Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cohen and DeLong's The End of Influence

I read Cohen and DeLong's The End of Influence: What Happens When Other Countries Have the Money (2010), which is a fairly brief but useful primer on how the U.S. became massively indebted and what the effects have been, and likely will be.

The book offers a more optimistic view than its title would suggest.  Other countries have the money, but that is not necessarily disastrous because they cannot afford for the U.S. economy to tank. I agree with Matthew Yglesias, who sums up their conclusion as follows:

As a result, we’re going to have to transition to a very different-looking world economic order—one in which self-conscious government planning is going to play a bigger role, one in which US living standards will decline relative to our major trading partners, and in which American cultural and ideological influence is likely to wane.

In many ways, though, the book feels too much like a rough draft.  It would have benefited from a tighter argument (it sometimes becomes repetitive), inclusion of sources (which they say are online) and the writing seems almost entirely unedited.  For example, I had to reread this mixed metaphor to figure out what they were trying to say:

Defensive industrial policy--lemon socialism--can have a similar growth-shifting effect.  Think of American football.  The helmet was defensive at first, to protect player's brains.  But it then developed into the hard-shell helmet, an offensive battering ram.  Distressed traditional industries do not consist entirely of petrified wood (p. 126).

Nonetheless, the book is worth reading.  The U.S. will not necessarily come crashing down, but the sooner we accept the new reality, the better off we'll be.  But we won't be as well off as we were.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP