This chapter develops the idea of the “saddle point,” where changes in economic and social policy are critical to the future. It looks back at Florence and Britain to see why they failed when they reached the saddle point, and examines the particular saddle point dilemma facing the United States. One thing that can be learned from Renaissance Florence and Victorian Britain is that structural change is a surprisingly slow process, which is why its causes can be confused and its effects so easily misunderstood. It would be convenient if the current fiscal crisis in the United States were to reach a head, generate an emergency, and require immediate action; then the political and economic adrenal glands might kick into action and begin to make the policy changes that are necessary to achieve balance in the emerging world economy.
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