"Can America Be Fixed?" asks the cover line of last month's Foreign Affairs magazine. Inside, Fareed Zakaria's essay of that title faults the US -- and other Western economies for failing to address and adapt to changign economic circumstances, positing that "the danger for Western democracies is not death but sclerosis."
The daunting challenges they face -- budgetary pressures, political paralysis, demographic stress -- point to slow growth rather than collapse. Muddling through the crisis will mean that these countries stay rich but slowly and steadily drift to the margins of the world. Quarrels over how to divide a smaller pie may spark some political conflict and turmoil but will produce mostly resignation to a less energetic, interesting, and productive future.
Clearly, the US itself, where political paralysis is often actually fetishised as a virtue ("the Founding Fathers didn't want to it to be easy to pass laws, you know!") is something of a special case, but Zakaria's end state is actually Japan, whose weak political culture has slowly smothered its industrial brilliance.
The questions Zakaria talks about are akin to those addressed in the Voyage of a Lifetime seminars that I've worked on with the Fabians and a fine lineup of speakers.
I won't be at the Christchurch Voyage on Sunday, on account of the same sad family event that had me reading Foreign Affairs at Sydney Airport earlier in the week -- but David Slack has kindly and ably stepped in. If you're in Christchurch on Sunday, I really recommend that you go and hear David introduce Rick Boven, Bernard Hickey, John Walley, Selwyn Pellett and Bronwyn Hayward, talking about economic, environmental and social realities. You'll need to register first (it's free).
Also, best of luck to Martyn Bradbury and the big team of contributors he's assembled for his new venture, the left-wing blog aggregator The Daily Blog. It officially launched today and I hope it goes well. James Ritchie on The Financialisation of the Economy is a good start (btw, Bernard Hickey's Voyage presentation is most vivid on this issue).
But ... if I could name the most dispiriting, off-putting thing that would deter me from visiting the left-wing blogosphere, it would be something like Lynn Prentice, in aching and tedious detail, slagging off Pete George for speculating on the political ties of Standard bloggers. Like, again. C'mon Bomber, don't let this sort of self-referential crap colonise your new site.