[Follow-up to last week’s update: After last week’s commentary concerning Mint.com, I received several inquiries regarding the safety and security of personal information stored on the website. The best way to answer that question is to visit Mint.com’s security page: http://www.mint.com/privacy/. Personally, I am satisfied that the site is extremely safe and private; the length to which they go in order to ensure safety and privacy is impressive.]
I had a very interesting conversation with a client last week; let’s call him Herb. Herb is an older gentleman who readily admits that he is not up to speed on technology, nor does he follow the news all that closely. But every few months, Herb requests a consultation so that we can talk about the state of the world.
The way Herb sees it, our society is steadily going down the tubes. Morality is at an all-time low; public discourse has degenerated into a simple trading of insults; America has lost its preeminent economic status; and our national debt—the combined trade and federal deficits—threatens to bring us to our knees.
While many of Herb’s points are well taken, I pointed out that our nation has been in terrible straits before and has somehow managed to pull through. Yes, times are tough in a variety of ways. The challenges are many and daunting. But is this the worst time in our history? I think not.
Consider the birth of our nation, when it was doubtful that this bold republican experiment would take root at all. Consider the Civil War, when the country was ripped apart at the cost of 620,000 young men—more than all our other wars combined. Consider the Great Depression, when unemployment skyrocketed from 3% in 1929 to 25% in 1933 while the stock market plunged an unfathomable 89%. Consider World War II, when the entire globe teetered on the brink of tyrannical subjugation. Consider even the1960s, when inflation, Viet Nam, social division, race riots and political assassinations combined to tear at the very fabric of our society.
Somehow, we made it through it all. Every scenario seemed hopeless, every challenge insurmountable. Each crisis led to a significantly different—and arguably better—world that could not have been anticipated beforehand. And I would argue that each of those eras was worse than the one in which we find ourselves today.
One exacerbating factor in the 21st Century is the news media. I would argue that the three major news networks are not news networks at all, but rather 24-hour commentary networks. A story gets reported, and then it gets discussed…and discussed, and discussed and discussed. In my college and grad school days, I studied the art of drama extensively. In order to hold an audience’s attention, there must be conflict. That is what the networks create with their endless debates. And the Internet takes up where TV leaves off; the World Wide Web is the greatest rumor mill ever invented.
Don’t allow yourself to get taken in by the hype. Yes, we are going through an extremely challenging time. Tomorrow’s world will undoubtedly look different from yesterday’s. But is the situation hopeless? Not by a long shot. Can we even state with certainty that this is a bad thing? I doubt it.
This is America, by George, and whatever the final outcome, I am confident that we will prevail.
So get out there and have a great week!