January 12, 2011

Is “the new normal” about dim sum?

Posted in Economics, Social Commentary tagged , , , , , at 8:51 am by Doug Brockway

In a recent posting on the NY Times’ Economix Blog, Catherine Rampell wrote about “the new normal.”   Her post, “The New Normal is Actually Pretty Old” is about whether what is happening now is, in fact, as new as people say or just another, to-be-expected turn of economic cycles.

What I found interesting was two graphs she included in her post.  The first showed a Google Ngram of the use of the term “new normal” over the past 100 years.

What I saw was a rough alignment of the first major spike in the use of the term with the ascendancy of the US on the world stage.  Certainly the US was a dynamic and important economic power since soon after the end of the Civil War but US global impact in diplomatic and military influence began with Theodore Roosevelt and the Russo-Japanese War and our establishment as the world’s most dominant economy occurred through the first quarter of the 20th Century.

Look at the right hand side of that chart and think about Asia.  Think about China in specifics.

Its not clear to me that the 21st Century will be the Chinese Century though if you’re going to pick one new candidate they’d be a good choice.  What may have more legs is the 21st Century as the GLOBAL Century.  The chart above aligns not only with China emerging onto the global stage but with a widely discussed sense that we are more entwined, region by region than ever before.  If you do an nGram of China it peaks in the middle of the 20th Century.  Here’s the graph for “Global”:

Of course, it could all be piffle.  The right hand side of the chart is rather short.  Who knows what the future holds?



  1. Nelson said,

    Having looked at the charts and read the argument, I can’t help but wonder about the role of a “global” currency and the role of a more globalized culture. I see the extraordinary growth in Asia that is proportional to empty cities built without occupants nor prospects. I see increasing consumption of raw materials, luxury goods, and standard of living. All in a culture that believes in modesty and the good of the many outweighing the few. How does one resolve the emergence of a largely isolationist culture that has fought for 1000s of years to remain isolationist being thrust onto the global stage? How does one resolve the debtor culture of money management in the west to a society that firmly believes that debt is shameful? Surely these issues have a role in the economic relationships and growth of nations.

  2. Con Trau said,

    I agree. Maybe you saw my weekend speculations on China (http://askabuffalo.com)? Reminds me somewhat of a book I just put down by neo-lib John Ikenberry. He argues that the end of hegemonic wars in 1648 (Westphalian treaty), 1815 (Napoleonic), 1919 (speaks for itself, WIlsonian democratic alliances), and 1945 (followed by the Marshall plan for reconstruction aid in Europe), set up increasingly binding institutional orders that have ensured stability even through the Cold War due to their constitutionality and “limited returns to power,” where all have more interests in maintaining the current international order than rising against it. Whether or not his model works remains to be tested. But for the time being, China is not a new hegemonic threat, and we need to focus on the international order of the global century.

    • Yes, Con, or is it “Mr. Trau”? (we know who you are!)…. I read your post. I recall commenting that it seems strange that people would be anxious that China or India or any other country, now active and substantive on the world stage might want to participate in “writing the rules” on global affairs. If one participates in a community that means participation in “rule writing” and China, India, Brazil all count, as would anyone else.

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