The markers and the holes

Decade, century, or millennium markers are contrived milestones in history, economics, markets, people’s lives, which – unaffiliated with the solar orbits and powers of ten in the number system – aren’t so neatly structured. When we think of decades in the recent past, we assign certain qualities to each, shaped by events and culture of the period, as though there had been a migration at the precise time, from one room to another, each with a different decor and set of furnishings.

Who’s to say, maybe this is how it works. The complexity of influences and trajectories is vast, and the possibility of ten-year subdivisions is still one among many. Nevertheless, this category set feels artificial in a natural continuum, even with characteristics that we associate with each.

A different way to look back, which maybe combines aspects of the structured and unstructured, is to isolate discrete elements in the mix and mark these as approximations. It’s an imprecise and subjective exercise, but no more so really than the ball that drops in the last ten seconds of the year that passes.

So, for instance, let’s say that in the market context – which reflects economics and shapes people’s lives, directly or indirectly – the ’80s ended with the Black Monday crash of 1987…

The end of the 1980s

And then let’s say that the following decade ended with the dot-com bubble burst and 9-11 in short order…

The end of the 1990s

The Great Recession happened a few years after that, not precisely ten, but approximately enough…

The end of the 2000s

And now, some twelve years later, this…

The end of the 2010s

The milestones, markers, and events depicted in these charts are approximate, as stated, and the causes and effects are complicated, as we’ve seen. Had I picked a chart from, say, the middle of each decade, the picture would have told a different story.

In this particular story, though, there seems to be a pattern. Each ten-year period, loosely speaking, concludes with a big shock. We take time to recover, and each successive shock, in ways, seems worse than the one before… not quantitatively necessarily, in the strict market sense, but in terms of impact, depth, and breadth.

Again, the explanations and the different angles are nuanced, and the timeframes are rough estimates to meet some artificial bounds halfway. But the pattern that is seen, as it were from far away in space and without the detail, glares.

For decades now, on certain levels, we’ve been playing catch-up and digging out of holes that each seems harder to climb. Why is this? And should we plan and build up energy already for the fifth time around?

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