Michael Spence, a Nobel laureate in economics, is Professor of Economics Emeritus and a former dean of the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. He is Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Senior Adviser to General Atlantic, and Chairman of the firm’s Global Growth Institute. He serves on the Academic Committee at Luohan Academy, and chairs the Advisory Board of the Asia Global Institute. He was Chairman of the independent Commission on Growth and Development, an international body that from 2006-10 analyzed opportunities for global economic growth, and is the author of The Next Convergence: The Future of Economic Growth in a Multispeed World (Macmillan Publishers, 2012).
MILAN – The world’s developed countries face growth and employment shortfalls, while developing countries are confronting huge challenges in adapting to increasingly volatile capital flows while adjusting their growth patterns to sustain economic development. And yet America’s political dysfunction has come to marginalize these (and other) crucial issues. It is all very difficult to fathom.
The threat of a default on US sovereign debt has been lifted – for now – but the deeper problem persists: For America’s Republicans and Democrats, negotiating a fiscal grand compromise appears to carry higher costs than playing a game of brinkmanship, even at the risk of default. Surely this involves a collective miscalculation of the longer-term costs.
Setting aside the external impact on the global economy, the damage to domestic stability and growth from anything other than a short-term technical default would be so severe that the political system (and both parties with it) could not withstand the backlash. Domestic and foreign holders of US Treasury bills would regard a deliberate, unforced default as a betrayal of trust.
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