Our Thinking About Coronavirus Has Evolved

This is an excerpt from letter I wrote to IMA‘s clients.

Our thinking about coronavirus has evolved significantly over the last few weeks. Our initial optimism that it would send us into a mild recession was proven wrong by our government’s inept response – the extra time that we were given was wasted. South Korea and the US had their first cases of COVID-19 on the same day. South Korea completely contained the virus through extensive testing and selective quarantining, while we failed to get the job done.

One factor that has worked to our disadvantage (one that is obvious in hindsight, as always, but I didn’t see it a few weeks ago) is that we here in the US are too “fat and happy.” The US is a democracy that has never fought a war on its own territory with another nation (9/11 is as close as we’ve come). We are separated from the rest of the world by an ocean on either side and two friendly neighbors on our north and south. We have simply been spoiled by prosperity. Bad things only had happened to other countries, not us. And this is how we looked at the virus when it exploded in China.

Being a democracy that values personal liberty has a lot of advantages, but expediency is not one of them. Today we are at war with a foreign entity and it is not a country but a tiny virus. Winston Churchill said, “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they have tried everything else.” In a few short weeks we’ve “tried everything else” and now we are taking COVID-19 seriously on both the federal and state levels.

Vitaliy Katsenelson

I am the CEO at IMA, which is anything but your average investment firm. (Why? Get our company brochure here, or simply visit our website).

In a brief moment of senility, Forbes magazine called me “the new Benjamin Graham.”

I’ve written two books on investing, which were published by John Wiley & Sons and have been translated into eight languages. (I’m working on a third - you can read a chapter from it, titled “The 6 Commandments of Value Investing” here).

And if you prefer listening, audio versions of my articles are published weekly at investor.fm.

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