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Implications of Changes in the Silver Market

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It appears that the next short-term move will be up.

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Is America going to hell? It certainly seems that way if you read about the "post- American" world and listen to the television news programs that eulogize America's position as the premier superpower. That is why it was refreshing to read a reassuring article in latest issue of Atlantic Magazine.

The writer, James Fallows, claims that if you look at the comforts and abundance of American life, even at a time of recession, you realize that America is still one of the best places to live. Even if America is supposedly in a decline, it still has a standard of living that is the envy of most of the world. The simplest measure of whether a culture is dominant is whether outsiders want to be part of it, he says. There are still plenty of people around the world for whom an American green card would be a dream come true. You don't see many people clamoring to emigrate to China.

Fallows points out that there have always been periods during which it seemed that America was falling behind or falling apart -- presidential resignations, assassinations, race riots, divisive wars, failing schools, failing industries, etc. In fact, America has a tradition of gloom and doom that goes all the way back to the first European colonists. Pick any decade in American history and you'll notice the same cycle of despair and renewal that seems to be built into the American psyche. There have been other periods when it seemed that America was falling behind, as, for example, with Sputnik when Nikita Khrushchev said "Whether you like it or not, history is on our side and we will bury you." Later, there was Japan, Germany, and now China that serve as standards and whose achievements dramatize American decline.

President Barack Obama, while he was still campaigning, put this feeling into words:

"The dream that so many generations fought for feels as if it's slowly slipping away, and most of all, we've lost faith that our leaders can or will do anything about it," he said during a campaign speech.

There are many reasons to believe in America's resilience, says a historian that Fallows interviewed. There's the good luck of geography and resources, the First Amendment's success in reducing religious friction, and the decentralization of power and culture. Racial relations, a major problem in American history, have never been better.

Fallows points out that China has about four times as many people as does America and that someday its economy will be larger. That's good for everyone because a business-minded China is likely to be more benign. Besides, China has plenty of reasons to worry about its own future. There's the issue of a looming environmental disaster due to the overly rapid development. Then there's the demographic legacy of the one-child policy, which will leave an aging population dependent on relatively fewer young workers. Politically, tensions between an open economy and a closed political system with constraints on free expression might cause instability.

America, he says, is likely to lead in the development of future industries and technologies that depend on a society that is flexible, open, and inventive.

American society is perfectly positioned for such innovation. The American advantage depends on two pillars of American strength -- continued openness to immigration and a continued concentration of excellent universities that people around the world wish to attend. Although there are troops of engineers and computer scientists marching out of Chinese universities, China lags behind in scientific discovery and technological innovation. Of the top 20 universities in the world ranked according to scientific research papers, 17 are American. Of the top 100 in the world, none are Chinese.

"What I've seen as I've looked at the rest of the world has generally made me more confident of America's future, rather than the reverse," writes Fallows. "What is obvious from outside the country is how exceptional it is in its powers of renewal: America is always in decline, and is always about to bounce back."
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