I'm in no mood to desconstruct this rubbish, although I can hope that Time goes the way of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It's not like there won't be more Pravda-style mouthpieces available.
The '80s spirit endured through the '90s and the 2000s, all the way until the fall of 2008, like an awesome winning streak in Vegas that went on and on and on. American-style capitalism triumphed, and thanks to FedEx and the Web, delayed gratification itself came to seem quaint and unnecessary. So what if every year since the turn of the century the U.S. economy grew more slowly than the global economy? Stuff at Wal-Mart and Costco and money itself stayed supercheap! Even 9/11, which supposedly "changed everything," and the resulting Iraqi debacle came to seem like mere bumps in the road. Even if deep down everyone knew that the spiral of overleveraging and overspending and the prices of stocks and houses were unsustainable, no one wanted to be a buzz kill.
In the Road Runner cartoons, after each fall, the coyote is broken and battered but never dies. America isn't going to expire either. But unlike him, we will be chastened and begin behaving more wisely. For years, enthusiasts for unfettered capitalism have insisted that the withering away of enterprises and entire industries is a healthy and necessary part of a vibrant, self-correcting economic system; now, more than at any time since Joseph Schumpeter popularized the idea of creative destruction in 1942, we must endure the shocking and awesome pain of that metamorphosis. After decades of talking the talk, now we're all obliged to walk the walk.
We cannot just hunker down, cross our fingers, hysterically pinch our pennies, wait for the crises to pass, blame the bankers and then go back to business as usual. All that conventional wisdom about 2008 being a "change" year? We had no idea. Recently Rush Limbaugh appeared on Sean Hannity's Fox News show, panicking not so much about the economy but about how the political winds are blowing as a result. If we finally manage to achieve something like universal health care, Limbaugh warned, it would mean "the end of America as we know it." He's right, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. This is the end of the world as we've known it. But it isn't the end of the world.
Friday, March 27, 2009
The cover story at this week's Time asks, "Is This Crisis Good for America?" The story rips the Reagan years as the precursor to today's discolation: