The American economy's reported 2.8 percent growth in the fourth quarter, at an annual rate, was seen as mildly encouraging. But it meant that over the previous 10 years, the economy had grown at a compound annual rate of just 1.7 percent. Until the current cycle, there had been no similar prolonged period of slow growth since the Depression.
The International Monetary Fund's latest forecasts indicate that there is not likely to be a pickup in growth anytime soon, either in the United States or other large industrialized countries.
...if the fund's forecasts of 1.8 percent real growth in 2012 and 2.2 percent in 2013 prove to be accurate, the 10-year American rate at the end of 2013 will have fallen to 1.5 percent.... But it will still be a little above the 0.9 percent compound growth rate in the decade from 1929, the year the Depression began, to 1939.
For Britain, which endured a horrible decade in the 1970s that led to talk of the "British disease," the previous postwar low, not shown in the charts, was in the 10 years ending in the second quarter of 1983, an annual rate of 0.95 percent. The figure for the 10 years through 2011 is 1.4 percent, but the I.M.F. predictions indicate the 2013 figure will fall to just 0.94 percent. The fund expects the British economy to grow by just 0.6 percent this year and by 2 percent in 2013.
The situation is even worse in Italy, where the fund expects the economy to contract by 2.2 percent this year and 0.6 percent the following year. If that happens, Italy's economy will be smaller at the end of 2013 than it was 10 years earlier. The French economy is forecast to have grown at a 1 percent annual rate over the same 10-year period.
As the developed economies stagnate, the 'emerging' economies grow. Nineteen of the world's top economies in 2050 will be those we regard as "emerging" today. China and India will hold the number 1 and number 3 spots, with the US sandwiched between them.
So far, we are just talking about numbers. Try to imagine a world in which today's emerging markets have more economic power, and vastly more people, than today's leaders. It is not just China and India who will be calling the shots, but Brazil, Turkey, Russia, Mexico and Indonesia too.
New technologies, new fashions, new ideas, new music, new cars, new movies...all are likely to come from countries where, today, Westerners are afraid to drink the water. Now, they are imitating us. Soon, we will be listening to pop Indian sitar music, eating doner kebabs and watching movies made Jakarta.
Military power, too, is likely to shift to the growing economies. Like a body builder with a protein shake, they will use their increasing resources, human as well as material, to add muscle. But their muscle will be young, built with new technology and new techniques. America's geriatric, expensive, bureaucracy-ridden, zombified military industry will be unable to match it.
It is one thing to talk nonsense to the voters. They love that kind of stuff. It flatters them. It comforts them.
But only a fool would believe it.
Which is what worries us. The candidates seem to think "declinism" is just a state of mind... and that economic and military success can be had by act of willpower.
"Decline," writes Charles Krauthammer, "is a choice."
And it's a choice the candidates think they can avoid just by giving more money to America's military industry.
"I will insist on a military so powerful no on would ever think of challenging it," adds Mitt Romney
But military spending is not a way to resist decline; it is a sign of it...and a cause of it. Osama bin Laden understood how it worked. By 2000, he had already brought one great empire, the Soviet Union, to its knees, luring it to spend money it didn't have in a war it couldn't win. He thought he could do the same to the US. So far, it looks as though he was right. More below...
And more thoughts about how to hasten the decline of a great nation:
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*** Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis has been described as a "whistleblower." He's ratting out the military for failing in Afghanistan, just as Osama bin Laden predicted.
He doesn't seem to understand. The military is not protecting the US in Afghanistan; there's nothing to protect it against. Nor did it ever intend to "win" a war in Afghanistan. It never even identified what winning would mean or how it would know when it had won. This was always a zombie war, not a real war. Its purpose was only to transfer wealth and power to the military industry. In that sense, the war is a great success.
The Armed Forces Journal has the story:
Truth, lies and Afghanistan
How military leaders have let us down
By LT. COL. DANIEL L. DAVIS
I spent last year in Afghanistan, visiting and talking with U.S. troops and their Afghan partners. My duties with the Army's Rapid Equipping Force took me into every significant area where our soldiers engage the enemy. Over the course of 12 months, I covered more than 9,000 miles and talked, traveled and patrolled with troops in Kandahar, Kunar, Ghazni, Khost, Paktika, Kunduz, Balkh, Nangarhar and other provinces.
What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground.
Entering this deployment, I was sincerely hoping to learn that the claims were true: that conditions in Afghanistan were improving, that the local government and military were progressing toward self-sufficiency. I did not need to witness dramatic improvements to be reassured, but merely hoped to see evidence of positive trends, to see companies or battalions produce even minimal but sustainable progress.
Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.
Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.