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Part I: Paradigms and Paradigm Shifts over the Last 100 Years
History has taught us that there are always paradigms and paradigm shifts and that understanding and positioning oneself for them is essential for one’s well-being as an investor and beyond. The purpose of this piece is to show you market and economic paradigms and their shifts over the past 100 years to convey how they work. In the accompanying piece, “The Coming Paradigm Shift,” I explain my thinking about the one that might be ahead.
Due to limitations in time and space, I will only focus on those in the United States because they will suffice for giving you the perspective I’d like to convey. However, at some point I will show you them in all significant countries in the same way I did for big debt crises in Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises because I believe that understanding them all is essential for having a timeless and universal understanding of how markets and economies work.
To show them, I have divided history into decades, beginning with the 1920s, because they align well enough with paradigm shifts in order for me to convey the picture. Though not always perfectly aligned, paradigm shifts have coincidently tended to happen around decade shifts—e.g., the 1920s were “roaring,” the 1930s were in “depression,” the 1970s were inflationary, the 1980s were disinflationary, etc. Also, I believe that looking at
10-year time horizons helps one put things in perspective. It’s also a nice coincidence that we are in the last months of this decade, so it’s an interesting exercise to start imagining what the new ‘20s decade will be like, which is my objective, rather than to focus in on what exactly will happen in any one quarter or year.
Part 2: The Coming Paradigm Shift
The main forces behind the paradigm that we have been in since 2009 have been:
Central banks have been lowering interest rates and doing quantitative easing (i.e., printing money and buying financial assets) in ways that are unsustainable. Easing in these ways has been a strong stimulative force since 2009, with just minor tightenings that caused “taper tantrums.” That bolstered asset prices both directly (from the actual buying of the assets) and indirectly (because the lowering of interest rates both raised P/Es and led to debt-financed stock buybacks and acquisitions, and levered up the buying of private equity and real estate). That form of easing is approaching its limits because interest rates can’t be lowered much more and quantitative easing is having diminishing effects on the economy and the markets as the money that is being pumped in is increasingly being stuck in the hands of investors who buy other investments with it, which drives up asset prices and drives down their future nominal and real returns and their returns relative to cash (i.e., their risk premiums). Expected returns and risk premiums of non-cash assets are being driven down toward the cash return, so there is less incentive to buy them, so it will become progressively more difficult to push their prices up. At the same time, central banks doing more of this printing and buying of assets will produce more negative real and nominal returns that will lead investors to increasingly prefer alternative forms of money (e.g., gold) or other storeholds of wealth.
I will soon send out an explanation of why I believe that gold is an effective portfolio diversifier.
Gold should do well In next decade