The Hell Are We Doing Here?

…No. Capitalism is not a means to any end…
It is a process for exploring and engaging uncertainty with fluid expectations…

—Venkatesh Rao

The argument I’ve been making for a bear market of Grand Supercycle degree is easier to get your arms around when you get that, for fifty years, we have been modeling our economic assumptions on the post-war experience of the Greatest Generation, which is wrong. That era was a one-off, comparable to Roman life during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Life was never that good before, and it never would be again. For the Greatest, the promise of a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage came true. There was a great sufficiency in the land, and they brought a generation into the world with a silver plate spoon in its mouth.

That generation, the Boomers, may have been the first in America’s history to take a good economy for granted. Over the next half century, their resulting aggressive doubling down on growth with debt has been ruinous. Consequently, bankruptcy looms for individuals, institutions, cities, states, and maybe the nation during the next leg down in the market.

Further aggravating matters, their kids have been busy inventing stuff that wholesale eliminates people in the workplace. Workplace? What’s that? An anachronism, soon enough, as MIT Professor Andrew McAfee explains:

The salient part of McAfee’s talk is that we will have a tough time for a while. The Wave Principle, together with the social mood cycles we follow, make it probable that the second, most severe leg in the bear market gets under way soon and bottoms in 2016. The depression bottoms a year later, but the residual effects and the recovery will be drawn out for some years after that.

The middle class expectation that hard work gets you a stable job and a good retirement has given way to anxiety. The paradigm was obsolete. It gave a false sense of security which, as Meade says, is the only kind there is. Best bet for most of us is to embrace uncertainty, which is liberating, once you get the hang of it. Venkat Rao has a super riff on embracing uncertainty in his current post.

For most if us, I think, it means letting go our favorite dream of the future in favor of what Rao calls a long bet: Bet on what you think will work and feels right to you, not on what you hope is true. Then go with it. Live in the moment, see what happens. It’s a damn sight better than worrying.

Forget safety.
Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation.
Be notorious.



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