Jan 6, 2010

Articles of the day

Here is a great meditation on the possible decline of America, to what extent we've been hyperventilating about it before, and what must happen in order to drag ourselves out of the hole. The Senate, as always, is the source of most of the problems we face as a society.

This article (which is actually an excerpt from Brad DeLong's new book) is about a similar topic: the cultural effects of being in hock to the rest of the world, particularly China. However, there's some interesting facets to this that I think people tend to overlook:
Proverbs 22:7 instructs us: "The borrower is servant to the lender." But the lesson requires some exegesis to fit smoothly into context. The burden of the U.S. foreign debt may be better explained by the oft-repeated Wall Street wisecrack, which we repeat: When you owe the bank $1 million, the bank has got you; when you owe the bank $1 billion, you've got the bank.

Neither side can walk away; we're locked. The debt binds China especially and other governments that have the money. Selling the debt would send the dollar way down and thereby destroy the value of their dollar holdings and severely damage their economies' massive export-based sectors. Worse yet, sell it for what? Their "reserves" are so huge that there is nothing else they can hold them in, not at that scale. From a Chinese viewpoint, it's exasperating.

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