The oil market paused to catch its breath yesterday. Crude fell to $130, after hitting the $135 mark. Gold, too, took a step back – falling $10 to $918. Stocks, meanwhile, advanced a baby step – the Dow rose 24 points.
But we interrupt the news to bring you this question from a Markets and Money sufferer: “Why are you always so negative…so gloomy…and darned pessimistic?”
We would like to set the record straight. We are neither gloomy nor pessimistic. People who know us well say that we are often cheerful and fairly pleasant company. Even in adversity, we manage to keep a sense of humour. In fact, friends say we smile when bad things happen, provided, of course, they happen to someone else. And we often laugh gaily when reading the obituaries, as long as we don’t find our name mentioned.
Even as to matters financial and economic, we are far from gloomy. Quite the contrary. ‘Is the world going to hell in a handcart?’ Go ahead, ask us.
Glad you asked. The answer is ‘no’. Emphatically not. Definitely not. No question about it, no.
For most of the world’s people, things are getting better. A few years ago, billions of people – and about a third of the world’s landmass – was governed by dunderheaded communists. People stood in long lines to buy a tin of coffee…and then, when they got to the head of the line, the coffee ran out. The lucky few could save the money for 10 years to buy a car…and then wait three more years for it be ready for them. The car they got was the engineering world’s answer to the duck-billed platypus – awkward, ugly and frequently immobile. There were also purges, mass starvation, 5-Year Plans, and gulags. Tens of millions died prematurely; tens of millions of others would have preferred it that way.
Now, things are so much better. There are still communists and ex-communists running things in China and a few other benighted places. But even there, they aren’t quite as evil and stupid as they used to be. In fact, in some ways they are less evil and less stupid than people running things in the U.S. of A. The tax rate in Russia is only 13%, for example. Nor are Russian troops in Afghanistan or Iraq – trying to keep the locals in line; now the ‘peacekeepers’ sport the stars and stripes.
On the Forbes list of richest people in the world, the No. 5 billionaire is from India. In fact, India has 36 billionaires.
“Of those 36 Indian billionaires, 14 of them became billionaires just last year,” Chris Mayer tells us. “In other words, the number of Indian billionaires swelled by 64% in the space of 12 months…or a new billionaire created every month! India has the most billionaires of any country in Asia – even more than Japan now. And new millionaires are being created at a rate of 47 every day.
“The richest of them all – the fifth richest man in the world – is Lakshmi Mittal, worth $32 billion. He made his fortune in steel. Born in India, the ‘Carnegie of Calcutta’ now makes his residence in Great Britain, where he is that nation’s richest man.”
You may already have figured out where we’re going with this, dear reader. Yes, things are getting better in most of the world. People who were desperately poor a generation ago are now not so desperate. Wages are rising fast in the big, developing countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China. With higher incomes typically come better sanitation and better diets, which raise life expectancies. Then, of course, TV, automobiles, high-rise housing, electronic gadgets, suburbs and economists come along too – but nothing is perfect.
So you see, on the whole, things are improving; the world is becoming – if not a better place – at least a more comfortable place for most people. In this view, by the way, we are hardly alone. Most people have noticed.
But what about the U.S. economy? What about U.S. stocks? The dollar?
Ah…that…well…even as to these things we are optimistic. The United States needs a correction; we think it will get one. And here we part company with the vast mob of windy know-it-alls and kibitzers who make up our sorry trade. Most believe that if public officials merely yank on the right lever at the right time…or turn the right knob exactly the right amount…things will get better and better, forever and ever, amen.
We don’t think the world works that way. Instead, night follows day…no matter how smart we are. Mistakes are made…errors are punished…the world turns; sooner or later, every person ends in the grave…every generation is superseded by another one…every country disappears from the map…every enterprise goes out of business…and every boom ends in a bust.
Is that a gloomy outlook? Not at all; it’s just the way things work.
Hallelujah…otherwise, time would stop…the earth would stand still…and the whole universe would collapse in on itself, back to where it was before the Big Bang, as dense as a neo-con’s brain and as small as a tax collector’s heart.
Thank goodness, the United States is going into “corrective mode,” despite all the efforts of Ben Bernanke, the U.S. Congress, George W. Bush and every pundit, coast to coast, with an opinion.
Markets and Money