Sovereign X

Guns, Drugs, and the Left Behind

Key Points

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Jack Cranston, Writing From: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

CNN reports that the recent deadly shooting in a FedEx facility is the 45th mass shooting in the United States in just the last month. The Commonwealth Fund recently released a report that the final total of deaths in 2020 by overdose in the U.S. could be some 30% higher than the previous record year of 2019. And U.S. News & World Report reports that cases of diseases of despair are “skyrocketing” in the U.S. These events are alarming, but I am also profoundly disturbed at the lack of attention paid to the root causes of these tragedies.

If you scan articles on these disasters, you will quickly find a common theme. Almost immediately after citing the alarming statistics, the writer will address what should be done about the particular crisis. Stories and opinion pieces on mass shootings will immediately shift focus to the gun problem in America. Stories on increasing drug overdoses will immediately shift to expanding budgets for programs to fight drug addiction.

While I support efforts to help addicts fight drug addiction, and while it makes no sense that a disturbed teenager can easily obtain an automatic weapon and ammunition, knee-jerk proposals aimed at fixing the problem are like putting analgesic cream and a band-aid on a cancerous tumor. And the systemic cause of these problems is arguably America’s most dangerous cancer, yet few people engage in critical conversations about this.

While not producing an all-inclusive list of root causes, I can quickly identify a common theme: the perpetrators and victims are those who feel left out, or left behind, or let down by society. All of these people have explicitly and implicitly been sold on the so-called “American Dream.”  They, however, eventually come to understand that reality falls far short of the painfully false promise.

While on the one hand, it seems baffling that more attention is not paid to the root causes of these problems, on the other hand, it makes perfect sense. To focus sharply on systemic change requires a self-examination that will reveal ugly truths and explode the myths of American exceptionalism. It’s a dark place where people are unwilling or psychologically unable to go.

It’s a lot easier to stick your head in the sand.

Two of the main drivers of feeling left behind are social media and Federal Reserve monetary policy. The Fed is on record as trying to engender a “wealth effect.”

Ever since the Great Recession of 2008—2009, the Fed has been trying to boost U.S. consumption. The academic solution from the New Keynesian school for what ails us economically is to increase demand.

So the Fed brain trust wants to inflate asset values (think stocks and real estate) so that people “feel” wealthier and increase consumer spending. (Note: I always thought the way to financial prosperity was to earn more, save more, and spend less, not to spend more. But, alas, they didn’t ask me.)

Our government creates the wealth effect through programs with names like “Quantitative Easing” or actions labeled as “Asset Purchases.” This, however, is simply good old-fashioned money printing—a disastrous policy that enables the rich to get richer at the expense of those left behind. It exacerbates the wealth and income gap. The millions of left-behind Americans don’t own any stocks, nor do they own their own homes. They’re struggling with how to pay for their next meal or tank of gas, not with whether they should buy shares in Coinbase’s initial public stock offering.

This growing gap leaves the left behind even further behind.

These are literally millions of people who feel like they were sold a bill of goods when raised on the propaganda of the American Dream. They end up in a personal debt crisis when they try to keep up with their consumerist neighbors. And they fall prey to nationalist authoritarians who sell them another bill of goods—to magically make things great for them again—and fall prey to purveyors of nefarious conspiracy theories.

Social media further exacerbates the left behind problem. Lifestyle influencers and TikTok stars who lead fabulous lives (or at least the perception that is created on camera) make those who are not rich enough or attractive enough or sufficiently well-dressed feel inadequate. It makes them feel like losers.

Enter vicious cycle.

This has been a problem with American media and advertising for decades, but it has devolved in the era of the Gods of Social Media. When I grew up, it was common for teenagers to say nasty things behind others’ backs. It’s now no-holds-barred vicious attacks by text, instant messaging, and social media platforms, driving those already feeling inadequate into deeper holes of despair.

Switching back to the Fed, another reason for the lack of focus on the monetary root cause is that it is not a simple problem that can be summed up in a pithy sound bite. Albert Einstein’s excellent quote is apropos: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” The monetary explanation can be simplified to an extent, but apparently, not simple enough for most people to fathom.

Another reason for inadequately examining the monetary problem: focusing on monetary policy reform to minimize wealth and income gaps is antithetical to politicians. Those on the left hate guns but they love government deficit spending. And nowadays, politicians on the right seem to have embraced deficit spending just as avidly as their left-leaning brethren.

Increasing incidences of mass shootings and skyrocketing cases of diseases of despair are signs of a mighty empire on the decline. You can choose to get out of the line of fire—both figuratively and literally—and internationalize your life.

Instead of developing a Plan B to avoid the negative, you can develop a new Plan A to amplify the positive.

One of my partners has established a new home base in a country with a healthy democracy and strong support for civil rights. The climate and people are pleasant. There’s much less disparity between the haves and the have-nots. It is a resilient nation more likely to survive climate change and economic crises. And when not at home, he can spend time in areas that allow him to cherry-pick the best that the world has to offer.

Sovereign X stands ready to help you discover how you, too, can shed the strictures of a false narrative and learn how to live, work, and invest on your terms.

Jack Cranston is a partner of Sovereign X and resides in San Miguel de Allende.

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