As I am writing this, the stock market is about to open for trading having lost 40 percent of its value since an all-time high set just one year ago. One has to ask, was the market that good a year ago, and is it really this bad today?
The answer to both is decidedly "no."
Like all things that hinge on human emotions, the rise and fall of stock prices, real estate prices, commodity prices and consumer products can increase and decrease in value based solely on lust. When something has a perceived value greater than what we currently own, we want it - we lust for it.
This emotion, when used with discipline, is a good thing. When undisciplined and driven by greed, it is a very bad thing.
My feeling is that we all became undisciplined. We didn't check under the hood and see how this engine works. We took the word of our leaders that an unregulated market was the best way forward. We listened to the credit companies that said tax-advantaged home equity loans - whether we could afford them or not - were a great way to pay off credit card debt. We listened to mortgage brokers and appraisers who said our home values were actually appreciating 10 percent a year. We listened to mutual funds managers who promised ridiculously high returns.
We listened because we lusted. It's just like that old adage: "If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
The problem is, when our dreams and desires are unmet and unmet with the degree of revelation that is now surfacing out of these unrealistic promises, we turn greed into fear and panic. The markets are down because we are selling when we should be holding and buying. Last week alone we lost $17 trillion in equities. Based on what? Fear.
After that terrible day of Sept. 11, 2001, the president went on the air and encouraged us to go shopping. What a crazy thing to say, but that is exactly what we need to do now - shop. There are bargains out there and we should be bullish and go and grab them: on the stock market and at the corner market.