While the stock and bond markets likely await their next downward legs and we are beset by political ads, I would like to talk about the state of citizenship in these United States. As a student of history, I remind myself regularly that our nation has suffered through presidents even worse than Trump or Biden. Members of Congress have sometimes resorted to one duel leading to death, canings and stabbings of each other. I recall the country’s mood in the dark days of assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, the riots in Kansas City and other cities, student protests and riots, sometimes quite violent, over the Viet Nam War.
We are rightly alarmed and disturbed when some threaten to tear apart our social compact and fabric. In younger days, I would not have thought it possible to have those in apparent authority pass off to us such ridiculous proposals and opinions as fact beyond discussion. But here we are.
As an aside, this authentic malaise we feel does not affect the financial markets nearly as much as we think they do or perhaps even should. The value of various financial instruments definitely does wax and wane due to the perspective of the investing public. I like to joke that their prices are indeed rational for about 15 minutes as they rise and another 15 minutes as they fall! And it is true that one must have some basic trust that the future will be more or less like the past in order to buy them.
This is where history provides additional help. People have been investing by putting money at risk in company ventures—usually partnerships in prior centuries—or at risk by lending to businesses, individuals, kings, and other governments for several millennia now. We muddle through and life goes on. Mankind earns its food, clothing and shelter by providing solutions to its own needs and problems. That will not change, at least not until the end of the age, if you believe in basic Judeo-Christian writings and doctrines.
The real question for each of us is So what? What are you going to do and what decisions will you make in response to the challenges facing all of us in various degrees? In most of history and in the totally socialist places today, if you were too vocal, you would be thrown into a notorious place such as the Bastille or just been shot, run through, or had your head chopped off.
Instead, it has been a quite unusual, perhaps miraculous, journey thus far for 233 years since Washington became our first President. At some polling places recently, thugs have appeared and threatened voters who did not appear to favor their causes, but thankfully not very many. Next week, there should be voter turnouts exceeding 80 or 90 percent, but if I were a betting man, I would bet against it.
I suggest you and I have not only a privilege, but an absolute duty of citizenship to take the time and trouble to vote. If you cannot stand in a line, you can appear at the polling headquarters and receive special accommodation. You should have to show your voting sticker before you complain.
Edmund Burke of England might have been the first to say, The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing. The principle is timeless. Please do not fret. Please do something—trust in the providence of God and vote, even in a primary election.