If you’ve been spending any time online or watching cable TV, you’ve gotten the message that humanity now faces two grave threats — a novel coronavirus and the crashing stock market — of roughly equal importance.
Yesterday CNBC’s Rick Santelli went further, staking out the position that stocks losing value is actually more terrifying than millions of deaths. “Maybe we’d be just better off if we gave it to everybody,” Santelli sagely explained. That way, lots of people would expire quickly, thereby removing the uncertainty that’s been plaguing investors.
It’s easy to criticize Santelli, but he was just taking the logic of America’s obsession with the stock market a few steps further than normal. For decades, whenever we’ve faced a choice between the reality of the human beings and little numbers on a screen, we’ve always gone with the little numbers.
This is something profound about our mental weather. A huge fraction of America’s mental energy, and definitely the Trump administration’s attention, are consumed by the stock market’s gyrations. This in itself has been debilitating for us, no matter the direction in which it’s gyrated.
Now the coronavirus may be about to teach us a harsh lesson in what this fixation has done to us. The glare of the stock market’s imaginary wealth has blinded us to what real wealth actually is.
To understand this, you have to look at some basic facts about what the stock market is, and what it isn’t.
Screaming About Stocks
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Courtney Love, lead singer for Hole and Kurt Cobain’s widow, announced that she was buying $200,000 worth of stock to support the United States. While her intentions were good, this was also completely pointless.
You can understand her mistake, though. To be alive in America is to be assaulted by endless high-decibel blather about the critical importance of the stock market. There are entire TV channels devoted to it, new highs are always celebrated on network news, it’s on the front page of newspapers, it’s on an app that comes preinstalled on your iPhone, and the president is constantly yelling at you about it.
[...]Leia o texto completo em The Intercept