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“A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for.”
— Grace Hopper
“Please, fasten your seatbelts,” the flight attendant said pleasantly enough. “We’ll be starting our initial descent to Indianapolis airport.”
Trouble is, we weren’t meant to be landing in Indy.
It was mildly annoying enough that there wasn’t a direct flight from Baltimore to Memphis. The plane was meant to land at Midway Airport in Chicago where I’d transfer to Memphis and join friends and colleagues at Mark Skousen’s FreedomFest 2023 “The Soul of Liberty” extravaganza.
Bad weather in Chicago changed our flight plans. And I’ll say, during some 30-odd years of flying, both long and short hop, it was the first time I’ve been on a plane that had to clear the runway below to get gas.
What happens over the next 72 hours is a lesson, not just in air travel, but the travails of trying to forecast anything: the weather, flight times and arrivals… economic recessions, stock prices, political movements… the taste of a new sauvignon blanc.
The flight I was on stayed on the ground for an hour and a half in Indianapolis. The pilot assured us we were only waiting in line for gas, like the ‘73 oil embargo pictures we see in history books, but this time it was the plane in which I was on, half asleep in row 3.
Of course, I missed my connecting flight.
We made it to Midway just in time for the airport to get shut down. Tornadoes were reported touching down in the area, one just a mile away. The airport went on and off lockdown for 10 hours. My rescheduled flight didn’t leave until 1 am the next day. I arrived at my hotel in Memphis at 4 am.
As a crow flies, Baltimore to Memphis is two hours in a headwind. It took me the lion’s share of 24.
There’s a distinct benefit to this kind of suspension in time.
I read through 33 pages of a Marc Faber, Gloom Boom Doom Report (GBD), I’d been holding on to. If you know Marc, he’s brilliant – but like a good forehand in tennis, you have to take your time with it.
July’s GBD topic is the origin of the “Woke” movement, how its attributes are eerily similar to Marxist revolutions across Europe and Asia through the past two centuries, and how the tenets marking the movement now are deeply rooted in modern American academia.
And why not? It’s fun reading while the public announcement system (PA) in the terminal is frantically warning curious onlookers and parents with small children to get away from the windows and evacuate to the center part of the airport.
Some parents even reacted. From where I sat, a woman cried as she ran with her children. A decent amount of otherwise passive travelers heeded the PA warning and walked briskly toward the people movers, checking their bags or personal belongings. A minority sat where they were, watched… and sipped their beverage of choice.
After reading another longish investigative report on the rise and fall of Sam Bankman-Fried’s doomed crypto platform, FTX, I stretched my legs a little, and chose another seat. There, I believe I cleared several hundred emails I’d flagged since January or so.
After that, mind bleary, there wasn’t much to do but watch people react to public stimulus from their phones and the television monitors in the terminal.
The closest tornado touched down about a mile south of the airport… or so we were being told.
All was quiet in the terminal after that, as if nothing had happened at all. Of course, there was the oft-frustrated father, seizing his chance to be a hero to his family, yelling at a ticket agent as if the tornadoes were summoned by wizards in the back rooms of the ticket office.
“How strange,” I thought simply. “We’re all reacting to imperfect information.”
If you’re a pilot on a plane, you look at your instruments and listen to the tower and your ground crew. But who knows where the storms are going to go or how violent they will be. The best you can do is look at where the storm has been… and where it’s likely to go. Then trust what information you do have.
Forecasting the markets or economics is much the same way. The information you get is all imperfect and subject to someone else’s interpretation.
How well do you know what happened in prior storms? Or what’s leading up to this one? Who do you rely on for guidance around other airplanes in the air? How well do you know your sources on the ground?
How you then act, intrepid reader, is up to you.
We can look at the Fed’s next rate-hike decision or an impending recession because of an ‘inverted yield curve;’ momentum trade Nvidia (NVDA) because the next tech bubble is upon us; or judge what impact consumer sentiment is going to have on S&P 500 earnings and your income investments…
But in the end, what you have is a monitor with your actual flight information and a forecast to tell you where the next storm might go, as imperfect as that information might be.
Follow your own bliss,
This article was originally published on The Wiggin Sessions.
About the Author
Addison Wiggin is an American writer, publisher, and filmmaker. He has been covering the financial markets, the economy and politics for three decades. An acclaimed New York Times best-selling author, his books include: The Demise of the Dollar, just released in its 3rd Edition covering the dollar from the "bailouts to the pandemic and beyond. Mr. Wiggin is also the co-author, with Bill Bonner, of the best-sellers Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt. He wrote The Little Book of the Shrinking Dollar in the Wiley Little Book series. Addison is also the writer and executive producer of the documentary I.O.U.S.A., an exposé on the national debt, shortlisted for an Academy Award in 2008. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his family. Addison started his latest project, The Wiggin Sessions, powered by The Essential Investor, in March 2020. He films from a homegrown studio in his basement.