“The Century of the Self” is a documentary from the BBC which discusses how groups behave, and why. The psychology of individuals has implications when studying populations. Understanding the dynamics of groups has been used to engineer demand and consent for products and political views. This is a very interesting documentary, with detailed historical references.
“Consumerism was a way of giving people the illusion of control, while allowing a responsible elite to continue managing society”
- The Century of the Self (1 of 4)
- The Century of the Self (2 of 4)
- The Century of the Self (3 of 4)
- The Century of the Self (4 of 4)
My latest quarterly investment commentary discusses some longer term global demographic trends, and implications for investors.
Download: 2005 Q3 Investment Commentary
Recent global growth rates are unprecedented in economic history.
Economic growth at this pace will put predictable strains on resources.
Population, productivity, economic growth, and production capacity point to long-term commodity gains.
Commodity prices are falling today, but don’t join the selling momentum.
Productivity is rising rapidly. Manufacturing techniques are being shared globally at a faster rate then ever before.
Almost 1/2 of the entire human population entered the global economy since 1990. Trade has opened up in previously closed economies. The new labor is bringing labor costs down globally, simultaneously raising per capita consumption by many multiples in many countries.
Low interest rates mean that debt is cheap. Equity investments are also readily available because taxes on capital are down.
To review: Productivity up, labor costs down, global demand up, and cost of capital down. The implication is a very large increase in commodity demand. Prices have already risen quite a bit in many commodities markets, but the causal factors are long-term, and we should expect the effect to be long-term as well.
Finally, if you are investing in commodities using US dollars (I know I am), then you should also consider the currency value. The dollar has fallen more against many major currencies than the commodity prices have risen. This implies that commodity prices have even further to rise.
Bloomberg reports on Ben Wattenberg’s book “Fewer“. This long term trend appears to have the academic rigor of reliable thinking, but the global financial impact is dwarfed by another long-term global population trend toward free markets.
Generational decreases in total population are occurring at a slower rate than the growth rate of the number of people living in free market societies. The number of people who are participating in the global economy has increased by 3 billion since 1990, and the shrinking population effect is negligible relative to trends of that magnitude.
For investors, this probably means that global consumption will continue to increase even if the population as a whole may slowly decline.
These are some of the best election maps I’ve seen. They demonstrate a very strong relationship in the 2004 Presidential election, and I’d love to hear some insight:
Why is population density so clearly related to political affiliation?
Should we be surprised that progressive politics are so highly related to economic progress? What can we learn from that?
Why are such large parts of the population voting against their financial self-interests? Wealthy cities and the major financial centers are voting against the party that will lower their capital gains and dividend taxes. Financially troubled states are voting against the party that will provide national health care and invest in their children’s educations.
Is morality really the question? Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate of any of the 50 states. And Texas has the highest. Are words more important than action? How is it that speaking softly and doing the right thing can be painted so badly?
Finally, how is it that the kindness, thoughtfulness, hard work, and generosity of the Democratic Party can be portayed as weakness? How is it that the Republican Party with those same qualities is portrayed as heartless? Is it still about cowboys vs. indians, suits vs. hippies, us vs. them? Has anyone noticed that we’re on the same team and there are plenty of real bad guys out there?
If you take away one’s right to support themselves, you have an obligation to support them.
If children could work, they could presumably receive health care. For the sake of argument, let’s ignore the pay check, work experience, and other benefits – and focus on the healthcare. In many cases, parents can not or do not choose to pay for appropriate healthcare for a child. In these cases, the child might be better off quitting school and working to afford the medicines or treatments she desperately needs. But that child is restricted by law from doing so. The government, by placing this restriction, is morally responsible for providing at least that which the child could have achieved on her own. The government should provide health coverage for any persons restricted by law from the work force.
Advancements in technology and medical sciences have changed the basis on which evolutionary dominance is measured. It used to be that more physical and social characteristics were dominant when labor was more physical and relationship communities were more stable. Abstract mental fitness (Especially in areas of mathematics, process dynamics, technology adoption, and forecasting) has become a much more important factor in society. At the same time, other factors that are less well considered are having an important impact on human propagation. For example, free-time and moral comfort lead to increased average birth rates.
War has discriminatly killed and ended the genetic branch of those who fit the military standards of physical and mental fitness. The result is that the desirable characteristics that the military has identified as valuable in the event of conflict are relatively diminished in the world population. Characteristics such as good vision, strong muscles, dexterity, endurance, focus, ability to learn languages, spatial intuition, coordination, and communication skills are less common than they naturally would be in people. That’s not to say that the military or society had any choice when recruiting our finest to protect our way of life, but it should be in our minds when we make decisions about how we fight. Is it worth harming the evolutionary process of humanity when we could, albeit for additional financial cost, fight our battles with a far higher degree of safety for the innocent? Human evolution has been reversed by this process, and the genetic pool that perpetuates humanity has been damaged by the wars we could not keep ourselves from fighting.