Research Articles

The US Economy Sitting on the Threshold of a New Golden Age: Part Two

Chuck Carnevale - Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In part one of this multipart series on the US economy I offered the following basic opinion: The majority of the positive aspects underpinning the US economy are being mostly ignored by mainstream media in favor of the smaller, but more titillating, negative aspects. Consequently, I believe that many Americans, and since this is an investing blog, many investors, are holding a much more negative view of the strength of the American economy than is warranted. I offer massive outflows from equity funds into Treasury bonds as evidence supporting my thesis.

However, the more important message I am attempting to convey with this series of articles is that America has entered the beginning of what will become a New Golden Age of economic growth and prosperity. So as to be perfectly clear, with this second message I am taking the role of the reporter. Although my opinion is certainly intertwined and aligned, I am not the source of the message. Instead, I'm simply reporting information from other, I believe, credible sources that are clearly being mostly excluded and neglected by mainstream media. Important information for every investor in America to know goes almost unreported. I will cite the sources as I report their messages.

My Opinions First

This section will express my personal views on economics and freedom.  For clarification and color, I will write a paragraph articulating my personal views and follow it with a supporting quote or quotes from my favorite economist of all time, Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman.

I believe that the foundation supporting the thesis for a New Golden Age is the nature of our society coupled with our economic system.  Both of these factors create an opportunity for progress and growth that is unequaled in the history of mankind. In my opinion, nothing unleashes the enormous potential of people more than a free-market economy operating in a free society.  Mankind’s DNA is hardwired to feather its own nest.  With the freedom to do so, we willingly work long hours, and will make enormous sacrifices for our families and our own futures. But more importantly, freedom and the profit motive inspire us to better our world as we better ourselves.

“The world runs on individuals pursuing their self interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. Einstein didn't construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn't revolutionize the automobile industry that way.”― Milton Friedman

“Because we live in a largely free society, we tend to forget how limited is the span of time and the part of the globe for which there has ever been anything like political freedom: the typical state of mankind is tyranny, servitude, and misery. The nineteenth century and early twentieth century in the Western world stand out as striking exceptions to the general trend of historical development. Political freedom in this instance clearly came along with the free market and the development of capitalist institutions. So also did political freedom in the golden age of Greece and in the early days of the Roman era.” ― Milton Friedman

To be clear, I am a fiscal conservative that believes in the benefit and benevolence of free markets. However, I would be considered a liberal regarding my deep desire to see the plight of the common man and the downtrodden vastly improved. I want food, shelter, quality healthcare, education and a high standard of living for every human being on the planet. Frankly, I also believe that so-called conservatives and liberals alike all want the same benefits for humanity. Our differences are not with want we want for mankind, but rather with how we might best achieve our equally shared goals.

“The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another.” ― Milton Friedman

Therefore, the reason I embrace fiscally conservative values and free markets is because I strongly believe, and recognize, that they are the only means that are capable of providing humanity what it needs. My reasoning is based on what I believe are the undeniable facts that the only economic laws that work, or could possibly be expected to work, are ones based on the immutable laws of nature. Supply and demand is not a law invented by man, it is a law based on and functioning on the natural needs, desires and psychological behaviors of mankind. Natural economic laws work, because at their root, they function as people function.

“A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it ... gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”― Milton Friedman

Additionally, I believe that free markets are the most benevolent economic force possible. Not because free markets have a conscience, but rather because they don’t. The market’s DNA is designed to encounter and, as efficiently as possible, rebalance and fix any imbalances that manifest. When left alone to its own magnificently capable devices, it accomplishes this while naturally causing the least amount of pain and suffering possible. When interfered with, the problems either grow bigger, are prolonged, or most often both. History is replete with evidence that supports my argument.

“So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear. That there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.” ― Milton Friedman

“A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.” ― Milton Friedman

This leads me to express my opinion on the role of Government regarding economic policy and stimulus. I emphatically believe that the Government needs to stay out of interfering with the natural forces of free markets to the maximum extent possible. Now let me be clear; I do not necessarily feel that Government has bad intentions or that all politicians are evil tyrants. For the most part, they are likely caring people with good intentions and a strong desire to be helpful. My problem is that I believe they do not realize the damage their actions really do. They see a problem and immediately offer to fix it, and their constituents demand that they act, and that they act now.

“The existence of a free market does not of course eliminate the need for government. On the contrary, government is essential both as a forum for determining the "rule of the game" and as an umpire to interpret and enforce the rules decided on.” ― Milton Friedman

“Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp.” ― Milton Friedman

Consequently, promises that can’t be kept are made to a voting populous that finds catharsis in seeing policies enacted. This is in spite of the fact that they don’t and can’t work, and cause unnecessary and prolonged damage to our economic health and well being. All of this simply because Government, and its constituency, refuses to trust the best and most benevolent economic system that has ever existed on earth. The one and only system that has raised the standard of living on the planet to its highest level in history, while every social experiment that attempts to control economic activity has failed miserably.

“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.” ― Milton Friedman

“There is still a tendency to regard any existing government intervention as desirable, to attribute all evils to the market, and to evaluate new proposals for government control in their ideal form, as they might work if run by able, disinterested men free from the pressure of special interest groups.”
― Milton Friedman

To conclude this section of my personal views I offer that our free-market economic system operating in a still mostly free society, has produced an incubator of great, and even unbelievable ideas, that will allow us to eventually solve our greatest problems and lead us into a future golden age of prosperity and growth. This fertile environment has spawned technological advances that are growing exponentially. But most importantly, investments already made in the installation and transition phase (see summary of part one here), positions our economy for rapid and profitable future growth.

The Fifth Techno-Economic Revolution

Future economic growth and prosperity has always been, and will always be directly proportionate to the growth and capacity of our economy. True progress and prosperity comes from, speaking metaphorically, an economy that continues to bake more pies.  I believe that one of the great mistakes made by those who are forecasting our country’s economic demise is their belief that we only have one pie that must be shared.  Consequently, they tend to think about how we can slice that single pie instead of recognizing the incredible capacity our economy has to bake more pies.

Technology is our baker, and technology is advancing exponentially. Unfortunately, most people see technology advancing linearly. To put this into perspective, I offer the following quote from page 34 of the book Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Stephen Kotler illustrating the difference between linear and exponential growth:

“if I takes 30 linear steps (calling one step a meter) from the front door of my Santa Monica home, I end up 30 meters away.  However, if I take 30 exponential steps (one, two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, and so on) I end up a billion meters away, or, effectively lapping the globe 26 times.”

This exponential growth of technology is creating real world, and in real time, solutions to our planet’s biggest and most compelling problems. The areas I am focusing on are not science-fiction fantasies of what it might be like far into our future.  Instead, I am focusing on advancements that are already developed or very near completion, that already are or soon will be, capable of solving our planet’s greatest challenges. Moreover, in addition to solving many of the world’s greatest problems, these technological innovations are poised to ensure and accelerate our future economic growth and prosperity.

With the remainder of this article I will simply highlight what I believe are some of the more intriguing and promising advancements.  From an investor’s standpoint there are both old line established corporations as well as startups and private companies that are currently engaged in bringing these advancements to the world.

Prospective investors are offered the choice of conservatively investing in established profitable companies where these advancements will help these companies maintain or accelerate their future growth. Or, the more courageous amongst you might want to take a shot at aggressively investing in some of the startups. But be advised that the companies covered below are not recommendations. Instead, they are offered as a representative list of companies already participating in tomorrow’s future.

Furthermore, I want to be clear that I do not offer this as a comprehensive list.  Instead, I will tell you that I am merely scratching the surface regarding all the exciting opportunities that I believe the world will enjoy over the coming years and decades.  And, not just in America, but all over the developed and developing world as well.

Importantly, as I stated in the beginning of this article, I am only reporting on the technological opportunities that follow.  The primary source of the information I am sharing comes from the current issues of Trends Magazine, and secondarily from current best-selling books like Abundance, or The Rational Optimist. Each of these sources in turn provides additional sources providing greater detail on these opportunities that they are merely summarizing.

Special Purpose Service Robots

According to Trends Magazine, one of the most logical applications for special-purpose service robots is the personal assistant companion. These robots can be of great assistance to our aging population.  Prototypes are being developed that can clean the house, shop for groceries, monitor the human inhabitants’ activities and respond to emergency situations. Proponents believe that current progress will translate into profits and disruptive robotic products within this decade.

Follow this link to learn more about this exciting technology:

The following table provides a partial listing of companies that are participating in this exciting technology.  Some of these companies look attractive today, some do not, therefore, it’s up to the individual to conduct their own due diligence regarding what the future may hold.

Nanoscale Materials

Nanoscale technologies are advancing rapidly with implications that can open a proverbial floodgate of game-changing commercial applications. From batteries made from carbon nano tubes with 400 times the storage capacity of conventional batteries to nano tubes that promise to increase computer speed while lowering power consumption. Even desalination technology that can filter the salt out of seawater thereby solving the world’s pending water crisis. Also, more efficient solar panels and the lists go endlessly on.

Follow this link to learn more:

The following is a partial list of companies that are already participating in this exciting nascent technology.  Although the growth prospects are enormous, there is no clear and apparent winner as of yet.  So once again, personal due diligence is required.

 

Biotech Innovations

Even though the biotechnology sector has already spawned so much business activity that is difficult to keep up with, the progress has only just begun.  According to Trends, ”just as computer chips became cheap enough for hobbyists like Steve Jobs to take over computer development in the 1970s, so today the experimental equipment used for genetics is getting cheap enough for people to set up labs in their garages.” Thereby, indicating a great example of the power of a free people operating in a free marketplace.

The following represents a partial list of publicly-traded companies that are already exploiting the biotechnology Revolution.  Once again, these are not recommendations, but instead, starting points for further due diligence.

Distributed Power Technologies

Distributed Power Technologies represents one of the most promising technological opportunities of them all.  According to the book Abundance, there already exist technological advancements in Fourth-Generation Nuclear that could ultimately lead to so much safe, cheap and abundant energy that energy literally becomes free to the world.

 One of the most exciting potentialities is through a private company, Terrapower, in part funded and supported by no other than Bill Gates. Not only is Terrapower’s traveling wave nuclear reactor safe, it could even eliminate the dangerous nuclear waste that the world is currently storing. Terrapower expects their traveling wave nuclear reactors to be available by the year 2020.  Here is a link to the company’s website:

The following table lists a small sampling of companies working to bring us safer and cleaner energy sources in the future.  Once again, we find established companies as well as startups on the list.

Quantum Computers

Quantum computing is an area of technology that offers virtually unlimited potential because of its promise to increase computer capacity, performance and speed by orders of magnitude over anything that’s come before it. The current leader in this technology is a private company, D-Wave, here’s a link to their website:

The following table represents a very small sampling of companies already exploiting quantum computing.  IBM is the most prominent publicly-traded company working on developing quantum computers.

Synthetic Life Forms

A controversial, but extremely exciting area of technological advancement is the field of synthetic life forms. Synthetic Genomics Inc., founded by J. Craig Venter, Ph.D. and Nobel Laureate Hamilton O. Smith, M.D has already conducted remarkable work in this promising area of science. Experts like Mr. Venter believe that:

 “We will see tiny self-reproducing factories, disease-killing machines, and exotic creations performing many useful functions. Experts believe that by 2020, synthetic life creations could eliminate, or make manageable, nearly all human sicknesses, including most of today’s dreaded age-related diseases.”

 Mr. Venter also offers the following forecast:

“The benefits of this technology are limited only by our imagination,” Venter says. By 2030 or before, human-made life forms could provide everyone with an affordable, ageless and forever healthy body, fashioned from newly-created ‘designer cells.’ Welcome to the future of artificial lifeforms.”

Follow these two links to learn more:  Link 1 and Link 2.

Big Data

Another technological area with some controversy, and the last area I will report on, is Big Data. According to McKinsey, retailers that fully leverage Big Data could potentially increase their operating margins by more than 60 percent. Follow this link to learn more.

The following is a sampling of companies that are already participating in Big Data. Again, these are not recommendations to buy, only recommendations to learn more about.

Summary and Conclusions

The major message that I am attempting to convey with this series of articles is the reality that there is a lot of opportunity lying in front of us, that goes mostly unreported.  Mainstream media offers a myopic focus on the problems of the world.  How many times do I need to hear about all the problems that are going on in Europe? I do believe that we need to be aware of the problems so that we can ultimately solve them.  On the other hand, we also need to be aware of all the positive developments, of which there are many.

I will conclude by saying that what I’ve written about here is oriented to the long-term serious fundamental investor.  When I invest in a business, I plan on owning it for many years. Clearly then, the future success and profitability of my businesses are going to be the major drivers of whether my investment works out or not. Consequently, I consider it imperative that I attempt to forecast future profitability within as reasonable a range of accuracy as possible.  Being aware of future developments that the businesses are working on is a major component of successfully achieving that process.

In part three I will offer some concluding remarks and look at some publicly-traded companies that I believe are fairly valued and poised to participate in the future prosperity of America I have been describing.

References from Trends Magazne:

  1. Trends, April 2010, “A New Golden Age... When People Least Expect It.” © Copyright 2010 by AudioTech Business Book Summaries, Inc. All rights reserved. http://www.audiotech.com
  2. Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages by Carlota Perez is published by Edward Elgar Publishing Limited. © Copyright 2002 by Carlota Perez. All rights reserved.
  3. MIT Technology Review, March/April 2010, “The Pace of Innovation Never Falters,” by Steve Jurvetson. © Copyright 2010 by Technology Review. All rights reserved. http://www.technologyreview.com
  4. DailyFinance, March 10, 2010, “Ten Years After the Dot Com Bust, Tech Is Booming Again,” by Sam Gustin. © Copyright 2010 by AOL, Inc. All rights reserved. http://www.dailyfinance.com
  5. InvestorsInsight, March 6, 2010, “Welcome to the Future,” by John Mauldin. © Copyright 2010 by InvestorsInsight Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. http://www.investorsinsight.com
  6. CNET News, March 23, 2010, “Toshiba Eyes Nuke Alliance with Gates Start-up.” © Copyright 2010 by Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. http://news.cnet.com
  7. To access the report “Superconducting Technology Assessment” published by the National Security Agency, visit The Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program website at: http://www.nitrd.gov
  8. The Guardian, October 6, 2007, “I Am Creating Artificial Life, Declares U.S. Gene Pioneer,” by Ed Pilkington. © Copyright 2007 by Guardian News and Media Limited. All rights reserved. http://www.guardian.co.uk
  9. Science, February 29, 2008, Vol. 319, Iss. 5867, “Complete Chemical Synthesis, Assembly, and Cloning of a Mycoplasma genitalium Genome,” by Daniel G. Gibson, Gwynedd A. Benders, Cynthia Andrews-Pfannkoch, Evgeniya A. Denisova, Holly Baden-Tillson, Jayshree Zaveri, Timothy B. Stockwell, Anushka Brownley, David W. Thomas, Mikkel A. Algire, Chuck Merryman, Lei Young, Vladimir N. Noskov, John I. Glass, J. Craig Venter, Clyde A. Hutchison, III, Hamilton O. Smith. © Copyright 2008 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights reserved. http://www.sciencemag.org

Disclosure:  Long CLX, CSCO, GOOG, MSFT and ORCL at the time of writing.

Disclaimer: The opinions in this document are for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell the stocks mentioned or to solicit transactions or clients. Past performance of the companies discussed may not continue and the companies may not achieve the earnings growth as predicted. The information in this document is believed to be accurate, but under no circumstances should a person act upon the information contained within. We do not recommend that anyone act upon any investment information without first consulting an investment advisor as to the suitability of such investments for his specific situation.

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“I appreciate your work, Chuck. As a subscriber to FAST Graphs™, I use the tool to decide on whether to purchase additional shares of what I currently hold or to add a new holding. Your articles help me make full use of the tool and give other readers valuable information, if they take the time to learn. One of the biggest enhancements that I use is the FFO data added for MLPs and REITs.”


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(Wish I could be) Long FAST Graphs!!!”


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“About Chuck's F.A.S.T. Graphs™: They are invaluable to me in making decisions about the stocks I own (in addition to what you are saying about doing other research) and the ones I hope to own in the future.”


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“I love Chuck's F.A.S.T. Graphs™! Well worth the price of admission for what he gives you.”


"Chuck - Thank you for your well thought out articles. I tend to be a visual type of person so I really appreciate the F.A.S.T. Graphs™ approach."


"Great article, as always! I always look forward to your articles, and am especially eagerly awaiting your next in this series. I find the F.A.S.T. Graphs™ extremely helpful."


“Your F.A.S.T. Graphs™ put all of this in a single artful picture and the accompanying spreadsheets hammer home the point.”


“I use the F.A.S.T. Graphs™ method to evaluate all of my ideas. I recommend it for individual investors, since it helps them focus on data and get past the many emotional arguments.”


“I recently subscribed to the F.A.S.T. Graphs™, and these articles are helping me learn how to better use them. They really do give you a good quick look at the valuations picture. A much needed tool!”


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“Thanks, Chuck, for your F.A.S.T. Graphs™. Each of these graphs is worth 1,000 words in describing a company's growth, consistency and valuation. Thanks for sharing your graphs.”


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“Chuck's F.A.S.T. Graphs™: They are invaluable to me in making decisions about the stocks I own (in addition to what you are saying about doing other research) and the ones I hope to own in the future.”


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“Chuck's F.A.S.T. Graphs™ will give you a tool to find those well chosen stocks...”


“Thanks for the F.A.S.T. Graphs™, Chuck. They are the best tool I've used.”