In this country, we talk about an "economic downturn." In the rest of the world it's called a global economic crisis. It's an important difference: one country can recover from a downturn in a few years, but a global economic crisis takes longer. And more importantly: a global crisis is like a shifting of the earth's plates resulting in a different landscape.
America's wealth was made in part by its companies operating all over the world. Our standard of living was invisibly (t0 us) supported by profits that Coca Cola made in Africa, that Chevron made in the Middle East, that Citibank made in Argentina. In every city and village across the world, there have been little American vacuum cleaner hoses sucking profits back here to the United States. But now the American century may be at the beginning of the end. We have gone from lender nation to borrower nation. While Daniel Webster believed that relative economic equality among the Pilgrims was the germ of democracy, we now have economic disparaties that rival the most corrupt, exploitive regimes in history.
In this great, global sweep of history, we cannot expect or hope for a return to the glory days of the empire. It helps to understand, though, that as empires decline, people become afraid, and are more susceptible to demagoguery; the implicit oligarchy strengthens its legal fortress walls.
And yet, the daffodils are pushing their heads up in the cold, wet soil, soon to bloom in golden glory. Pessimism is an assessment of the situation. Optimism, in contrast, is an orientation of the spirit. We are pessimistic about the future, butÂ optimistically hopeful in outlook. Let the spring begin. –Jan Masaoka
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* This issue's practical piece: A Nonprofit Copyright Primer. Provocative piece: Robert Egger on organizing nonprofits for political action. Ask Rita in HR: Can you terminate an employee who's been out on sick leave for a year? Crash seminar: nonprofit research valentines. Mischievous piece: soliciting nominations for the upcoming Just Awards — one for narcissism in philanthropy and one for bad media coverage of the nonprofit sector.