We don’t only live in the age of a pandemic; we also live in the age of conspiracy theories. Don’t fall for them. They could seriously damage your portfolio.
Don’t fall for the conspiracy theories. They could seriously damage your portfolio
I don’t like conspiracy theories; I tend to sign-up to the ‘cock-up’ narrative. And I still do. Us humans are nowhere near as clever enough to control us or lie to us the way conspiracy theorists suggest. But, and I am not sure if this is me, that I am imagining it, but it seems to me that conspiracy theories are becoming more extreme.
Among the most common: Covid is a fake virus, vaccines are built on a conspiracy of lies, climate change is a scam, and linked to that; Bill Gates and George Soros are masterminding it (not sure what ‘it’ is.)
Linked to the above, not a conspiracy theory as such, but almost as absurd, is the view that ‘wokeism’ is going to destroy the West — some draw parallels with the end of the Western Roman Empire.
Oh yes, there is also the ‘Trump the victim argument’, the one that says things like “studies show Hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment against Covid.”
I tortured myself yesterday; maybe it was a form of self-flagellation. I forced myself to watch a video ‘explaining the evils of vaccines’, featuring Dr Suzanne Humphries — you have to keep an open mind, I reasoned. Then I looked at the comments — all these people who buy into the vaccine conspiracy, seemed to simultaneously argue that they are logical thinkers, too intelligent to fall for the narrative most scientists promote. Then I spent two minutes Googling her, only to find one story after another discrediting her theories.
It seems to me that supporters of conspiracy theories keep searching for arguments that support their belief and then stop. The moment they find the argument they are looking for, they stop looking, don’t bother to research the counter-views.
This is what I think:
- Covid is real.
- Vaccines are our best hope.
- Gates is acting altruistically, as is George Soros, who seems hell-bent on promoting a decent set of beliefs based on tolerance.
- Climate change is both real and dangerous.
- 'Wokeism' may or may not sometimes go too far, but it is better than the intolerance of minorities I knew when I was a kid.
As for the fall of Rome, it seems to me that one of the reasons it fell is that it failed to embrace immigrants to its culture fully. Instead, it treated the Goths with disdain and used Goth troops as cannon fodder in wars until they finally rose up and sacked the city.
I do have a few theories of my own, but they are not conspiracy theories. I believe there will be a calamitous second wave of Covid and the markets are broadly too complacent. I also think that technology is going to transform the world — but not necessarily for the better. To deny this is to be complacent, just as Covid cynicism at the beginning of this year cost thousands of lives.
I don’t believe in a conspiracy, but I do believe in dangers of human behaviour; that we are our own worst enemy. And sometimes, certain politicians ride dangerous and misguided public beliefs to their political advancement at our cost.
The markets and the economy
A second wave will, in my opinion, hit the economy hard and markets will fall much further — except that is techs. On the whole, the share price performance of the techs is justified, as Covid is leading to an acceleration towards digital.
The economy has another contraction ahead. The crisis won’t come to an end until there are vaccines commonly available. Thankfully, advances in technology mean that vaccines will become available in record times.
Post-Covid, we will see high unemployment, consumers will borrow less, businesses will save more, with the result that demand will be sucked out of the economy, leading to deflation.
The acceleration of digital will leave an important legacy. In areas where remote working has proven to be a disadvantage, it will be phased out. In areas where it works, it will be kept. The same will apply to other digital technologies. As a result, business use of digital will evolve, but super-fast.
As a result, we will see surges in productivity, meaning economic output may recover before jobs.
Investors must see through the conspiracy theories, but don’t become too wedded to such ideas that we will see hyperinflation, tax hikes, and that gold and land are the only safe investments.
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