In twenty years of reading Irwin Stelzer I have never yet read a column of his in the Sunday Times where he extensively quotes adverse comments about the American economy, never mind making any of his own. Today, his piece is full of the former — so full that there’s no space for his own frank comments — if he can ever gird himself to make them. But he does go far enough to say that, adding up all the pluses and minuses he’s come across, it looks like a 70% negative balance — more or less confirming what several Republican candidates said in their last televised debate — that America is a “brocken economy”.
I don’t think America is a broken economy at all. It is an advanced case of what happens to an advanced country when it leaves manufacturing industry too far behind it. In this regard, America is now following this country. Correction though — manufacturing industry will come back with a whoosh to America, this country, and two or three advanced north European countries, once the software has been perfected for the final push of robotic manufacturing. That is, when the most skilful tactile and visual skills can be exactly simulated by automation.
It is then that China’s economy will burst like a balloon, unless — and this is a very big unless — it has also been able to to get into a sufficient number of areas of advanced scientific research where it will be able to develop is own innovative products rather than to copy ours. We don’t know yet whether its 2,500 year-old Confucian authoritarianism — that is, its Communist Party in modern times — will ever relax enough to allow it to become creative enough.