Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The A to Z Problem

James Rickards, the former general counsel at Long Term Capital Management, spends his days worrying about catastrophic risks:
Rickards calls it the "A to Z" problem: What are the threats that could make the U.S. economy look less like America and more like Zimbabwe? He sees them everywhere – in the Chinese ownership of vast amounts of American debt, in Russia’s increased centralization of its economy, in Al Qaeda’s long-established fascination with damaging the U.S. economy.

His lecture comes as part of an annual "Rethinking Seminar" produced by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Rickards argues that government is not doing nearly enough to prepare for the worst. "Here’s the policy problem for the United States," he said in an interview. "We have experts in defense and intelligence, and huge depth in capital markets experience at the Fed and at Treasury." But they’re separated by the Potomac River. And they’re not talking to each other.
From an excellent article in Politico. The article talks about 4 really, really bad scenarios. Here's more information on tonight's seminar.

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