"In the 20th Century alone, we dealt with two great wars; a dozen or so panics and recessions; virulent inflation that led to a 21.5% prime rate in 1980; and the Great Depression of the 1930s, when unemployment ranged between 15% and 25%."
Although there have been cyclical downturns in the past, how do we know that it's not "different this time", as doom and gloomers will assert in each and every downturn? Quite simply, it is an understanding of the effectiveness of the incentive system that is the basis of capitalism. As Buffett puts it in his 2008 letter to shareholders:
"Our economic system has worked extraordinarily well over time. It has unleased human potential as no other system has, and it will continue to do so. America's best days lie ahead."
Investors who study various economic measures through the course of history will find many of the recurring themes which make Buffett so positive. One is the positive effects that lower borrowing costs have on the economy. Another is the adaptive ability of businesses which react to shocks by eventually bringing supply and demand back in line with each other. Another is growth in productivity, as innovation drives increases in efficiency which allows workers to produce more per hour and thus become more valuable and thereby increase their standard of living.
While certain political leaders call for an end to capitalism, it is important to retain some perspective and consider how valuable this economic system has been and how valuable it will be in continuing to drive increases in our standard of living.