Noah Smith Blew Up My Book


Economist Noah Smith's latest post blew up my next book.

Okay, not entirely, but he did force me to make some adjustments. To be fair, it isn't just Noah Smith.  The US Energy Information Administration (who ever heard of such a thing?) is also to blame.  I am a social scientist, and so I pay attention to data.

If you've read Friendship Games, then you know that domestic gas prices are projected to soar to $20+ a gallon due to the immediate aftermath of the (near) conclusion of Friendship Games.  I already knew of the EIA's data – that is, that unlike the 1970's and 1980s, the USA isn't dependent on oil imports these days. Unrest in the Middle East is unlikely to impact the US market like it had in those bad old days. Nevertheless, oil is a global market, and so geopolitical upheaval abroad could and would still impact domestic gasoline prices here in the USA.  It might take intervention on the part of the federal government to ensure that gasoline prices don't spiral out of control by enforcing a federal freeze on gas prices and, perhaps, gasoline rationing as was done during the oil shocks of the 1970s.  But maybe not.  The USA produces enough oil for its own consumption, and even exports oil.  If anything, it would  stockpile its own production and maybe curb exports.

Noah Smith also blew up my book by rightfully pointing out that American interests in the Middle East are miniscule relative to East and Southeast Asia.  We barely import oil from the Middle East, and our exports to the Middle East are equally anemic.  America's Asian allies Japan and South Korea, however, and to an extent Europe, all import significant quantities of oil from the Middle East.  So a major disruption of oil flowing out of the Middle East would certainly have global impacts. 

Further, East, Southeast, and South Asia meanwhile – Japan, South Korea, coastal China, and (increasingly) Vietnam and India – are economically vibrant, densely populated, and teeming with life and innovation.  East Asia specifically leads the world in wealth, lifestyle, quality of life, technology, innovations, and safety.  We're talking more than one and a half billion people, and even Northern Europe ranks a step below in measurements of quality of life.

That said, I am reminded of that great line in Godfather III:  "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."  The Middle East has a tendency of inserting itself onto America's geopolitical radar.

In the next book, the aftermath of Friendship Games keeps the Middle East in the middle of things: Europe is blowing up (think of the largely Muslim riots in France in summer 2023); Islamic rage around the world after the whodunnit nuclear attack on advancing Iranian troops in the desert of the Unite Arab Emirates; Israel is on edge (think the October 7, 2023 Hamas attacks and ensuing war).

My next book, tentatively titled Daddy Broke the World, will, like Friendship Games (and Alter Road before), serve as a warning if we (the USA) continue to be reactive, and not proactive, to global events.  And if our domestic politics continues down the path of extremism and neglect of domestic infrastructural and social needs.

I very much enjoy reading Noah Smith's posts.  I learn a lot and enjoy his optimism regarding the current state of American economics and his optimism about future American prosperity and political leadership vis-à-vis a faltering China and Russia.

But I aim to highlight the darkness of what may come if we continue down our current path.

In the universe of Friendship Games and what comes next, the end of the road will be tragic at a historically unprecedented level.  A self-inflicted and entirely avoidable, possibly fatal, wound to American democracy and leadership.    

Stay tuned!