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Old 01-10-2010, 04:17 PM   #1
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How America Can Rise Again

A well-written article in this month's "The Atlantic" that echoes a lot of my thoughts about the "gloom and doom" being exaggerated, and I was surprised to see that it also echoes my thoughts regarding it being more the failure of government, instead of a foreign crisis. I strongly suggest reading the entire article, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

How America Can Rise Again - The Atlantic (January/February 2010)

So the question is: Are the fears of this moment our era’s version of the “missile gap”? Are they anything more than a combination of the two staple ingredients of doom-and-darkness statements through the whole course of our history? One of those ingredients is exaggerated complaint by whichever group is out of political power—those who thought America should be spelled with a “k” under Nixon or Reagan, those who attend “tea bag” rallies against the Obama administration now. The other is what historians call the bracing “jeremiad” tradition of harsh warnings that reveal a faith that America can be better than it is. Football coaches roar and storm in their locker-room speeches at halftime to fire up the team, and American politicians, editorialists, and activists of various sorts have roared and stormed precisely because they have known this is the way the nation is roused to action.

Today’s fears combine relative decline—what will happen when China has all the jobs? and all the money?—with domestic concerns about a polarized society of haves and have-nots that has lost its connective core. They include concerns about the institutions that have made America strong: widespread education, a financially viable press, religion that can coexist with secularism, government that expresses the nation’s divisions while also addressing its long-term interests and needs. They are topped by the most broadly held alarm about the future of the natural environment since the era of Silent Spring and the original Earth Day movement.

How should we feel? I spoke with historians and politicians, soldiers and ministers, civil engineers and broadcast executives and high-tech researchers. Overall, the news they gave was heartening—and alarming, too. Most of the things that worry Americans aren’t really that serious, especially those that involve “falling behind” anyone else. But there is a deeper problem almost too alarming to worry about, since it is so hard to see a solution.

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Old 01-10-2010, 05:43 PM   #2
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Yeah, I dunno. It is certainly interesting, but no nation just 'bounces' back ad infinitum. Nobody stays top dog forever. A hundred years from now, even if it is but a middling power, I'd like to see a peaceful and prosperous America, of course.

The other thing I note in the article is that decline of the 'falling behind other countries' variety does not seem to trouble the author greatly... but I suspect it does trouble the average citizen. It's not so much decline in economic or 'power' terms that worries me, it's how the American mindset might react to that. I fear an angry country. I'm not sure America does British self-deprecation and melancholy.

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Old 01-10-2010, 06:04 PM   #3
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I want to read this book. There are supposed to be some incites on how to avoid economic crises such as now and in the past:

This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly
Throughout history, rich and poor countries alike have been lending, borrowing, crashing--and recovering--their way through an extraordinary range of financial crises. Each time, the experts have chimed, "this time is different"--claiming that the old rules of valuation no longer apply and that the new situation bears little similarity to past disasters. This book proves that premise wrong. Covering sixty-six countries across five continents, This Time Is Different presents a comprehensive look at the varieties of financial crises, and guides us through eight astonishing centuries of government defaults, banking panics, and inflationary spikes--from medieval currency debasements to today's subprime catastrophe. Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, leading economists whose work has been influential in the policy debate concerning the current financial crisis, provocatively argue that financial combustions are universal rites of passage for emerging and established market nations. The authors draw important lessons from history to show us how much--or how little--we have learned. Using clear, sharp analysis and comprehensive data, Reinhart and Rogoff document that financial fallouts occur in clusters and strike with surprisingly consistent frequency, duration, and ferocity. They examine the patterns of currency crashes, high and hyperinflation, and government defaults on international and domestic debts--as well as the cycles in housing and equity prices, capital flows, unemployment, and government revenues around these crises. While countries do weather their financial storms, Reinhart and Rogoff prove that short memories make it all too easy for crises to recur. An important book that will affect policy discussions for a long time to come, This Time Is Different exposes centuries of financial missteps.
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