Well, the actual UK Telegraph story, about a Chinese official expressing "concern" about likely U.S. inflationary measures (i.e. "monetizing debt," a/k/a gearing up those printing presses) seems mundane enough. China is the holder of the largest international U.S. dollar reserves (some $2 trillion) and is concerned both the ongoing viability of its investment, and of its own export-based economy amidst the new economic reality.
No, the part of the article that amused me is the quoting of CPC official Cheng Siwei (now "head of the green energy drive" and "former vice-hairman of the Standing Committee"... whatever they are... it's not clear that he actually is a key Communist Party of China figure, or even a CPC official at all... but what the heck, right?)... Anyway, he quotes Ben Franklin, of all people, and says "He who goes borrowing goes sorrowing." The money quote, however (literal) is:
"The US spends tomorrow's money today," he said. "We Chinese spend today's money tomorrow. That's why we have this financial crisis."
It didn't used to be this way, of course. The reality is, the U.S. of A. used to be the world's export leader, back in the days when we (1) were actually a net exporter of oil... it's true, we were! and (2) we actually manufactured products that other people actually wanted to buy!
To be fair, we still do, it's just that by permitting the Walmarts, Targets, Lowes, Home Depots, etc., of the world to dictate that only the cheapest crap imaginable can hit their shelves, which dominate the market, regardless of how short-lived the product is because of its low quality, this has greatly accelerated the impact of imports, particularly from China, whose sole attribute is that they can be delivered to Walmart, Target, et als., cheaper. It seems that the death of the "mom and pop" store did more than damage communities; it damaged every single (once) durable good in every community... including "the community good."
The only true meaning of happiness I can yet glean from my 46 plus years on the planet is that the only source of real happiness is the quality and satisfaction one gets from one's relationships, be they family, friendships, romance, employment, community involvement, or even our relationships with our surroundings. This movement toward mass-marketing based solely on marginal price has, in the name of getting us "more stuff"... cheapened just about every aspect of our lives, both from the goods themselves, with which we might have had long term relationships (including, for example, once thriving relationships with local repair people, who by and large no longer exist because there is usually little point in paying more to repair a product than to replace it anymore... even if over the course of our lives, repairing a good product might still be cheaper than constantly replacing a bad one...), and unsurprisingly, our ultimate relationship, that with everything... is despoiled. Our rather strange fetish for an endless supply of cheap crap to compensate for unsatisfactory relationships (and hence, unhappiness) has led directly to the "consume, consume" mindset, with its not particularly "happy" environmental consequences, or human consequences (especially if one considers the reality of the conditions under which the cheap crap we import is manufactured.)
Not quite sure where I was going with all this (Jeez, TD... I mean, the definition of actual happiness.... what next, the meaning of life? Screw that... what's the Dow going to do tomorrow?... but I digress...) I guess it's just an interesting situation that the richest, most powerful nation in the world insists on living beyond its means (just as most of its people live beyond theirs) and relies on the thrift of a rapidly developing, but still by and large miserably poor country, a country right now that is immensely successful because it has an incredible savings rate, a huge investment in public infrastructure and a rapidly advancing (and increasingly well-educated and skilled) middle class, largely fueled by an export-driven economy... and indeed, it's holding the largest foreign reserves (and is going long in gold)... in short, China sounds to me a great deal like the post-World War II United States, until things got all... different... starting in the 70's and 80's.
We, of course, were the world's political and military leaders, as well as its economic leader; China is a regional power, but isn't where we were, and isn't likely to be. Don't know where we go ultimately; as one of our biggest, if not our biggest, financier, the Chinese will have leverage over our policies, should they wish to exercise it (which, thus far, they have by and large avoided doing.) All I can tell you is that the Communists who turned to capitalism are quoting Ben Franklin back to us. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. And a penny (or a trillion) saved is a penny (or a trillion) earned. Maybe we should listen to them... while it's still voluntary.
You're talking about having a life. But if we actually concentrate on having a life, then we won't be working enough hours in order to be "productive" enough. Which will mean that powers-that-be won't be pulling down big enough bonuses.
And if the stuff isn't cheap, then we'll never buy enough of it. And if we don't keep the money churning, then the blood suckers can't take their cut. And if they can't take their cut, then they'll bring down the government - or just change it.
So having a life is no longer a part of the American dream. Just keep on consumin'.
Posted by Michael L at September 8, 2009 11:56 AM
"Standing Committee"... whatever they are"
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. The way China's system works is generally that once you officially retire from a post, as you age, you still retain a great deal of inherent power from the people you wangled into posts below you while you were directly in power.
Unless you retired in disgrace after being forced out.
Also, if you need to look for a repair person, check your local Craigslist.
Posted by Gary Farber at September 9, 2009 5:48 PM
Incidentally, posting a comment here generated a long bounce message to my email address, which starts out: "I was unable to deliver to because the user is over their quota."
I'll spare you the rest, but you might want to fix this.
Posted by Gary Farber at September 9, 2009 5:51 PM
See also Lance Mannion.
Posted by Gary Farber at September 9, 2009 7:10 PM