I read years ago that two people could go through the same experience with only one developing post-traumatic stress disorder. The author of the study concluded that people who were already experienced with unpredictable events were better equipped to handle trauma than those whose lives had led them to expect order and predictability.
As someone who has had a relatively chaotic economic life, I'm probably better equipped mentally to deal with this current crisis than a lot of people. For one thing, I've never had any faith whatsoever in the markets. Nada. There have been market manipulators as long as there's been a market, and whenever you hand over your power to some arcane "expert" (a la Bernie Madoff), you're basically buying a lottery ticket and crossing your fingers:
Dec. 31 (Bloomberg) -- It has been a year of record misery: the largest bankruptcy, bank failure and Ponzi scheme in U.S. history; $720 billion in writedowns and losses by financial institutions; $30.1 trillion in market valuation wiped out.
The biggest loss and the hardest thing to recover, though, may be something that can’t be precisely measured -- confidence in the markets and the firms that rely on them.
“The wholesale funding model lost its credibility,” said David Hendler, senior analyst at New York-based CreditSights Inc. “That started the semi-nationalization of funding in the financial markets. It’s a real chink in the armor of capitalism as supposedly the best process for allocating capital. The government is now deciding who gets access to capital.”
For Paul DeRosa, a principal of Mount Lucas Management Corp., a $1 billion hedge fund in Princeton, New Jersey, most unnerving was that the credit crisis revived something that, like the bubonic plague, was supposed to be a relic of the past.
“We had what was for all intents and purposes a systemic bank run for the first time in 70 years,” said DeRosa, whose fund is up 25 percent this year. “This ended our belief that financial panics were a thing of the past. That’s why this is a transcendent event.”
The price tag has been transcendent, too. Global stock markets lost about half of their value in 2008, or $30.1 trillion dollars. In the U.S., $7.2 trillion of shareholder value was wiped off the books, as the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 39 percent through Dec. 30 and the Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 42 percent.