Reasons to be bullish on America

Smart investors make it a habit to buy when most everyone’s selling and sell when others are buying. Apply that thinking to politics and the fate of nations, and you’ve got to figure the smart money should be on America.

Talk to foreigners and you get the sense that the conventional wisdom around the world is that Americans must be taking leave of their senses. There is a lot of head scratching about the political choices we are making and a lot of head shaking about the general direction of the country.

Talk to Americans pretty much anywhere and you get the sense that the conventional wisdom here is that the country’s future has never been cloudier and that national decline is more or less inevitable.

Seems just about everyone both here and abroad is selling stock in America. That’s one of a long list of reasons why now is a good time to buy.

Yes, politics here is ugly at the moment and the presidential election is a national embarrassment. But political mudslinging and name calling are as old as the republic. Opponents called Thomas Jefferson a demagogue, a trickster and, worst of all insults, a “Franco-maniac” for his love of things French. One warned if Jefferson were to be elected, “the soil will be soaked with blood and the nation black with crimes.” John Quincy Adams called him “a slur upon the moral government of the world.” Lincoln’s opponents called him a despot, a buffoon, a scoundrel and “Ignoramus Abe.” They described him as a “third-rate backwoods lawyer,” “a man of few talents,” and “a fourth-rate lecturer who can’t speak good grammar.”

Yes, the U.S. population currently is politically polarized and partisan divisions are sharp. But Americans have been at each other’s throats many times before. The union survived civil war. Not only did the highest court in the land once declare that people could be property, it also once blessed forcibly sterilizing people deemed unfit to procreate. As many as 70,000 people became victims of state-ordered sterilization, some because they were considered “feebleminded” or “mentally deficient,” others because they were deaf, blind or diseased. Minorities and the poor often were targeted. The mood of the country in 1927 was such that it wasn’t a close vote. Legal giant Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote for the 8-1 majority favoring selective breeding to purify the national gene pool, with liberal lion Louis Brandeis among those who joined him.

Yes, the challenges facing us today are enormous, from the ecological threat of climate change to the economic trauma of deindustrialization and globalization. But America is in the process of being transformed in spite of our backward politics. The collective thinking of Americans about sexual orientation, gender and even race has been evolving and will continue to. This evolution has triggered a powerful backlash, but the arc of American beliefs and values bends toward greater tolerance and social justice. The road to economic renewal is a bumpy one, but Americans are slowly but surely adapting to both the savagery and opportunities found in the new global economy.

This is an uncomfortable time. That’s because life in America is changing rapidly, and change is discomforting. But I’m betting today’s discomfort will end up being our salvation. That’s why I’m bullish on America’s future.