In the same way as our twenty years of boom seems to some extent to have been at the cost of some of the more traditional patterns in human relationships, the big bears downside will have features many will find virtues.
This resonated with my intuition big time.....
Government grows powerful, and sweeping new legislation is enacted. The old 1990s rule was: just compete and stay off the state's radar screen. The new 2010s rule will be: better have a presence in Washington so you're not dealt out of the "new" new deal. One political party tends to dominate. The Democrats under FDR during the last Fourth Turning offer a good example. While Neil Howe doesn't think it will necessarily be the Democrats this time around, they are certainly in the pole position at this point.
While public history speeds up, personal life slows down. Families will spend more time together, like in the old Frank Capra movies. Ever more households will be multi-generational, a trend now spurred by Boomers with large, empty McMansions and Millennials without jobs. There will be a blanding of the pop culture, with the entertainment of the young (put Miley Cyrus or "High School Musical" on fast forward) increasingly regarded as tamer than the entertainment of the old.
Innovation tends to stagnate, while a few new technologies will be chosen to be adopted on a large scale. We will see the equivalent of canals or railroads or interstates being built across America. To borrow from Carlotta Perez' four-stage description of technological revolutions, we are moving from the "innovation" to the "implementation" stage.
New laws and regulations will do less to referee a free market and more to pursue one or another national priority. They will increasingly favor the large producer over the retail buyer, investment over consumption, planning over risk, debt over equity. Businesses will hustle to reposition themselves. Anti-trust legislation will weaken.
The authority and obligations of community will strengthen at all levels, from local to national and possibly beyond (if our alliances prove durable). Personal reputation and membership will matter more. A "new localism" will reshape town and urban planning. A global slide toward national or regional protectionism will loom as a real danger.
It is too early to tell whether the crisis will ultimately be inflationary or deflationary, though we at Casey Research come down on the side of inflation for the simple reason that the government possesses the means to inflate. Due to the gold standard, that was not the case early in the Great Depression.
In the past, Fourth Turning periods have always resulted in the nation redefining who we are in some essential way. That was certainly the case during the American Revolution, when we transitioned from a British colony into a collection of independent states -- and the Civil War, when those states were hammered into a single nation. And, again, after World War II, when the U.S. went from being a relatively isolated nation to a global empire. A wild card, for instance a terrorist nuke going off in a city anywhere on the planet, could similarly take the country, and the world, into unforeseeable new directions.
li>Baby Boomers will continue to be respected for their cultural achievements (it's not a fluke of history that Boomer music and other entertainments are still wildly popular among the young), but will be increasingly ignored in the political debate. The term "senior citizen," already in decline, will disappear entirely. And if push comes to shove, Boomer's financial interests – including Social Security – will be subjugated "for the greater good."
There will be a growing push to rebuild the middle class. The wealthy and the impoverished alike will both come under pressure thanks to new pro-middle class initiatives. If you are a high-income earner, it's a certainty your taxes are going up, and likely by a lot. If you want to make a fortune, don't pursue the niche or the "long tail." Invent the next big brand that will appeal to Everyman.
Brands that are authentic, healthy, sustainable and righteous will rule, OK.
Even Mauldin is past muddling though...
Secondly, speaking as a Baby Boomer and someone with a lifelong distrust of government and its meddling institutions, talking to Neil left me feeling oddly relaxed -- letting go, if you will, of some of the frustration that has been building within me as I watch the nanny state grow more and more bloated.
That is not to say we won't continue to speak out against government waste and prolificacy. We will. But it seems increasingly clear that we're now caught up in a powerful trend toward bigger, not smaller, societal institutions -- and that these institutions will, over the period ahead, change the world as we know it.
Of course, being active investors, at the same time we raise our voices in protest, we'll deal with the reality of the situation by strategically positioning our portfolios to profit from the coming changes.
And so, like the Rockefellers and J.P. Morgan during the Great Depression, we'll make the trend -- to matter how negative -- our friend. You may want to consider doing so yourself.
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