Sunday, May 31, 2009
Most people will not change. Too radical. Not going with the flow. Not betting against the herd. The best examples in the 20th century were Jews in Germany in 1933. They stayed. This included Jewish bankers, all of whom could have left. They thought they could deal with Hitler. They did not read Mein Kampf. They did not take it seriously. did leave early: 38,000 out of 523,000. More left after 1938. By 1941, about 160,000 remained in Germany. Then emigration was closed by the Nazis. Earlier, it was encouraged. The data are At some price, almost all could have left. There were countries that would have let them in. They would have had to learn a new language. They would have arrived in poverty. But Jews had faced those options ever since the Assyrian captivity in the eighth century B.C. So what? They all would not have escaped the Nazis. Some would have moved to other European countries that were overrun by Germany after 1939. But they could have tried to get away. They stayed. They refused to acknowledge the warning signals. "It can't be that bad." It got worse. Jews had an answer for worrywarts. "No problem. We can handle itThe Armenians went through the same thing. The Turkish massacres of 1895 were a foretaste. Most stayed behind. Then came the genocide of 1915. Look back at the economy in October 2007. The Dow was at 14,000. The banks were booming. Real estate was down a little, but the experts gave no warning. They were wrong. All of them. The U.S. government is running a $1.8 trillion deficit this year. Federal tax receipts are down 34%, which means that the deficit will go above $2 trillion. No one cares. No one says, "This is the end. The American economy will never again be what it was." Would you have believed that Chrysler and GM were both headed for bankruptcy? In October 2007 GM shares were at $43. Now they are at $1. There was an industry called investment banking. Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and Goldman Sachs were not part of the commercial banking system. To survive, a few made the transition in September 2008. Some did not make the cut. Merrill Lynch is gone. Bank of America and Citigroup were bailed out by the government. They would have gone under. They sell for a fraction of what they did in 2007. And what do most people say? "No problem." There is no problem for which their answer is not "no problem." Medicare will go bust. Social Security will go bust.The unemployment rate keeps rising. "No problem." When people refuse to face reality, because reality is going to be more painful than anything they have experienced, they look for signs that the problems they cannot avoid without changing are really not that bad. They look for offsetting good news. We live in today's world. It's bad, but it's not a catastrophe. We must keep our heads above water. A Tsunami is coming. In such a scenario, you have got to get out of the water and off the beach. But few people ever do, unless they have seen a tsunami. Few have. Allocate some percent of your wealth to tsunami-avoidance. Do it quietly. Do not discuss this with your big-mouth brother-in-law. What do you really think is likely to happen? Not what you would prefer will happen.Think, "General Motors in October 2007" Think Chrysler, Merrill Lynch, and Lehman Brothers. No one saw it coming. It came.