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The 2012 London Olympics are coming in way over budget, and that's not really a surprise, even if it remains a disappointment. We can only hope that Chicago loses its bid for the 2016 Olympics, since it's hard to see how anything being done by Chicago politicians would come in under budget and on time. And it would undoubtedly have an effect on us here in Iowa, since we're simply not sufficiently distant from Chicago to avoid the trouble.
The flying car, which we have always used as an example of incredible futuristic ideas that haven't ever come true, may in fact be available for sale in the next 18 months. It's pretty amazing to imagine how far we've come, since powered flight has only been around for about a century. Technology changes in many ways that we too easily overlook, and as the things we use change, so do our lives. So while we might look at the prospect of a flying car and call it "too dangerous" for today's drivers, there were also those who said that the first automobiles were "too dangerous" for the people living in the day of the horse-drawn carriage.
There's been some comparison of today's economy with that of the Great Depression. That's really not a very good comparison. The factors involved and the magnitude of the situation are quite different today versus what they were then. That's not to mention the vast difference in technology and ideas and skills that we have today when compared to what we had 75 years ago. There are some lessons we can learn, of course: A deep reliance on savings (especially in war bonds), reinvestment, and innovation got us out of World War II, and it was the post-WWII boom that brought us out of the Great Depression. Innovation was forced upon us during the Second World War because we had to find lots of ways to fight a vastly unconventional war against a set of skilled and tenacious enemies. We don't have a similar war today, but we do have a similar need to invest in real advancements and truly durable improvements in our infrastructure and in the economy as a whole.
Even in a recession, there will still be plenty of opportunity for us to make life better, for ourselves and for those who come after us. Progress comes out of innovation, and in a time when the economy tightens, there will be lots of people and businesses looking for ways to do things better, faster, and more efficiently. The people who can come up with those ideas will be in great demand, especially in times of economic slowdown. It's really easy to get stuck in a mental rut, but when we can break out of our psychological bubbles -- perhaps by learning new skills, meeting new people, and making new connections -- we can make new and better things happen. Now we can hope that the President, who will get to use his BlackBerry PDA in the White House, will be one of those people sampling new ideas and putting the best of them into practice.