The Inevitability of Crisis

Sean Pinch Associate Investment Analyst |

To preface, I am generally positive when considering the world. We have come a long way in a short time. Despite the negative news cycles, we, the global population, are much better off than we were even a couple of decades ago. It is easy to be pessimistic in our current world, but becoming better informed makes it easier to understand that we are constantly progressing, even given our struggles. In fact, we often progress because of our struggles. A global crisis is not the end; it is a time to learn valuable lessons and attempt to improve our planet.

As is always the case, the next global crisis is on the horizon. It is fluid; every day changes the likelihood, prolonging the wait, upping the ante, or moving us closer to the next catastrophe. I believe we are often quick to label catastrophes as global crises without regard for what a truly global crisis is, global. That does not mean that there is just protest, mourning, and rallying of support across the world, but that there is a more profound and objective impact. The recent pandemic, both world wars, the Great Recession, and the Spanish flu are all examples of global crises. A global crisis is indiscriminate.

While we still feel the impacts of the latest global crisis, it is already time to consider the next. In the time since the pandemic, countries around the world have been fighting for price stability and political stability, Russia has invaded Ukraine, amounting to much of the world choosing sides and providing relevant aid, radical groups have gained traction within multiple countries of Africa, and now there is war in the Middle East. Despite the tragedy involved in all these crises, they cannot be considered truly global, at least beyond the pain that is felt worldwide. That is not to say that these tragedies have not had widespread impact and have not caused distress to individuals and groups of people. Rather, it is simply that while, for example, there may be war in Ukraine, there is not in most countries worldwide.

As a side note, war itself could be considered a global crisis as there are more active conflicts now than at any one point since 1945. A few more broad global crises exist, but I am focused on specific examples.

In the United States, the government being on the verge of a shutdown is a constant, the debt is spiraling out of control, and there is dysfunction in Congress. Many have been waiting for a recession that has been billed as the most anticipated recession in history while markets seem unwilling to respond to the impending struggles. I believe that, along with high household wealth, this has to do with the idea that even if things take a turn for the worse, we will, with exceptions, come out on the other side, as has happened rather consistently in the United States for decades. That was a different world though, one without the vast networks of communication and constant access to data we now have and without decades of building new enemies that want to knock the United States down a few notches in the world order. That was before the transition into a multi-polar world had much in the way of legs.

As of yet, high household wealth has propelled spending and kept the US afloat. However, with costs continuing to rise and the growth of household wealth slowing, certainly relative to the record growth between 2019 and 2022, US households may not be able to last that much longer. Financial health is on the decline, driven by spending on necessities, not luxuries. It is a similar story elsewhere in the world where the cost-of-living crisis has had more profound impacts, but the people have remained resilient.

Whether there will be a single trigger or an amalgamation of events that causes the next global crisis, it will come. It could be next year, when a potential regional war in the Middle East, worldwide political and price instability, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and disagreements over Taiwan, among other issues, could wreak havoc in most corners of the world. It could be 2025, or it could be decades away if the world can navigate through the current chaos and whatever obstacles may enter the fray in the future. The only thing that is certain is that we are all human, and eventually that will lead to another global crisis.

All we can do is treat every human with the dignity they deserve, and we will all be better prepared for what awaits.

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