Saturday, February 18, 2012

Detroit and decline-ism

One key idea at this years conference is American decline-ism. Earlier I gave some of my own views.

An interesting case in point is the Detroit recovery. Here's this morning's Guardian on the added stress the Romney campaign is receiving from Michigan voters.

One thing I didn't know: The Economist argued against the auto industry bail-out, but was willing to apologize when it succeeded.

I'm not sure how reasonable thinking people can, on the one hand, be worried about the rise of China, with its very large amounts of public intervention in the economy, and on the other argue that the US can survive the 21st Century without an economically active government.

It makes no sense.

Eric Li (below), somewhat annoyingly, argued that we should give up our weak, messy democratic ideals and instead adopt the Chinese authoritarianism. My initial retort was, if the Chinese system is so cool, why do so many Chinese come here to get and education and work? Freedom to think and play with ideas is key to innovation. The Chinese will be a awesome nation when they embrace that same messy but creative freedom. But they're not there yet, indeed, until they allow freedom of religion and association for, for instance, the Tibetans, they're nowhere near.

Thankfully, Li's Chinese dog will never hunt in the US, for the simple reason we've been too messy and creative, democratically speaking, for too long. And it's a good thing.

But I do think we could take a leaf or two out of the Chinese book when it comes to government involvement in shaping and encouraging an otherwise capitalist economy.

Indeed, as long as we're in what Governor Richardson last night termed a "strategic competition" with China, we might be foolish not to.

He also explained that he thought the government was a key "catalyst" in the economy, and hinted that after some recent confusion during the "Great Recession", the Democratic party in the US was beginning to realize that it needed to become the party of government-private partnership; a new focus and indeed, a new primary economic ideology and identity.

That seems to be the lesson of Detroit, especially after the announcement of GM's record seven billion dollar profit last year.

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