The US as a Banana Republic – how we got into the current economic crisis

Personal finance

I found a link to an excellent if very sobering article called by , ex-Chief Economist of the IMF, to be published in the May 2009 edition of the Atlantic Monthly, which I highly recommend. It’s long reading but quite thorough and does a good job of explaining a very complex situation in understandable terms.

In the article, Johnson describes what’s happening in the US as akin to the crises he’s seen happening in various emerging markets, details what he believes is one of the root causes of the current crisis (the recent ascension of the financial industry into a favored and powerful position in the US and globally), and his view of the likely outcomes. Johnson also writes a blog called , which I subscribed to this morning. It’s kind of like (an economist’s view on the global crisis). Johnson has also appeared in interviews on popular programs like NPR’s Fresh Aire and the Colbert Report. He is critical of he current administration’s approach toward solving the crisis but also believes we are at least doing more than Europe; nevertheless, his outlook for the global economy is pretty negative.

I admit all this is not light (or necessarily enjoyable) reading. Some readers might be either tired of reading about this or wondering why I seem to spend every other post writing about the economic crisis. It’s because I think what’s happening really merits people’s attention even though everything is very complicated and difficult to understand. Personal finance bloggers always write about how the average American needs to be more educated about personal finance, so I’m basically taking my own advice.

Given that I have a physics degree, an MBA, and work in corporate finance, you’d think I was someone who should have a better grasp of what’s happening around us and their implications, and yet I still struggle with understanding it all. (As I’ve said before, I’ve always found economics a hell of a lot harder to grasp than physics.) And it’s not getting any easier given how quickly things change every day. So, I spend time reading these long articles and publicizing (in my own small way) the ones that I think do the best job. If you know of any others, feel free to leave a comment below.

What I haven’t figured out is what all this means for the average individual investor (e.g. someone like me). I know that the market doesn’t necessarily move in sync with the economy and usually leads it by a decent margin, but I still find the whole situation pretty perplexing. If the global economy tanks further and we head into a deflationary long-term state, does that mean cash is king? What do you think?


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3 Feedbacks on "The US as a Banana Republic – how we got into the current economic crisis"


Excellent article.. Although a bit pessimistic. Although, I do agree that the financial industry has been given too much importance. They should be thrown off their pedestals.

Good Credit

Its truly pretty scary when you consider all the financial upheaval going on the markets right now and what it could mean for the future. An uncertain future is the only thing I think we can count on right now. But I always have faith in people, the American People are resilient and capable of rolling with the punches. I just hope the process isn’t too painful for us all. Thanks for the headsup on these great resources!


Great Artcile.. thanks for sharing the link.. I do think that this is a defining moment in the history for the whole world in general and America in particluar.. lot of experts are doubting the dollars prominence and its reputation as the world’s reservce currency.. If dollar were to loose its value in future, this might send the whole worl in tailspin cosidering that most of the worlds saving (countries like CHINA etc) is stacked in dolaar through Govt bonds etc.. Very critical time ..