“Spitznagel is unusual not just because of how he invests, but how he lives—far from the typical hedge fund milieu of Wall Street and Greenwich.”[1] “Spitznagel splits his time between Miami, where his 20th-floor office overlooks the Atlantic, and Michigan, where his family lives and where he owns a farm”[44] (Idyll Farms) and century-old Lake Michigan summer compound in Northport[7][9][36][84] and a much-publicized estate[85][86][87] (called Woodland) in Bloomfield Hills. (He has called the Cranbrook Kingswood school, where he sends his children,[1] alone among “virtually all the top preparatory schools in the United States” in using an “Austrian-friendly text” in its curriculum.[3]:19) In 2014, Spitznagel moved his hedge fund Universa from Los Angeles to Miami (and accordingly sold his notable Bel Air mansion that he acquired in 2009 from Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony[88][89]), citing Florida’s “more hospitable business and tax environment” than California’s.[21] Spitznagel was one of the very first among a growing list of prominent hedge fund managers moving their operations to Florida.[90]

Bloomberg has said “Spitznagel does almost everything with zeal and intensity,” and described him honing his investing discipline by dodging oncoming taxicabs while skateboarding in New York City’s Central Park (once resulting in a separated shoulder), snowboarding and piloting engineless sailplanes over California’s Sierra Nevada.[7] (Spitznagel is also an instrument-rated pilot.[9]) It reported in 2011 that Spitznagel seeded his family office (Idyll Holdings) with $100 million.[7]

In Spitznagel’s youth, his father (Lynn Edward Spitz-Nagel, a UCC minister, “civil rights advocate and antiwar activist” who died in 1999) would stack books by Mahatma Gandhi outside his bedroom door, hoping the young Republican would read them.[1] (Gandhi later became Spitznagel’s declared “hero”.[91]) In 2014, Spitznagel’s older brother (Eric) wrote a humorous article in The New York Times Magazine (The Moat, the Millions and the $50 Timex Watch) about Mark and the death of their father.[92]

Spitznagel has said that over the years he has gained much investment insight from studying “the holy game of poker,”[93] his “favorite investing metaphor.”[50]

When once asked how to become a great investor, Spitznagel responded:

The most valuable things you’ll need to learn to be good at investing are patience, resilience, and self-discipline. You aren’t just going to learn these in school. My best financial advice: practice yoga.[94]

Idyll Farms, sustainable farming[edit]

Idyll Farms complex in Northport, Michigan
Main article: Idyll Farms

Spitznagel built, owns, and operates Idyll Farms, a pasture-based goat farm and creamery that produces award-winning artisanal farmstead chèvre. (The word Idyll is “a song describing pastoral life,” as well as a reference to Siegfried Idyll.[1]) Idyll Farms cheeses received three awards at the World Championship Cheese Contest (including Best of Class) in 2016, as well as multiple and repeat awards (including in the broad all milk cheese category) at the American Cheese Society North American Competition in 2013, 2014 (the farm’s first two years of production),[95] and 2016.[96] Its cheeses were also named a “Best Artisanal Cheese” in Food & Wine magazine in 2016[97] and one of “The 49 Best American Cheeses” in Men’s Journal magazine.[98]

In starting his farm in 2010, Spitznagel has said he wanted to “capture the terroir” of his native region,[99] as well as “feel engaged with something real, something tangible, and he wanted his kids to have that connection too.”[1]

Nassim Taleb has quipped that Spitznagel farms in order to satisfy his desire to be “a Victorian country gentleman”.[1]

Spitznagel imported expert cheesemakers from France and goat herders from the Pyrenees to help establish and refine his operations.[82] (Though Spitznagel has been called “The Goat Whisperer” due to his habit of speaking to his goats in French,[1] he says when he goes to the farm he tries “not to get in the way” of his staff.[82])

The 200-acre farm estate is located at the site of a 150-year-old dairy farm in his hometown of Northport—a town “perched on the edge of Lake Michigan, it has a peaceful beauty that hasn’t changed much in the decades since he lived there.” The farm is “a beautiful piece of land, with patches of forest, lots of open pasture and rolling hills from which you can see for miles.”[1] There, “in the bucolic hills of Michigan,” according to Der Spiegel, “he produces cheese according to environmentally sustainable methods, because he views modern agriculture, with its large-scale pesticide use and automated factory farms, as degenerate.”[100] He “wanted to show that you could reject the tenets of modern commercial farming and create a sustainable, profitable business without the help of government subsidies or growth hormones or artificial fertilizers.”[1] “Unlike conventionally managed dairy animals raised primarily on grain diets for the production of most commercially available cheeses, Idyll Farms’ goats are pasture-fed using rotational grazing practices which mimic and harness nature's complex, productive processes.”[95]

Factory farming, he says, is “an ideal metaphor” for what ails the economy.[100] “Modern farming has completely broken down the traditional system of agriculture. It’s become a machine. We’ve manipulated away its natural productivity and robustness, just like what we’ve done with markets. Markets don’t have a purpose any more—they just reflect whatever central planners want them to.”[26] To Spitznagel, government intervention in both economic (monetary manipulation) and agricultural systems (the subsidization of grain and GMO production, monoculture, and the excessive use of petrochemicals) distort and impede otherwise productive, healthy, and sustainable natural processes in exchange for short term benefits.[101] “Modern agriculture is about mining the soil for maximum, immediate productivity,”[102] he says, while at Idyll Farms, through sustainable pasture management rather than the use of factory-like monoculture feed,[94] “we’re thinking about how productive this land is going to be in a generation. This is antithetical to the world we live in.”[103]

In a conversation with Ron Paul, Spitznagel said “It’s crazy how much bureaucrats determine what we grow and what we eat. Sustainable farmers should all be libertarians.”[104]

Spitznagel has a strong anti-GMO opinion, described in his anti-GMO piece in The New York Times (co-authored with Taleb, and heavily criticized in conservative media[105]) where he wrote “The GMO experiment, carried out in real time and with our entire food and ecological system as its laboratory, is perhaps the greatest case of human hubris ever.”[106]

While Spitznagel has said that his motive in farming “is to change the way that we approach agriculture in this country, not just profit,” regarding his belief in farming as a good investment he has also said:

I’m a firm believer that agriculture is going to be a great investment and entrepreneurial opportunity for the next generation. Farming is headed for a sea-change: farmers are getting old, we’re depleting the fertility of our topsoil, creating highly susceptible GMO monocultures, and we don’t fully appreciate the implications of water—just to name a few.[94]

When (the Swiss German magazine) BILANZ asked him what he would do if the Federal Reserve system finally collapsed and he no longer had any more stock market crashes from which to profit, Spitznagel quipped:

Dann werde ich mich auf das Leben als Farmer und meine Ziegen konzentrieren. [Then I would focus on my life as a farmer and my goats.][81]

Idyll Farms Detroit[edit]

Spitznagel is an active supporter of the revitalization of Detroit, Michigan. He has said that he has “very high hopes for the city of Detroit,”[91] and The New York Times has claimed that “Spitznagel has a vested interest in seeing Detroit make a comeback” due to large personal commercial real estate holdings there.[107]

In 2013, Spitznagel penned a Project Syndicate article entitled Austrian Detroit?.[108] In 2015, he wrote an article for the Detroit Free Press in support of Rand Paul’s “Economic Freedom Zones” plan for Detroit.[109]

In particular, Spitznagel has been a leader in Detroit’s urban farming movement. The Sierra Club lauded Spitznagel’s vision of a “holistic system of urban agriculture” (where food production is moved closer to consumers in urban communities) and his belief that “Detroit is uniquely positioned to be the birthplace of an agricultural renaissance, because its abandoned lots endow it with plenty of cultivable land, and the city is teeming with people in need of work.”[102]

In 2013, Spitznagel established a farm called Idyll Farms Detroit for pasturing goats in Detroit’s heavily blighted Brightmoor neighborhood. The farm was a philanthropic effort to have the grazing goats safely and economically clean up overgrown foliage and to help the struggling community through agriculture, jobs, education, and self-sufficiency. Idyll Farms Detroit spent a year setting up infrastructure, hiring local farm laborers, and consulting with Brightmoor community leaders—who advised the farm “not to engage with city hall” because they thought “the city would not enforce the animal control ordinance” banning all livestock within the city.[110] In June, 2014, the farm moved a herd of wethers (castrated male goats) along with movable pens and electric fencing from Spitznagel’s Idyll Farms in Northport to Idyll Farms Detroit in Brightmoor. Despite heavy local support and national media attention for “Spitznagel’s caprineguerrilla farming’ initiative”[111][112] (including from Ron Paul[113]), as well as the similar use of eco-friendly goats in other metropolitan areas,[102][114] Mayor Duggan immediately ordered the goats removed because of the ordinance.[107][115][116]

The New York Times commented that “If this all sounds a little unusual, Mr. Spitznagel has never been one to bend to convention.”[107]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Richard Bradley, The Goat Whisperer, Worth, December, 2014
  2. ^ a b c d The Secret to Mark Spitznagel’s Success? Not Following the Crowd, CIMS Newsletter, Fall/Winter, 2009
  3. ^ a b c d e f The Dao of Capital: Austrian Investing in a Distorted World. New York: John Wiley & Sons. September, 2013
  4. ^ a b c d e Universa Investments L.P., firm website
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Spitznagel Bets Reputation on Inflation, The Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2009
  6. ^ a b Hedging against disaster even as markets grow calm, Reuters, January 27, 2012
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k When Black Swans Fly, Bloomberg Markets, November, 2011
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  11. ^ a b Ron Paul Sets Los Angeles Fundraiser, The Wrap, March 4, 2012
  12. ^ a b Ron Paul sets Los Angeles fund-raiser, Reuters, March 4, 2012
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  21. ^ a b Spitznagel’s Universa Moves To Miami, FINalternatives, Feb 19, 2014
  22. ^ Taleb’s Pessimism Lures CIC, The Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2010
  23. ^ Black Swans Are A Myth, Government Intervention Is The Only Black Swan, Forbes, August 21, 2013
  24. ^ a b Rand Paul Names Hedge Fund Chief Mark Spitznagel as Economic Advisor, The New York Times, June 19, 2015
  25. ^ a b Hedge fund giant joins Rand Paul campaign as economic adviser, Washington Examiner, June 19, 2015
  26. ^ a b c Mark Spitznagel beats drum for tail risks as markets stall, Financial Times, May 16, 2016
  27. ^ a b Scary! This bearish call points to 40% market drop,, October 23, 2013
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  29. ^ a b The Stars of The Recession, Newsweek, January 19, 2009
  30. ^ The Oracle of Doom, Forbes, February 2, 2009
  31. ^ a b c d Black Swan investor warns of central bank bubble,, September 13, 2016
  32. ^ a b c Will rising rates be bad for the markets?, Fox Business Network, September 17, 2015
  33. ^ The markets will crash again and a lot of people will get hurt, Yahoo! Finance, August 8, 2016
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  35. ^ a b Meet the World’s Most Bearish Investment Manager, Bloomberg TV, May 13, 2015
  36. ^ a b c New Investment Strategy: Preparing for End Times, The New York Times, June 29, 2011
  37. ^ Wall Street’s Black Swan Copycats, Forbes, June 8, 2011
  38. ^ DealBook, The New York Times, January 29, 2009
  39. ^ Overheard, The Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2009
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  41. ^ a b c d Hedge-fund manager Mark Spitznagel to host Ron Paul fundraiser, Digital Journal, March 6, 2012
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  44. ^ a b c d Meet Mark Spitznagel, the Investor Behind Universa’s Big Gain, The Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2015
  45. ^ Chicago fires back over stocks sell-off blame, Reuters, May 11, 2010
  46. ^ a b Spitznagel, The Fed and the May 6 'Flash Crash', The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2010
  47. ^ Black Swan: A 40 Percent Correction?,, June 16, 2011
  48. ^ Universa, Pimco Posted Gains on Black-Swan Funds as Market Fell, Bloomberg, August 10, 2011
  49. ^ A ‘Black Swan’ Fund Made $1 Billion This Week, The Wall Street Journal, August 28, 2015
  50. ^ a b Revisiting the ticking time bomb, Pensions & Investments, December 22, 2015
  51. ^ Spitznagel predicted the January stock market selloff in a research piece last month, Absolute Return, January 28, 2016
  52. ^ Markets remain ‘vulnerable to accident’ after UK vote, Financial Times, June 25, 2016
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  56. ^ 'Black Swan' Author Denies Role in Market Meltdown,, May 12, 2010
  57. ^ Nassim Taleb Accepts The Accolades Of An Adoring Public Only When He Deserves Them, Dealbreaker, September 1, 2015
  58. ^ Is Spitznagel an Apostate?, Falkenblog, June 17, 2012
  59. ^ Spitznagel, The Myth of Black Swan Market Events, The New York Times, February 13, 2015
  60. ^ This Hedge Fund Manager Hates the Fed but Doesn’t Love Gold, The Motley Fool, November 10, 2013
  61. ^ This Fund Manager Thinks Bitcoin’s Value Is Limited, The Motley Fool, November 25, 2013
  62. ^ Everett Klipp: 'Babe Ruth of the CBOT', Futures Magazine, May 1, 1999
  63. ^ Veteran Trader of the Chicago Board of Trade, Chicago Tribune, January 31, 2011
  64. ^ Spitznagel, The Austrians and the Swan: Birds of a Different Feather. Universa website. May, 2012
  65. ^ Mark Spitznagel: The Austrians And The Swan - Birds Of A Different Feather, Zero Hedge, May 21, 2012
  66. ^ Fed’s monetary credit expansion doomed to fail and lead to stock market crash, says Spitznagel, Hedge Funds Review, June 6, 2012
  67. ^ Waiting for the next stock market crash, Fortune Magazine, September 25, 2013
  68. ^ The roundabout path to profits: Mark Spitznagel on the Dao of Capital, Futures Magazine, April 1, 2014
  69. ^ Has the Market Crash Only Just Begun?, Bloomberg TV, February 17, 2016
  70. ^ Spitznagel, The Man Who Predicted the Depression, The Wall Street Journal, November 7, 2009
  71. ^ Spitznagel, The Role of Capital Has Politicians Confused, Forbes, January 31, 2013
  72. ^ Spitznagel, Our Malinvestment In President Obama Will Bring Painful Consequences, Forbes, November 15, 2012
  73. ^ a b Spitznagel, Christmas Trees and the Logic of Growth, The Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2011
  74. ^ Spitznagel, All About the Benjamins, The Wall Street Journal, March 30, 2011
  75. ^ Spitznagel, How the Fed Favors The 1%, The Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2012
  76. ^ Krugman, Plutocrats and Printing Presses, The New York Times, April 20, 2012
  77. ^ Look Which Hedge Funder Has His Arms Around Ron Paul, Business Insider, April 22, 2012
  78. ^ Paul, Spitznagel, The Federal Reserve is Not Your Friend,, August 20, 2015
  79. ^ Paul, Spitznagel, The Fed Is Crippling America, Time, January 10, 2016
  80. ^ If Only the Fed Would Get Out of the Way, The Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2015
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  82. ^ a b c Goats and the city, Financial Times, June 10, 2016
  83. ^ Protect Your Tail, Forbes, June 27, 2011
  84. ^ Northport’s Got Your Goats, Leelanau Enterprise, September 20, 2012
  85. ^ Passion Makes Perfect: The Voluptuous World of Linda and Robert Taubman, Vogue, November, 1986
  86. ^ Luxury Private Gardens. teNeues. 2008
  87. ^ AD100 Hall of Famer’s great white ways, Architectural Digest, October, 2013
  88. ^ J-Lo and Marc Anthony Sell In Los Angeles to Financier, The Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2010
  89. ^ Mark Spitznagel sells former J.Lo estate in Bel-Air, Los Angeles Times, November 26, 2013
  90. ^ More investors leaving U.S. northeast for Florida, Reuters, September 13, 2016
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  92. ^ Spitznagel (Eric), The Moat, the Millions and the $50 Timex Watch, The New York Times Magazine, May 30, 2014
  93. ^ Spitznagel, Bernanke Ups the Ante, The New York Times, October 4, 2011
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  95. ^ a b Idyll Farms Takes Home Three Awards at 2016 World Championship Cheese Contest, PR Newswire, March 17, 2016
  96. ^ Idyll Farms rakes in honors, Leelanau Enterprise, September 1, 2016
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  101. ^ Sustainable Agriculture Advocate, Fund Manager Predicts Market Crash, Agriculture Downfall, The Motley Fool, November 8, 2013
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  103. ^ Mark Spitznagel on the world of farming, finance, Traverse City Record-Eagle, July 27, 2014
  104. ^ Paul, Spitznagel, Americans Must Choose Non-Intervention for Peace, Prosperity, Voices of Liberty, August 26, 2014
  105. ^ The New York Times Gets It Wrong about Genetic Engineering, National Review, July 21, 2015
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  107. ^ a b c Fund Manager Sets Goats Grazing in Blighted Detroit, The New York Times, June 5, 2014
  108. ^ Austrian Detroit?,Project Syndicate, August 6, 2013
  109. ^ Loosen restrictions to boost Detroit’s revival, Detroit Free Press, August 13, 2015
  110. ^ No goats allowed! Detroit shuts down a farm’s efforts to rid Brightmoor of blight, NPR, June 10, 2014
  111. ^ Overgrown lot-munching goats given the boot in Detroit, Mother Nature Network, June 13, 2014
  112. ^ The Goats of Detroit, Modern Farmer, June 18, 2014
  113. ^ Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan Halts Urban Farming Project in Struggling Neighborhood, Ron Paul Channel, June 9, 2014
  114. ^ America's best cities for goat-owning hedge fund managers, Fortune Magazine, June 12, 2014
  115. ^ A Deadline for Goats to Get Out of Detroit, The New York Times, June 6, 2014
  116. ^ City of Detroit butting heads with blight-eating Brightmoor goats, Detroit Free Press, June 6, 2014