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Linearism

08/16/2009

I just finished reading The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe. It makes the point that generations have a predictable flow, starting with growth (the prophets) followed by maturation (the nomads) and then entropy (the heroes) and finally destruction (the artists). The World War II generation could not have foreseen that “America would soon become so confident and institutionally muscular, yet so conformist and spiritually complacent.” My generation of Boomers could not have “predicted that America was about to enter an era of personal liberation and cross a cultural divide . . ”

My daughter’s Gen-X could not have predicted “ that the nation was entering an era of national drift and institutional decay. And, the millennial generation could not have predicted “a decisive era of secular upheaval” or a period of unraveling..”

They then make the point this generational evolution has happened many times in the past and is not to be feared. It argues we think too much in terms of linearism, which sees the future as a straight line, instead of a series of cycles. Think of the next generation as being more like The Greatest Generation! (There is also a wonderful quote from Mark Twain that “nothing is older than our habit of calling everything new.)”

From an investment standpoint, it should offer solace to those who fear the sky is falling, that this time is different. We have been thru a crisis many times, and better times always follow. It means our asset allocation should not be for Armageddon but for the inevitable and eventual re-birth.

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