Saturday, August 13, 2011

Charles Hugh Smith: Of Two Minds, Neither Thinking Very Clearly

Today's offering from CHS asks the question: If the Market Crashes, Who Owns Enough Stock to Even Care?  

He answers the question "basically nobody."  Why?

Since 81% of all stocks are owned by the top 10%, a stock market crash has little effect on the bottom 90% of Americans.
But this was just as true when the stock market crashed in 1929, and yet it led to the Great Depression, which affected the bottom 90% of Americans more than anybody else.

Wait.  There's more:

If the market crashes, high-end retailers and restaurants would likely see sales fall significantly. While there would be consequences, we should be careful not to overstate the stock market's role in the nation's Main Street economy.
Again, this was true in 1929. 

A final insight from Mr. Smith:

One last point: those who exited the stock market won't care if it crashes because they opted out of playing the risky game altogether.
On the one hand, CHS is literally correct in that there is no direct or immediate effect of a stock market crash on the vast majority of the populace.  On the much larger and far more practical hand, a stock market crash will cause the owners of wealth who were "invested" in the stock market to undertake actions that will be shockingly deleterious to everybody else.  When, as a society, we allow debt-leveraged financial speculation, there is no way to "opt out of playing the risky game altogether."  To believe otherwise is depressingly naive.