Brazil, Russia, India, China – BRIC. The acronym was pushed as a hot investment idea in the heady 2000s. Back then, before the financial crisis, steady economic growth was expected to last forever in rich and poor countries alike, with poor countries growing much faster. Jim O’Neill, then of Goldman Sachs, simplified the theme for the investing masses. The four biggest developing economies were on the smooth road to riches, and investors could hop on for a profitable ride.
A time traveller from 300 years ago would be awed by new technologies and social changes. But the disoriented extra-temporal visitor would find some aspects of finance very familiar. Many of today’s monetary arrangements are historical relics. Take, for example, debt.
Vehement domestic opposition to a government agency that finances trade is a distinctly American phenomenon. But the misunderstanding of economic reality which underpins the arguments against the U.S. Export-Import Bank is widespread, not confined to zealots like the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.