From the Archives: 'Countdown to a Meltdown' 2005

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Five years ago, when the housing market and the stock market were still both going strong, the Atlantic ran as a cover story my article "Countdown to a Meltdown." It was an imagined history of the Presidential Election of 2016, and the "MacGuffin" of its plotline was the big (and at the time also imaginary) housing/financial crash of the late 2000s. The idea was that prolonged economic chaos discredited both of the main political parties and cleared the way for a third, "let's cut the crap" party to take the White House six years from now. It's written in the form of a "What do we do now?" memo from the new party's Karl Rove equivalent to the candidate destined to win in 2016.

Obviously a lot of the details and color in the story are out of date now. I was, after all, writing it early in 2005, soon after George W. Bush had been sworn in for a second term. But some of the patterns will not seem so outdated. I think it's worth a look.

LookingAtTheSun.jpgAnd while I'm at it, I might as well add an even older item from the archives, "How the World Works," from 1993, about the mismatches between the U.S. economy, as influenced by its political values and prevailing ideology, and the export-related economies of Asia. Japan, which was a main focus of that story, differs in very significant ways from today's emerging China. But there are similarities too. The article then became part of my book Looking at the Sun. FWIW.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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