Market Overview

Doomsday Capitalism: Just Getting Started or Going Out of Style?


MarketWatch's Paul B. Farrell had an interesting article on Tuesday regarding a "doomsday capitalist's winning strategy". Farrell's commentary was quite ominous: "Plan now for 'a breakdown of the civilized infrastructure'." Citing a book from 2008 written by "hedge fund guru" Barton Biggs, Farrell suggested that consumers should seek to become self-sufficient and capable of growing their own food. One's own doomsday shelter should be "well-stocked with seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc. Think Swiss Family Robinson."

Farrell took the predicament a step further in that consumers should "[a]lso think about apocalyptic films like 'Mad Max' and 'The Day After Tomorrow.'" Aside from food, wine, clothing, and medicine, Farrell also suggested stocking "an arsenal of guns and ammo." As if such a scenario would be the ultimate end of human civilization, Farrell commented with confidence, "Yes, that's how the 'Final Days of Earth' look to the world's leading Doomsday Capitalist."

Farrell then took his discussion in a different direction by applying these doomsday concepts with ideas for a short-term trading strategy to "build a winning portfolio". Among the range of possible doomsday capitalist stock picks, in the context of no. 1 food, Farrell mentioned Syngenta (NYSE: SYT) and Monsanto (NYSE: MON). Farrell then continued on with respect to no. 2 farmland with funds like Ceres Partners and Chess Capital Partners and no. 3 forests with Kimberly-Clark (NYSE: KMB) and International Paper (NYSE: IP). Farrell went on to further discuss other various realms for successful doomsday stock picks in light of chemicals, energy, alternative energy (a separate category), water, solar energy, ozone layer, species diversity, a population growth bubble, and population lifestyle dreams.

In the end, Farrell boldly asked, "Did this analysis help you decide to become a more active Doomsday Capitalist and get richer ASAP? Or more convinced than ever that you need to increase your environmental activism?" Farrell continued, "Or, did it simply confirm your awareness that our civilization will end dramatically this century and there's not a darn thing you or anyone else can do about it..." Farrell concluded in suggesting that individuals may want to forget their stock portfolio and should start enjoying life today by playing hooky, taking the "family out to lunch, a movie, eat candy and popcorn."

Whereas Farrell's most recent article goes along with his recurring theme of doomsday capitalism, I nearly thought the article was a repeat. Well, going along with Farrell's recurring themes, I suppose one could argue that the article might as well have been a repeat. Even back in 2010, Farrell portended that "doomsday capitalism" was spreading like a virus, a global pandemic. Though Farrell's dire analysis of the future of the capitalist superstructure is quite foreboding, I seem to be missing the logical progression of how if human civilization is to collapse in the near future, then investing in the stock market is the proper course "to get richer" in the short-term. Farrell's commentary seems to suggest, "The sky is going to fall in the near future, so let's put some money into the stock market!" It doesn't take a specialist in business, finance, or economics to then want to ask, "Well, if human civilization is going to collapse, wouldn't investing in the stock market be towards the bottom of the list of things to prepare?" Which is it? We're either going to get rich or perish at the end of human civilization.

As I have written previously, there is no shortage of doomsday pessimists when it comes to the stock market and the global economy; to be fair, I have written my share of commentary on doomsday themes myself. Even so, we would do well to remember that there is no practical escape from this planet; we are traveling on this poetic "ship of fools" together whether we like it or not.

I wrote previously that every cloud (even economic ones) has a silver lining. As such, because my perspective on the ongoing global financial crisis has evolved and continues to evolve, "I choose to not be a pessimist -- or, at the very least, I try to be the most optimistic of the pessimists when it comes to the global economy." In this context, we have to recognize that the conatus of the human species is to perpetuate itself -- to produce and reproduce; that is the course of mankind's history. Whereas the forces of nature are more powerful than the forces of politics in the grand scheme of things, this concept of the human conatus should give us hope: a viable, lasting hope for the global economic system. As I previously explored, if the capitalist superstructure collapses, that does not necessarily mean the end of humanity. From a macro-historical perspective, other various economic superstructures have risen and fallen -- hunter-gatherer societies, ancient society, and feudalism, for example -- and through the course of superstructural change, humanity has persevered and prospered.

I recently discussed possible alternatives to capitalism. In light of Farrell's analysis, one may wonder: What comes after capitalism? According to Farrell's aforementioned June 2010 article, what comes after capitalism is none other than "doomsday capitalism". I interpret Farrell's commentary to suggest that a "Mad Max" or "Book of Eli" scenario is in our future. In comparison to Karl Marx's theories, Farrell seems to suggest that the superstructural epochs of socialism and communism can step aside: Per Farrell, doomsday capitalism is the next superstructural phase of human existence, to be followed by human extinction. Or is it that, with the fall of the capitalist superstructure, for those who love capitalism as an economic system, it's like the end of the world? I wonder if Ayn Rand, Friedrich Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises are rolling around in their graves.

In light of global developments, a skeptic of capitalist doomsday sayers may want to tell analysts like Farrell in the same spirit as Monty Python, "If doomsday capitalism is here, get on with it!" Aye, a watched pot never boils. As much as one might want to say that the idea of "doomsday capitalism" is going out of style as the global financial crisis progresses, it is significant to note that Farrell's most recent article was the no. 1 most popular article on MarketWatch yesterday. Thus, we will most likely see similar articles coming from Farrell and others in the future. That being the case, at the end of the day, life goes on.

Posted-In: Long Ideas Politics Psychology Topics Economics Media Personal Finance Trading Ideas Best of Benzinga


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