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Everybody has probably heard about Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez' weapon deals. Tanks and anti-air missiles from Russia, warships from Spain, training jets from China, air defence systems from Belarus. The US has expressed its concern that Venezuela is provoking an arms race in South America. Its actions could endanger regional stability the US says. Really? Venezuela is number 5 in Latin America in military spending, both in absolute terms and as percentage of GDP. The Latin American leaders in military spending are two close US allies: Colombia and Chile, which in relative terms spend almost three times what Venezuela does.
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As the US is overstretching its military power and the centre of gravity of the world economy is shifting towards Asia and Latin America, the formerly so mighty US empire is in decline. With no single new superpower emerging, we are inexorably moving towards a multipolar world. Decline is always difficult to manage and with the unprecedented US military power the process is extremely dangerous. Will the US be able to manage this gracefully?
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Two years after the onset of the financial crisis, the US economy still looks very bad. The reason is that the US crisis is not only the result of a real estate bubble and the resulting crisis in the financial sector, but also of a more fundamental lack of competitiveness. The US economy needs a profound restructuring, and there is no simple way to achieve that.
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International investors are panicking. The EU and IMF have bailed out Greece, then Ireland and everybody's guess is that Portugal or maybe even Spain may be next. After the bail-out, these countries are in for a long and tough period of austerity and low growth. Is the Argentinian default a decade ago a better alternative?
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If the financial crisis has brought us something good, it is that it has exposed the ignorance with which the economy has been treated by the media. The downside of it is that few seem to have noticed, and that the economic journalists don't seem to have learned anything from it. This is particularly clear when looking at the way news about the stock market and the housing market are treated.
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