Thursday, January 14, 2010

Brand America

The Economist has an analysis of Obama's first year, which includes this interesting fact

How much does this matter? Simon Anholt, an analyst, heroically estimates the value of the "Obama effect" on America's global brand at $2.1 trillion. Each year, Mr Anholt commissions a poll of 20,000-40,000 people to find out how much they admire various countries' people, culture, exports, governance, human-rights record and so on. He finds that admiration in one area often translates (illogically) into admiration in others. When George Bush was president, foreigners expressed less positive views of American goods, services and even the landscape. Under Mr Obama, he finds, America is once again the most admired country in the world (having slipped to seventh place in 2008). Using the same tools that consultants use to value brands such as Coca-Cola or Sony, he guesses that the value of "Brand America" has risen from $9.7 trillion to $11.8 trillion. Writing in Foreign Policy magazine, Mr Anholt calls this "a pretty good first year".

I don't know how reliable this research is, but I assume that it is fairly good.  We also don't know if it is due to Obama presenting a better than average image, or because Bush was presenting a worse than average image.  I am more interested in what this says about our country as a whole.

The value of 'Brand America' is about the same as the value of our entire national debt.  So even ignoring all of our other assets, the goodwill of our country could cover everything we owe.  I know that it is impossible to monetize this immediately.  It is the kind of thing that only has long-term payoffs.  But the debt also mainly has long-term costs.

Even though I think our government and debt should be a lot smaller, I realize that it is not a huge crisis.  It will not destroy the country.  We have seen higher debt levels in the past, and other countries have dealt with higher debt levels.  I would prefer that we cut spending now, but what will happen is that the debt will force us to cut spending in the future.

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