Is the world going to hell in a handbasket? I get essentially that question all the time, particularly as the newsletters who are more prone to fearmongering ads begin to pepper our inboxes with panic about debt and social collapse and government overreach and, well, whatever things happen to be scaring the people who are the core market for investment newsletters (generally, affluent folks, 50-60 or older, who are thinking about or in retirement), and that seems to have been picking up a little bit of late.
Do I know what’s going to happen in the next year? Of course not. Nobody does. All I know is that the panic-spurring promos that bring up these feelings are not public service announcements… they’re designed to extract money from you. We should assume that they are no more focused on your well being than the guy who’s trying to sell you a ShamWow in a late night infomercial.
I haven’t dug into the most recent ones of those yet, but the themes tend to be pretty much the same — and I do end up writing a longer piece in response to fearmongering and panic every year or two, it seems, so I thought I’d at least re-share some thoughts from one of my favorite pieces along those lines, from back in 2017 when the immediate panic trigger was different than COVID (the fear was more China-based and debt-based back then), a piece I called Inevitable Collapse and the Story of Progress — here’s a little excerpt:
“The economy today is in far better shape than the economy of 1979 or 1980, but the debt level in almost every corner of the world is also far more frightening — at that time, we were really just about to begin the biggest deficit spending party since World War II, as President Reagan urged military spending as stimulus… today, we’ve just about climbed out of a long period of massive deficit increases following the financial crisis and, if President Trump’s priories are followed, we’re on the cusp of again ramping up governmental borrowing. And yet the world has steadily, for more than 30 years, lowered the cost of debt.
“This consistent arc of progress ends someday, we have to believe. There will be a reckoning, perhaps because the world is built on debt that can’t continue forever… just as people believed it was ...