America at the beginning
By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on 11/1/11
A commentator on Bloomberg’s excellent Pimm Fox show made the observation that in economic terms there are actually 33 Chinas and marketers should understand the difference. As there are varied markets here, said Fox. It seems a thought usually ignored. As we see ourselves as an outward sailing species. But we are no longer the generic nationalized economy to come out of WW II. We are instead multifaceted internally and therein lies our growth potential. North Dakota is booming and should be a magnet for the industrious young willing to live in a van for a few years to stake their claim in the future. As the west is booming for farmers, and as you drive north from Louisville in any direction for thousands of miles, America is a farm. And Chicago is its center. But on the edges are they bookish, petulant and broke.
In our time we have found the edges that will contain and constrain our external drive and China will make that explicitly clear in the G 20 gathering this week. China is no longer ours for the taking, nor is Japan, Brazil, India, etc. They have all now turned the black ships back. And the current discussion of inequality of wages is a passing fad of nerd nihilism wearing the mask of Guy Fawkes; irrelevant so long as everyone has enough. What does rise in relevance and potentially to crisis is economic inequality of regions. Some states and regions are booming, like North Dakota. Others, like New Jersey, are gasping.
I grew up in a broke place; Fall River, Massachusetts. After the angel of economy had passed and the Irish and Quebecois had got a purchase here, he best moved on as they will today; moved south then and west to find again prosperity. The least among us remained behind to die. All the money in the world could not have saved New England’s manufacturing. Capital moved south, to Mexico, to China.
No longer. There are no more places to go. We have found our edges. We can no longer think of ourselves s a unique (“exceptional”?) human species destined to control the world as Hamilton wanted, or to fly across the universe as in Captain Kirk' s beguiling (childish?)narrative (which Paul Krugman wrote an economic thesis on). Even Lt. Ripley came home.
It is a good thing. It is the beginning. We, as Americans, will be required now to find ourselves as we are. We will be required to find who we are without looking somewhere else. We can no longer save the world. (The world has survived our attempts.) We must now save ourselves. This will change us economically, politically, culturally, but it is a beginning of a new direction in this century and will take us the next hundred years.