Sometimes it’s useful to have a stream of conscious type of recounting. A “bigger than big” overview just to get a feel for what’s going on.
Start with Jared Diamond, an expert in physiology and evolutionary biology. A UCLA professor, Diamond is the author of non-fiction bestsellers “Guns, Germs and Steel’” and “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.” Fascinating books, but the only observation he makes for this post is simply that world power centers appear to be moving from West to East within the broad temperate zone civilizations. Think US/Europe dominance to Far East resurgence, and possibly over time, dominance.
Along that thinking it’s obvious that if you follow the money, the money is in the Far East. Is Diamond prescient? Quite possibly.
Consider the overwhelming cost of military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. What is not generally fully appreciated by the public is the cost of military supremecy. The 2008 expenditures, conservatively estimated, amount to about $1.1 trillion, and the first year budget under President Obama appears to be even larger. If you want some detail read this post at Tom Englehardt’s TomDispatch.com blog.
If you want to see how the US is likely to react to these adventures, read Toby Dodge’s book “Inventing Iraq,” which provides not only a current, but an important historical perspective, of why nation building is so difficult. Dodge details the travails of the British Empire’s attempt to transform Iraq into a modern state between 1920-1932. Let’s just say the Brits finally gave up and left, marking the end of the Empire.
Third, the ongoing bank crisis in the US and elsewhere. Nationalization has moved from being a blogoshpere only discussion point to one that is gaining (for very good reasons) traction in the public spheres, including broadly watched media. If you want a quick but very informative discussion on this subject, it’s here at Bronte Capital, the blog of John Hempton, an Australian with extensive experience as a bank regulator and as an investor.
And if you want to learn and then keep up with an accurate understanding of America’s energy picture, simply spend a few minutes at the Oil Drum, discussion about energy and our future, here. The Oil Drum is also on our blogroll, listed to the right. Let’s just say the challenges are greater than the financial ones we face today.
Speaking financially, our real budget buster is health care. Our current system is hugely inefficient by any measure, and if left in its present state, will bankrupt America more thoroughly than any other cause. If you want a quick photo of this problem go here at Prof. Mark Thoma’s blog, Economist’s View (also on Beezer’s blogroll to the right). This particular post provides an excellent explanation of public debt and leverage, but importantly it provides a link here to Prof. Dean Baker’s article for the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Basically Baker shows that if America installed a rational universal health care system it would avoid bankruptcy. Otherwise, the country’s going to go bankrupt. It’s that important an issue.
And finally, something that gives details regarding that pesky “income inequality” expansion that seems to presage severe recessions, even the Great Depression. Here, at the Baseline Scenario blog is an excellent explanation why most people know they have been losing ground in almost every financial way.
And last but not least is a subject of a recent blog involving Warren Buffett’s idea of America requiring Import Certificates in order to bring our international trade flows into balance. The 2003 Fortune article is here.
So that’s it for now. A “big picture” look and “stress test” we must keep our eyes on for our future health and happiness.