Given the right changes, perhaps the United States can develop with the productive long view in mind, and maybe its human talent can be spread more equitably. "When you have more financial engineers than computer engineers, you know that the brightest minds have gone into something where, probably, the margin was excessive," he had told me earlier. "Maybe some of these bright people are going to do something entrepreneurial, more creative, or go into government. I think that's actually a good change. The transition is painful, but the result may be good."
Salmon's comment is spot on.
[O]ver the long term, I'm optimistic that the redeployment of US human resources away from finance and into the real economy is bound to be a good thing. But in the medium term, the process of "scaling back and turning inwards" around the globe is going to be extremely painful -- and is far from over. Or, to put it a more familiar way, things are going to get worse before they get worse. Only very slowly and very painfully might they start to get better -- and it's not going to happen any time soon.
The thing that strikes me most is how very long it takes for economies to reset themselves during crises. Recovery from both the Long Depression of the 1870s and the Great Depression of the 1930s took the better part of two or three decades. Both required not just a new wave of technological innovation, the creative destruction of various industries, and new modes of government economic intervention, but were premised upon a whole new "spatial fix" - the rise of the "modern" industrial city after the Long Depression and suburbia's rise after the Great Depression - to set in motion broad new patterns of consumer spending and demand which could power longer-run growth. My own father was just eight in 1929, my mother three, when the stock market crashed. They left Newark for a close-in working class New Jersey suburb in 1960 - three full decades after the onset of the crash.
Governments and central banks certainly have better monetary and fiscal policy tools at their disposal now and are more adept at managing economic downturns. Still, I fear it will be a much longer road to full recovery and a new normal than most people expect.