Four weeks ago, in the middle of the market correction, I noted in this column that stock market sentiment and stocks themselves often turn on a dime.
I encouraged readers not to run to cash but to increase their equity holdings.
Four weeks later, the market has put on a historic rally. Yet many investors missed the boat…
Why? Maybe it’s because we’re living in a bipolar world.
Look at the latest developments in the private sector and you will be filled with optimism about the future.
But look at what is happening with government and you will be filled with pessimism… if not existential dread.
Take the big inflation spike that occurred following the pandemic…
That was brought to you entirely by the public sector, both here and abroad.
Governments worldwide overreacted to COVID by shutting down their economies.
That led to severe supply shortages, the first cause of inflation.
Governments also spent trillions on “COVID relief” – which included a heaping helping of pork – since “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”
In other words, they made sure consumers were flush with cash just as the supply chain got all gummed up. That was the second cause of inflation.
Then central banks – anxious to keep economies afloat but also willing to keep interest rates at rock bottom and let inflation “run hot” – kept the cost of money near zero, encouraging even more business and consumer spending.
The result? The highest inflation in 40 years… brought to you by your elected representatives and their appointees.
But this is just inflation, the thief that robs us all.
Virtually every other major problem we face is brought to you by government as well.
We have stifling regulations that cost Americans $2 trillion a year, or nearly $15,000 per household.
We have a 7,000-page U.S. tax code – no one completely understands it – that discourages people from working, saving and taking risks.
The U.S. government subsidizes sugar and corn to the tune of almost $1,000 an acre in Iowa alone.
This leads to cheap sugar and an overabundance of high-fructose corn syrup used in processed foods and sodas.
This, in turn, promotes obesity and diabetes, which Medicare then pays billions to treat.
Does that make sense?
The Obama and Biden administrations released billions of dollars to Iran, which funds terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.
After they attacked Israel, the government spends billions of dollars to provide that country with Iron Dome missiles and other munitions.
After the Soviet Union fell, the U.S. brokered a deal that took nuclear weapons away from newly independent Ukraine.
With those pesky nuclear missiles out of the way, Russia invaded last year.
Now we are spending tens of billions to send Ukraine Javelins, Himars, tanks and F-16s.
Who is responsible for the crisis on our southern border?
Who is responsible for the metastasizing federal debt and our unfunded liabilities for entitlements?
Who is responsible for public schools that turn out kids with no proficiency in reading, math, science, history or personal finance?
(The Program for International Student Assessment reported this week that math scores for U.S. students just hit an all-time low.)
No wonder millions of Americans are angry and frustrated.
But now… let’s also look at what Paul Harvey used to call “the rest of the story.”
Amazing things are happening in the private sector today.
Businesses are knocking themselves out night and day to bring you products and services that are better, cheaper or longer-lasting.
This has resulted in an enormous spike in our living standards, our quality of life and even our life spans.
Unlike government, business is about freedom and individual choice, not coercion.
If you don’t like certain companies or their policies, you don’t have to work for them, sell to them, buy from them or own their shares.
Capitalism is the most effective anti-poverty program and greatest wealth creator ever devised.
The private sector promises that you can have anything you want if you just provide enough other people with what they want.
That’s called a win-win.
Technology companies – like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Nvidia, Google, Tesla and others – are revolutionizing our lives.
Biotechnology companies – like Merck, Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Bristol Myers – are saving and extending our lives.
You can own a piece of them and prosper alongside the richest men and women in the world.
And owning shares of a company is a whole lot simpler than running one.
You don’t have to sign personal guarantees, hire or fire employees, grapple with an avalanche of federal mandates and regulations, pay lawyers and accountants, or even show up for work.
How great is that?
So, yes, grumble about government and I’ll grumble right along with you.
But don’t miss the brighter side of the picture.
In stable democracies – and we are still that despite widespread government ineptitude – commerce trumps politics in the stock market.
If you want to make serious money, look past what the bureaucrats are saying and doing in the public sector and focus instead on what the geniuses are creating and building in the private sector.
In the new January issue of The Oxford Communiqué, I will focus on “Eight Megatrends for 2024 and Beyond.”
There are cutting-edge technologies that are changing the world for the better with generative artificial intelligence, robotics, embedded intelligence and several other exciting new developments.
So turn off the cable news and pick up the business news.
Fortunes will be made in U.S. business in the months and years ahead. Just as they have been for the past 247 years.
As I said, we’re living in a bipolar world.
You can earn big profits from the sensational developments in the private sector.
But only if you’re not turned off by the depressing clown show in Washington.