“This time is different” has been a common line used in the investing world for ages, but ultimately the new “different” often turns out to be more of the same. That said, the current investing climate actually could be different, said speakers at the 6th Annual Inside Alternatives conference.

The conference, held July 13 and 14 in Denver and hosted by Financial Advisor and Private Wealth magazines, attracted more than 600 attendees. Keynote speakers included CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow; John Mauldin, chairman of Mauldin Economics; and Marcus Luttrell, a decorated Navy SEAL and best-selling author of the book Lone Survivor.

“What we’re seeing today is different from what any of us have experienced in our investment lifetimes,” said Ben Hunt, chief risk officer at Salient Partners. Hunt spoke on a panel session that discussed living in a world of elevated risk levels. “You have to go back to the 1930s and the 1870s to see something similar, and what’s similar is when politicians in general are successful in transforming capital markets into political utilities. I believe that’s the big picture of what we’re experiencing today, and it requires a different mind-set.”

“You can’t put these political genies back in the bottle. Politics always trumps economics,” Hunt noted. “This game of chicken is everywhere—it’s between Russia and the West; between Iran and the West; it’s between [U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Janet] Yellen and the markets. Everywhere you look, it’s a test of willpower. And while I think there are a lot of opportunities from this policy divergence, it creates all of these different examples of these tests of willpower, these games of chicken, and that creates an environment investors haven’t had to face since the 1930s.”

Hunt offered that the current status quo regarding the economy and monetary policy is a good situation for many investors, as the steady, low-growth environment coupled with monetary policy support has been a friend to both stocks and bonds.

“That’s the new Goldilocks, which is a growth rate in the U.S. of 1.5% to 2%—which would be awful in prior decades, but now buttressed by incredible monetary support, that’s working for us. It’s a stable equilibrium,” Hunt said.

“But politics makes it unstable, because it’s always political shocks that upend these very nice, stable economic periods,” he added. “That’s what you have to look for. I really believe the elections next year in Italy and France could be the potential source for the shock that overcomes this very stable political utility equilibrium we’ve had across the global markets.”

Politics are always a looming 800 pound gorilla, but the unprecedented liquidity unleashed by central banks globally since the Great Recession creates a massive wild card that ratchets up the unpredictability in tandem with the political uncertainty.

“There’s always stuff going on geopolitically,” said Jack Rivkin, CEO and chief investment officer at Altegris. “The question is what does it lead to on the financial side of things. Investors are frolicking through the buttercups, so to speak, because they’re looking at QE [quantitative easing] where money is pouring into systems around the world and people are following the money.

“The big issue as the U.S. stops its QE and does something about its balance sheet is we have divergence going on here,” he continued. “As the U.S. comes to the end of its liquidity trail, the risk is we haven’t really created inflation expectations yet. We’re going to see divergence in policies, and that will create additional volatility that could be a major problem.”

One of the panelists suggested we’re in the fifth inning of the current investment cycle. Rivkin offered a different take.

“What you’re seeing is we started a new game; what inning isn’t important,” he said. “ We’ve lived in a declining interest rate environment since 1981. We’ve declined about as much as we can, but now we’re going on the other side of that. So the saying we all use that ‘past performance isn’t indicative of future results’ I think is absolutely true. We’re entering into a new game versus an inning in the old game.”

In his keynote session, CNBC’s Kudlow said the most important challenge the U.S. and the global economies face is achieving higher rates of growth. He believes the current debate over whether the world is mired in “secular stagnation,” a phrase coined by former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, is misplaced. “It’s an argument to cover up six years of top-heavy government policies,” he said.

Kudlow also said he thought the IMF should be expunged. There are “fabulous Greek businessmen and women” all over the world who would love to return to the motherland and help invest there and rebuild it. Were the Greek diaspora able to return home and help privatize government-owned businesses, the nation could recover, Kudlow said.

Kudlow had another suggestion. “Let Donald Trump go there and do it and build golf courses, hotels and casinos [on their beautiful uninhabited islands] and get the hell out of the presidential race,” he quipped.

 Kudlow admitted he loved debt, though it needed to be used correctly.

Participants on other panels said that with equity markets at risk amid the end of quantitative easing in the U.S.—and with bond yields non-existent—alternative asset classes and hedging strategies can help reduce volatility and allow a portfolio to generate income, the panelists said.

“We recommend a 25% allocation” in model portfolios, said Ryan Tagal, director of product management at Envestnet. But many advisors are starting from a traditional 60/40 mix of stocks and bonds and have a long way to go to boost their alternatives exposure, he said.