Miriam Leitao at PostGlobal

Miriam Leitao

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Miriam Leitao is a reporter and columnist for O Globo and Radio CBN in Brazil. She is also a commentator on Globo TV Network and runs her own blog, www.miriamleitao.com, hosted at Globo online at www.oglobo.com.br. She was awarded Columbia University’s Maria Moors Cabot Prize in 2005. Close.

Miriam Leitao

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Miriam Leitao is a reporter and columnist for O Globo and Radio CBN in Brazil. more »

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There’s No Free (Prosperous) Lunch

Just because the U.S. is “developed” doesn’t give it a free pass to be wasteful.

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All Comments (4)

Everton Vasconcelos:

Concordo plenamente com as colocações de Miriam Leitão.

Paul R. Cooper:

Our economic system, which, after all, is not a total social system, has tilted wealth distribution past a tipping point. People are waking to an imbalance which displays glittering wealth on the surface of a sour pool of over-leveraged ordinary citizens and banks which cannot pay their debts, much less pay for health care, education, retirement. The benefits of higher productivity have been distributed upward, leaving shards of a system which briefly held together. Our mansions glitter while our cities decay.


While there may not be a free lunch - some people have been feasting for some time with relatively little cost to them.

Mohamed MALLECK, Swift Current, Canada:

Ms. Leitao writes " But at the same time, the U.S. refuses its role as a natural leader in this process of changing the pattern of development."

Well, I am sorry, it is the the case that 'the US is a natural leader in this process, quite the contrary. The rest of the world, especially the leaders of those countries whose hardworking populations produce much of the surplus production that feeds America's overconsumption have not yet developed the gumption to FORCE a change in the pattern of development on the US.

The first step to doing that is to brutally put an end to the dollars' artificial position as the world's only reserve currency. Asia, in particular, has been too complacent in allowing 'non-regionals' at the Asian Development Bank to slow its agenda of macroeconomic convergence and the emergence of a common Asian currency that would be a store of value of choice for global reserves. Asia (inclduing West Asia) has also too long allowed its hard-earned reverves to be invested in US Treasuries whose underpinning real assets had been mortgaged overly heavily to finance the American over-consumption and waste that Ms. Leitao rightly deplores, with the result that about US$900 billion of Asia's hard-earned US$3 trillion of reserves has been wiped out through the depreciation of the US dollar during the past two years alone.

Yes, the consuption path of the US has to be adjusted downwards dramatically, but the composition of that consumption has to be reconfigured even more dramatically. The gap between rich and poor and their consumption patterns have widened in a horrendous manner during the past decade. Consumption of luxury goods and services (palatial homes, crazily exotic dishes at hyper-sized glamour parties, fancy cars, dream cruises, etc.) by a small percentage of the population comprising the hyper-rich has grown tremendously, while the basic necessities of hard-working family heads struck with natural catastrophes (as exemplified by the Katrina hurricane case) have taken years to reconstitute. This adjustment in the composition of the consumption aggregate in America will cause severe social strains; add to that the downward shift in the consumption path, and one sees why America resists a change in the pattern of development.

The economic and financial leaders of the world must take a lead in forcing a change in this pattern. For example, the crazy purchase of weapons, reportedly US$ 20 billion by Arab Gulf Cooperation Council memeber states, during Bush's recent trip is such a treacherous blow to the poorly-paid slave-labour wealth creators of that region, who have migrated from Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Philippines, while the profit goes to feed the gluttonous in America and it is unclear whether the enemy that the purchasers of these weapons have nightmares of using them against are not precisely those poor wealth creators. In Latin America, if the trend towards a more humane, letf-of-centre polity is consolidated, the future looks bright that a downward adjustment of the consumption path in the US will benefit Latin America's masses. But, if right-wing subversion returns, a threat similar tot he one I have just sketched for GCC countries might be lurking around the corner.

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