June 3, 2012

Leaders must step up to save economy

A couple months ago, I had a conversation with a financial adviser who I respect highly. He told me he feared another major correction in the stock market. He saw trouble in Europe and felt it would spill over to this side of the Atlantic. I responded that I felt Euro dysfunction has already been factored into pricing on the market. He saw something I did not see.

My wife will tell you that I am an optimist who has too much faith in such things as people making good decisions, our leaders doing the right thing, technology creating solutions that make our lives better and markets responding properly to new information in appropriate ways. She argues that she is not a pessimist, but rather is a realist.

I think she is correct in her assessment of my optimism. When the global financial meltdown accelerated almost four years ago, I knew there was sufficient wisdom to avoid the worst of it. I became increasingly frustrated that politics trumped economics, and stupidity trumped wisdom. I began to write as a cathartic way to relieve my growing frustration with a crisis in global leadership. Unfortunately, I have not stopped writing.

It seems that we are going through Global Financial Meltdown Part II, and for almost identical reasons. This Groundhog Day in global markets is arising because of an explosive mixture of incompetence, poor leadership and the politics of mutual destruction, and outright hubris. Last time around, it was on this side of the Atlantic, and Europe lamented about how unenlightened the fragmented politics of the United States has become. This time, the shoe is on the other foot.

This ability to transform economic and political dysfunction into an export industry has taken root in Europe. Their body politic is as divided as ours, but for different reasons. They are not a European Union with a two party system, each bent at discrediting the other, but a loose coalition of nations united by a single currency. Their mutual distrust of such a fragile economic coalition ensures their economic union is weak, without the tools of economic policy necessary to bolster weak economies and capital flight. Their political coalition is wary of such countries as Germany, and remember especially vividly World War II.

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