Ravenscroft Group | Mark Bousfield
06 Jan 20

There, there

Just ‘cause you feel it,
Doesn’t mean it’s there.
Radiohead, 2003.

As ever, dear reader, you have the advantage of me. By the time you read this, in a new year and a new decade, it is highly likely that momentous change will have come about in British politics – one way or another.

It seems that we have been on repeat for some time now; however, given that December’s election was called precisely in order to try to resolve Brexit (as, of course, was the last one!) I get the strong impression that the public has had enough and will cast its vote accordingly. Nevertheless, it will be what it will be.

Meanwhile, the world will continue to turn and the sun rise. I write this only because you would be forgiven for thinking that it might be otherwise if you were to spend too much time paying attention to the news! The polarisation of political opinion mirrors itself in the media and it is now quite difficult to get a balanced view of any issue without having to take account of the biases of the particular news outlet. It seems that modern journalists are much more akin to opinion-writers, meaning that careful cultivation of news feeds is essential if one is to avoid the echo chamber.

Now sadly, while I may be unable to forecast the outcome of the UK General Election or the Brexit negotiations, there are some things that I feel confident in stating.

Firstly, the world’s economic output will continue to grow. Of course, there may be more than one speedbump, and even the odd detour, on the road to progress, but the pace of human achievement is accelerating and will not be diverted by the well-intentioned, socio-political movements that seek to dial-back the exploitation of science, technology and knowledge. There will always be those who forecast doom – the Malthusian tendency that we now see in the likes of Extinction Rebellion and the Green New Deal – only to then be proven wrong by mankind’s endless ingenuity. I am not making light of what are very real concerns but simply pointing out that mankind’s innovation should be embraced as providing the solution as opposed to being the problem.

Secondly, the rising numbers of emerging middle-class consumers are unlikely to be flight-shamed, eco-shamed or otherwise guilted into foregoing the benefits of modern life simply because the already-rich first world has succumbed to social embarrassment over its decadent lifestyle. This is not to say that these newly-affluent individuals will not be more environmentally conscious than, say, a 1950s’ first-world citizen was – of course they will be, they are living in a different era – but China, India et al will not (and arguably, should not) put up with the “I’ve got mine, pull up the ladder” sanctimony of those who continue to enjoy the fruits of their wealth while denying them to those who follow. These strivers will be the engine of future global growth and therefore help to create the solution.

Finally, we are all going to be around much longer than many of us had planned – both a blessing and a potential curse. Technology now exists to keep us hale and hearty for far longer than the biblical three-score years and ten. Which means that we will be working longer, saving longer, retired longer and spending longer than lots of us ever anticipated. When this is added to a decreasing ratio of workers versus retirees, i.e. those taxpayers who fund our State-provided pensions, it follows that we will all need to take much more interest in our own financial futures. It is often said that youngsters should not rely on the old age pension being there, but I think it much better to think of it as not being able to rely on the State pension being such a large proportion of their retired income. Investing in one’s own future wellbeing is therefore vital.

Of course it is easy to fall prey to the siren voices of catastrophe. A little perspective is in order. Think back a hundred years. This early into the 20th century the world had already endured “the war to end all wars”, a conflict responsible for the death of perhaps 20 million people and the maiming of 20 million more. Nothing like that is even remotely conceivable in our time despite the best efforts of modern-day Cassandras. So, no matter what has transpired by the time you read this, there really is no there, there…

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