Monday, December 27, 2004

Where is the Real Danger in US Economy?

Is what James Glassman calls "the glorious period of Wealth Americana" coming to an end?

Unlike some analysts of the US economy, Glassman, writing at isn't alarmed by the US budget deficit, which he views as being relatively inconsequential, or the current performance of the US dollar against the euro.

Instead, Glassman speaks of three major clouds on the US economy:
• We're developing a science gap. In an article in Foreign Affairs, Adam Segal points out that "38 percent of America's scientists and engineers with doctorates were born outside this country." Now, as their own Asian economies strengthen and as we take steps that make work here less attractive, such as accounting changes that force companies to drop their stock-option plans, these U.S.-educated scientists are going back home. Innovation will shift elsewhere as our government skimps on basic research in the hard sciences. In R&D, the United States is already starting to trail countries like Japan and South Korea.

• We're discouraging what economist John Maynard Keynes called "animal spirits" -- the drive to take business and investing risks that ultimately benefit others as well as ourselves. Proximate cause of the new risk aversion is runaway lawsuits and stultifying regulations like those in the Sarbanes-Oxley law that followed the Enron scandal. But at root is a general attitude of entitlement and irresponsibility spread by politicians who promise constituents wealth without risk or pain.

• We won't have enough workers to provide the Social Security and Medicare benefits for retired Americans. Today, there are 3.3 workers per retiree; by 2030, the figure will be just 2.2. If benefits are cut and taxes are raised, then the standard of living of groups will decline.
Glassman goes on to worry that the latter two "dangers," as he calls them are cultural or social, "
the result of a decline in striving, a lack of striving, a softness that has afflicted every other great nation in history. Call it American decadence -- our own version of what happened to the Roman Empire."

In a society composed of human beings, of course, decadence is inevitable. It resides in me and Mr. Glassman and every other member of the human race.

And I would agree with him that a lack of industry is decadent.

But so too, is hyper-materialism, the notion that we must always be striving for more material wealth, else it will spell the end of American civilization. Untrammeled materialism with no thought of how we can share the blessings we've received is incredibly decadent.

The antidote, from my perspective, is an individual connection with God which causes us to see that whether it's made possible by our brain, brawn, or a combination thereof, our capacity to generate income comes from God. That insight in turn, will make us more inclined to share and that includes sharing opportunities with others.

1 comment:

Deborah White said...

Amen to your conclusion about hyper-materialism and the related antidote! ---- Deborah White