The pendulum of time swings heavily from bust to boom and back again, and I see my fortunes rise and fall with it. The last financial crisis was an outcome of unfettered greed; as everyone participated in a rising housing market, and the dream of ever bigger McMansions was a seemingly free for all. Banks lent without collateral; or verifying the ability of the borrowers, and brokers sold houses and mortgages to families who could not ever repay the loans. Politicians proclaimed the American dream of home ownership was finally here, and the rating agencies classified AAA ratings; with eyes closed, and fees in their banks. Everyone seemed to run out of money at the same time; and the cycle came crashing down like a house of cards, taking some big banks and a lot of pensions down the drain, with it.
Now we are at the other end with a seemingly inexhaustible flow of money; and corporations and big banks sit on trillions at low interest rates, with no borrowers in sight. Once bitten twice shy people sit on cash; as markets give all the signals of a bull run, that seems to push unknown companies into stardom, and make billionaires out of young people with innovative ideas. My life savings have been whip sawed so many times; that I no longer know what is a rational, or an irrational exuberance. My future seems closer to flipping burgers; than flipping houses, as I eye my sorry life time savings, and wonder how did I let it all come to this. The haves have it and all the others are just grist for the mill; as I taste the sawdust from their plunder, of our ecosystem, and decide to try to drown my sorrows yet again.
Sufficiently fortified I put my toes in the water to test the temperature; and watch in delight as Face Book soars, and Vale looks as solid as the Brazilian iron ore it produces. A few batted run does not win the game, but the inning is suddenly looking exciting again. CVS has a perfect 10 rating for a must buy, and United Health is fast catching up with a 9.8 rating. Happy days are here again; and we are off to the races, as every filly now looks like a winner, and the more adventurous are trading options and more advanced tools that I know nothing about. The pundits talk about puts and straddles, and the new vocabulary makes my head spin. Should I buy gold or silver; as copper soars, or will wheat futures be the thing, or do we short rice with the huge reserves in India and Thailand, that they cannot move. The world is suddenly there for me to buy and sell; but there is no capital here, and I watch on the sidelines as fortunes are made and squandered on the latest Tesla, American cup Yachts, luxury baubles and private jets. Everyday low prices attract the consumers; but the multiheaded hydra of inflation, is slowly creeping up unnoticed as easy money flows.
Abundance seems cheap only to the fools; as I know we all will have to pay a price eventually, for all we want to consume. Rising standards of living will push our capacity to produce; and deliver us into a tail spin, or an ever increasing circle of demand that cannot be met. Will the billions rise to grab their fair share from our mouths; or will we continue to spit out the seeds of contempt, at their wastrel lifestyles. They are not productive; and have no desire to produce, so they will continue to wallow in their well-deserved misery, we say. We have gone to school, worked hard, become ever more productive; at a high cost to our families and friends, and deserve all that we have earned. We deserve better and so we set our sights on that next status symbol, just as if it were our birthright, while others are left in our dust. Social re-engineering schemes leave us cold, political efforts at a more equal state are marked as shenanigans of the ultra-left, and when I try to enter your country club you offer me a bus boy’s job below minimum wage, or leave me to play tennis with your bored wives, as an afternoons entertainment.
The pendulum swings again and now I see that it is the poor who are hanging on to it desperately. They jockey for better positions and opportunities. They study and work hard and make sure their progeny is able to make its way higher, in this new world. The shackles of ignorance will be undone; as MIT courses and scientific knowledge, will flow freely to anyone on the web. Diligence and effort will make them equal; to the one with the privilege to attend an Ivy League, or play in the fields of Eaton or Harrow. Micro loans and the NGOs will bring much needed programs and capital flows, to the lowest strata. Ingenuity and opportunity will no longer be the realm of the few; and each brave new soul will blossom in a new world, with his or her own achievements. The have nots will not be denied; and they will rise on the sheer force of the need for betterment, hope and the pursuit of happiness, which is a fundamental right. We only have to get out of the way and let the pendulum of human endeavor take its course. Time will wait for none of us and we better start reshaping our thinking and our efforts; as in helping them, we will only end up helping ourselves.