Monday, November 29, 2010

a veritable carbuncle of magical thinking...,

Bubblegeneration | It's the oft-unspoken thought on many lips: America's in decline. The glory days are over, the train's left the station. So: is this a great decline? Unfortunately--probably. And I'd suggest that when you take a hard, serious look into the economy--when you voyage past it's superficial, largely irrelevant position in terms of budgets, "gross product", or "unemployment"--that great decline is deeper and darker than pundits, beancounters, and politicians think, want to admit, or even suspect.

The great crisis is a story of structural decline: a decline that's hardwired into the patterns amongst this great machine's many parts. They've settled, over the last three decades and more, into fundamentally bad, toxic equilibria--where speculation precedes investment, model precedes reality, management and financial jargon is a substitute for real insight, cheap talk substitutes for hard work, and indulgence has replaced inspiration.

America's great decline is the emergent product of a set of toxic equilibria. The sum is greater than the whole of the parts: this decline is a complex, nonlinear combination of interdependent, linked components settling into an unforeseen level of breakdown. You might say it's the dynamic equilibrium of a complex system, akin to an attractor, where the economy's stuck in a corner of performance space that limits long-run value creation to dwindle ever further.

Hence, I'd suggest a simple, but perhaps radical, conclusion: it's learning to invest in companies, ideas, and insights that break all the bad equilibria above that will separate tomorrow's outperforming [countries, companies, and investors] from those stuck in the gears of a great decline.