Lately I’ve been having experiences which keep making me think about the future of the country, as the rest of the world closes the gap in just about everything we picture ourselves to be #1 in. (Note that I haven’t even read Friedman’s “The World is Flat” yet, which will probably just add to the list).
The first was the winter Olympics. We have the view we should be able to dominate Olympic competitions. Of course we’ve never really dominated the winter games, but most people don’t bother to remember that. What was interesting to me was that we are under attack from specific countries in specific events:
- the former SSRs are emerging as the leaders in hockey
- the Koreans are putting out the top short track speed skaters, while Norway dominates the long track
- the Austrians continue to dominate downhill skiing, in spite of our best efforts
- the Chinese and Japanese are making huge strides in figure skating
I believe you can trace a lot of this to this to the rising economic prowess and free money in these various economies.
I could say more, but lets to go #2. I was in Prague for 4 days last week, and blown away by the progress there in the last 10 years. Everyone says that a decade ago the communists still had a stranglehold on the economy. Well no more…the place is hopping and it fills you with energy just to be there.
Finally, Joe Queenan writes in April’s Smart Money (not online anywhere) about the gains you could have had in second and third world stock markets last year. The list and returns are huge, and make the Dow Jones look a joke. And it makes sense - I can easily imagine the Czech Republic growing its business base by a larger percentage than the US. People often talk about Microsoft’s growth naturally slowing due to its size, well the whole country is in the same boat. We can keep on producing value at amazing rates, but that doesn’t mean we can grow like these other economies can.
So what’s it all add up to? My guess is that the 2022 Winter Olympics are going to be another disappointment, but its just going to be part of the bigger picture.