Searching for an authentic basis for realistic optimism

Economic growth has always been driven by emerging nations.
As the sun once set on the British Empire, it is now, in its unstoppable path from east to west to far east, now going down on the the good ole days of the good ole USA. The time of our manifest destiny expansion is winding down.

Now we have, instead of the good ole days for which we older Americans yearn, the good new days, which our children and grandchildren will inhabit, while we take on more passive, though hopefully wiser, roles. Our golden age of adaptation is begun. We need to adjust our goals and practices to accommodate the great moving mandala of opportunity.

Can we meet the challenge of our age, or will we atrophy into welfare statism while crying prescription-drug-laden tears into our beer?
The times they are a changin’. We must rise with our acquired storehouse of knowledge (one if by land) and wisdom (two if by sea). Here’s the first principle for our next phase of development: 
Necessity is the Mother of Innovation.

Our great growth phase is over. Merryn Somerset Webb, in a valiant search for the occluded silver lining, grapples with this inconvenient truth in her article in yesterday’s Financial Times.

She passes along a statistical observation which she had gleaned from James Anderson, which  points out that the rate of global growth peaked in the mid-70s at 5%. “Since then,” notes Ms. Webb, “it has been around a respectable 3 per cent.”

It seems to me that this “rate of global growth” slowing coincides with  the big-picture decline of our own overall economic growth. It is a natural development that, we now find, has landed us in the present predicament, not unlike the “stagflation” of that late 1970s malaise.

But our present malady is surely more severe, and much deeper in its effects upon our comfortable existence.

And its root cause is this: the torch of economic dynamism is now being passed to a new set of runners. The new movers and shakers of capitalistic endeavor of our era have, in this round, a little more state-controlled coordination than in previous thrusts. Like it or not, this is the way things happen in a planetary development fueled upon fewer resources than we humans had before. The Hegelian dialect is surely demonstrable here in the great scheme of things. Capitalism and Statism are merging, as we speak, to produce something entirely new–something that is intrinsically more restrictive than the old models, and yet somehow, necessary. It is the way progress happens in the 21st century.

Conservatives are not comfortable with this. I am, myself, a conservative, but also a realist. Good ole-fashioned competition, in the future, will require more exquisite channels of organization. And there’s no way we Americans, for instance, can perpetuate this prosperity thing without playing by the new rules. Those new regs, dictated not by us fat’n’happy yankee consumers but by the new kids (China) on the capitalist block require more correlation with government.

Read ’em and weep, free-market absolutists.
Nevertheless, there is hope yet for us entrepreneurs and wannabees. There is most assuredly a worldwide thrust of free enterprise, also by necessity, on the micro level. This is happening in China, and it can happen again here. Like the great irony of life itself, in order to think big, we must again learn to think small.

The new young-bucks in the global chemin de fer are now laying another BRICK in the superstructure of planetary wealth and development. Merryn Somerset Webb also mentions in her FT article the somewhat symbiotic interplay of  imitation and innovation by which economic  processes expand. These principles for efficiency and improvement mortar together the fundamental building materials: capital, education, and technology transfer.

All together they constitute a new  economic lattice-work that will surpass our obsolete edifices.

These inevitable changes will hit some of us pretty hard. But as the old gaming challenge goes: Put up or shutup. Or written another way: Quit y’ er whinin. Get used to it. Or stated yet another way:

Do or die.

While we have a dire need to renovate the way we comfort-seeking Americans do things, what we  really need now in the face of such challenges is optimism.

President Obama, among many hope-seeking others, supplies it. Yesterday he told auto workers: ” Don’t bet against the American worker. Don’t bet against the American people.” Jackie Calmes reports in her New York Times article that our President hopes to drive the now-subsidized automakers toward overhauling their operations and make necessary sacrifices.

Sacrifices? Yes.

In other words, change with the times.  Necessity is the mother of Innovation. We’ve got some Federal Reserve Notes to send in your direction, but you’ve got to make good use of them.

Is that possible? Is it possible that highly-institutionalized, multi-layered redundant American industry can figure this stuff out and make best use of both governmental loans and stockholder investments? Is it possible they (we) can emerge from this camel through the eye of a needle downsizing tribulation better equipped to prosper in future conditions?

Our life depends on it.

You carmakers–both owners and workers–better get busy doing the right things to make us leaner and stronger, not fat and happier.

That kind of surgery doesn’t happen without a few cuts.
Meanwhile, back at the tranche:  Has anyone built any trains in this country lately? Do we even know how anymore?


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