Losing a sense of perspective is easy when hit by a surprise crisis. On New Year’s Day 2020, no one would have anticipated that dietary habits springing from ‘wet markets’ in Wuhan, China would combine with a price war over oil to halt a charging bull market. Nevertheless, that is the situation in which we find ourselves.
The United States is an economic superpower with the most resilient economy in the world. It has consistently recovered and then expanded following stressful events, and we expect the same to happen here. As noted by Warren Buffett: “In the 20th century, the U.S. endured two world wars and other traumatic and expensive military conflicts; the Depression; a dozen or so recessions and financial panics; oil shocks; a flu epidemic; and the resignation of a president. Yet the Dow rose from 66 to 11,497.”
Likewise, thus far in the 21st century the U.S. has endured the bursting of the dot-com bubble; the terrorist attacks of September 11th; wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters; the 2007-2008 financial meltdown; the biggest Ponzi scheme in history; and the impeachment of a president. Yet the Dow rose from 11,497 to a high of almost 30,000 in February.
The answer lies in the American spirit. We’re different. We place a higher premium on personal freedom and individual liberty than other countries. For evidence of this, look to:
Our founding documents. The Declaration of Independence sets forth the twin principles on which our identity as Americans are based: natural rights (“certain unalienable Rights, that among those are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”) and limited government (“That to secure those rights, Governments are instituted among Men…). The Constitution and Bill of Rights, particularly the Tenth Amendment, make this clear.
Our economic system. The founders understood the relationship between freedom and economics. As Thomas Jefferson explained: “Agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and navigation, the four pillars of our prosperity, are the most thriving when left most free to individual enterprise.” Capitalism and the free market system reward good ideas and competitive spirit. They encourage individuals to flourish and reach their maximum potential. Freedom and liberty are the bedrocks of the system.
Our embrace of ‘voluntary community.’ America has a robust safety net wholly separate from government: Religious institutions, food banks, and non-profit corporations for every cause. These communities are powerful because we freely choose to join. When we say ‘We’re all in this together,’ we really mean it.
The United States will continue to be an economic superpower as the strongest nation in the world supported by capitalism, personal freedom and individual liberty. As we move through an uncertain time, it is critical to remember and remind others of our country’s special strengths. This is an opportunity to reflect and share the country’s successes and great stories. Consider how you can help move forward America, because this is the beginning of the next great chapter.
Natalie Dopson Schweers and Shannon Gentry Lanier work in the financial services industry. The views expressed herein are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent those of their employer. Both graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and believe it’s time for the country to put on its rally cap.