Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Coming Economic Crisis, seen from the future

The Atlantic Monthly usually features some kind of speculative article based on current events. These exercises in creative extensions are often interesting and insightful. Reading the footnotes, which document the basis for some of the predictions, is often as interesting as reading the article itself. When I read them, I usually experience a bit of a chill as I wonder if the future the particular article predicts can be changed. This article in the July/August 2005 issue is no exception (I would link, but the online version is only available to subscribers.). James Fallows writes about the United States' economic coming economic crisis in his article "Countdown to Meltdown." Written as a memo to a presidential candidate in the year 2016, the article details how the American economy systematically fall apart as foreign interests take over much of American industries while the country falls apart socially as well as economically. What makes this vision so chilling is the fact that the "memo writer" explains how this vision came about, and it came about due to the country ignoring the many warning signs along the way. For a good speculative scenario to work, it has to seem plausible. The scenario of a United States wracked by economic chaos, without its economic prosperity, where the good jobs have gone overseas, and where even the myth of equal opportunity is gone, seems very plausible. The candidate reading the memo simply has to look at the footnotes to see how the scenario came about. Readers can see much of what is footnoted happening now or having happened already. The question now becomes: can we make the necessary changes now to avoid the bleak vision? Overall, the article is a very interesting piece of writing, but it is also a very sobering one.

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