Friday, April 04, 2003

It's the economy, stupid

Paul Krugman has written another brilliant piece for the New York Times on the bad state of the American economy. He appears to be one of the few columnists today who can draw sound connections between economics, administrative policy and international politics.

It's the global economy, stupid.

Gee, SARS is based in one of the major high-tech manufacturing regions of the world. Hmm, I wonder what this will do to the promises of robust recovery once the war is "finished"? Krugman notes:

Optimists now place their faith in the supposed salutary effects of victory in Iraq. The theory is that businesses have been postponing investments until uncertainty over the war is resolved, and that once that happens there will be a great surge of pent-up demand. I'm skeptical: I think the main barriers to an investment revival are excess capacity, corporate debt and fear of accounting scandals. (The revelations about HealthSouth suggest that there is still plenty of undiscovered corporate malfeasance.) I also wonder whether victory in Iraq will mark the end of uncertainty, or the beginning of even more uncertainty. Are we on the road to Damascus (or Tehran, or Yongbyon)?


Our government is intent on imposing a Pax Americana when it can't even feed all of the children in Mississippi. The comics have it right:

"In a speech earlier today President Bush said if Iraq gets rid of Saddam Hussein, he will help the Iraqi people with food, medicine, supplies, housing, education - anything that's needed. Isn't that amazing? He finally comes up with a domestic agenda - and it's for Iraq. Maybe we could bring that here if it works out." -- Jay Leno

But, the sad thing is, we know it is all bullshit, precisely because he lacks the will to bring it even to his own nation. In this the economic policy and the foreign policy are identical - the insistence of how they want the theories to play out rather than a hard-nosed appraisal of what the theories are doing to reality.

So, we're closing in on Baghdad, huzzah, huzzah. We do have the best trained volunteer mass army in the world, though I would worry if we had to fight the Swiss, so this is not to be wondered at. We will take the city, we will declare victory, we'll probably kill Hussein somewhere along the line (not many will shed any tears for that). Shall we find ourselves (like Saul, like Lawrence) on the road to Damascus? What enlightenment shall we find if we take upon ourselves the duties and burdens of that trek?

Any bully can impose order and compliance for a certain period of time, but long term stability comes from within. Where is that to come from?


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