The US economy is a myth

Paul Raven @ 26-03-2009

Chicago skylineA provocative headline, no? I wish I could say it was my own invention, but I can’t, because the Washington Post got there first:

So contend Bruce Katz, Mark Muro and Jennifer Bradley in the latest issue of the journal “Democracy.” The United States is not a single unified economy, they say, nor even a breakdown of 50 state economies. Instead, the country’s 100 largest metropolitan regions are the real drivers of economic activity, generating two-thirds of the nation’s jobs and three-quarters of its output. The sooner we reorient federal economic policies to support this “MetroNation,” the quicker we can fix the mess we’re in.

I’ll freely admit I don’t know enough about economics to tell whether Katz Muro and Bradley are actually right about that, but it makes a certain amount of sense… mapping economic activity like wi-fi signals, at their strongest near to the biggest routers. Maybe withdrawing economic focus from rural areas would make sense… but I can’t see it being a popular idea with people who live there. [via Bruce Sterling; image by doug.siefken]


Re-invigorate the economy: immigrants buy a house, get a free visa

Paul Raven @ 16-02-2009

Real estate for sale signHere’s a quick and dirty fix for the US economy – instead of closing up the borders, why not open the gates to skilled migrant workers, and give them a free green card with every house purchased?

While his tongue was slightly in cheek, Gupta and many other Indian business people I spoke to this week were trying to make a point that sometimes non-Americans can make best: “Dear America, please remember how you got to be the wealthiest country in history. It wasn’t through protectionism, or state-owned banks or fearing free trade. No, the formula was very simple: build this really flexible, really open economy, tolerate creative destruction so dead capital is quickly redeployed to better ideas and companies, pour into it the most diverse, smart and energetic immigrants from every corner of the world and then stir and repeat, stir and repeat, stir and repeat, stir and repeat.”

[snip]

We live in a technological age where every study shows that the more knowledge you have as a worker and the more knowledge workers you have as an economy, the faster your incomes will rise. Therefore, the centerpiece of our stimulus, the core driving principle, should be to stimulate everything that makes us smarter and attracts more smart people to our shores. That is the best way to create good jobs.

It’s easy to see why that piece is in the NYT’s op-ed column… but even so, it doesn’t sound like the craziest idea for ending the recession that I’ve heard in the last week. [via MarginalRevolution]; image by TheTruthAbout]


Peter Watts: the Bush presidency was the most successful ever

Paul Raven @ 21-01-2009

Bush Street signSo, America, you’ve got a new President – and high time too. But here burst your bubble and put your hopes into perspective is science fiction author Peter Watts, who not only warns against expecting Obama to be anything other than a politician, but also points out that the Bush presidency was the most successful presidency ever:

This may strike some as an odd position to take. After all, the Cheney/Bush years saw the world’s most powerful nation descend from surplus into trillion-dollar deficit; saw the prosecution of two unnecessary and (so far) unsuccessful wars; saw the evisceration of civil rights at home and US reputation abroad, the gutting of environmental protection, the relentless remorseless grinding of science beneath the heel of political expediency, and— finally, inevitably— the meltdown of a global economy based, even at the best of times, on consensual hallucination. And yet, to criticize that administration for these things is like describing me as a shitty writer because my novels don’t appeal to fundamentalist Christians. You don’t impugn the archer for missing the bullseye when he was aiming for a deer; success must be judged against the intended goal.

Ouch; read the whole thing. [image by Jef Poskanzer]


Super Hero Fatigue – Why I am Tired of American Rubber

Jonathan McCalmont @ 07-01-2009

This month in Blasphemous Geometries: the life-span of the Bush administration has seen an astonishing proliferation of super hero cinema.

Blasphemous Geometries by Jonathan McCalmont

Jonathan McCalmont compares the rhetoric of American foreign and domestic policy with the thematic underpinnings of the super hero movie genre, and explains why he’ll be as glad to see the back of costumed crusaders as he will the back of Bush.

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With the Bush era rumbling to a long overdue end, some critics have turned their gin-shortened attentions to the question of which cultural artefact best incapsulates W’s period in office. One popular yardsticks are the ways in which the Presidency has been depicted through film and TV. The Clinton era, for example, has come to be seen as a period of intensely human and libidinous cinematic Presidents such as those of Ivan Reitman’s Dave (1993) and Rob Reiner’s The American President (1995). In fact, were it not for films such as Independence Day (1996) and Air Force One (1997) asserting the President’s penchant for arse-kicking you could be forgiven for forgetting that while Clinton claimed to feel people’s pain, he was no slouch when it came to meting it out in the form of air strikes and deciding, for the first time, that the spread of WMDs was a military matter.

However, while the Bush era has been quick to provide us with Presidents who are either mentally unstable religious zealots (Battlestar Galactica) or bloodless pragmatists more eager to seek revenge than examine the facts (The Sum of all Fears [2002]), the enduring cinematic icon of the Bush era is undeniably the super hero. Continue reading “Super Hero Fatigue – Why I am Tired of American Rubber”


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