Whether or not the point makes it across, it’s good to see articles like this one at The Atlantic, or Stiglitz’ Vanity Fair piece getting some attention. They highlight the fact that our current
dire economic situation isn’t all that novel; we’ve been playing a game that many other nations do, just with more chips and for higher stakes. When you’ve got a bigger bankroll, it’s certainly harder to fail; but when it happens it’s a loonnngg way down the well if you’re not careful.
Emerging-market governments and their private-sector allies commonly form a tight-knit—and, most of the time, genteel—oligarchy, running the country rather like a profit-seeking company in which they are the controlling shareholders. When a country like Indonesia or South Korea or Russia grows, so do the ambitions of its captains of industry. As masters of their mini-universe, these people make some investments that clearly benefit the broader economy, but they also start making bigger and riskier bets. They reckon—correctly, in most cases—that their political connections will allow them to push onto the government any substantial problems that arise.
Sound familiar? That’s why I’ve always hated terms like “America’s CEO”. America is not a freakin’ corporation; The United States doesn’t have shareholders, employees, and management. It’s better than that. Or should be.