The Stock Exchange of Thailand’s index fell more than 1% yesterday and is down nearly another 11 points as things stand this afternoon. The Nikkei index in Japan has suffered its longest losing streak in 54 years. Both national and international factors have been identified – internationally, the biggest issue remains concern over what is happening in the USA. The interdependence of the world’s financial and trading systems is now so great that what happens in one place affects what happens around the world. And what happens in the world’s biggest economy is particularly significant for local conditions. We occasionally get stupid people writing in to the Bangkok Pot and elsewhere complaining of foreigners poking their noses into America’s election, as if these obvious facts were not true.
So, speaking from a Thai perspective, who would be the more useful (or less unhelpful candidate)? In terms of politics and peace, it seems clear that McCain would try to continue the dangerous failed policies of the current incumbent and this would raise the threat of terrorism worldwide, as well as keeping oil prices unnecessarily high. He might also be led into confrontation with China or Russia. It is not clear how much different Obama could be in this respect. To be electable, he will presumably have to navigate towards the middle ground and while his election would drain some of the poison accumulated around the world during the Bush years, it will take some time before confidence can be rebuilt.
In economic terms, the danger is of an inward looking presidency with the imposition of trade barriers. McCain seems to have no understanding of economics at all and would presumably have to hire some outsiders to do the thinking for him, while Obama will be aware of the importance of industrial and manufacturing America to his constituency and the problems that part of the country is facing from loss of competitiveness and outsourcing of activities to various lower-cost developing countries.
For the environment and general social issues, Obama of course is hugely preferable to McCain in setting an example for progress and optimism for the future – although, again, that is likely to be perhaps severely tempered by what he would be able to achieve in office.