Saturday, October 24, 2020

 Opportunity Magnets


     Why do people move? Generally people move for one of two reasons; they are either fleeing from something or moving toward something better. But what this really means is that people ultimately move because of an opportunity...the opportunity may simply be safety/security in its base form of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs or it may be an innate matrix including safety/security, economic options, religious freedom, constitutional rights and natural beauty, to name a few.

     The United States is unique in the disparity of rights, freedoms, and economic opportunity amongst its various states. The sociopolitical factors and demographics of each state are vastly different; consider only 5 states have direct access to the Pacific Ocean, 18 states have direct access to either the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, which means the majority states are landlocked. A handful of states produce the vast majority of grains, fruit, and nuts. Minerals abundant in some states are virtually absent from others. 

     In addition to their vast physical differences, states are increasingly different in the opportunities they offer their respective citizens. Some states have become proverbial magnets for new citizens. Others are losing citizens in droves. Why? It boils down to opportunity. People generally act in their own best self-interest, which isn't to say they act against someone else, but rather voting with their feet means they are pursuing what they think is the best opportunity for them and their family.

     I recently started an amazing book called Nomad Capitalist by Andrew Henderson. It has a simple premise: Go where you're treated best. As humans, we're wired from birth in a Darwinian way for fight or flight in the face of danger in our environment. Henderson argues that rather than trying to influence politicians or "make change" people are far better off moving, either physically or their assets, to where they are treated best. So whether it is better housing, safety for your family, better economic opportunities, asset protection, or a combination of these factors Henderson makes an excellent point about voting with your feet.

     The problem arises when citizens settle into a new area, or maintain their existing homestead, in their chosen state and that state experiences drastic political changes. Voting with your feet can be expensive in terms of moving cost, professional relationships, and access to medical, education, and housing for example. Usually these political changes do not happen overnight, but rather are a process of political creep.

     Ultimately over time many citizens who loved where they lived become political hostages to a state government they do not support, and more importantly, does not represent them; rather their tax dollars are funding projects, services, and politicians that do not represent their values or interests. But pay they must. True danger is when a supermajority is reached, in terms of total single-party control, and at that point citizens contribute to a state that operates for its own self-interest. In America today, we are already there in many states. The question arises, will citizens move to where they're treated best?




Tuesday, September 29, 2020

 Betting on Human Behavior


My ears perk up whenever I see or hear about changes in human behavior because experience has taught me whenever human behavior changes, and that change is sustained, a lot of dollars are behind it. There are many ways to make money in this world, and one of my favorites is to bet on human behavior.

Almost always, changes in human behavior are subtle at first, then big and obvious. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer described truth, an accurate corollary to human behavior, as passing through three stages: "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. To that end, I want to spot behavioral change early and act on it.

Big tech likes to capture large data across multiple clouds to run predictive analytics. Visualizing data in this context is important because it allows companies to find sustaining trends. Although their resources are virtually limitless, big tech still depends upon someone, doing something, to change some human behavior. It may be just a nudge to an existing behavior, or it could be something truly disruptive, but the litmus test is spotting a trend based on evidence of human behavior change.

Trendspotting changes in human behavior early is valuable because changing human behavior at scale is capital intensive. People don't just line up to pay $5 for a cup of coffee; that behavior was nudged to where it is today. A lot of marketing, brand creation, construction, and products coupled with decades of advertising needed to occur to make that human behavior change happen. Many attempts at behavior modification fail. Hence, usually by the time a change in human behavior is noticeable, the seed has taken root and is growing. These are the seeds big tech is looking for and the ones investors should be cognizant of as well. Lao Tzu said it well, "To see things in the seed, that is genius."

Human behavior is often a leading indicator of where the profits will flow, especially if a company succeeds in turning a commodity into a brand. What do consumers ask for? Carmel-colored cola? Athletic sports shoes? Electric-powered cars? A video conference call? No. Consumers ask for the brands. Branding typically results from repeated nudges from marketing or praise from fellow consumers who have tried the brand. From there, if successful, human behavior grows tap roots and the brand becomes sustainable. Investors can reap significant gains in owning companies with high margin/high volume products and services typified by strong brands. There is, however, a sly danger to this success.

Danger arises when the human behavior changed becomes so successful that the brand reverts back to a commodity. Success breeds copycats. A niche without moats, such as superior technology or intense consumer loyalty, is usually exploited by competitors. Rarely have I seen a consumer ask for a branded gasoline or a branded wireless carrier for example, at some point a highly successful product or service reverts back to commodity status unless it innovates by changing human behavior and renewing the innovation cycle.

We're at that very crossroads today. With multiple crises engulfing our society, a whole new wave of companies are being formed as you read this blog and many will be coming to the market soon, if not hitting the tape already. Human ingenuity is a powerful force, the desire to survive is strong, and unleashing animal spirits creates opportunity. One change in human behavior that has caught my attention is in sports.

The reopening of sports leagues across the country has temporarily satiated the hunger for the proverbial "Bread & Circus" that runs deep in our collective psyche. Competitive physical human sports have been with us from the dawn of time. But along with the reopening of sports something else has occurred, or I should say reemerged, and it is a powerful, instinctive, human behavior.

The way many viewers increasingly enjoy sporting events now is directly tied to wagering on them, legally. Sports betting now has the umbrella support of the 2018 PASPA ruling, which changed everything. PASPA legalized sports betting at the federal level, and states like New Jersey jumped on the bandwagon early. Residents in these early-adopter states didn't waste time either; they've unleashed a proverbial tsunami of bets.

Sports betting has arisen as probably one of the most exciting new economic sectors in recent memory. The initial revenue numbers are staggering. Hungry for tax revenue, states are trying to pass legislation as fast as the quill can write. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports wagering since the 2018 ruling.

As expected with a behavioral change at scale, there are all types of derivative jobs arising from this new (legal) sector. From payment processors to software developers to accountants, the potential spectrum of new jobs created is vast. New sectors typically have long runways and spawn secondary and often tertiary industries. All of this is a result of human behavior change. 

Prior to the PASPA ruling, sports betting was obviously still happening. But legal sports betting was primarily restricted to Nevada, and wagers had to be placed in person at a casino's respective sportsbook. Bettor's were issued a physical ticket. A confluence of events coupled with technology has radically changed the dynamics of betting in the pandemic stricken post-PASPA world; now every living room is a potential sportsbook. 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

How to Invest


It is important to understand the fundamentals of investing if one is going to commit hard-earned money to the investment process. Like any worthwhile endeavor, it is helpful to first ask questions. One of the most important questions to ask is "Why?" Why are you investing? What are your goals? Are you willing to learn the investment process?

Before reading any further, get out a piece of paper and write down answers to these questions. Consider this a contract with yourself listing your reasons for investing, your goals, and your commitment to the investment process. This "Investment Contract" is a living, breathing document that can be amended and improved over time. Carry it with you in your wallet or purse. With your Investment Contract in hand, let's begin.

Typically an investor buys something (real estate, stocks, gold) with the anticipation of it going up in value over time. Some of the most successful investors in the world, however, consider investments in terms of cash flow. This means they classify investments as assets; an asset being in the strictest definition of the word something that pays YOU to own IT. I will focus this post on the asset class of stocks because they are my speciality. Although there are multiple other asset classes in this world, stocks are what I live and breath, so I feel comfortable discussing them in depth and at length as an asset class.

What is a stock? I consider a stock to be a small, almost infinitesimal or atomic-level, ownership of a company. A stock is a piece of corporate DNA. What this means is that those shares you own represent not only fractional corporate cash flow, but also its management, brand, locations, industry, and employees. And they ALL matter.

As we're experiencing right now with the coronavirus pandemic, owning a single stock in a portfolio can be very dangerous (airlines, hotels, casinos, etc.) or lucrative (video conferencing, supply chain, logistics, etc.) Most investors, and mathematicians, support the belief that owning a basket of stocks helps to reduce the risk associated with owning a single stock. Traditionally this has been pitched as owning an index or mutual fund or fund of funds with hundreds, if not thousands, of positions. This approach championed by the index fund companies seeks to "own the haystack and you'll also own the needle." Basically, own everything and something will work.

Historically, passive investing has proven to work. Passive investing works primarily because over time the stock market has risen in lockstep with inflation. Also, if you buy everything something usually does work. That would qualify as the growth component of passive investing. Indexes drop the losers and keep the winners in a Darwinian rebalancing. It has several advantages: you can buy stocks in bulk and on the cheap. For many people this is an easy solution. For other people they prefer to actively choose what companies they own. I am of the latter persuasion.

Active management builds custom portfolios. I prefer this approach because I want to know the companies I own, I don't want to own the entire haystack. I prefer to concentrate my firepower (cash) into a handful of viable ideas. Building your own portfolio offers several advantages. Transparency: You know exactly what holdings are in your portfolio. Liquidity: You can typically sell without a minimum holding period. Cost: Most firms have eliminated trading costs or they're negligible. With that said, what do I look for when building a portfolio?

My investment philosophy is biased towards profitable companies, ie I typically only buy companies (stock) that are profitable. It is difficult for a company to pay a dividend or buy back their own stock if they aren't profitable; both of those factors are key tenants for me. There are very few exceptions to this rule. In the quest to find explosive growth, however, this rule is often violated.

A key question investors should ask themselves is: "Am I buying an asset (cash flow positive) or am I paying to help raise money?" Many IPOs fall into the second category. With few exceptions, a company without a plan to profitability doesn't survive. That's not to say founders or insiders in these companies can't become fabulously rich, they can. It's just that they sold their shares to the public to extract their wealth. Know what type of company you're buying.

There are five primary traits I look for when purchasing a company: Do I trust the brand? Does it pay a dividend? What type of sales profile does it have? What does the chart look like? Finally, what type of management is in place? In an ideal situation all five of these factors align; a well-trusted brand that pays a dividend with a high margin/high volume sales cycle having an increasingly higher left to right chart with strong management in place is a dream scenario. A successful combination of these variables lead to the formation of a shopping list. Although many companies may make the cut, the timing might not be right....and as they say, timing is everything. 

There are many adages as when to buy a stock. We're often told "it's a matter of time in the market, rather than timing the market," or "the stock market is perfectly efficient," or "long-term investors don't time the market." To some extent all of these sayings are true, but as an investor that has seen multiple Bull Markets and multiple Bear Markets, I can say with absolute certainty that long-term gains (ie time in the market) can be wiped out in weeks, if not days. The stock market is definitely not perfectly efficient; otherwise there would be no volatility, there would simply be a perfectly smooth line. And finally, anyone who has bought before a crash will tell you, holding through a Bear Market is psychologically almost impossible. Couple all these factors with the truth that as you live you will need money for cash flow, very few, if any, people can start investing in their teens and hold until their 60s or 70s. I say again, very few people can simply buy and hold indefinitely. The vast majority of investors, therefore, need some element of timing in their portfolios.

Realistically you have several decades to actively build a base of investments; once again the spectrum is wide in terms of choices. Real estate, stocks, commodities, etc. should ALL be part of your master portfolio. From the stock market perspective in which I operate, however, I can tell you that concentrated portfolios can be wiped out in weeks, sometimes days, and we encounter catastrophic events like these "one-in-a-million" scenarios every 8-12 years. This is why it is essential to build gradually, have multiple irons in the fire, and be prepared. One catastrophic loss should NOT derail your entire future. The Rothschild's proverb was "buy when there is blood in the streets." That is a good one to keep in mind. Warren Buffet famously remarked it is prudent to be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful. 

Buying at a dip's nadir is almost impossible because it is a finite moment in time, but buying in a lull is quite possible. I refer to these buyers as "mountain men." Mountain men come down from the mountains during times of crisis, pick up assets on the cheap, and then disappear for a decade until the next crisis. Cheap assets offer a buffer of safety, ie the premium has evaporated due to fear. Many businesses can be had for significant discounts at the right time, usually chaos. This happens often enough as to make the strategy viable. Historically the only assets worth having are gold and cash in the height of a correction. Everything else sells off hard. This is why having a "shopping list" on hand is always a good idea; know what you'd like to buy and at what price.

This leads to one of the more controversial theories I have regarding purchasing stocks; simply put, you shouldn't buy out of habit, but rather by feeling the price is right. Only you know what that is, but "correct" pricing is typically associated with a feeling, and that feeling is nausea/fear...if you feel nauseous buying because there is so much fear in the market most premiums have evaporated. If that isn't possible, consider the default approach of dollar cost averaging a basket of stocks. Although not ideal, it has worked over the long-term for many investors. The danger to long-term investors, however, is always the market cycle.

For those who haven't experienced a Bear Market, where every day is worse than the previous, the concept of a market cycle might be meaningless. Retiring into a Bear Market, however, is brutal. Forced selling into a Bear Market is brutal. Looking for work in a Bear Market is brutal. Bear Markets are good primarily for Mountain Men, for most other investors it is a horrible experience. Many sell and and never return...once mauled, twice shy. What is an investor to do? A lot depends on your risk tolerance, time horizon, and investment goals.

If you have a high risk tolerance, where suffering a loss to your net worth of 50%+ within a month doesn't faze you, I don't believe you. For most investors, the percentage loss to a portfolio to cause panic is actually relatively small; somewhere around 5-10% elicits immediate concern. For those who haven't experienced an economic collapse, a 20% loss seems apocalyptic. Keep in mind though, fewer than 50% of all small businesses survive 5 years. So from a stock market investor standpoint, a 5%, 10%, even 20% drop isn't irrecoverable. The problem with selling is that typically once sold, the cash flow ends.  This leads me to my final point. Time.

Time is the most valuable commodity. If something looks like a bear, walks like a bear, then it probably is a Bear Market. In answering the market cycle/timing postulation, an investor needs to be able to sleep at night. Being dead is bad for business. Time fixes most long-term problems in the stock market and your portfolio, but there are interludes, however, that are so volatile that many investors are shaken out permanently. Permanence is a long time. A way to avoid this is to buy a basket of quality, diverse, cash-flowing businesses over time. Have ample cash on hand (preferably with a healthy slug of gold too), and avoid leverage. These strategies can increase your resilience to selling, and increase your propensity to BUY in times of distress. When to sell? Holding periods should be thought of in decades, if not generations. Take a dynastic view of your gold dragon egg.

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Nation State of California



Governor Gavin Newsom accurately referred to California as a Nation State this week in a news conference. What is a Nation State? A bordered geography whose economic and political powers are so great as to make it equivalent to its own sovereign nation. Cue the statistics.

California is the most populous state with over 40,000,000 residents. It is vast; California's 160,000+ square miles make it the 3rd largest state. The California economy? Well with a Gross State Product of over $3 Trillion it is considered the largest NON-national economy in the world. To put that figure in perspective, The Nation State of California's economy is larger than the United Kingdom, France, or even India. But perhaps its greatest (or worst, depending on who you ask) asset is its culture.

That culture has spawned multiple, diverse industries concentrated in several major hubs, while also leveraging abundant natural resources. As a trendsetter, California amplifies both the best and worst extremes. What is rarely mentioned, however, in the formation of this Nation State utopia is the wealth and income inequality. 

How California got to be California is in large part due to the discovery of gold in 1849 which literally acted as a magnet drawing people from all over the world; in fact at the time it was easier to travel from China, Australia, or South America than it was from the then-distant East Coast. The hard scrabble life of a 49er helped create the first economic boom which resulted in California's statehood just a year later. It could be argued California never stopped drawing people from all over the world to throw their lot in and make a better life.

By definition a gamble is taking a chance, and with that very few will reach the higher echelons of wealth (power), while many will fail or succeed only enough to subsist. Over time, a generous social net has emerged as well as increasingly numerous regulations; the former provides a minimum level of survival, the later prevents small successes from becoming large successes as regulation is the friend of monopolies. How can a Nation State survive this dichotomy?

It has been said that all wealth derives from the land. Sometimes it is hard to see this when software companies make billions, while farmers are lucky to harvest peanuts. But the Nation State of California as well as the rest of the United States is built, both figuratively and literally, on the land.

A land of rights and opportunities should offer citizens equal access to the possibility of success without favoritism. It will be increasingly difficult to succeed in this Nation State for future generations when opportunity is locked up by either government via regulations or aristocratic wealth; the success of our Nation State depends on incentivizing small businesses, repatriating manufacturing, and investing heavily into intellectual capital. These investments will provide the infrastructure for future success. Invest like a farmer.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Where is Bill Gates?



Although I enjoy a TED Talk just as much as the next guy, it really makes you wonder if it is the best use of your time if you're the head of a multi-billion dollar charitable health foundation in the midst of a global pandemic. Rather than fielding questions as to what you'd do if you were President of the United States, perhaps it would be better to go through an action plan of what the Gates Foundation is proactively doing to help fight the coronavirus. Where is Bill Gates?

As the beneficiary of hundreds of millions of dollars in both Federal and State tax exemptions, the Gates Foundation holds a special place in global philanthropy. For the liberal elite, it is an invitation-only pass into the highest echelons of philanthropy. But the hairs on the back of your neck should tingle when you hear the words "philanthropy," especially when it coincides with massive tax breaks that would otherwise be funneling much needed funds into a government that is actually fighting the coronavirus with surges in public/private manufacturing of N95 masks and ventilators, an unrelenting pursuit of vaccines amongst big pharma, and most importantly, the frontline heroes (nurses, caregivers, EMTs, firefighter, doctors, etc.) who are completely overwhelmed. Where is Bill Gates?

Philanthropy, and foundations in particular, are touchy subjects. At face value, they are supposed to be the engines of direct, unbureaucratic good. And many, many are just that...they have minuscule operating budgets, shoestring infrastructure, and provide a world of good for many. To those, God bless you! My concerns, however, arise when an institution by its very mandate, say helping to alleviate global pandemics, does nothing when its very reason for relevance appears on the global stage. Then it is only morally right to ask questions. Where is Bill Gates?

A higher power lens needs to focus on the billions of dollars pledged and committed to private foundations when operating expenses run into the hundreds of millions, corporate infrastructure is grandiose, and financial control of donated assets remains intact to the donor(s). As taxpayers on the hook for capital gains and income taxes, we all should wonder why the U.S. Treasury isn't the first choice for billionaire philanthropists...especially when foundation mandates are ignored in the face of calamity. Something is seriously wrong when citizens of this great country are deprived of the economic and social benefits of hundreds of billions in sheltered assets. Where is Bill Gates?

When the last vestiges of the coronavirus are ultimately mopped up throughout the world, including the inevitable secondary and tertiary waves, we're going to need a "Marshall Plan" of restoration. Similar to post-9/11, there will be societal changes. The economy itself will shift, and survive. A reckoning needs to occur right quick, however, answering the question of why those with so much did so little. COVID-19 is going to leave generational scars on this country, especially in terms of income and wealth inequality. The salve, echoed by Truman and Reagan alike, was the philosophy Gen George C. Marshall coined with the comment: "There is no limit to the good you can do when you don't care who gets the credit." It's time to strip mega foundations of their tax-exempt status and restore accountability to the taxpayer. Where is Bill Gates? Who cares.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Climbing a Wall of Worry


It has often been said that stocks climb a wall of worry. Coronavirus is going to put this maxim to the ultimate test in the weeks, months, and years ahead as investors digest news cycles that seem to circulate in discrete 15-minute increments of despair, hope, jubilation, and despair again.

Coronavirus appears to be the most challenging wall of worry for bullish investors to climb in at least a generation. What to do? Like any good coach will tell you, having a playbook is essential. In terms of relevant coronavirus playbooks, I am a big fan of Laura Spinney's "Pale Rider" which describes the course of the Spanish Flu.

As previously mentioned on this very blog several weeks ago, COVID-19 closely resembles the spread of Spanish Flu from 100 years ago. Although not identical, both diseases share eerily similar traits. More importantly, in my humble opinion, is what we can glean from a societal impact and recovery timeline as useful takeaways.

Given the exponential growth rate of infections throughout the globe, and the denial still present in many countries (Mexico/Sweden) that the "Pale Rider" is coming, I think there is the distinct possibility it could be much worse. Ignorance may be bliss, but denial is not a good strategy. I also believe there are vast societal changes coming our way along the scale of 9/11. You know a crisis is real if it affects behavior. This one will.

Prior to 9/11 airport security was present, but for all intents it was simply a quick screening...i.e. gun/no gun. After the Twin Towers fell, the world as we knew it fundamentally changed in terms of security protocols. I suspect something similar will happen in regards to coronavirus. This brings us to the proverbial "wall of worry" that stocks need to climb in order to regain their highs. What will lead to an economic recovery?

I think a two-pronged solution is in order to beat the coronavirus. First, we need to flatten the curve nationwide immediately. Although roundly criticized, Bill Ackman's interview on CNBC last week (18 March 20) was spot on; much of what he said came to fruition rapidly, several of his ideas still need to be implemented. His thesis: The coronavirus cannot live (long) without a host. If you want to flatten the curve, shut down the USA for a month.

The second prong, which needs to be worked concurrently, is to laser-focus on restoring positive cash flow on a national level; from large companies to small business, cash flow is essential to survival. There are undoubtedly certain industries which are going to take longer than others to recover, especially customer-facing ones which have significant exposure to geographic movement and human sanitation. Via paradigm shifts in behavior and societal norms, however,  many industries can be up and running within weeks. Success in flattening the curve and an economic "jumpstart," however, both rely on a key factor: Trust.

One of the first questions many portfolio managers are asking is: "What will survive?" From there a lot of speculation ensues as to: "Who has the best balance sheet" or "Who stands to gain market share?" But ultimately all that matters is: "What brands do I trust?" That's the lynchpin to the entire economy. Trust. Trust is going to result in sales which will result in cash flow which underpins survival. Trust is essential.

The founder of Salesforce, Marc Benioff famously remarked last year that "trust" has become the coin of the realm, commenting that "Trust has to be the highest value in your company." I echo this philosophy, and also believe that is exactly what will help investors climb the wall of worry ahead. Logistics, supply chains, manufacturing, safety, sanitation, all of them and more, are completely dependent upon trust.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Every Day is Prime Day Now


As Coronavirus shuts down most of the United States, Amazon's vertical integration with retail sales, Whole Foods, streaming video, AWS, and logistics has effectively made EVERY day Prime Day now.

What was once a yearly event to find any, and all, the products that you needed at special prices with fast shipping and backed by a brand you can trust, has become the de facto method of survival for thousands of households in America. Every day is now Prime Day.

Jeff Bezos left the hedge fund D. E. Shaw & Co. in 1994 to start Amazon as an online bookstore, three years later it went public. Over the next 25 years Amazon aggressively moved into retail sales, grocery sales, streaming video, internet infrastructure, and logistics. These "five pillars" have now formed the backbone of one of the most valuable, and essential, companies in history.

The coronavirus spread has laid bare the value of vertical integration in terms of a stable supply chain that can be accessed at any time, anywhere. Through thousands of incremental improvements over the past 25 years Amazon has harnessed the "new" technology of the internet to leverage the customer experience. 

As its namesake implies, virtually anything can be purchased on Amazon now including vital food and beverage supplies online while Whole Foods adds a large physical footprint across the country. Not only can consumers purchase needed physical goods and supplies, Amazon also offers arguably the best video streaming platform. Prime Video allows viewers to select from thousands of educational to entertainment videos which are included in its membership, but also the ability to purchase or rent virtually any digital product ever produced. Finally, for those working from home AWS offers a compelling platform to build a business and work. Tying all of this together is one of the best logistics systems in the world. 

Amazon's laser focus on being customer-centric has allowed it to leapfrog the competition in multiple industries, grabbing market share from staid businesses and transforming the retail landscape. Along the way it has built tremendous trust with the consumer allowing it to dovetail into seemingly disparate business lines like streaming video, food, and logistics which in hindsight all helped to cement the consumer experience into one where every day is now Prime Day.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Bioterrorism



The Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) will go down as one of the most effective acts of bioterrorism in history. If you want to destroy global capitalism and democracy, viruses are the ultimate Trojan Horse. Viruses destroy the very fabric of an open society by concentrating power in the hands of a few to make vast economic, societal, and political decisions without a single vote. Basic freedoms, like movement, are restricted.

Viruses are especially dangerous in countries that value human life highly because those countries are willing devote almost limitless resources to testing, treating, and caring for all segments of their society, especially the most vulnerable. If you want to take down a democratic society, a viral pandemic is an extremely effective agent to accomplish that goal.

Whether accidental or strategic, the results of the WuFlu have been dramatic; from an economic and social impact its devastation is global in scale on par with a World War. The story of "the Wuhan," however, starts not in November or December of 2019, but rather several decades before, when the seeds of destruction were first sown with something so seemingly benign as counterfeit goods.

The New York Times has an excellent article entitled "The Chinese Roots of Italy's Far-Right Rage" that helps frame the current disaster in terms of product theft, industry destruction, and ultimately killing of the former residents. In summary, the article details the initial theft of hundreds of Italian textile brands (linen, shoes, clothing, etc.) by visiting "tourists" who took pictures of all the products and factories while in Milan, then subsequently began making identical copies in the 1980s. The result was a flooding in the market of counterfeit goods. These goods led to the destruction of the industry because the Italian factories had a higher cost of goods for raw materials and labor; the authentic Italian goods, however, couldn't survive against their inferior clones despite the value difference in quality. 

In the decades that followed, Italian factories were systematically purchased by Chinese Nationals who brought over their own family and friends thus displacing generations of Italian families. While the New York Times story was written specifically about the Italian fashion industry, it applies generally to nearly every industry in every country with particular emphasis on manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. If there was a branded successful product, the strategy over the past 40 years has been to clone it, sell it, and capture the industry. In recent years this has been prevalent noticeably in software platforms.

Over the past 40 years global manufacturing has largely moved offshore. Coronavirus is simply the icing on the cake; not only have the products, jobs, and industry been destroyed, but the very residents of those areas are now being killed. The coronavirus pandemic is the final indication of what has happened to democratic Western Society since globalism has pushed industry to embrace "free trade" agreements like NAFTA...cheap goods and executive comp were the costs of losing a nation's self-reliance.

In times of crisis, allies evaporate, borders close, and citizens are left wondering why a country isn't self-sufficient. Fear, panic, and hate are not going to be the answers in the weeks and months ahead that will make this country stronger. Rather, it will be the collective awakening of our society, especially amongst GenX, of the need to seek greater political power and rapidly ween the United States off of dependence on foreign manufacturing; we have an abundance of God-given resources in this country capable of making the USA self-sustainable. A "New New Deal" should be a sustainability movement laser-focused on repatriation of industry. "Made in the USA" means a lot.