Endless Uncertainty

The night before the D-Day invasion, a nervous Franklin Roosevelt asked his wife Eleanor how she felt about not knowing what would happen next.

“To be nearly sixty years old and still rebel at uncertainty is ridiculous isn’t it?” she said.

It is. But my God, we do. And in strange ways.

As we sit here today – the highest inflation in 40 years, rising interest rates, plenty of tech stocks down 50%+, a war in Ukraine, supply chains broken, a lingering pandemic, China on lockdown, on and on – it feels like economic uncertainty is rising, maybe the highest it’s been in years.

That’s the common word, at least. A few headlines from the last week:

Bitcoin and Ethereum Prices Slide Amid Economic Uncertainty

Uncertainty cast a cloud over Davos

Wayfair freezes hiring citing economic uncertainty

Bank profits fall amid uncertainty

Mortgage apps decline 11% amid economic uncertainty

I get the feeling. A lot of things are not only bad but worse than expected, which is when problems become panics.

But the idea that uncertainty is higher now than it was, say, one or two or five years ago is a strange one. It implies that the future was more predictable in the past, before the pandemic struck and inflation spiked and the war broke out. But it wasn’t, of course. The risks were always there. People were just blind to them.

The future is always endlessly unpredictable. What changes isn’t the level of uncertainty, but the level of (Read more...)