So, as sasha mentioned, it's been 25 years that that we've been friends and professional colleagues, and so you know i look in the room and i see these old friends. I'm so happy to be here i- he also mentioned that i'm very systematic, meaning i got in a habit of every time i would make a decision, to write down the criteria i would use to make that decision. We're getting a little echo, i think, and it's not a big room, so i don't even know if i need a mic, but so every time i would make a decision, i would write down the criteria i used for making those decisions.
Because cause effect, everything happens because of a cause and so and the same things happen over and over again, and so by taking the time to write them down and then seeing how those criteria would have worked over a period of time, i could get perspective. And so i wrote down those principles and, as hashem mentioned, i i wrote a book called principles, which has to do, which just was a collection of the life and work principles. So the culture that we have is very, very important. It was really the most important thing in terms of whatever success we've had. At the same time, i wrote down the economic and investment principles. So what i thought i would do today is to share with you what i think of my most important economic and investment principles and then look at the world through the perspective of those principles.
In other words, rather than just tell you what i think, i want to tell you how it works and then we can apply that mechanics. You can decide: does it work that way or not? So are these principles valuable? Because if you know the principles, it's like it's giving it, like a giving man the fish ability to fish rather than to just give the fish. I can tell you what i think, but if these principles are right, then you could apply them yourself to whatever time or circumstances exist. So i broke it down in terms of economic principles and investment principles, because the markets follow the economy. So in order to understand economics and all the markets you have to understand, in order to understand the market, you have to understand the economy.
So i want to describe how i think the economy works. I think it's like a ver. It's a perpetual motion machine and there are four big forces, three important equilibriums and two levers. If you get this down, i think this, basically everything through my eyes is along those lines. Over a period of time, we raise our living standards because we learn how to do things better. We become more efficient.
That's called productivity, output, and that is something that evolves over a period of time. That is because it evolves. It is not something that is a big thing. That's we see as a big thing, but it's the most important thing over a period of time. The big things that we see and feel every day are debt cycles.
Now there's a short-term debt cycle and there's a long-term debt cycle. When i say a short-term debt cycle, what i mean is what we think of is normally the business cycle. Right, you have a recession, you have a weakness in the economy. When the rate of economic activity is too low, then central banks produce credit and credit is buying power. So you produce that credit. It makes purchases of goods, services and financial assets happen and so the economy picks up. That cycle usually lasts seven to ten years. As the economy picks up, the demand rises relative to the capacity. As you get later in the cycle, the central bank puts the brakes on it. They raise interest rates, tighten monetary policy.
As the there's less slack in the economy, the unemployment rate is low, they put the brakes on it. Interest rates go up, tightness and monetary policy. Then you have a recession, slow up, and that's the cycle, right. And because credit is buying power by providing it, it also produces debt, and debt means the obligation to pay back, and so by its very nature, it's cyclical. First comes the stimulation, then comes the paying back, which means when you, when you produce credit, you can spend more than you earn, and when you pay back, you have to spend less than you earn. And that's the nature of the cycle, and i think we're all acquainted with that type of cycle. And with that cycle goes market cycles, which we'll talk about.
That's what i mean by the short-term debt cycle. There's also a long-term debt cycle, which is the accumulation of all of those. That those shorter term debt cycles, because everybody wants things to go up. They want their asset prices, the markets, to go up, they want employment to go up, they want everything to go up, and for that reason they- central banks, over a period of time, stimulate, and they do that by normally lowering interest rates until interest rates hit zero.
And then, when interest rates hit zero, they can't do that anymore, and then we come to the need to print money and buy financial assets, which we call quantitative easing, and when they can't do that anymore or there are limitations, we come to the end of the long-term debt cycle. So there's a short-term debt cycle, a long-term debt cycle and productivity now related to all that is politics, internal politics and external politics.
In that normal cycle, they're related, as we're going to see in terms of that dynamic, the period that we're going through, 2008 and 9, there was a debt cycle and interest rates hit zero, and that's very similar to 1929 to 32.
There was a debt crisis and interest rates hit zero, and in both of those cases, there was the printing of money and the buying of financial assets, which caused those financial asset prices to go up and more liquidity in the economy, and that particularly benefited those who had financial assets, and it contributed to the wealth gap and the income gap, as did technology, and as a result of that in the 1930s, as also happened now, politics entered into the picture. So, as we're seeing in the world right now, that issue of wealth gap is causing populism- populism of the left and populism of the right- and that's having an effect on the markets and having an effect on the economy. So we are also seeing a situation very much like the 30s, in which we're seeing a rising power challenging an existing power. That's a geopolitical cycle, when a rising power in the form of china, a challenging and existing power in the form of the united states.
And if we look at histories and cycles of those periods, there's a cycle of conflict and peace. Normally peace happens after a war, because some dominant country wins the war. Nobody wants to fight the dominant power and you have an extended period of peace until there's then that particular conflict doesn't. I'm not saying we're going to have a military conflict or anything like that, although you know that always exists as a possibility. So these cycles, these things have happened over and over again. So politics enters into, can affect the, the cycles, for example, the, the shift in the united states to be able to create tax cut changes, help the corporate tax picture and cause stock prices to rise. Okay, those are the cycles. Then, when i look at what's happening, i compare it to three equilibriums.
And what are these three equilibriums? First, that debt growth has to be in line with the income growth that's required to service the debt. If debt growth is faster than the income growth that's going to service the debt, we're going to have an adjustment, and so i'm always doing the pro forma.
What is the ability to service that debt? So that's what i'm watching. Second, equilibri is that the rate of economic activity, economic capacity utilization, is neither too high nor too low. What that means is, if you have it pressing up too much over an overheating economy, that's going to be the tightening of monetary policy and a correction. And if you have it too low, so that the economy is depressed and there's a lot of slack, that's going to cause an adjustment to bring it up. And so i'm always watching where are we relative to that? Because that's a key driver of the of these cycles. And the third is that the projected returns of equities are above the projected returns of bonds, which are above the projected returns of cash, by appropriate risk premiums. In other words, the capital markets produce the circulation of buying power in the form of this credit coming around, and this relationship of the cash to bond yields, to stock yields and asset classes determines how money flows through the economy. And a normal condition is, for reasons i won't digress into, to have cash have a lower return than bonds that have to have a lower return from equities, having to do with how the system works. Basically, central banks put cash on deposit and people with better ideas have to make a profit to that. They use that money to create these other the level of economic activity and have to have higher returns, and when that's not the case, the way they tighten it is that there are two levers.
So now there are two levers: monetary policy and fiscal policy.
Right? Monetary policy, then, is the means by which the brakes and the gas are put on, and the brakes and the gas being put on become reflected in each of these other items. So, let's say, if debt growth is too high relative to income growth and capacity utilization is high and strat stretched, monetary policy will be tightened, and that tightening of monetary policy will change the projected return of ec, of cash relative to bonds and of equities, those risk premiums, and that will slow the economy down and that will drive those cycles, and that's how the economy is operating in these perpetual motion kind of way. And if you, you could almost picture- i literally can picture- where you are in those cycles and what is happening, and you can anticipate what is going to happen next from that, because it's that petrol perpetual motion machine. So that's my template in a nutshell, and if you keep thinking like where are we now, then you, you know, you can kind of think where we are. Okay, so i'm just going to show you some charts to help to convey the picture. This is real gdp going back to 1900.. So this is that line: is productivity right? And that's an a big, inevitable force that happens over a period of time. Even the biggest economic turbulence you know looks like a bump in that that cycle right, productivity is a big force, betting on productivity is a big force.
But what happens is that cycle, as you get later in the long-term debt cycle, that productivity begins to slow because there needs to be investment and there needs to be other things, and when you activity, when there's prosperity and so on, you get more productivity. It's a self reinforcing cycle. So these charts are just meant to show productivity and how it's changing over a period of time in the developed countries and then in china. So just to give you a quick picture here, you could see it in varying degrees, bend over as they are later into their longer term debt cycle, this united states over the last 10 years versus since 1980, and so in each one of those cases you could see it declining: japan, which is large, later in that debt cycle, and so on. Basically hardly any growth in productivity. So so, okay, that's what productivity looks like now. Where are we in the short-term debt cycle of the business cycle?
This is what the cycle looks like that i was describing, in other words, what happens from the capital markets perspective, as, as you begin to go to higher levels of operating rates, lower levels of unemployment, central banks begin to tighten, liquidity starts to tighten, then risk premiums start to rise. Okay, in this cycle- we're nine years into the cycle- unemployment rates are comparatively low and there's less slack. So you know- no surprise- central banks tighten monetary policy, and the way they tighten monetary policy is by either raising interest rates or lowering the purchases of the financial assets that they buy, by expanding the balance sheet. So that's where we are in that cycle. Now, if you look at how markets behave in that part of the cycle, this is breaking the cycles into three parts: the early phases of the cycle, the mid phase of the cycle and the late phase of the cycle.
And this is across the world, different countries: this is the united states. This is europe, to show how the historical. So we're in a period of time. This period of time, which is relatively late in the cycle, is also associated with a period of time where there is less attractive returns, greater vulnerability. So that's largely where we are in the cycle. Interest rates have hit their lows, in some cases can't go lower, and then we're dealing with the issue of quantitative easing. So taking this back to, this goes back to 1900. This shows debt in debt to gdp ratio in the united states and it just shows how the cycle that we're going through now is very similar to the cycle that we went into the 30s.
In other words, because of that debt crisis and interest rates hitting zero, you had the printing of money. This shows the central bank's balance sheet, the monetary base, the acceleration of printing and money. Same thing happened in the 2008 financial crisis. You could see that what happens is you have the debt crisis, you have the hitting of zero in interest rates, they're stuck, so they have to print the money. And then we have the reaction very similar to 1932 to 1937 in the economy picks up. 1937, they start to tighten monetary policy because they're worried that the economy is overheating and inflation's going to rise and they cause a recession. That's the first time they use the word recession- recession it was like re-depression. They used the term recession and that was the- the 1938 period. Now i talked about debt, but there are also unfunded liabilities that we don't call debt, which would be pension and health care liabilities, and i just wanted to give you a picture of what that's like. That has. There's a lot of liabilities out there, promises that have to be kept, and so the liabilities are very large. I want you to focus, then, on these, the bottom charts, before i put the top charts in, because i i want to convey, as it relates to both markets and the economy, the important, the the really realizing that we've been really in a golden age of capitalism in the following sense.
This chart shows how profit margins have increased. In other words, they've more than doubled since 2000.. Means, if you didn't have an expansion in profit margins, you wouldn't have. You'd have the stock market 40 percent lower. You had an expansion in profit margins and, at the same time, you had a decrease in the form of employee compensation and profit margins be largely because of a number of factors, but technology has been replacing people and so it's made it more efficient. So that that was an element. Also, globalization has helped. Just to show you a couple of charts pertaining to this, this is number the globalization pressure movement and this is the capital movement.
And these scatter diagrams show, if you go the globalization, companies that have gone global on the margin have improved their profit margins more, and those that are more concentrated have improved their profit margins more, and those with who have reduced union membership have produced their profit margins more, and so, as a result of that, this has contributed to the growth of the wealth gap and the prof profit gap.
It's been great for companies, but it has not been good for a certain percentage of the population. If you look at the conditions of the bottom 60 percent of the population- bottom 60 means the majority- the conditions have have been bad. There has not been over the since 1980 any income growth, real income growth. In the united states, in a fed survey, the 40 of all americans could not raise 400 in the event of an emergency. So there is a gap and with that gap has come this is the wealth gap- that the top one-tenth of one percent of the population's net worth is almost the same as the bottom 90 percent combined and, as a result, we have populism- populism of the left and populism of the right.
That was a phenomenon that developed countries didn't used to have, and so now it is a not only political phenomenon, it's an economic and market phenomenon, because, as we come to go into the political elections in the number countries in europe and in the united states, it will be really a a conflict over capitalism versus socialism or the left and the right, and it's going to become rather extreme in both of those cases, and that has an implication, just as the these profit margins improved. And then i, and then tax rates. That's the effective corporate tax rate and how the effective corporate tax rate isn't. That's been fantastic. So imagine: you have profit margins increasing, you have the tax rate going down, you have cheap money. Cheap money has been used to borrow, to buy back stock or make mergers. That's also supportive to stock prices, and so on. Many of those things will not continue. We think profit margins will go down. I think you're at the best of the corporate tax rates and in terms of the issue, in terms of the wealth gap. So we're entering a newer environment, including an environment which is not going to be as conducive to the purchasing of financial assets by central banks and all of that. We're going from headwind, from tailwinds to headwinds and to give you a flavor of what this political situation is like, and and the polarity and the entrenchedness, these are two charts.
The first: they go back to 1900.. The first chart, which is the red chart, shows how conservative the republicans are, survey, surveyed, economically conservative. So the they're more conservative than they have ever been. The democrats- it shows how liberal they are in terms of policies and they're more liberal than they have ever been. So the two have not had greater polarity than we have today in politics and this shows how much is the votes cast along party lines, in other words, republicans sticking with republicans and democrats sticking with democrats, and so it shows the entrenched conflict that we're having. This is in the united states. This is not just a united states phenomenon, it is a european phenomenon as as much. We're going to be going into elections in europe and then for the european elections, and then we're also going to have changes in politics and there's going to be more movement to political extremes. For example, in the uk, i think it's likely that jeremy corbyn will be in power which will have an effect on capital flows. So we're entering a period of time in which we're late, rather late in the cycle, central banks have less power than they used to to ease and we're having this populism in an election cycle.
So that's kind of the lay of the land. If you look at europe, you can. You can judge the capacity of a country to ease by looking at the level of interest rates relative to zero and the amount of quantitative easing that can take place and its marginal effects. So let's say, in the united states you go from two and a half percent to zero and you're done. In europe you're at zero. And in europe there are limitations, caps at 33 of certain types of debt that they have hit, that they can't go beyond unless there's some sort of an agreement and politically very difficult to have an agreement. So in in europe is going to be a problem for the ecb in terms of being able to have the ability to stimulate. And japan is in a position somewhat similar with these negative interest rates- slightly negative interest rates farther, and a lesser ability to stimulate. So that's the lay of the land, i think, in terms of markets and economy, within the template that i showed you for to begin with. Okay, in terms of the rising power challenging existing power, china will be an important influence in the world that we're operating in for the rest of our lifetimes. It'll become an increasing influence in in that globalization and so on. So this just shows where they are in united states and china in relative output. This is what i believe, that what's likely in terms of equity market cap and share of debt securities outstanding. In other words, the european, the chinese markets are big and becoming bigger and more liquid and more effective, and they're going to play an important role, as will the chinese economy, in the environment we're in, not only in the form of trade, but also in the form of, you know, the the whole geopolitics, particularly reflected through technology. If you look at history and what caused countries to succeed and fail, it was particularly led by technology. So i've been over the last several months wanting to research the rise and declines of world reserve currencies, and in order to do that, i have to watch the arc of each one of these reserve currencies.
There's the us dollar, before that there was the british pound, before that there was the dutch gilder and as a result of that i needed to understand a number of things about the economies that i that made them reserve currency, how did they become reserve currencies, how did they lose their reserve currency status, and that led me to watch a number of factors and studying those, and i i love putting together statistics and numbers to put together indices. So these are the six main factors that you can judge a country's power by. You know, power's a a vague thing. You can have economic power, you can have military power, you can have power in different ways, but this is the when i went to each one of these four cases.
Here's the dutch cycle, here's the british cycle, here's the us cycle, here's the chinese cycle. And reflected in these, this dynamic and what you can see, this classic cycle is, first, it's innovation, meaning technology, education and competitiveness, mostly a new technology, and the new technology, like the 5g technology today and the issues pertaining to huawei and other technology companies- if you have technology, it works both economically and militarily, and so there's always a new technology. In the case of the dutch, it was the ability to build ships that can go anywhere around the world, and they took those ships and they put, and because the europeans were experts in fighting because they was fought with each other. They took the guns, they put them on the ships and they go out to the rest of the world and they accounted for half of world trade. Can you imagine that? And when they go out there with half of world trade, they're bringing their money- the dutch gilder, okay, so they bring the money. And when they have bring the money, it becomes a world reserve currency and in order to go out in the world, they have to have a military to support that. And so these cycles go on. And if you look at that, this is, the red line is china and the blue line is in the united states, in terms of the averages of these things, and it goes back to 1500, and one of the things you could see there is the chinese have typically been number one or number two, although the world was a different size then. You know, those were all very far away places. We now have one sort of world, so that's where that. Those are the economic principles. So i think we're late in the business cycle, relatively late, i would say. The seventh inning of the business cycle. There is a relatively tightening and monetary policy. We have less capacity and we are, we have greater polarity and we have a situation in which we're going to have political issues and those political issues will be market issues because, as, as we start to think, will this be a movement to the right or a movement to the left that will affect capital flows.
So these are my list of investment principles, the template that i look first, the theoretical.
Theoretical value equals the present value of future cash flows. In other words, every investment is a lump spayment for a future cash flow. So when we think what is something worth, we look at those projected cash flows and we discount it with an interest rate. That's the theoretical value. The actual value that it will trade at will equal the total amount of spending. If i calculate total amount of dollars spending on something divided by the quantity of goods sold, so i'm always looking at who, how much is going to be spent and what are the motivations of the spenders and what are the and how much of it is going to be quantity. I try to estimate what the total spending is divided by the quantity to estimate the price. Okay, number three is that asset classes will outperform cash over the long term. I explained that it's required, otherwise the gears come, the economy comes to a halt and that the outperformance of asset classes over cash, that beta, cannot be very positive for too long, because if it was, it would be easy. If it was positive, you just buy, borrow cash and you buy the long things and you make a lot of money. It ha comes with big bumps along the way and that assets are priced to discount future expectations, most importantly, inflation, growth, risk premiums and discount rates, and i'm going to get into that in a minute. And then every investment is a return stream. What i mean is, every day you can market to the market, you know what it's like, and so the key is to be able to put together portfolios of return streams so that they balance well.
As hashing was saying, i would say, whatever success that i've had in life or that bridgewater has had, has to do with knowing how to deal with our not knowing more than anything we know, because what you don't know is a lot and if, and you can reduce your risk by a lot more than you could reduce your return by knowing how to diversify well, so, so diversification can reduce risk more than it reduces return, so it improves the return to risk ratios, and then i say that there i'm sorry if i'm getting technical, but there are two types of return streams. There is a beta return stream and an alpha return stream. And what i mean by a beta return stream is that there is an intrinsic reason that that asset class will behave in a certain way that you will know. In other words, if growth rises faster than discounted and interest rates don't rise much, you know that that stocks are going to go up. So there is environmental. So you can structure that alpha is a zero-sgame. In other words, for me to produce alpha, i have to be outperform, i have to take money away from somebody else. It's a zero-s game, like poker at a poker table. So so they can be either alphas of betas- and the key to good investing is to create good portfolios of good return streams- and then, in order to balance these, you have to risk balance them.
In other words, if somebody might think, if i put 50 of my dollars in stocks and 50 percent of my dollars in bonds, that i have my diversification, but not so, because the volatility of stocks is greater than the twi is twice the volatility of bonds, and because of that you have to risk balance them, and then the holy grail of investing is to find 15 or more good uncorrelated return streams. I'll get into that in a minute. And then, as hashem mentioned, then systemizing decision rules is is critical, and those rules should be timeless and universal.
What i mean is, as i said, i write down the criteria, we write down the criteria for investing, and then we take those criteria and we test them through all periods of time and all countries. Timeless and universal, because if something happened in one time and your process is not working in that time, then it must be that you haven't explained the differences, and so, by forcing ourselves to try to make those rules timeless and universal, it then becomes the- you know the, the standard that we operate by. So all the rules that we're operating them by are timeless and universal. I'll just pass through some charts. So this going back to 1975, think of this as the rolling returns of asset classes.
Okay, what you can see is that all of the asset classes there have some times that are good, sometimes that are bad. On average they're above zero, but they all have periods of down and inevitably what happens is that investors- most investors- love the asset classes that did well. They the biggest mistakes of most investors is that they think that the investment that did well is a good investment, rather than it's a more expensive investment and so like.
So here we. We have here's eq whoops, you know. Here's equities recently done well, here's commodities done very poorly, then here, but here's equities right, done very poorly in that period of time. So the key, as hashim was saying, is balance. How to do that? So you can break the drivers of asset class returns into a few categories. This is true for any asset class and it's true for all asset classes. There are two main things that drive it. In terms of that's: inflation and growth. And if, basically, if you tell me that inflation's going to be higher than expected and growth be higher than expected, i would know what to invest in higher than discounted. And if it's you say it's lower, i'll know what to invest in, and most people here would. So those become the two main drivers. They can rise or that decline. And then there are discount rates and risk premiums.
Discount rates mean the inch. As i told you, the interest rate affects all asset classes, because the interest rate is the discount rate that you use to compare the cash flow. So you raise the interest rate and that's negative for all asset classes. And then you have, when you strip all that risk premiums out and if you, and that equals the following: this shows what happened in history in relationship to that context. The top chart shows a growth assets relative to strong and assets that you hold. If you had a falling growth environment assets that you'd have a rising fault aggregate with inflation. Then it shows what the discount rate is and then it shows what the risk premiwhich was the residual of that and that's what we have: all-weather return, all-weather return. It all, rather, is a [Music]: our optimally diversified portfolio. Okay, what i'm going to skip this chart. What it's meant to show basically, is that how diversification can substantially improve your risk to return ratio. I want to turn to this chart. So this is what i believe the holy grail of investing is: if you can do this, you will make a fortune, you'll be very successful and it's simple really- maybe not simple to pull off, but simple concept.
If you can get 10 good uncorrelated investments, five good uncorrelated investments, 15 good uncorrelated investments, you can substantially improve the return to risk ratio. And this just shows how it works and why diversification is more important than being good even in picking the best investments, and most people think: give me the best investment and let me put all my money in what i think is the best investment. Wrong the best. Find your best 10 uncorrelated investments and put your money in that and you're going to do a lot better. And this just gives you an example. So this is the standard deviation. Let's call it the risk of 10 percent and just imagine i put in an asset- i'll use a simple example- that has 10 percent return and 10 standard deviation.
So let's say it's 10 return, 10 standard deviation and let's say i put in a second investment that is six, sixty percent correlated with that third, fourth, fifth and sixth and so on. This is how my risk in my portfolio would change. That means like if you have a diversified portfolio of stocks- average stock is about 60 correlated with average other stocks and you can put in a hundred, you can put in a thousand and you are not going to materially reduce your risk relative to putting in.
You know just five to ten and you could see that that'll lower your risk by 10 or 15 percent if you have an uncorrelated return stream and you can get actually better than uncorrelated because you could have negatively correlated, but let's say i put in an uncorrelated return stream. This is how the line goes. So you could see, like, at five you've more than cut your risk in half. Five uncorrelated return streams. If you have down to 15, you're going to reduce your risk by nearly 80 percent. That means you've improved your return to risk ratio by a factor of five. So you can reduce your risk a lot without reducing your return, and that is the key to it, right? So when i look at this, i think that there are two types of assets. What's your strategic asset allocation mix? What is your beta? In other words, what portfolio do you normally have? And in my opinion it should be highly diversified, but with along those lines in terms of like half and growth half inflation rising or declining, and then alphas. You have to have a lot of different alphas, like in our case, we have, you know well, over 100 different types of alphas, about 130 different kinds of markets actually in terms of trading. So that's it. Thank you for your patience. Let's have a conversation about it.