Optimism: perception and reality in healthcare, elsewhere

Forgive this less-than-medtech-relevant sidebar on the wild swings of optimism, pessimism, hope and fear. Perhaps, all things being equal, the simplest explanation is the right one.

Like Tom Hanks’ character in the movie “Big”, when he puts up his hand and says, “I don’t get it” (in his case a toy building that turns into a robot), I seriously struggle with the prospect of an economic downturn — I just don’t get it.

One could easily look at healthcare, as we have argued many times in the past, and conclude that it is a special case, an industry that is insensitive to recession (disease knows know bear market). Clearly this is the case, as I review hundreds of product approvals, patents, market introductions and other activity that stand as testimony to the juggernaut of the healthcare industry, seemingly rolling over as it does through every economic obstacle (save, almost, the VC cash crunch).

I just don’t get the self-fulfilling prophecies of Wall Street and elsewhere in which perception becomes reality. We have only to fear fear itself, said FDR. Because we think the market may go down, we sell our shares and, guess what, the market goes down.

I do not deny the hard reality that many of us (mortgage holders, banks) overspent our means and need to cut back, but in the scheme of the world, correcting this should be a marginal adjustment, should it not? Every one of us needs to get up every day, eat meals, take kids to school and do the myriad activities of life that, like healthcare, just don’t change. Shouldn’t that drive the world and the world markets? Why are thousands and thousands now out of work?

Or is it really that the world of investment exerts a hyperbolic pull on all of us, up and down, inflating and deflating the real values of our daily lives. Because someone wants to make money, their investment drives up value, and because someone desperately fears losing money, their panic drives down value.

And, yet, every day we get up and still need to live, still need to eat, have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs.

Accuse me of being simplistic, but I don’t get it.

The Dow is up 900 points, the Dow is down 500 points, down 200 points, down 200 points. What happened? Did the world really gain or lose 900 points in value?

It’s insane and I don’t get it, so I refuse to accept it. My value — and every thing I value — has not changed.

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