On the Sexual Revolution and the Decline of the West
When did the sexual revolution begin? A recent book describes Wilhelm Reich, a student of Sigmund Freud, as the father of the sexual revolution in the 1920's. Another new book claims that the sexual revolution commenced in the1860's in England during the stuffy Victorian era. Of course, both of these arguments fail to give any credence to the antics of the Hell-Fire Club in London during the late 1700's.
Ariel Levy writes in The New Yorker how each generation views themselves as having stumbled upon something new. Such an approach often arises from the conceit of youth -- they are unaware of what preceded them; instead, they focus on how they are breaking free from the social constraints of the day.
While the "founders" of the sexual revolution believed they were exploring a new world unfettered by the restrictions of their ancestors, there exists another group of people who look fondly on the past as they predict a ruinous future. They are "declinists" -- people who foresee the end of the world as we know it.
Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker explains, however, that those who predict the imminent decline of the West face an immediate hurdle. Such declinists predicate their gloomy view of the future on the same intellectual ground of those who have previously predicted such a decline. Thus, present day declinists must "grapple with the tricky point of insisting that the previous era was actually a peak rather than the valley that the previous declinists thought they were looking at."
In the realm of investments, it seems that many people also subscribe to a gloomy view of our future prospects. It is easy to project that the recent malaise will continue. But as Adam Gopnik points out:
"Whatever happens next, short term or long, is likely to be more affected by accident and by invention -- and by new ideas -- than by any trend now in sight...Declinism is a bad idea, because no one can have any notion of what will happen next. Yet the idea of our decline is emotionally magnetic, because life is a long slide down, and the plateau just passed is easier to love than the one coming up."
Beware of predictions. In 1918, the German historian Oswald Spengler declared in the "Decline of the West," that physics was finished as a science since its task of description was complete. Of course, just around the corner were the great works of Einstein, Bohr, and Planck. Oh well!
Words of Wisdom
And all this science I don't understand;
It's just my job five days a week.
-- Elton John/Bernie Taupin "Rocket Man"
Governments do no more to create jobs than babies. In fact, their proper role in both endeavors should be identical -- they maintain conditions under which the generative processes can readily proceed.
-- Michael Aronstein, Marketfield Asset Management
[Editor's Note: The first quote refers, of course, to the mention of physics. The second quote seems quite germane to the larger topic, although we do not necessarily fully subscribe to its political/economic posture.]