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No, I am not being facetious. As I wrote in Asia Times Online this morning the Peter Pan syndrome among aging Americans is the source of the economic crisis, in two ways.

Something astonishing had happened, compared to which the tulip bulb craze and the South Sea bubble seem like models of sobriety. The eternal adolescence that Michael Jackson so ably represented in fantasy turned into the foundation for the great investing

 

wave of the 1990s. The best minds America could train worked hundred-hour-weeks in pizza-box-strewn lofts to launch the next site for web-based greeting cards or virtual-reality sex. Stock analysts valued new issues in proportion to their “burn rate”, assuming that the more money they lost, the more they were worth. The sort of things the world really needed - hardier seeds, safer nuclear energy, more efficient electrical batteries - never turned up on the radar screen.

Equity markets collapsed and never came back. In nominal dollars, the technology-centered NASDAQ index stands at one-third of its February 2000 peak. Real returns to investment in youth culture followed the same trajectory as Michael Jackson’s nose. Undaunted, Americans stopped speculating in technology stocks and speculated instead in houses. The Peter Pan syndrome continued to afflict the American economy. Rather than save, as aging people should, they borrowed more to acquire bigger houses. The housing bubble prolonged America’s collective adolescence for a few more years, for it allowed Americans to spend money on toys rather than saving for the retirement that came rushing at the baby boomers like an oncoming express train.

Youth culture disoriented the entrepreneurs of America so thoroughly that conventional wisdom - including that of the Vatican and the Barack Obama administration - now ignores the entrepreneur as a source of economic growth.

 

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