In my last column, I discussed how the most successful businesspeople and investors have a more accurate view of the world than most of us.
Why do millions of Americans get it so wrong?
Because they fall prey to what I call the “Master Narrative,” a relentlessly negative depiction of the nation promoted by academia, Hollywood and – in particular – the mainstream media.
It goes something like this…
We live in a racist, sexist, homophobic nation during a perilous period of decline.
Wages are stagnant. Poverty worsens. War and terrorism are on the rise. Violent crime is rampant.
Air and water quality is declining. Greenhouse gas emissions are increasing.
And it’s all underpinned by a grossly unfair economic system – called capitalism – based on greed, selfishness and exploitation, where “the fortunate” get rich and everyone else gets poorer.
There is not a grain of truth to this meta-narrative.
Sure, we all know people who are racist, sexist or homophobic. But that hardly defines the nation.
Polls consistently show that the majority of Americans today favor gay rights and interracial marriage. No other majority-white country in the world has elected a one-term – much less a two-term – Black president.
The average woman in this nation makes less than the average man. But that is not de facto evidence of discrimination. After accounting for vocation, specialization, education, experience and hours worked, the difference between what men and women earn in this country is negligible.
(It is against federal law to pay a woman less than a man for the same work. And we have no shortage of tort attorneys.)
The United States has never been less racist, less sexist or less homophobic than it is today.
On the environmental front, air and water quality has been improving for decades.
Urban waterways that had been left for dead – Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Boston Harbor, Lake Erie and many others – have been recolonized by birds, fish, marine mammals and intrepid swimmers.
U.S. greenhouse gases fell 10.3% last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in the lowest emissions in three decades, according to private data research firm Rhodium Group.
The U.S. has not fought a war against another great power since 1945. And terrorist attacks – despite what you see on the evening news – are down, not up.
Despite an increase in cities like Chicago and Baltimore, violent crime has been declining in the U.S. for years. (And, incidentally, divorce rates and abortion rates are also down.)
Wages stagnated during the Great Recession. But they are now rising at the fastest pace in years.
Many Americans believe that poverty is increasing when they hear that the U.S. middle class is shrinking. Not so.
The middle class is shrinking because Americans are moving up. More households than ever are earning over $100,000 a year.
Since we live in a knowledge-based society, those with advanced degrees and specialized skills have been getting wealthy faster than the rest of us. But every quintile is rising.
American incomes – in inflation-adjusted terms – have more than tripled in my lifetime.
Both household income and household net wealth are currently at record levels.
And the idea that our economic system is based on selfishness, greed and exploitation is a laughable mischaracterization.
Yes, Americans are motivated by rational self-interest. So are people everywhere.
The beauty of capitalism is that it says you can have whatever you want if you just provide enough other people with what they want.
Explain to me how that’s a bad thing.
Businessmen are greedy? Here’s a reality check…
You can be the greediest businessperson in the world and no one is going to give you a dime until you provide them with a product or service they want to buy.
Free market transactions are voluntary. If you don’t want to work for a company, buy from a company, sell to a company or own its shares, you don’t have to.
Where is the exploitation in that?
In short, the “Master Narrative” put out by the mainstream media, academia and Hollywood is – to put it bluntly – bunk.
No wonder polls show that Americans have less trust in the media than ever.
More to the point, why would anyone risk his or her hard-earned money in the stock market if we live in a horrible nation at a terrible time and the world is truly going to hell in a handbasket?
We don’t… and it isn’t.
There has rarely been a better time to be an equity investor. And in my next column, I’ll explain why.