Once again the world hasn’t ended.
Since you’re reading this, you’re aware that the world didn’t come to an end as predicted by Harold Camping some half-dozen times or so. But clearly, he’s not the first person to predict the End—just the most recent. Unshaven men with sandwich boards declaring “The End is Near,” were a staple of editorial cartoons of the ‘50s and ‘60s. And “millenarian thinking”—the believe that the world-order will be turned upside-down and a new, golden age will appear—has been with us for thousands of years.
Apocalyptic predictions aren’t just for the religious: Marx predicted that a secular millennium would arise from the Communist Revolution; Y2K and UFO Religions offer a technological doomsday. And there are aspects of environmental apocalypticism in the global warming forecasts that are out there. There’s something deep inside us that expects calamity.
I’ve noticed, however, that these predictions seem to proliferate around times of modest prosperity. During the Crash of ’08 we weren’t reading about the end of the world—we were seeing it, at least the end of the financial world as we had known it. The Heaven’s Gate group committed suicide in 1997, when the economy was fairly good. William Miller and the Seventh Day Adventists got their start in the 1830s, a time of tremendous expansion in the US.
So I’m actually encouraged by these prophecies of the end. It often means that things are getting better. And if the end does come, we probably won’t be looking for it.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer
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