Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hog Futures

What do I know about it. Hardly anything. A few trenchant aphorism, that have to pass for insight. But no, not insight -- just a mix of common sense and faith. The economy, I'm talking about, and how the big picture is put together. My little peephole of understanding does not see much. So I have to take most of it on faith.

I like to try to get things in perspective. That's why I like history. Yes, ripping good stories are nice, but instructive morality tales edify. Understanding the place of things is almost the same as understanding the world. Which brings me to James Moore's 5 Myths About Our Sputtering Economy.

The US has lost its competitive edge? "By almost any measure [we] outperform other countries around the globe ... in such areas as innovation, technology, higher education, worker training, the ability of the labor force to move from job to job...." Objective analysis concludes that we can we can weather a rough economy better than any other country. Hurah.

China out-manufactures us? No. While our production has taken a dive, the US "has held onto its manufacturing lead -- particularly in such key sectors as pharmaceuticals and aerospace, in which it produces almost 25 percent of the world's output.... China produces roughly two-thirds that amount..." Two-thirds of the US total? -- or of the pharmaceutical-aerospace production? Vague, but either way, good for the US.

The Chinese economy is about to overtake ours? Not even close. The US makes up 25% of the world's GDP. China contributes about five percent. Twenty-five. Five. You do the math. Other countries are growing faster relative to the US, but that's like saying a child grows faster than an adult. And children are more vulnerable to pandemic. Brazil "has an economy that's approximately the size of Florida's and Illinois's combined. Russia, which spans 11 time zones and has vast natural resources, had an economy that was on a par with that of Texas last year. Even India, a bright spot on the global stage for almost a decade now, still has a GDP that's less than half of California's." It's not so much that the US is a giant, as that the rest of the nations are pygmies.

The US no longer drives world trade? Who would even suggest it? We buy the world's goods. As for exports, China, Germany, and the US are pretty much equals. That doesn't seem like such a good thing to me, but it's irrelevant to overall trade itself -- in which the US rules ... as a great sucking maelstrom of consummation.

And the last myth: no one wants to invest with us anymore. "Hardly. Investments here are transparent, well protected and have a long track record of healthy returns. ...foreign investors have flocked to U.S. investments and financial instruments as a (relatively) safe haven amid global uncertainties." Last year there was over $2 trillion of foreign direct investment here, which is more than twice that in the other three leaders -- the UK, Hong Kong and France. We inspire confidence.

Well, all that's someone else's analysis and data. I have to take it on faith. But that's what almost everything is, faith. No, I'm not going to turn this into a hortatory homily -- not even an edifying morality tale. It's just that I suppose it's a good thing for one to lift one's snout out of the mud and take a look about. Or maybe that image is unapt. I want one that evokes an action of changing a darkened vision for one that's got more light to it. Because even a moonless night has its sort of brightness, compared to the abyss of blackness that sometimes seems to be the world.

So it's a good thing then.


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