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Economic mess jumped up, bit some of our sharpest minds

With the exception of Jules Verne, Leonardo da Vinci and possibly Nostradamus, the track record of the human race in foretelling the future is not very good.

I hedge on Nostradamus because his famous quatrains read like gibberish open to any number of interpretations.

Thomas Friedman, in his book “The World is Flat,” said that Americans needed to accept the idea that with bright minds everywhere on Earth and instantaneous communications, the planetary playing field has been flattened. Jobs were being outsourced around the world, and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

And he wrote that the two greatest dangers Americans faced were an excess of protectionism and excessive fear of competition “that prompts us to seal ourselves off.”

Friedman is a great thinker, but evidently, he, like most of us, did not see the global economic mess coming.

Worth noting is that the original cover art for Friedman’s book showed tall ships and a lifeboat falling off the edge of a flat Earth. That cover was withdrawn after local artist Ed Miracle claimed that the book publisher used his art work without permission.

But it seems that Miracle’s artwork is somehow symbolic of what we’re experiencing today. If a rising tide lifts all boats, well, you get the idea.

A bank manager in another town, who worked for one of the great national companies, once told me, “People don’t like change. But see all of those little banks out there. One day they will all be gone and only the big banks will remain.”

Her big bank had taken over the Florida banking chain where I had done business for years, and where I had enjoyed free checking. With the takeover, she said my free checking was gone, and I should accept it.

After thinking about her prediction, I returned the next day and told the bank manager she was wrong, that I did like change, and that I was changing banks. Worth noting: Her big banking chain is now one of many on life support.

The arrogance that the bank manager showed, and the super slick way that greedy manipulators bought, bundled and sold mortgages, helping to precipitate this mess, leads me once again to suspect that the best approach is to let it crash and burn, and sort it out afterward.

In other words, don’t do something, just stand there.

What ever happened to the adage, you break it, you buy it?

The U.S. government has had to come to the rescue of the U.S. banking system. Should banking executives have to accept a cap on their pay? Absolutely. And I’m thinking a half million bucks a year is too much for those guys.

Maybe since the taxpayers are having to foot the bill to save the banking industry, we should own it. Would a nationalized banking system be the worst thing that could happen? Not if it saves us from chaos.

Then I realize that I’m just having an angry reaction, and there has to be a more nuanced, rational approach. But isn’t nuanced and rational what got us into this? I don’t pretend to know how, but a better day is coming.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 708-7916.

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