President Trump, Anyone?

A core tenet of complexity science is the relevance of time. Events do not move in a linear fashion, as many expect and desire from financial markets, from political events, and from their lives. What happened yesterday will affect what will happen tomorrow. Events at a micro or local level may not be similar, but when reviewed at a global or macro level, appear very similar. This is the basic concept of fractals.

A topic of great interest for many going into 2016 is the U.S. Presidential Election. Examining the election through the lens of time cycles makes for an interesting exercise. Various studies rooted in complexity science and cycle theory have identified the importance of 72-year cycles of geopolitical change. I am not suggesting a blind adherence to such “patterns,” only that they appear to repeat and are worth considering. This is a tool, not a rule. I use tools as but one input into our comprehensive investment framework.

Some interesting facts regarding the number 72 and US presidential history:

  • Exactly 72 years separate the beginning of the presidential terms of three individuals considered by many to be among our most consequential presidents: George Washington (1789), Abraham Lincoln (1861), and FDR (1933)
  • The 72 year period between Lincoln and FDR represented a period of near-complete dominance by one party, the Republicans, who won 14 out of 18 elections
  • The 72 year period starting with FDR splits almost evenly into two 36 year periods dominated by Democrats from 1933-1969 (won 8 out of 10 elections) and Republicans from 1969-2008 (won 7 out of 10 elections)

The study of time has consumed no less than humanity’s greatest scientists and philosophers, and the number 72 plays an important part. Plato’s work helped identify a 25,800-year period during which the Earth completes an axial precession, which is a rotation of the Earth’s rotational axis itself, in a circle for 360 degrees. The combined gravitational effects of the sun, moon, and planets on the Earth’s equatorial bulge cause the Earth’s axis to sway clockwise in a slow circle, like the motion of a spinning top. Sir Isaac Newton determined the cause of this sway and established that 1 degree of the sway occurs every. . .you guessed it. . .72 years.

72 year periods of time link many major political and economic events. Take for example a list of the most significant events of the late 19th, 20th and early 21st centuries as reported by Gallup and related bloggers and compare it to events on that same list that took place exactly 72 years prior or after:

D-Day is an event seared into the memories of much of the Western world. The establishment of the Bretton Woods system in 1944 defined the global monetary order that exists to this day. Recent macroeconomic events in developed and emerging economies suggest the possibility of major shifts in the global monetary order. Some shifts appear positive, like the inclusion of the yuan in the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights framework. Other actions seem more pernicious, not the least of which is the global unrest caused by commodity price fluctuations around the globe. These shifts take time, often many years. However, 2016 has the potential to contain a defining moment that may portend a larger shift. Perhaps it will be an unexpected result in the U.S. presidential election. How does President Trump sound?

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Any opinions or forecasts contained herein reflect the subjective judgments and assumptions of the author only. There can be no assurance that developments will transpire as forecasted and actual results will be different. Accuracy of data is not guaranteed but represents the author’s best judgment and can be derived from a variety of sources. The information is subject to change at any time without notice.