Above illustration courtesy of Mabel Hill – http://www.romanceroundtable.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/barnesreader07.JPG, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10806723
Chicken Little was annoying for at least two reasons.
For those of you reading this blog from overseas, perhaps you may know this little fluff ball and the associated folk tale as Henny Penny or Chicken Lichen.
By way of review, the story goes like this. Chicken Little (or Henny Penny) was a chick outside somewhere, probably in New Jersey, when all of a sudden she was hit on the head by a falling acorn. Her gut reaction was to conclude that the sky was falling and that the king would benefit from a warning of this “fact.” So, she embarks on an epic journey and persuades all that she encounters that, indeed, the “sky is falling.” In this way, she is joined by other feathered friends like Ducky Lucky, Cocky Locky, Gander Lander, and so on.
Eventually, the flock encounters a clever fox who listens attentively, and then invites them all to his lair for some refreshments. This turns out badly as the fox simply latches the door and devours them all.
In some versions, Cocky Locky manages to warn Chicken Little who escapes and lives happily ever after, most likely ending up in an EconoLodge outside Newark.
But I digress.
The first reason for annoyance is just enduring the repetition of something over and over again. Even if they are cute and furry. “The sky is falling.” No one wants to hear something repeated ad infinitum. Especially conclusions based on faulty logic and spurious connections.
The second instance of annoyance is that, unfortunately, in an absolute sense, our little friend is right. The sky does, factually speaking, fall. But on such incredibly rare occasions that the point is, for all intents and purposes, invalid.
The next time it will happen is in about 5 billion years from now when Sol, our Sun, will expend all its available hydrogen fuel and enlarge many times over as it turns to burning helium as a red giant star. Our skies will turn red as the oceans boil off. Everything gets incinerated. Send a note to our descendants and warn them!
Measured against human lifespans, these events, happening in the distant past and future, have no impact on anyone reading this blog. A dire warning that the “sky has fallen and will fall again” is therefore just plain manipulative.
It is wise not to believe everything one is told is true. Some things are, after all, just manufactured by foxes for the sole purpose of wetting their beaks, so to speak. The fact that the sky does fall every 10 billion years is technically true. But practically speaking, it’s really just troll-bait for slick lawyers to use to generate fees.
In terms of economic predictions, my Dad in the early to mid-1980s was kinda like Chicken Little. He was given to issuing dire predictions that a stock market crash was always around the corner (like tomorrow) due to ever-climbing credit card debt. His reasoning was based on his life experience in the 1920s. If you wanted to buy something back then, you either had the cash to buy a suit for $5, or you didn’t. Nobody gave anybody anything.
So people were spending money they didn’t have via credit cards. A house of cards waiting to fall. Classic!
By 1986, he was carping daily about how the crash was coming. Now Dad was never a man to be swayed by facts or statistics. He loved himself some alt facts! Always!! The stock market at the time was cranking! Due to a rapidly growing economy, fueled by Reagan administration deficit spending and tax cuts (sound familiar?), the stock market rose from 1,212 on January 3, 1985 to just over 2,700 by August 21st, 1987. That was more than double!
Dow Jones Industrial Average from January 3, 1987 to August 21, 1987. Like my professor Jimmy Rogers at Columbia used to say, “trees growing to the sky!”
I was curious, of course, as to whether credit card debt had also in fact skyrocketed to dangerous levels. That could imperil world markets and my chances of scoring a job on Wall Street upon graduation from Business School in 1988.
Next week: My analysis and the sky!