JPMorgan reveals a new phase in the history of the religion of finance.
Wall Street has always had its own vocabulary. It gets better every day. In the video of an interview by Business Insider with David Kelly, chief global strategist of JPMorgan Asset Management, we learn that “stock market investing is a kind of monotheastic religion: there’s only one god and that is future earnings growth.” (Readers are advised to listen carefully to the audio as they watch the video.)
This may represent a breakthrough in financial theology — or theology tout court — since until the current phase of financial capitalism there were only monotheistic religions. Now we have a “monotheastic” one.
Here is today’s 3D definition:
Describes a religion that has replaced all forms of animate or intelligent gods by an imaginary being that rules the future
Not always up with the times, Business Insider took the liberty of “correcting” in its subtitles with Kelly’s clearly pronounced “monotheastic” to monotheistic. It hasn’t understood that the the world of investment has just gone beyond the passé concet of intelligent design. Kelly regales us with the intricacies of the new theology when he explains this new invisible god: “[You] cannot see much future earnings growth from here. Next year it’s going to be tougher than this year. But look how good it’s this year.”
In other words, the key to everything — “future earnings growth” — is not in the future but in the present, which can only mean we have already reached a form of eternity.
Investors have always looked for the prospect of growth along with profits as the key to investing. The exceptional case of Amazon began to change the rules in favor not of tangible profit or growth, but of future earnings growth. That may be where the new theology was born. The new financial orthodoxy is official because mathematically formulated: “Growth trumps profit, as long as expenses are justified by the level of growth.”
The Motley Fool analyzes the case of Amazon, concluding: “If there’s one thing that this exercise has shown, it’s that any evaluation of Amazon’s financial performance involves a lot of interpretation.” In other words, understanding it requires inventing a new theology with a new hermeneutics. As Kelly insists, we have entered a realm where time takes on a new dimension, reminding us of both St Augustine’s original philosophical and theological conception of time developed in Book 11 of the Confessions in that some see as an anticipation of Albert Einstein’s. By moving from Augustine’s “monotheism” to Kelly’s “monotheasm,” we may be entering into a new world of infinite and eternal creation, the final phase of financialized capitalism.
But the old financial theology is still thriving. CNBC looks at Warren Buffett’s investment choices to analyze the difference between Apple and Amazon: “Buffett puts less credence on aggressive future forecasts, that is why he is probably attracted to Apple’s current high level of profits versus Amazon’s potential.” They identify the principle behind this clearly as an act of faith, though Buffett representing the old “monotheistic” (and not monotheastic) theology: “[His] philosophy of emphasizing a company’s historical financial track record versus putting credence in aggressive future forecasts from analysts.”
Therein you see the final proof that this is indeed a theological debate. Even the old monotheism of belief in profit — Buffett’s religion that the secular CNBC calls his “philosophy” — is built on “credence” or faith. The “Oracle of Omaha” currently commands an entire civilization of adepts of the religion of profit who hang on his every word, in the hopes of internalizing his divinely inspired wisdom. And though oracles are habitually associated with polytheistic religions, nearly everyone considers Buffett to be the high priest of belief in the ultimate creative power (the true Creator) called “profit.”
Monotheastic religion is just taking off and has a long way to go, so we expect for some time to witness the struggle of its monotheastic adepts as they suffer martyrdom, oppressed by the still dominant monotheists, until their truth can emerge as the new theology of an empire. Alas, by retreating from the future to the present when explicating the importance of “future earnings growth,” Kelly leaves us hankering for the expression of the true credo of his monotheastic faith.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
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