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Ray Dalio: US most divided socially and economically since 1937

  • In an essay, Ray Dalio, the head of Bridgewater Associates, compared the current U.S. climate to 1937.
  • His missive comes as U.S. markets appear to have hit a wall, political conflict has escalated, and thousands are protesting in the streets.
  • GDP is on track to jump 3.8 percent in Q3 and the 4.3 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in 16 years. However, Dalio says the numbers don't tell the whole story.

Americans are divided socially and economically in ways that have not been seen since the worst days of the Great Depression and as the world was heading into another global conflict, hedge fund king Ray Dalio said Monday.

In an essay on LinkedIn, the head of Bridgewater Associates compared the current U.S. climate to 1937, as Adolf Hitler rallied Germans ahead of World War II and the U.S. plunged further into the economic abyss that had begun in 1929.

"It seems to me that we are now economically and socially divided and burdened in ways that are broadly analogous to 1937," Dalio wrote. "During such times conflicts [both internal and external] increase, populism emerges, democracies are threatened and wars can occur. I can't say how bad this time around will get. I'm watching how conflict is being handled as a guide, and I'm not encouraged."

The missive comes as U.S. markets appear to have hit a wall, political conflict in Washington has escalated, and thousands are protesting in the streets over historic monuments.

Dalio's view on how it all turns out is not optimistic.

"[D]emocracies are threatened when the principles that divide people are more strongly held than those that bind them and when divided people are more inclined to fight than work to resolve their differences," he said. "Conflicts have now intensified to the point that fighting to the death is probably more likely than reconciliation."

Wall Street had been hoping that President Donald Trump's election would bring with it a new business-friendly era in Washington. Dalio was among those encouraged by the new administration's potential to impact growth, but has since soured on the president.

GDP has risen 1.9 percent this year and is on track to jump 3.8 percent in the third quarter, according to the Atlanta Fed. In addition, the 4.3 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in more than 16 years, and the stock market had hit a series of new records before edging lower recently.

Dalio, though, sees those benefits as skewed, with some doing "extraordinarily well and others are doing terribly, with gaps in wealth and income being the greatest since the 1930s."

He pointed to Gallup polling showing Trump's favorability among Republicans at 79 percent and just 7 percent among Democrats, while 40 percent back the president's impeachment, with sentiment again running along party lines.

"In other words, the majority of Americans appear to be strongly and intransigently in disagreement about our leadership and the direction of our country," Dalio wrote. "They appear more inclined to fight for what they believe than to try to figure out how to get beyond their disagreements to work productively based on shared principles."

Amid the conflicts, Dalio said his firm is "tactically reducing our risk" to the current problems "not being handled well." In a separate LinkedIn post recently, Dalio encouraged investors to buy gold amid global conflict.

Ray Dalio will speak at CNBC's Delivering Alpha event on September 12.

WATCH: Dalio explains his rationale for gold