Monday, 24 March 2014

Zorro and the circle of focus...

Something I've been explaining to pupils recently: when we focus, we get more done, we got it done more effectively, and that means we have more time to do other things and enjoy life.

In the film, The Mask of Zorro with Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas, a young, wayward man, Alejandro Mullieta, full of revenge for his brother's death is taken to train by Don Diego de la Vega (the original Zorro). His training involves bowing to discipline and, most interestingly, to learn to fight within a circle. Nothing outside the circle exists, "unless I say it does," says Don Diego.

The circle is an excellent metaphor for focus. Everything outside the focal point becomes irrelevant and should be disregarded.

When we do not focus, we are tempted into doing many things at once - and we do them all poorly. (There is no such thing as effective multi-tasking - unless, one of the tasks is menial and does not require attention - e.g., ironing or cleaning: then we could be listening to an audio book!)

When we try to read book with the tv on, when we try to do our budget while having a conversation, while we try to play with our children while our attention is diverted by inner thoughts ... we half list, half read, half study, half pay attention. Or worse.

Instead, in everything we do, we need to be as focused as the young Alejandro must be. At first it is frustrating, the constraints make us angry - especially if we are creative and love having a go at everything (as I must admit I do!). But the circle conditions us to remain on task, to put our energies into what we're doing.

Slowly but surely, our abilities in that area increase; our expertise is enhanced and we are able to get the work done quicker, leaving us free to do more things.

Watch the clip here.

Currently, I am learning to trade forex and stock markets. I've thrown myself into the circle to calm down: for the past three months, I've been like a kid in a toy shop - there's so many markets to trade, so many movements and strategies...what to play with, what to play with?!

Trading gets rid of many demons in the head: so many emotions emerge when putting money down on the market and the direction it consequently takes - joy and despair mixed with frustration and exhilaration. But much of my trading has been like the young Alejandro - taking on too much without  any focus. In the clip, Don Diego asks him what the sword is for - Alejandro replies, "for sticking it in the other men." "Oh dear, this will take time," replies the old Zorro. Similarly, with trading - what's the button for? For taking a trade. Oh dear, this will take time, I can hear my mentors...

And this is very much like life and any learning we do.

When we concentrate on that which needs our priority, our foremost attention - we do better.

And often, we enjoy it ... because our brains are wired to learn. We are a curious species - and when we focus that curiosity, we can change the world!

(Or at least our understanding of it!)

Monday, 17 March 2014

Anthem for hollow youth

The assumption that I make of young people is that they are full of vitality, ambition, drive, and creativity. I assume that they are keen to improve their health and mind, that they want to learn and contribute to the world around them, to defend its precious values such as human rights and the environment.

This belief sustains my great optimism I have for our future as a people – custodians of the planet and enablers of each other.

But beliefs are one thing – driven by assumptions and based often on an idealistic view of the world and its potential: reality is another.

In discussing sociology and psychology A-level topics with my older students, I gain an insight into our some of the driving forces of our youth, and they certainly do not reflect the beauty that youth has to offer.

In three poignant books on girls, sociologists and journalists discuss the third wave of feminism that has emerged in the past two decades. 

The first wave of feminism challenged men’s right to rule the planet and corporations – women asserted their right to enter the professions, get the vote, and become political voices.

The second wave of feminism challenged the preconceptions of women as weaker or less intelligent, as deserving protection by strong men: most importantly it railed against the objectification of woman as sex object.

The third wave of feminism champions women’s sexuality and right to exhibit and strut sexually.

Daily Telegraph
The beginnings of the third wave at first seemed a healthy attempt to find a balance for women: that they did not have to wear the clothing and behavior of men to succeed, that they could be feminine and sexy and still maintain an equality with men.

Unfortunately, the opposite has occurred. The third wave of feminism has reduced the image of young women back to a sex object, an object for male gratification. The relegation is apparent in music videos which act as a window into young people’s culture: what was once “girl power” has become a harem of generic beauties dripping over powerful men. (Find your own image for this - I'm not to keen to hunt down the semi-pornographic images from videos!).

The pressure on girls to conform to the 'sexy' look - generally skinny, done hair, short skirts, and a corresponding vacant look reflected in a lack of interest in high culture, in developing their minds and abilities.

Naturally, we are talking about a sub-culture: but teenagers feel peer pressure a lot to conform - especially if they do not have a great sense of self-esteem.

And self-esteem is in short supply. I'm not going to claim that people's self-esteem has always been high historically or that there was a wonderful golden age from which we are all descending into the abyss - most people are descendants of slaves or villeins and subtly sustain the outlook; and I am quite aware as a philosopher and historian that as we age, we look upon the youth with concern. That's natural - they are living life slightly differently from how we lived it.

Nonetheless, it is not just a single factor at work here undermining teenagers. We have been struggling through the twentieth century down to today - particularly the last forty years - to make sense of what the modern world with its freedoms and reduced social and moral barriers means to us.

Our teenagers are always a thermometer to our culture - their voice, their music, their interests, their ambitions, their energy and sense of moral order will become the world they inherit (and which we older ones will have to endure or enjoy!).  Subcultures are attempts to try out new things - and are often safe mechanisms to permit cultural change - they are wonderful expressions of the angst and sense of self that teenagers and young people struggle with, and in a globalising world it's not surprising to see a multitude of styles emerging and being tested in the fashionable world of the young minds. And why not?

The darker side though is the hollowness of a lot of people. The West is in danger of losing its great cultural foundation of critical thinking, strong sense of self and direction, a mindful approach to life and to others, a stoicism in adversity, an appreciation of the higher arts and culture generally.

Over the past few decades, in the great cultural experimentation we have lived with, there has been a slow but sure dumbing down of the intellect in favour of the pleasures of the body. Our wise thinkers through the ages have warned against hedonism: what replaces the pleasures when the body becomes dulled to the stimuli? A higher high is demanded - and often students of both sexes turn to drugs to get that high. And thereby strip their ability to self-cultivate their mind to great highs.

When the body is inured to external drugs, it becomes harder to produce the same excitation internally. Although, as biochemist Candace Pert points out, we have the pharmacopeia in our bodies to produce any high (or low) we want. When we become dependent on the external supply, we become dependent and we gradually lose our sense of self and hence our strength to be independent.

(Re)sexualisation of the female, the easy access to drugs, the ubiquity of screen media reinforcing stereo-types, the dumbing down of curricula in schools and the exam mill that schools have become (which undermine personal interest and learning generally), the high amounts of sugars that are present in many foods and drinks ('energy drinks...') are all powerful pressures undermining self esteem and criticality in society.

Deeper than that, we have had a hundred years of moral relativism in which good and bad, right and wrong have become 'lifestyle choices'.

Then there's the welfare state, standing in the sidelines to pick up the pieces when people harm themselves, get pregnant, and collapse into a state of unhealthy living (rising obesity and corresponding diabetes levels [cut the carbohydrates], the high rates of hip replacements [get some exercise!] and soaking our skin in a range of industrial chemicals that begin to build up heavy metals in the nervous system.

Then there's schooling. Drilled into passing exams in which statistics matter more than individuals - the critical sense of individuality is relegated to official targets.

Several generations have now been brought up on dumbed down culture, of mass entertainment, of ubiquitous sugary foods and drinks that strip the healthy bio-chemistry of the body. And drugs. If it’s not “recreational” drugs (whatever that means), it’s pharmaceutical drugs for acne or losing weight or not sleeping or anxiety or ADHD (more for the boys).

Russians of the Soviet Union drank a lot of vodka to keep them from the abyss of meaningless. Are we going the same way?

In conversations with one of my pupils, to the head girl from a comprehensive school and sixth form in a relatively affluent market town east of Nottingham, the effects of this hollowness are blatantly apparent. 

She spoke of a high level of promiscuity amongst certain cliques of the girls – not because the girls were in control and demanded a youthful sexual energy akin to the boys – but because they were looking for love, looking to be liked, and would, accordingly, compromise their virtue (and sometimes their health) to be recognized. Her comments were insightful and reflect similar comments I have heard before as well as in the research in books. Hollow girls. The boys? They'll sleep with anyone, smoke whatever's being passed around, get blotto (drunk) on the weekend - look good and 'fit' and be cretinous. 

I have observed the Barbie Army heading into her school in the morning  - certainly a clique rather than the majority – of young girls dressed in a similar fashion but generally vacant in the eyes. Other students have characterized them similarly: shallow, highly made up, often sexually active girls. Look at the toys marketed for girls in the shops. Then look at the teens. Some of them have great role models there.

It's the hollowness that is undermining them and ultimately our chances of making as a civilisation. 

Now there’s nothing new under the sun, we could retort: wanton lasses have always been there (just as there have been promiscuous boys) – our history is replete with stories of young girls getting into trouble right down to the 1970s, when the welfare state picked them up, offered them housing, abortions, and payments to cushion their choices.

But what is new is how prevalent the hollowness is becoming. 

Academically, I often ask some basic questions concerning our culture and history. The ignorance is telling and embarrassing. Many of the pupils I work with do not know the capitals of Europe. The older ones know nothing about the seventeenth century fight for rights. General knowledge provides landmarks for understanding, and it is severely lacking. "Not on the curriculum is it?" And they do not know to care about their ignorance.

In a telling commentary, my pupil explained that she had been accused of taking ecstasy - something the head girl should not be doing. She was devastated by the accusation and then started to realise that the heads were not interested in her health or well-being, but in the school's reputation. It was the facade of 'all is well at the school' that was the dominant theme of her interrogation - not the fact that many of its students took drugs or engaged in promiscuous sex: that did not matter, she realised, as long as the head girl wasn't getting involved and that the school maintained its high level of A-C grades.

Behind the official reputation of "it's a good school" lies a cultural time bomb.

I have emphasised the impact on the girls in this article over that of the boys - the impact there is similar those less visible. Many are plugged in to computer and online games and are similarly losing any sense of self therein.

In my article on the damage that tv does, several readers complained that there was no evidence that screen time can be damaging. Of course the evidence is there: you just have to open your eyes or sit with young people who are plugged in - they have trouble concentrating, they know nothing, they cannot follow simple instructions, they do not have good motor co-ordination (can't play sports well, can't write well), they have poor health, they do not have an imagination and do not have a great work ethic.

Some prefer to ignore the obvious cause-effect relationship and label their child dyslexic or hyperactive or special needs: bull. Except in a very few cases involving brain damage, our minds can be exercise in anything we choose to exercise them in - the brain is plastic.

Some prefer to ignore their girls dressing up like Barbies - perhaps they are Barbie mums in turn? Tv babysitting, nursery at two, bottle-fed, dressed up like little princesses. Our great seventeenth century author, John Locke, warned against calling our girls little princesses!

When we poison the spring, don't be surprised at the effects further down the road.

In raising our children, we are, as Naomi Aldort says, raising ourselves. We need to educate and show by example that the good life is not the seedy, smutty life of (some of) youth culture, but the heights of great art, literature, architecture, and human endeavour. We want character not clones, we need eccentricity that is grounded morally and ambitious creatively. We need to raise the standards and ensure a good moral foundation for our children and ourselves.


Friday, 14 March 2014

Discipline - pain or pleasure?


Discipline conjures up images of strict headmasters whipping boys with canes, of repressing natural instincts through institutionalised learning and creating schooled zombies, of standing in line and doing as one's told. It implies pain.

From Pink Floyd's The Wall

Yet discipline - and the word disciple - comes from the Latin word discere to learn. A disciple is one who follows a teacher or a set of principles, and it is instructive to note that when we think of discipline we think of a set of principles involving the application of force, of forcing people into modes of behaviour deemed appropriate by others: hence a disciplinarian is not on first thought a teacher or moral role model such as Jesus Christ or the Buddha but a person who inflicts violence upon others or on him or her self.

Like many things in our world, we need to challenge the orthodox. We humans are prone to creating bizarre notions of ourselves and other peoples and the nature of things, and this is just another part of the mayhem we create in our thinking and presumptions. 

The popular view is that discipline involves pain - usually inflicted on the self or on others. Pain is integral to such a philosophy - even if it is couched in the 'no pain, no gain' thinking. But when we tell people that they should feel the pain to get better, how many run forward and gleefully cry, "Count me in!"? And how many then keep up the pain over time? 

Huffington Post

Those that do pursue painful activities may have a deeper guiding philosophy than that of the mere pain/pleasure nexus so favoured by the utilitarian philosophy that western thinking has fallen prey to. They are guided by either a longer perspective of the success to be gained from current pain, or from a deeper, more interesting set of values. Or they are just masochists who believe that to a be self in this world must involve pain and that the absence of pain is somehow wrong or makes them feel guilty.

On the other hand, they may rewire the word pain into something more positive. 

To be disciplined does not have to mean getting the hair shirts out! 

What discipline means depends on the guiding philosophy - on our perception of the world and the associations that we make. 

Pain is a word. 

It is a concept that we create to describe a feeling. 

If the word did not exist, would we feel pain? 

At this point, you may reply that we are dealing in semantics and of course we would feel pain even if we did not have the word?

Would we? Imagine cutting your finger and then describing it as follows: the skin is cut and a nerve is reacting to tell the brain that it should remove the finger from the sharp object and that a chain of reactions will now start to repair the cut; in the meantime, you may find the emergency noise created by the nervous system distracting as the electrons and chemicals ring the first aid bells, but like any extraneous noise, you can ignore it. 

We know people can can ignore pain. We know the brain's cognition of pain can be overridden by a release of adrenaline. We know that people can mentally control their body to not feel pain. 

The issue is deeper. All the words we use are frames through which we view the world - our world is a product of our language. Close your eyes and think of the colour blue for thirty seconds, open them and you'll focus on the blue things around you. What we think of, we look for.

Yes, the world is, but what it is and how we perceive it and talk about it is through the medium of language. When I am training (strength training with Guy Baker in Nottingham), I could vocally express the pain that I feel when pushing a weight. My muscles are on fire - I see what I term the 'white fire' that accompanies a strenuous effort, but I don't use the word pain. Pain is something I want to avoid, so I would not push as much if I thought of it as painful

What the philosophy (and psychology) of language tells us is that there are many windows through which we view the world. If we look through the pain window we see, guess what...pain. We expect pain, we look for pain, we focus on pain. For the orthodox disciplinarian, this is what life is about - the simple philosophy of no pain, no gain. 

But if we look through the self-improvement window, we see a more developed self, a stronger self, a more physically and mentally fit self. When looking through this frame, we do not associate improvement with pain - we associate it with development, growth, profit, health, strength, love, and generosity. Development is a positive process and the self improvement window is a wonderful, positive frame through which to view the world. It implies that the world is orderly, that we are rightfully here to enjoy it and to get the best out of it for ourselves, and that what we learn and how we improve gives us a greater confidence to act within the world and with other people properly, honourable and with dignity and coherent values. 

Pain is a negative word and if we think in negatives, we attract negatives - we see them all around ourselves and we focus on them. 

Looking through the pain window we effectively stress ourselves: we expect pain - and when we expect a painful experience, we pump out the adrenaline and our higher mental functions diminish or freeze, we go into flight/fight mode. And stress is the cause of all illness. (Think about it - a toxin stresses the body, a pathogen stresses the body, psychological or environmental factors can stress the body). 

We can instead alter our view by using different words, by associating tasks and events differently. When we change our vocabulary, we change our view of the world. 

This is profound and easily verified: people who focus on the negative tend to be sicker and poorer (in a range of things) than people who  are positive. People who say, "I can't draw or spell" certainly can't. but they are basically saying, "I'm not going to even try." Why? Because, for whatever reason, they find drawing or spelling (or any other endeavour we care to name) difficult and usually associate the difficulty with pain. 

Yet when we associate a task with positive feelings such as achievement and improvement, we are more likely to do them and enjoy the progress that results.


But many people think that their perception of a task is fixed, that their emotions are a given that cannot be altered, which means that improvement in impossible. Their response cannot be challenged - it is hard, it is difficult, it is painful.

I hear it a lot in my practice from young children (who switched them off!!?) as well as adults. 

One of my adult clients (aged 49) intimated that she was no good at languages because she hated them at school. Yet she travels to France a lot and has avoided learning basic phrases because, as I pointed out, her teenage self associated language learning with distaste/difficulty...pain. A coin dropped and we made it a goal to learn some French for fun

And so we return to the notion of discipline. If we now associate discipline with positive attributes - of self-improvement, of timetabling quality time with family and friends, of learning a new skill, or strengthening the body and moving to a healthier state, then we can grow. And improvement requires discipline.

Instead of the usual associations of pain and handwork, discipline can be seen as a means to improve the self: a commitment to love the process of learning and growing!

To become disciplined means setting up a routine and following a list of priorities; but those priorities must mean something to you. They cannot be imposed, except from contractual reasons (work and family commitments) – they must come from your deepest needs and desires of self-fulfilment.

The routine and discipline of being true to yourself becomes quickly enjoyable because you’ve walked through the self-improvement door rather than the door to chores and pain.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The answer to life

The answer to life ... coming up....

Firstly, last week I was able to produce one out of three blogs.

Normally, I am very disciplined and get the blogs out without much hitch but last week my priorities had to change temporarily: my wife, Moira, was away in London on a training course for the weekend - this always throws the timetable because I need to put more time into my children. They come first. The younger came down with some bug that's been doing the rounds as well - he eats well, enjoys mummy's milk, eats very little sugar and has a generally robust constitution from the meat/fruit/nuts/human milk diet: he slept through the viral attack, enjoyed a few high temperatures that help to burn out viruses, and after a couple of days was back to his normal self. Then the elder went quiet and similarly, in a listless state coupled with extended sleep fought off the bug.

When life's issues crop up, it's so important to put first values first. My first values are - my children and my wife (in that order as Moira is more capable of understanding illness and how to deal with it compared to the youngsters!), then my clients, then my writings, then anything else I do.

If a person decides that they need to get fit but do so at the cost of their family time, ignoring pressing familial needs and professional demands to do their run or get to the gym suggests that family is of lesser value than personal fitness. If that's sincerely the case, fine - but is it really authentically the case?

The answer to life ... coming up...

Women often work till the last minute until giving birth. What are they doing? Stressing their body and stressing their baby and setting themselves up for an intervention. Upon reflection, postpartum, can they say that they were glad to have worked those extra few weeks rather than allow themselves to relax as their nature requires? Do we look back with fondness for the extra work we did professionally rather than spend time with our partners or children? Will we be on our death bed thanking the Lord for the overtime we did? Or will we be regretting not being there for our partner or children?

So writing took a big redundancy last week.

The Answer to Life

Last Saturday I was teaching the young Daniel (aged 10) - great sense of humour has the lad, so we often have a giggle.

He was working on a maths problem and, like many intelligent people, he jumped straight to the answer doing some algebra. That elicited a response from me:

"Well done on seeing the answer. Now, let me tell you something very profound. This is very important. In maths,  the answer isn't important." I stared into his eyes to make sure he was focused on the word. I repeated the concept and then he got it - his eyes bulged with confusion and a slight smile broke on his lips.

"Think about this," I added. "What's the answer to life?"

He shrugged, his eyes still open and bright.

"Death. We know what will happen in the end. We die."

He nodded slowly.

"But the important thing is what we do in life, isn't it? It's the process that's more important than the answer - death ...  It's what we do now - what we do tomorrow - that's important. Not the end. Not the answer. The answer is always death. Right, we know the answer to life, the universe, and everything - it's death. So, let's focus on the more important bit - living."

Naturally, I related that back to his algebra - the audit trail of showing his working out was more important than the final line.

And the final line leads back to what choices were made to get there.

Stephen Covey exhorts us to consider a funeral - our funeral - and to imagine what people would say at it, indeed what would be our eulogy? What processes and choices do we wish to be remembered for?

"I lived and died."

"I lived and I raised three healthy children who all are financially stable and in good relationships, I balanced my budget and left a £20,000 legacy to a local charity, I hiked across Dartmoor and travelled to Norway, I wrote a book of poems about my family; I was an active member of my golf club with a handicap of 7; I once had a conversation with the Prime Minister. I loved the same partner for thirty years and leave her great memories of our holidays and the house we renovated and extended..."

Think of the end, by all means - we know what it will, inevitably, be. But then focus on the bit in between coming here and exiting - life itself: the choices, the events, the people we meet, the interactions we have, the stuff we accumulate or pass on, the smells, the sights, the feelings, the laughter, the joys and disappointments, the achievements.

Life is but a process from birth to death - like two notes on a music manuscript, but it's the space between the notes that create the meaning (paraphrasing Alfred Brendel there).

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The economics of war (introduction)

Contrary to the beliefs of some economists (who really should not be titled economists), wars do not create wealth.

There is a popular notion that when the US economy headed into the Great Depression, it was the Second World War that enabled the US to come out of its recession - that coupled with a massive growth in the Federal government and many agencies.

The myth follows a Keynesian view of the economy that it is demand that drives wealth creation, rather than production. Accordingly, when an economy gears up for war, governments go on a spending spree and order more of war's apparatus. The industrial concerns producing arms, etc., thereby receive increased orders which then lead to an increase in employment and higher orders from their suppliers and the primary industries that ultimately produce the raw materials for the war machine. In terms of what students learn in basic economics, a change in the economic wealth of the country can be stirred by an increase in government spending - for the simple minded economists, what that expenditure goes on does not matter (i.e., expenditure is neutral - money spent on the armed forces or on hospitals or education has the same return): a war will be as just as good for the economy as spending on the infrastructure.

Of course, this is usually not the case - some projects will produce more wealth than others. Yet many historians and economists believe that war is good for the economy. I'm not sure if they have ever really thought about what they are saying, or whether they are financially or otherwise attached to groups that do have an interest in war: the military industrial establishment as it has been called. Ethically, declaring one's interests would be useful! For instance, does the economist work for a department that depends on military grants? Is the economist a member of the political elite which has much to gain from war (fame, honours)?

When an economist sincerely has no interest in defending war from a personal point of view, we may then proceed to clearly analyse the logic. When a government increases its expenditures, the payments must ... be paid for. (Sometimes we get the impression that our politicians miss this simple step in their thinking.)

If it possesses a surplus, then we can claim that the surplus is being put back into the economy through whatever channels the money is spent on. Some channels may be more conducive to producing economic wealth than others, but again we'll let that go. By relieving itself of a surplus nonetheless, the money is returned to the market place once the money has been spent by the civil servants in charge of disbursements. All things being equal, returning funds to the market will ensure that they are better used than kept in the government's coffers.

But what happens if the government does not have a surplus to spend? There are only three vehicles for the government to use:

 1) it can raise taxes to pay for the war - which means money is taken out of the productive economy of the market and put through less efficient government channels. This redistributes resources from one group in the economy to another.

 2) it can borrow money to pay for the war, which means it has to pay interest on the funds; while providing a cheaper source of financing that raising taxes (which always has the possibility of a popular backlash), the incursion of the government into the market for investment funds creates the problem of diverting funds that would otherwise have gone into profitable endeavours into government channels.

 3) it can print money or pursue an easy money policy by permitting the banks to create more funds that they would otherwise do. Inflation is taxation through the back door, for although it creates immediate funds for the government to spend, its effect is to raise prices and thereby squeeze the standard of living of people on a fixed salary relative to those receiving the new monies. They thus lose out in a wealth transfer which inflation creates.

Once the monies and credits to spend have been raised, the immediate effects on the economy will not be immediate but will be drawn out as the new expenditures gradually filter through markets along essentially unpredictable paths. Then we can focus on the military path that is unleashed.

Government cannot, by definition, spend money as efficiently as the private sector: this is because it has no incentive to do so. But when it spends money on an activity that destroys capital and people's lives, the theory that somehow wars create wealth collapses. When people are killed and machines are destroyed, the potential for the economy to sustain itself, never mind grow, is thwarted.

And guess what that does to the production possibility frontier?

It shrinks - and we can add that, since war creates numerous inefficiencies and distortions, the theoretical combination point will be below the second line anyway.


When a war is declared, there is typically a flight to quality. We are currently seeing this in the increasing tensions in the Ukraine. Consider that billions of dollars (and other currencies) can be highly liquid, that is they can be moved from market to another with a few clicks on the keyboard, then the fund managers in control of looking after the returns on their clients’ monies (pension funds, insurance funds, mutual funds, etc.) will be highly sensitive to alterations in the political tensions around the world. 

Where money can flow can be summarised in the investors’ quadrant: 

Each quadrant will have its own matrix of potential areas to hold liquid funds. The diagram below is a mere cartoon - there are hundreds of equities markets and also sectors of equities (industrial indices, pharmaceutical indices, entertainment, banking, etc).

Money will always seek safe havens when war is afoot. It will move from weaker stock markets that have a higher sense of risk to markets that are deemed more stable. It will move from equities into harder, less risky commodities such as gold, it will also move into areas that will be expected to see price hikes - such as oil, gas, and food. To what extent and as to the quantities involved no one can predict: no one knows where the market is going, as the markets are a process involving millions of people’s decisions as well as some big players such as investment fund operators, banks, and central banks. 

For instance, just for fun, consider a change in the distribution of funds overnight in these two examples, where the ‘balloon’ in each quadrant represents the quantity of funds currently invested in liquid assets:

In this case, the equities markets around the globe experience a decline, while commodities, harder or safer currencies and the relatively more secure bond markets experience an influx. 

The actual story will of course be much more subtle. For instance, when Russia moved troops into the Crimea in March 2014, the rouble fell in the forex markets - when wars occur, there is a high expectation that the funds required will be printed. Russia has a history of printing money, so not surprisingly investors dropped the rouble in favour of other currencies. Which? The Euro, GBP, and USD all saw rises as did the AUD (Australian dollar). Gold also rose a little as did oil. 

The Russian stock market dropped while the US markets reached for record highs. Accordingly, we can imagine a flow of money from the countries now deemed to be relatively less stable than the month before (Russia, Ukraine, surrounding countries, countries likely to be hard hit by rising oil or gas prices) into more stable economies (or those perceived to be). 

War generates a flight to quality. 

Interestingly, contrary to what socialists and statists think, capitalism avers warfare. When Russia was looking to invade the Ukraine, the run on the rouble cost Russia $11.3 billion dollars trying to protect its currency on the forex markets - the cost may have prompted Putin to think twice about engaging the Ukraine in conflict. 

At the global level this is witnessed in the ‘hot money’ flows that anger politicians (who expect the monies to stay put and be subject to devaluation and expropriation!). Money will flow, ceteris paribus, to safer areas and away from the danger zones.

This impedes a warring country’s ability to maintain and grow its economy of course. Investment flows dry up and the cost of borrowing rises. As state expenditures rise, the government requires  higher levies on its people, which divert funds and economic activity from productive pursuits to destructive ends. (Why? Each missile and bullet fired is a destruction of capital). Even without monetary inflation, the cost of living for people will rise - and usually governments then impose price controls, which worsen the situation.

The market converges on a price of P1 but politicians believe that the price is ‘too high’ for the people, so they introduce a legally mandated maximum price (for say food items) which then causes an excess demand over supply. The lower price encourages people to enter the market to stock up or consume more, while supplies are cut back as producers cannot sell the same quantities as they did before because the return is so much lower. This has nothing to do with ‘not being patriotic’ - it’s a simple economic law. Reduce the price and supply falls. Mandate a price reduction and excess demand results. 

Even with the great distortions occurring in the economy as a result of the war footing, governments tend to introduce further interventions and distortions in the economy causing further distortions and loss of efficiency. 

The war machine shifts resources from productive to destructive ends and reduces the economy’s ability to maintain itself, never mind grow. 

Of course, when fighting a defensive war the costs associated with losing may be too high to consider and the state is right in gearing its people for a just war (I've written on just war theory here and written on the philosophy of war below).