In 1918 millions of people died because a serious flu spread throughout the population. A similar pandemic happened over 500 years ago in Europe when the Black Death wiped out millions. More mass deaths occurred when the earliest immigrants from Europe spread deadly diseases among the native population. Pandemics are serious.
But it’s the false alarms that help us think clearly.
Remember the avian bird flu? Apparently it had the potential to kill millions.
[http:www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/en/index.html] But so far this threat has not materialized.
We never know ahead of time whether a flu warning will be really important, or just another warning. This article is taken from a Los Angeles doctor’s article for her patients:
The swine flu and its vaccine are not new. In 1976, an army recruit based in Fort Dix died following a mysterious illness. In addition, four of his fellow soldiers were hospitalized. Health officials disclosed to America that the illness was swine flu. Without knowing much about the details of their medical history and why they were susceptible to severe reactions to this illness, people became anxious that this could lead to a flu pandemic similar to 1918, and a vaccine was quickly prepared to be given to the masses. In the end, the illness never transpired. It came to be known as the swine flu fiasco of 1976 after twenty-five people died and five hundred became paralyzed all from the vaccine. In other words, more people suffered from the effects of the vaccine than the illness itself. [www.DrFeder.com]
Dr Feder recommends that we learn the facts and make a responsible decision about defending ourselves against disease. Good advice.
But it’s not the reaction we are seeing right now, is it? Right now, swine flu 2009 [H1N1] has hit Canada again. Government health organizations are scrambling to do the right thing. There is a huge campaign in the media to persuade us all to wash our hands a lot and get a vaccination. It’s in the news every day. Some say it’s serious, some say it’s not. Some advise getting vaccinated, some advise not. What should we do?
Let’s revisit Dr Feder’s advice: learn the facts – then decide on your course of action.
The problem with the swine flu media blitz is that no-one is trying to teach us – they all want to persuade us. And, as we know, when someone is trying to persuade us to take a certain course of action, the truth is the first thing to go. That’s why there are so many confused people in Canada. They’re getting the old razzle-dazzle. Politicians and civil servants are posturing to promote their own careers by doing “the right thing;” shills and mountebanks are taking advantage of people’s fear to build up their own egos. And relentless reporters are documenting the confusion with great aplomb. All this makes it difficult to learn the facts.
Normally the medical world is not this confusing.
Not so, in the investment world. Ego and persuasion are the norm in the realm of high finance. In my book, Beyond the Bull, Taking Stock Market Wisdom to the Next Level, I point out that all “facts” are suspect because they are always presented by some salesman trying to convince you to buy or sell. Salesmen’s “facts” are presented in such a way as to persuade you to do what the salesman wants. The typical investment professional does not present the pros and cons about a certain investment and ask you to make a decision. He presents the “facts” that will persuade you to do what he recommends.
Confused investors should take their cue from the current swine flu conundrum. Follow Dr Feder’s advice: learn the facts, make a decision.
And what might that decision be?
Last year at this time the stock market was in a full fledged sell off. From top to bottom, most equity mutual funds lost 45%! Most investors wish they had sold out in spring 2008.
And now that the market has rallied and most mutual funds have regained over half the loss, what do you think the mutual funds salesmen are saying? Are they be presenting the reality that mutual funds investors can lose 45% in 9 months? Or do they emphasize how well the market has gone up since the bottom in March?
Ordinary people really do want to make an informed Dr Feder decision when it comes to their health. But when it comes to their wealth, they prefer not to decide. Why? Health and wealth are important parts of our human lives. Why we are so anxious about the second wave of the swine flu and so oblivious toward a possible second wave of the stock market sell off?
Ken Norquay, CMT
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