Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fear Factor

My email and phone has been really quiet the last two days. My messages to people have been going unreturned. The only topic people want to talk about at work and around town is the craziness of Wall Street. In the last few days, job seekers with felony convictions have been changing their tune from how difficult their search has been to how the economy is making it impossible. The reality is that it’s always been almost impossible for felons to find jobs. These recent days are reminding me of the time shortly after 9/11. We all seem rattled by current events.

But we need to take a step back from the cliff and regain our perspective. Fear seems to be gaining an unhealthy place in our lives. And like a tennis player ready to make that game winning shot, we are in danger of letting fear and stress tighten our muscles causing us to hit the ball into the net. At this moment, we must not underestimate the role unnecessary fear has in hurting our economy further. One of my regrets from my undergraduate studies in Economics 20 years ago at the University of California at San Diego was not doing an independent study on the impact of psychological assumptions of economic models. At the time, few economists were studying this relationship instead preferring to look at more “measurable” scientific relationships. But today, some of the more interesting research looks at the effect of expectations on the economy.

Even though the economic news may be frightening, we need to remember that great opportunities present themselves in the middle of recessions. The September 2008 issue of Inc. Magazine notes this in its article “Inc 500: Half-a-thousand reminders that business ingenuity and economic leadership still start with entrepreneurs.” Over 70% percent of its current list of Inc 500 companies started during the economic and terrorist crises of 2000-2003.


Leigh Buchanan writes:

There are advantages to having started in years of technology-bust and
terrorist-attack turmoil. Many Inc. 500 companies "arose in response to
major changes in the economy, and now the economy is changing again," says
William Dunkelberg, chief economist at the National Federation of
Independent Business. Such businesses "are flexible and innovative, and
that's why they do so well," says Dunkelberg. "Entrepreneurs are the R&D
for the economy."
So let’s all resist the urge to panic and look for opportunities in the midst of the turmoil to build faith organizations that serve individuals or communities rebuilding lives. The need is great. And if we are following God, we have nothing to fear.

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