The Limits of Preparing for Evil

A long time ago, when I was a broker trainee at Securities Corporation of Iowa, I would end my week by taking a ten-mile run on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail with a portfolio management intern. We were the two youngest members of the firm: I, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa and he, a soon-to-be senior at Northwestern. We were fit and broke, so while we couldn’t afford to end our week drinking in a bar with the other young professionals, we could run. So, much like Forest Gump… we just ran.

 As a soon-to-be graduate of Northwestern should be, he was idealistic; as the son of June Glaser, I was pragmatic. Therefore, on these runs we had the leisure of debates that would decide nothing, and almost all our conversations were easily forgotten… except the “Russians…they’re just like us!” debate. My idealist friend was keen to say and happy to repeat to me (over and over) that “Russians are people, just like you and me…. we all want the same things”.

“No”, I would reply, “Russians are not like you and me”. This simple reply would send my well-educated friend into a tizzy. Apparently, no one at Northwestern had bothered to inform him that Russians didn’t have history of democracy and little experience with rule of law or the ideas of liberty that promote the civil virtues of a just society. What Russians know, I continued, “is generations of oppression, both domestic and foreign, and as such what they hope for is to be oppressed by fellow Russians… and if possible, maybe oppress a few other nation states”.

“But, but, but”, my friend would stammer, aghast at my obviously oxygen deprived, Midwestern, state college, mindset, “Russians are people, just like us!”

That was 1985. The “Russians are people just like us”, argument is good theology, but a terrible worldview. It lacks, as is so human, an accounting for another theological idea. The idea of evil.

What the Russians and their allies are attempting upon the plains of Ukraine is to do evil. It is not their first attempt to do evil and it will not be their last. If we are to ponder dark things, it is also best to now acknowledge they are not the only nation state that wishes to visit evil upon the free and not so free people of this world. Accounting for evil is not just theological, but also a practical calculation. You start the calculation only after coming to the cold, hard realization that… evil does exist. Unfortunately, it will always exist and the lengths to which we can prepare for evil have limits. I would also suggest the time to prepare for evil is before it acts upon us, not after.

We do many things here at Iowa Wealth Management. One of our most important tasks is to see risk for what it is and, hopefully, where it is. We then build portfolios to minimize risk while still allowing for a growing world economy to benefit you. Our methodology is one of the oldest, most time tested available - a methodology that accounts for a world with both good and evil. Prudent Man Theory’s focus on higher quality assets with a strong income component has served us well of late.