Wednesday, September 24, 2008

America's financial crisis

I don't know enough about the markets to comment at length about what's going on on Wall Street, but I do have the ability to sense trouble when it's here. And reading this from NY Times' columnist Roger Cohen has me positively frightened (not as frightened as by this, but still). I excerpt:

Asked about the crisis, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, said: “What crisis? Go ask Bush.”

Thanks, Lula. Brazil is sitting on $208 billion of its own in reserves, so perhaps Lula would say his flippancy is justified. But I don’t think it is.

Remember the last financial crisis in 1998? With the Russian economy in a freefall, Moscow officials scurried to the U.S. Treasury to secure vital American support for $17.1 billion in new International Monetary Fund loans. That steadied things.

The world has changed in the past decade. There’s been a steady transfer of wealth away from the United States in a shift most Americans have not yet grasped. But there has been no accompanying transfer of responsibility. New powers are free-riding as if it were still the American century.

This is not exactly a new theme. We've been hearing about a world power shift for a while now, from America to not-America, and the Democrats have used it as a sort of rallying cry for their campaign (not quite phrased as "America's decline," of course). But what are truly the ramifications of a new world where America doesn't have the strongest voice?

We can speculate for hours. But here's one thing that must end, and might under a Democrat in the White House: American hubris. I'll end on a quote from a Democrat in the House of Representatives, from Cohen's column:

“I think it’s a perverse pride thing,” he said. “We don’t ask for help. We’re the big, strong father figure. But let’s be realistic: we’re no longer the dominant world power.”

Cohen's column brings up China on more than one occasion. Well worth a read.

UPDATE, 9/24: China Vortex says if America's financial system goes down, so does China's.

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