26 February 2017

The Real (underlying) Question

More market resilience. About which, perhaps the most startling thing - if not disconcerting, in some quarters ("This should NOT be happening!") - is how it continues to trend upward. How far this reveals or conceals the true nature of global market direction is, to be sure, a question on which we'd all be wise to suspend judgment. Though that's hardly going to stop me from pronouncing (in my modest fashion) on what I believe is a much deeper, if not more urgent question.

The question isn't whether present global markets are over- or underperforming, healthy or unhealthy, sane or insane. Personally I suspect there's more long-term health in the culture, instincts and trajectory of today's markets than any of us could possibly account for by, say, the mere election or non-election of a Donald Trump; a Brexit or non-Brexit; a reception or non-reception of an official call from Taiwan; a raising or non-raising of interest rates; a Muslim immigration ban or non-ban. Or even a southern border wall or non-wall. (Though I do hope recent market performance - whether because or in spite of the recent election - is symptomatic of a kind of real wisdom and courage, on the part of today's investors, in at least one key area. I.e., maybe they no longer feel quite as hostage to Three Uncontestable Dogmas that, throughout our century's first decade, were presumed to be necessary conditions to market health: - 1) Euro-worship [both currency and Union]; 2) Beijing-worship; and 3) Saudi/Wahhabi appeasement.)

But the real, underlying question is always the same: What is going to make markets everywhere, despite real and considerable volatility, sane and healthy over the long term - as opposed to psychotic, diseased or delusional. And of course every long term is bound to come up short sooner or later: that's just the nature of human history. What I mean is the kind of sanity that can only be stopped dead - as distinct from being merely interrupted or disoriented - by some conscious, deliberate, concerted ideological evil. And no, I'm not thinking of only the kind of evil that can issue in major war. Praise God, the progress of modern jihadism has yet to issue in a war, or even a major economic crisis.* But we'd be epic fools to presume, for those same reasons, that here's a monster we Westerners can somehow tame, appease or manipulate.

* Partly, I suspect, because modern jihadists - being rational in means if hardly in ends - have probably even less incentive than most of us to want to derail that same train of globalization on whose "prosperity" they're also riding.

What I mean is the kind of sanity that makes investors see the point of investing in countries, as well as companies. The kind of sanity that knows that human beings are at least as important as human actions. And that the latter, if they're not to become quite hopelessly dysfunctional, must exist for the sake of the former, and not the reverse. And that countries, for all their notorious vices, crimes, follies, inefficiencies, etc, are generally far better at acknowledging and confessing this strange, elusive being of human beings than companies are. Perhaps because a country addresses a far less predictable, yet far richer, broader, more permanent stratum of human nature than even the most successful company ever will, or can.

I mean the kind of sanity that recognizes human creatures as consisting of more than the various companies or other organizations they create - or even the ones that employ them. A sanity that understands human creatures as being, in fact, not quite reducible to any thing they merely do. And least of all to those actions by which they try to assert their independence, power, cleverness, or superior creativity. Human creatures - perhaps even at their most imaginatively creative - consist also of two, if you will, residual elements, that began long before we were able to do anything, and that will go on long after any doing of ours on this earth has ended. These both involve our Maker most closely and inseparably - and not (hard as it is to believe in these self-creating times) merely as coach, legislator or moral guide. They are

(1) what God has made us to be at the beginning, and what He intends us to be at the end (though this latter flame has a weird and most unfortunate way of getting all but completely extinguished in many of us by the time we die);

(2) the various things that happen to us, and how we absorb (or mal-absorb) them, from birth - indeed, from the moment of conception - onwards. And in particular those events which provoke and dispose us not merely to plan and act, but to pause, and watch, and wait; to wonder, mourn and miss; to pray and hope and yearn. Sometimes even productively.

And while these older things - these things we residually are and endure, so to speak - may often seem bad or useless enough under the microscope of our modern agendas, they have also been known to prevent those same agendas from crashing, or going off the rails. And though in fact they too, like everything else in this life, are subject to change, they don't change nearly as often - or as drastically - as our busy ambitious actions would have us believe.

At least, not for the better.

No comments:

Post a Comment