Mexican President-elect Vicente Fox, fresh from a historic victory that ended 71 years of one-party rule in his country, dropped in on U.S. lameduck President Bill Clinton just before Labor Day. He was brimming with ideas for further integrating their economies, including a proposal to open the border to more Mexicans seeking work in the United States.
The financial elites that favor the "American" model -- deregulation, weak unions, and a minimalist welfare state -- ask the wrong question: how to compete against countries with lower wages and living standards.
Not too many years ago, the conventional wisdom was that Europe and Japan did it all right, and the United States did it all wrong. And everything that could be learned, we could learn from them, and indeed, they had nothing to learn from us. Now, the new conventional wisdom is just the opposite; we're doing everything right, and Europe and Japan are doing everything wrong. Neither of those positions is correct.
-- Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, Detroit Jobs Conference, March 14, 1994.
A decade of prosperity has convinced a fair portion of the punditry that the new hi-tech service economy has lifted us into an economic orbit beyond boom and bust, where recessions are history. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that the laws of economic gravity no longer apply. Indeed, sensible people should now be preparing for the possibility that Alan Greenspan's effort to slow down the economy will overshoot and that we will soon face rising unemployment and a sinking stock market.
There is no silver lining to the cloud of horror that descended on America last week. And the avalanche of pain, terror, and death we have witnessed may be just the beginning.
But life, as always, slowly picks up and moves on. Despite the nagging sense that it is unseemly to begin thinking about the economic consequences, the country is once again back in the market. Investors are selling the stocks of insurance companies and airlines, buying those of military contractors and companies that will benefit from the new security-conscious society. Economists are calculating the gains and losses and guessing about the odds of a recession.