The Duck of Minerva

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Hegemony, the Economy, and Baseball’s Winter Meetings


December 8, 2008

Baseball’s winter meetings start today in Vegas, which means loads of hot-stove league excitement for baseball fans like myself. However, I don’t expect my team to make one of the marquee deals, those big money contracts are usually the province of the big market, big money teams like the Yankees, Mets, Sawks, and Angles.

The art of rooting for a small market team is to understand how to do more with less, and, most importantly, how to minimize risk in the land of free-agent mega-contracts. If you’re the Yankees, you can sign a Carl Pavano, say, to a 4-year, $40 million contract, and when misses 2 full seasons and large portions of two more, you grouse about it and then go sign another pitcher to replace him and continue about your merry way. If you’re a small market GM, however, such contracts aren’t even an option. You can’t afford to put so much of your scarce revenue into a non-performing player. So, small market teams must look for diamonds in the rough, offering low risk, in terms of guaranteed money, contracts to a number of players, hoping one works out because they can’t afford to be wrong on a guaranteed, multi-year, mega-million dollar deal that would cripple the franchise.

In short, the key difference between the big money teams and small market teams is their capacity to absorb a mistake.

Which brings us to tonight’s word: weathering the global recession.

In grading a series of papers for my Hegemony class, an interesting theme emerged. While many contemporary commentators are lamenting the fact that the current global economic meltdown has put a damper on US global leadership, I think that there is an under-appreciated aspect to the economic crisis. Namely, the US is in a position to weather the storm, absorb the hit, and recover. Yes, there is certainly more economic pain to come and, for certain, it will hurt. But, if you haven’t noticed, this economic crisis is global, and its going to hurt the rest of the world a lot more than it will hurt the USA.

With the price of oil now down to $43/barrel, oil producing nations are in dire straits. The promises they made at $140 are ludicrous, and much of their basic economic models are simply unsustainable at prices this low. Russia, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia–they are all in serious trouble.

Even China, the supposed great rival to US hegemony, is in dire economic straits. They have proposed a $500 billion stimulus package, but depend on the health of global export markets to keep factories humming and producing the 9-11% annual economic growth they need to maintain domestic political stability. This puts the CCP in a real political bind.

All of which is to say, the US standing in the world might not be as drastically reduced as a result of the global economic crisis as one might initially think. Everyone will take a hit, but the Yankees / Yanquis are in a much stronger position to be able to absorb the hit and remain competitive. We are strong enough to recover from our own mistakes. Others are not so bit or so fortunate.

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Dr. Peter Howard focuses on US foreign policy and international security. He studies how the implementation of foreign policy programs produces rule-based regional security regimes, conducting research in Estonia on NATO Expansion and US Military Exchange programs and South Korea on nuclear negotiations with North Korea.