What are the prudent steps in these times?
This past week has been a rather dark one for our nation. Watching as our capital was stormed by radical extremists who didn’t agree with the results of our election was something I never believed I would personally witness.
Since that day, I have been equally disturbed by the attacks on basic freedom of speech by both government officials and corporations in response to these riots. In my opinion, both sides are wrong and have only widened the ideological divide that is rotting our country from the inside. How did we get here, and what happens next? While I don’t have definitive answers, I do have an opinion.
First and foremost, this is a cultural battle taking place, not a political one. While Donald Trump certainly escalated these tensions, he should be viewed as a symptom of a deeper problem and not the cause. I believe it is a loss of faith in our basic institutions that has led us to this place. When we no longer have confidence in things we always held as absolute, everything begins to crumble.
I look at the world I now live in. The church we once held up as the standard of morality and righteousness has been caught committing and covering up atrocities for generations. Scientists who should be driven by data and evidence have become part of the political establishment. The media tasked with providing us unbiased and reliable information lie and mislead us regularly for the sake of ratings and pushing their own agenda, and government, whose primary job is to protect us, has shown itself to be apathetic and incompetent at doing that very thing. Is it any wonder we are in a state of confusion and chaos?
Perhaps, the most remarkable part of what I witnessed last Wednesday was that the stock market appeared unfazed. In fact, the S&P actually went up as the Capitol was being assaulted. My great fear is soon people will lose faith in our financial institutions as well. I can understand why they would. There is simply something unintuitive about markets reaching all-time highs in a time of such social and economic instability.
There are many indications that say the markets could go much higher before falling back, so please don’t hear me saying now is the time to jump out of the market. But on the longer term, I have serious concerns about what happens when this same loss of faith we have experienced toward virtually every other bedrock foundation we have as a nation, spreads to our financial institutions.
If something like this were to occur, it would not be without precedent. Many believe it was the stock market crash of 1929 that caused the Great Depression. However, equally impactful if not more so was the banking crisis that followed. Between the years of 1930 and 1933 over 9,000 banks failed, permanently wiping away countless families’ life savings. Banks that survived refused to lend money, and massive unemployment followed.
As a result of this, an entire generation lost faith in the banking system. After experiencing 2008, I believe many are very suspect of our financial institutions and it would not take much to push us back into a 1930s-type scenario.
Obviously we do have significantly more safeguards in place today than were in place 100 years ago. But, human behavior is still the same, and last Wednesday showed us in living color how government safeguards can fail us.
I wish I had a more optimistic message this week, but sadly I don’t. My primary advice to everyone reading this is pray for our nation. Pray for healing, pray for unity, and pray for peace. If I had a second piece of advice, I would suggest you make sure you are working with an adviser who is ready, willing and able to react if the markets start to fail.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations.
Luke Davis is the director of operations and compliance at Stewardship Capital in Independence.