Monday, August 15, 2011

Why it's not all over for America.

I was probably as shaken about the credit downgrade as anyone. It hits our national pride, our sense of self and our view of the world. That at least one of the three major indices sees the American economy as worse than that of France or England, makes us feel a little bad. Still, I wouldn't say that America is down for the count. We have a few things going for us.
  1. We don't have to be #1 to be pretty amazing. Maybe a hit to our national pride isn't such a bad thing. Honestly, do you have any fewer tangible assets since the downgrade? We don't have to be the biggest fish in the pond to be a fish too big for the other ones to eat. Maybe recognizing that there are other fish just as big will keep us from being jerks.
  2. We are a nation of immigrants. I think that this part of our national character is something that S&P forgot. This means a number of things. First of all, if the economy is bad in one area, we are willing to move. We have always been willing to move and have a system of laws that make it relatively easy. It is true that people became rather embedded for a few decades after World War II, but dying in the place you are born is not the American way and never has been. Our economy will be strong because where the economy is strong, people will go. This also means that we will continue to import the best and brightest from around the world and include them as full members of our society. This is not true of the other great economies.
  3. We are bound by a dream that makes us work hard. Americans are not a homogeneous group. We have differences in race, ethnicity and religion. We disagree over some really basic issues. Still, we all want something and it is that idea which is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. We are all out to get life, liberty and of happiness, and we will keep pushing for it. We want to live our lives outside the bounds of another's control. For many that means owning one's own home and business. For others, it just means being able to get a vacation in. In either case, we don't judge the other because we recognize that they have the right. We know that we don't have the right to happiness, but we definitely and defiantly have the right to pursue it. We will always work toward this end, and that is what will raise our economy out of any depression. This is not true of all the other great economies.
  4. We are a bunch of hackers. Come to any poor neighborhood in America, and you'll see cars on blocks. This is the result of trying to make one working car from a bunch of broken ones. When alcohol was outlawed in the US, people built stills. When sales of gun magazines over a certain size were outlawed for sale in the 1990's people made their own. Our national foods, the hamburger and hot-dog, are made out of the parts of the animal you'd otherwise not eat. The DMCA has just taught us how to break encryption quietly, and accept the downgraded product. Sure, we probably like quality as much as the Swiss do, but when we can't get access to it, we make something work rather than do without. We will always make it work. Even our own laws or our own economic problems cannot stop us. This is not true of all the great economies.
  5. We have many diverse natural resources. We actually have debates as to whether or not to import our oil, or just use our oil here. There is coal, iron and copper all over the place. We even have a lot of gold. Our farms feed the world and our forests replenish quickly. Our lakes are huge and our rivers, full of fish and hydroelectric energy. We have vast sunny planes for solar power and huge windy areas for windmills. Yes, we have to be careful with all this, but we haven't really touched our potential. I'd venture to say that none of the great economies are as well situated.
So, we might be okay. I am not saying that America will last forever, but I think we'll get through this.

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