By Ian Bremmer
The opinions expressed are his own.
Though I’ve already written about the recent Munk debate in Toronto elsewhere, it’s worth taking some space to expand on my position, and why the U.S. truly is not going to experience a Japan-style lost decade of economic stagnation.
(The debate was on this resolution: Be it resolved North America faces a Japan-style era of economic stagnation. I joined Larry Summers in arguing the Con side against Paul Krugman and David Rosenberg.)
Let’s start with the political realities: Japan experienced 50 years of single-party rule. In the last 22 years, the country has had 17 prime ministers. Recently, the Democratic party there defeated the long-time incumbents, the Liberal Democrats, only to find that they had no idea how to govern the nation. They had no idea how the ministries worked, no relationships with industrialists or financial institutions, no grasp on the levers of power in society, and no strong policy apparatus. If the U.S.’s political situation looks bleak, consider that alternative.
In fact, the political situation in the U.S. may not be pretty or easy to watch, but it’s functioning. The President and Republicans continue to hammer out centrist deals on issues like tax hikes and the debt ceiling, albeit at the last possible minute after much gnashing of teeth. Ignore naysayers who say that budget supercommittee doom is coming; a deal will likely get done. And after the presidential election, things will get even better. That’s because Republicans are almost certain to retain the House and take the Senate. Whether Obama or the likely GOP candidate Romney wins the election, their dealings with a unified legislative branch will become far easier than the current divided government.
Our stable government is why foreign investors continue to flood into the dollar. Paul Krugman may have argued at the Munk debate that a strong dollar is what’s harming the U.S. economy, by making the country less internationally competitive, but I believe the confidence that foreign and sovereign investors continue to show in US debt outweighs that negative. Ask yourself what the better scenario is: a strong dollar that puts us at a slight relative disadvantage, or a pullout of investment dollars in the U.S. altogether? Investors continue to make bets in dollars, and that’s good for us. Yes, gold has risen dramatically in recent years, but “gold” is not a country. When investors need security and stability in currency, only the U.S. can still claim to provide it.