Under normal circumstances, one might have expected this blog – which is not totally unconcerned with current affairs, particularly viewed through the lenses of business and education – to have devoted a few acres of coverage to a presidential election in the world’s number one economy. Yet try as we might, we have been unable to shrug off the global apathy enshrouding the outcome of the 57th quadrennial election in the history of the United States of America. It has proven impossible for us – like so many others across pretty much the entire socio-political spectrum – to be even remotely inspired by this contest.
But why exactly is this? Why has this stand-off between a Harvard-educated lawyer and the most prominent member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints almost entirely failed to prompt anything other from the global public – not to mention many Americans – than a half-hearted shrug? Beyond the more obvious reasons that are frequently cited – disappointment with the incumbent’s inability to implement his programme, the mediocrity of his challenger – we at Mediolana have been contemplating this conundrum and have come up with the following, tentative answer:
1. Social Distance. Democrat or Republican, blue or red, the American people as a whole are at best an annexe and at worst an irrelevance to the entire proceedings. The United States economy is now configured in such a way that not even all of the 1% seem to be benefitting from the limited ‘paper’ recovery; with lobbying increasingly defining US politics, the chances of any actual democracy breaking out are ostensibly receding by the day.
2. Astronomical Debt. The United States has passed the stage when its largest creditor – the People’s Republic of China – is publicly lecturing it on the merits of good housekeeping via its official news agency, Xinhua. No, we have reached a quiet different point, a point where the world’s most energy-inefficient major economy outside of a few tiny Middle Eastern petro-monarchies is now resigned to capitulation to monetarist fundamentalism, with the rest of the international community – not least the Asian states which are keeping the country afloat – working out how on Earth they are going to protect their positions in the event of a massive dollar devaluation.
3. Must There Be Another Way? With no small measure of irony, the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China kicks off in two days’ time. But there is not yet a consensus on the Beijing Consensus: while China has indubitably eclipsed its erstwhile ‘hyperpower’ rival across most macroeconomic indices, its own gargantuan levels of elite corruption and other structural deficiencies are hobbling its ability to be seen as a stable successor to the United States both in terms of planetary leadership and being an economic touchstone.