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May 12, 2008

« Costs of Sprawl | Main | Misery Map »

Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek:

"Generations from now, when historians write about these times, they might note that by the turn of the 21st century, the United States had succeeded in its great, historical mission—globalizing the world. We don't want them to write that along the way, we forgot to globalize ourselves."

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Whitney Gunderson

This is a must read article - calm, objective and broadly focused. Here are my favorite parts and a few comments:

"In 2004, the group said, 950,000 engineers graduated from China and India, while only 70,000 graduated from the United States. But those numbers are wildly off the mark. If you exclude the car mechanics and repairmen—who are all counted as engineers in Chinese and Indian statistics—the numbers look quite different. Per capita, it turns out, the United States trains more engineers than either of the Asian giants."

The article goes on to discuss issues relating to immigration and diversity:

"But America's hidden secret is that most of these engineers are immigrants. Foreign students and immigrants account for almost 50 percent of all science researchers in the country. In 2006 they received 40 percent of all PhDs. By 2010, 75 percent of all science PhDs in this country will be awarded to foreign students. When these graduates settle in the country, they create economic opportunity. Half of all Silicon Valley start-ups have one founder who is an immigrant or first generation American. The potential for a new burst of American productivity depends not on our education system or R&D spending, but on our immigration policies. If these people are allowed and encouraged to stay, then innovation will happen here. If they leave, they'll take it with them."

The year 1908 was exactly 100 years ago. Someone my age (26 years old) in 1908 would have been living in a time that was pre-World Wars One and Two, and pre-Great Depression. There is an old adage that says that history likes to repeat itself. Many people have studied history to have a better idea of what the future will bring - since we can't understand what's going on now without understanding the past. If the "history repeats itself" adage is applied to 2008, we are going to be facing another Great Depression and world conflict in the near future. There are signs that history is repeating itself: The Russo-Japanese War was from January 1904 to July 1905 and the Italian-Ottoman Empire War was from January 1911 to September 1912. These conflicts were relatively small and preceded World War One. Can these conflicts be analogized to the Iraq War? Obviously, the early 20th century conflicts did not last as long as the Iraq War has lasted, with no end in sight.

As Federal Chairman Ben Bernanke knows, as he has spent a great deal of time studying the events that lead up to the Great Depression, one of the causes of the Great Depression was an enormous amount of unsecured consumer debt. Does this sound familiar? Duh.... the current mortgage crisis can be analogized to the mini-market meltdowns that plagued the financial markets in the roaring 1920s. Will Bernanke be able to head off "the big one?"

Furthermore, can Americans start acting with guarded optimism again? If the age of global anxiety is viewed directly as an opportunity instead of through a prism of threats, we just might be able to avoid the pitfalls of history.... and my generation could turn out to be one of the most peaceful and prosperous in history. That's why I have harsh words for those who don't believe in America, or for those who resort to lambasting when the United States is cast in a somewhat positive light.

Robert

The reality is that America is now government by people living in a dream world governed by ideology not reality. Karl Rove, one of Bush's advisors had actually said that "they create the reality". China however, is now governed by people living in reality using ideology as a general guide for policy not a rigid specific guide. The economic reforms in China including tax breaks, government subsidies, deep government involvement in key industries, and agressive government intervention in the financial system for the benefit of all the people not such a small handful of wealthy has brought enormous prosperity to the Chinese people. Of course there is government corruption but mostly at a local level. In response, there have been a large number of riots against corrupt local government officials. However, the central government's response to these has generally been to side with the people. In one case I can recall corrupt government officials privatized the public transportation system selling it to their close friends and the new owners raised the bus fare by a huge amount. The people rioted and the local government forced the bus fares back to the old level under pressure from the central government in Beijing.

"When the people fear the government you have tyranny. When the government fears the people you have liberty"
- Thomas Jefferson

What I see is that Chinese leaders fear their people but the people do not fear the Chinese government. It is the fear of the people that drives Chinese leaders to take steps to develop China with the interests of the masses of people in mind instead of the elite. What I see in America is contempt of the people by American leaders not fear of the people.

Robert

The only way for America to avoid another Great Depression is for as Paul Volcker , who was a former head of the Federal Reserve put it is " less consumption, and more production". A lot of this production will need to be in internationally tradeable goods and services in order to earn back all those American dollars that are being held by foreigners. This is needed to reverse the fall of the dollar which will lead to a dollar collapse/crisis if nothing is done. Ben Bernanke (also known as Helicopter Ben) is going to try to inflate America out of this recession by printing more money. At best this would buy time but if the fundamentals do not change then another Great Depression can not be avoided.

Whitney Gunderson

Robert - China cannot be completely understood. They are a communist country - every Chinese business has a management component from the Chinese government. The Chinese government does not fear its people. Somehow, it has the enourmous power to conform them. I am not sure how you can so confidently claim to understand the positive impact of China so well.

You also say that the "reality is that America is now government by people living in a dream world governed by ideology not reality," but this is just not the case. How can you claim this when issues such as the current credit crunch, energy supplies and health care - all issues firmly grounded in reality - are dominating the United States' national discussion and its politics today? Karl Rove was correct when he said that "they create the reality." But the reality Rove helped to create has turned out not to be in the United States' best interest - that's part of the reason we are having an intense discussion about this, and that's why the future course the United States chooses to take with leadership and econonic policy is so important.

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