Let's take an enormous step back from the current financial morass and focus on geography. Yes, I said GEOGRAPHY. The implications of our unique positioning are often overlooked and I think it worthwhile to point them out.The United States is blessed with incredible comparative advantages and these bonuses help make our system stable, durable, and flexible.
1) The most important aspect of the United States is the size of our usable land. Russia and China may be similar in square miles, but a vast majority of their land is useless for agriculture, habitation, or development. Thanks to the Mid-West, the USA has the largest continuous mass of arable land in the world.
Implication: We can feed ourselves if necessary. I think only Brazil and Canada share that distinction with us.
2) The maritime transport system is the best in the world. The Mississippi River, linked as it is to the Red, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee rivers, comprises the largest interconnected network of navigable rivers in the world. In the San Francisco Bay, Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound/New York Bay, the United States has three of the world’s largest and best natural harbors. The series of barrier islands a few miles off the shores of Texas and the East Coast form a water-based highway — an Intracoastal Waterway — that shields American coastal shipping from all but the worst that the elements can throw at ships and ports.
Implication #1: The US can grow massive amounts of crops, transport them cheaply and efficiently, and use the same transport system for other economic purposes without worrying about food supplies.
Implication #2: Most countries spend billions creating transport capability, which is the foundation of an economy. The US doesn't have to spend nearly as much, which frees up capital for other projects. (The fact that we went on create one of the best road-and-rail networks is only icing on the cake.)
3) We have peaceful neighbors with Canada and Mexico and neither of them are a particular economic threat in their own right. This is not to say there are no problems nor violence, but we do not have the need for a large standing army on either border to protect us. (North/South Korea being the obvious illustration.)
Implication #1: Frees up capital and resources to be spent elsewhere.
**Grand Political Implication**
Since food supply, existential security, and major transport issues do not require major attention, the U.S. government tends to take a hands-off approach to economic management. The lack of endemic problems may mean that the United States — and especially its government — comes across as disorganized, but it shifts massive amounts of labor and capital to the private sector, which for the most part allows resources to flow to wherever they will achieve the most efficient and productive results.
"Laissez-faire capitalism has its flaws. But in terms of long-term economic efficiency and growth, a free capital system is unrivaled. For the United States, the end result has proved clear: The United States has exited each decade since post-Civil War Reconstruction more powerful than it was when it entered it. While there are many forces in the modern world that threaten various aspects of U.S. economic standing, there is not one that actually threatens the U.S. base geographic advantages."
-- Several of these ideas have been miling around in my head for a while. A Stratfor piece finally helped me put things on paper. Take a look at their piece from June 2nd, 2009 if you want to see global comparatives as well.
Disclosure: No Positions