Economy & Budget

Mitt Romney, Zen Man and the preacher in chief

The Hill reports that Lindsey Graham is in a cage fight with Ron Paul. It is a representative fight for the times; the one a receding force, the other an advancing force. But both are ideologists. Which in my mind brings up Mitt Romney in importance, as he is not. Watching him up here when he was governor of Massachusetts, he seemed fair-minded, honest to a fault, project-oriented; partisan, yes, but at the same time remarkably non-ideological. He fired Billy Bulger, president of the University of Massachusetts, who had been awarded the job as a political plum by the Republican governor just before him.

In solving problems, Romney, who founded the investment firm Bain Capital, has shown the ability to do what Zen requests: see what is there and see nothing else. He could well be at the helm in 2012 and if not, he could still be in the same room as chief of staff to Sarah Palin. And the deeper the economy sinks and the more the deficits rise, the more eyes turn to Romney.

Alan Greenspan said this week that he has no worries about the falling dollar. Warren Buffett, one of Obama’s chief advisers, says it’s all good. But he lost half his fortune last year. And it was reported just this morning that Bank of America lost $2.24 billion as loan losses continue to rise. So what does Zen Man say?

Daisuke Uno, chief strategist for Sumitomo Mitsui, a unit of Japan’s third-biggest bank, says the dollar may drop to 50 yen next year and eventually lose its role as the global reserve currency.

“The U.S. economy will deteriorate into 2011 as the effects of excess consumption and the financial bubble linger,” he told Bloomberg’s Shigeki Nozawa. “The dollar’s fall won’t stop until there’s a change to the global currency system.”

The greenback is heading for the trough of a supercycle that started in August 1971, Uno said, referring to the Elliot Wave theory, which holds that market swings follow a predictable five-stage pattern of three steps forward, two steps back.

Uno said after the dollar loses its reserve currency status, the U.S., Europe and Asia will form separate economic blocs.

The Elliot Wave converges with generational theories of post-war cycles. Power awakens at the beginning of the second post-war generation and begins its decline at the end of the third, which is now. In all cyclical theories, it has been pointed out, there is the claim toward the end of the cycle that it will be different this time. That is where Greenspan’s happy-face prediction about the dollar comes in. It is part of the culture of the cycle.

Survival demands that we look forward, but by the end of the third generation, looking to the past has been fully institutionalized by three generations and every layer of government and business contributes. Even entertainment attempts to fortify the waning cycle (Tiny Fey, Vanity Fair, Letterman).

Japanese Zen, derived from Chinese Taoism, explains power as a convergence of equal and opposite counterforces. Things rise because they must; things fall because they must. There is a philosophy for rising: Confucianism. There is one for receding: Taoism.

In the West we have only a philosophy for rising. Our philosophy for receding is crash and burn. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Visit Mr. Quigley’s website at

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