I think of myself as a boy of summer. When I was young, summer was a time to spend outside with my friends. We played a form of baseball with only two kids using a plastic bat and ball. We played tag and touch football, and really any game we could think of or make up. It was truly great fun. So much so that more than five decades later, you can still find me outside playing games in the summer.
Most of the time that we played, someone won and someone else lost. The next day we were at it again, hoping to best our opponents in our never-ending series of contests.
But sometimes we’d fight. One of us believed another person cheated, and before long we were rolling on the ground with fists flying. On those days, we’d go home with bruises and our mothers would apply ice, mercurochrome, and Band-Aids. On those days, our simple game organization broke down.
Like most children, we got over it pretty quickly, and the next day or the next week, we’d be outside again with all the same people playing all the same games.
But there were one or two kids in the neighborhood that we avoided. Letting them participate in our games pretty much always ruined them. If they lost, they complained and argued and almost always hit somebody. We steered clear of these sore losers. Perhaps your neighborhood was much the same.
Today, all grown up, we are still pretty much doing the same thing, but in ways that have greater impact on the world around us.
On most days we go to work with others. We have success and failures, and whatever the outcome, the next day we go back and do it again. But every once in awhile, businesses and organizations succumb to infighting. The result is dysfunction, as more time and effort are spent fighting with each other than trying to succeed as a team.
On a larger scale, we can think of the economy in much the same way. Most of the time, we grown-ups play the game of whatever business we’re in. The economy is the sum total of all of those businesses and institutions. We know that most of the time, like children playing games, we generate a lot of fun, which in adult business terms are things like production and profit.
But when it gets dysfunctional at this level, the whole economy stops working in much the same way that our games stopped when we were children.
We can see the impact of conflict on so many levels. For a very long time, the United States has been more or less divided between Democrats and Republicans. The balance changes now and then, but typically swings back the other way.
Consider that starting with 1952 our presidents have been alternating regularly between Democrats and Republicans. In 1952 we had 8 years of Eisenhower (R), followed by 8 years of Kennedy/Johnson (D), followed by 8 years of Nixon/Ford (R), followed by 4 years of Carter (D), followed by 8 years of Reagan (R) and 4 years of George H. W. Bush (the only president in 70 years to succeed a member of his own party), followed by 8 years of Clinton (D), 8 years of George W. Bush (R), 8 years of Obama (D), 4 years of Trump (R), and now we are in the first term of Biden (D).
But as this pendulum has swung back and forth, the game has been interrupted, sometimes by brief spats and other times by intense upheavals. Nixon’s resignation, Clinton’s and Trump’s impeachments, and the Iran-Contra affair have all been episodes of intense infighting that interrupted the business of running the country.
For the last 90 years, the world has turned to the United States in times of trouble. The U.S. dollar has served as the world’s currency for international business and trade, and when there are problems in other parts of the world, money tends to flow to the U.S. as a safe haven.
But what happens if we are no longer a safe haven? What happens if our infighting becomes so intense that people in the rest of the world no longer feel their money is safe here? Just the thought of that possibility is frightening, and if it’s frightening to us, it’s doubly frightening to people in other countries.
The cost of infighting is that the game stops, and if it stops for very long, the impact can be severe for every single one of us.
Because we have been so partisan, some of you reading this article will think, “Yeah, that’s right, those other guys need to stop doing what they are doing so we can get back to the game.” That kind of thinking gets us nowhere. As long as we believe that it’s up to the other guy to end the fight, the conflict will go on and be at great risk of intensifying.
There’s a popular saying, “Be the change you want to see.” If you want to see the infighting stop and get back down to business, then stop fighting. Stop accusing the other of being at fault. Stop blaming others for the problems in your life. And most importantly, stop voting for people that say they are going to fight.
There is an old Arab proverb: “I against my brother. I and my brother against my cousin. I, my brother, and my cousin
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against the world.” Each group is larger than the last, and each level assumes a tribal stance in which you are always fighting with someone. But if you embrace more people farther and farther out from yourself and your family, there are fewer people to fight with, until there is no one left to fight because all of humanity is your group.
It’s a big ask, but I believe we are at a time in our history when we need to rise above our individuality and work together. Enough fighting. Let’s get back to business. Let’s get back to the game.
Hal Masover is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor and a registered representative. His firm, Investment Insights, Inc is at 508 N 2nd Street, Suite 203, Fairfield, IA 52556. Securities offered through, Cambridge Investment Research, Inc, a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisor Representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Investment Insights, Inc & Cambridge are not affiliated. Comments and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org These are the opinions of Hal Masover and not necessarily those of Cambridge, are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed or acted upon as individualized investment advice. Investing involves risk. Depending on the types of investments, there may be varying degrees of risk. Investors should be prepared to bear loss, including total loss of principal. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
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