When Giants Fall: An Economic Roadmap for the End of The American Era (John Wiley & Sons), 2009
For many Americans, the years ahead will be nothing short of a modern Dark Ages, where each day brings forth fresh anxieties, unfamiliar risks, and a deep sense of foreboding.
We've heard of the economist, Nouriel Roubini, aka "Dr. Doom", and readers of Truth to Power are quite familiar with James Howard Kunstler and Dmitry Orlov, but Michael Panzner serves up a recipe that contains the carefully blended ingredients of all three. In fact, we might call his latest masterpiece, When Giants Fall, "Dr. Doom meets ‘World Made By Hand' and ‘Re-Inventing Collapse' with ‘Long Emergency'(Kunstler) and ‘Long Descent' (John Michael Greer) waiting in the wings." I have remained a fan of his website, Financial Armageddon, and his book by the same title since the publication of it in 2008, but since that time, in following Panzner's writings, I've observed a fine-tuned incisiveness and a deepened resolve to deliver to his readers the harsh realities of the collapse of empire and the economic ramifications of that. While he does not leave us without options in the face of the decline, he sugar-coats nothing and just this past week carried on his site a number of chilling scenes of collapse in recent photos taken across the country.
While the styles of collapse-aware writers such as Kunstler, Orlov, Greer, Astyk, Heinberg, and myself are perhaps more socio-cultural, Panzner writes in economic terms that economists or those versed in the discipline can readily appreciate. If we had any doubt about the fiscal statistics on which our forecasts are based, Panzner puts them to rest with his carefully-researched data.
He begins "Giants" with the reality that has become ubiquitous in the current economic collapse: Financial nirvana is now history. "Spend. Borrow. Repeat" is over because as a result of the "mistakes and excesses of the past" the financial chickens are coming home to roost with the disappearance of fuel, food, water, and all the other lubricants of the machinery of empire. The author emphasizes that these are not merely creating little bumps in the road for the titans of globalization but that "taken together, these various developments constitute a clear and present danger to the economic well being of every American, especially those who have been conditioned to believe that life can only get better in the future." (xxi)
While briefly tracing the economic history of how we arrived where we are, he examines the myriad hostilities that are likely to erupt in a resource-depleted, economically scaled-down world, China and Russia being two 800-pound gorillas, along with less obvious hot spot nations in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. What is fundamental, he drives home to us, is the waning influence and eventual irrelevance of the United States in the global economic landscape. He points to our disastrous campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, our ghastly dependence on the kindness of foreigners to purchase our debt, and the near total reversal of globalization now in process in the current economic meltdown. Crime, politics, and economics intersect to undermine the stability of international relations everywhere.
So what does it actually mean that the U.S. no longer "rules the global roost"? It means that eventually China and other American rivals could someday use their vast holdings of U.S. debt "as a geopolitical weapon, despite the great harm that would also cause to the attacker's own economy." (68) It also means, as Panzner points out, that "...oil and gas-producing companies, international commodity traders, and emerging-nation governments...dictate the rules of the game in global energy markets." Simply put, "what takes place on a day-to-day basis [in the United States] is increasingly in others' hands." (69)
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