Monday, January 05, 2009

Well Hedged

On the one hand Professor Niall Ferguson suggests that the de-coupling of 'Chimerica' may be hastened by the Credit Crunch leading to a post-American world faster than anyone had anticipated. All three of his conditions for conflict in the twentieth century now apply in our own: an empire in decline, ethnic disintegration and economic instability.

On the other hand he notes that America remains the global centre of innovation, has always managed to rely on strong leadership in hard times and historically the rest of the world always seems to suffer more even when the crisis originates in the US.

As far as the fate of the world goes, I'm back with the optimists these days. Indeed it is my New Year's resolution to stay that way as long a possible in 2009! This is partly because I've seen that many of the people doing all the doom-saying right now are Johnny-come-latelies to ardent pessimism; they are in fact the same people who were being defiantly optimistic back in late 2007 when I was offloading all my equities. (At least Nouriel Roubini is a mighty consistent downer.)

There's a good deal of gloating going on about the likely edging out of both neocons and neolibs from Western political and economic life, but those two groups' most trenchant enemies appear, oddly enough, to have largely internalised some of the neos faultier tenets - such as "money makes the world go round" and "America is an imperial power".

There are cultural factors in play here which many of those predicting the doom of the dollar are failing to pick up on. Britain no longer has an empire yet Greenwich remains the centre of global time. Likewise the Dollar and the English Language remain important standards of convenience worldwide and the Internet gives both an important edge in the globalised world.

Most Latin American countries have a love-hate relationship with the unfortunately-named Washington Consensus, but those that have consolidated democracy, cut back on trade barriers and simplified the red tape choking their economies have gone on to benefit from greater prosperity. I don't see China displacing America and the wider West down here any time soon.

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