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[VIC - 173] What do COVID & markets have in common?

February 7 · Issue #174 · View online
Jeremy Hurst
After a month off, it’s good to be back! As for the coming months, many balls are in the air, so I won’t make any promises regarding the newsletter schedule.

Business & Money
I’ve happened upon a similarity between COVID and markets. 
In a vacuum, you’d never say you hope to contract a disease or virus. But at some point, it sort of became a good thing to have already had COVID. If you already had it in the past, perhaps you don’t need to be as cautious about things going forward given you already have the antibodies (whether or not that’s actually the case, I have no idea, but that’s not the point). So now you can go out, see friends, and even travel without as much stress.
Similarly, in markets, you might say COVID was a good thing. With an incredible amount of government stimulus, increased savings rates, and accelerated trends toward digitization, markets are loftier now than they might have otherwise been. 
You might say that central bank intervention is the new herd immunity.
Human Progress
What brings about progress or change? From a Marxist perspective, the answer has to do with materialism. Not the colloquial meaning of materialism as an interest in material things, but materialism in the sense that change comes about due to changes in material conditions. Further, Marxist thought chooses materialism over idealism, in which change comes about due to changing ideals or beliefs. 
Here’s an oversimplified, though hopefully helpful, example.
I have a hypothetical friend who lives here in New York City. This friend recently moved in with his girlfriend. If I ask why he decided to take that step, he might offer a materialist or idealist answer. 
The idealist answer might be because he is in love, and when people are in love, they often move in together as the step before getting engaged. So moving in together is simply a manifestation of how they feel about one another and a logical evolution toward marriage. 
The materialist explanation is less fluffy. Splitting rent is more cost-effective than living alone, especially given that one of their apartments is usually empty. Further, given how much time they spend together, they also save on cabs and subway rides traveling to and from each other’s homes. In short, living together is an economic and pragmatic decision.
Of course, this example is rather trivial. The point here, though, is that idealist explanations are often accepted as true when there are more materialistic forces at play. And idealist explanations are often fraught with contradictions.
Take the founding of the United States as an example. From an idealist perspective, you somehow have to grapple with vehemently opposed ideas in the same breath. The country was founded on principles of freedom, liberty, and justice for all, meanwhile, native populations were being extinguished and forcibly removed from their land. All men were created equal, but of course, African slaves were an exception. It doesn’t make sense that these ideas exist simultaneously in the same people. 
It’s more likely that slavery and the appropriation of native lands were selfish and economically driven behaviors. Settlers were more concerned with getting rich than upholding lofty ideals.
Are there areas in your life in which you’ve accepted idealist explanations as true that might warrant further consideration?
There is a Zen koan that goes as follows.
A glass of water is on the table. The master asks the question,
“What is that?”
The students say repeatedly what they think it is in different ways. 
“A glass.”
‘“A glass of water.” Eventually, the students say, 
“Tell us master, what is that?” In response, the master picks up the glass and drinks it.
My Latest Discovery
Hypnosis gets a weird wrap in movies and popular culture. But my recent conversation with Daniel Ryan, a renowned hypnotherapist and past life regression therapist, has been one of my favorites on the podcast so far. I highly recommend checking it out!
It's A Wrap!
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