Tuesday, October 28, 2008

After the Crisis

James Laxer (The Global Crisis: The End of an Age of Reaction) argues that the current financial crisis has brought an end to the "Anglo-American era of globalization." It's a good article and I recommend you read it. But I am starting to think that just the opposite is going to happen: the US and its way of business will emerge far stronger than they were before.

In recent years the US dollar has been looking very fragile. The dollar was propped up by Chinese government policy to ensure continued imports of Chinese goods in to the voracious maw of American consumers. The euro has been rising as a real alternative to the dollar.

But the current financial crisis has exposed the great weakness of the euro: although there's a European central bank, there is ineffective centralized authority to take action when there's trouble. Consequently the euro is taking a hammering and the dollar is getting stronger. The euro is looking like an unsafe place to store wealth, while the US dollar is looking very good. This crisis could end the threat of the euro and solidify the US dollar as the international currency.

Demographers are giving us reason to think that the US will beat off some other threats as well. Countries boom when they have growth in the most productive age group, and they droop when they have more of their population in young and old brackets. The US birth rate is going to keep the country an economic powerhouse over the next 25 years, while demographics in Europe, Japan and China all indicate that those countries will drop behind. Only Brazil and India will outpace the US in adding working age residents (and Canada will also do well because of our aggressive immigration policy).

The US also continues to have high output per worker and the highest rate of innovation in business. It has incredible domestic demand and, of course, the benefit of starting as the biggest and most powerful.

Globalization may have contributed to the severity of the crisis, but it will probably be remembered as the savior of it as well. International monetary associations like the IMF, G8 and G20 were all major players in the crisis management, and were very effective. When the world starts to reform financial regulation and create a replacement for Bretton Woods, we will look to organizations like the Bank for International Settlements, an organization of the world's 55 biggest central banks.

In addition, we will look to the US for leadership. The US has been failing in that regard for years, but that is going to turn around: not just because Barack Obama will win the presidency, but because one party will control both the presidency and congress, which will make it possible for the president to get international agreements passed into US law.

I'm not claiming it's fair. Inadequate regulation in the US has affected the prosperity of every citizen on the planet. However, it is starting to seem likely that the US will not be hurt in the long-term, and will probably benefit from the crisis.

Increasingly it seems that India is the only real competition for the US in the realm of economic world supremacy. While India is playing its hand very, very well, it still has a long way to go.

1 comment:

Renjith Nair said...