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The 4 Addictions: A Framework for Understanding the Global Shifts in 2023 – with Bruce Mehlman

The world did not return to its business-as-usual, pre-pandemic normal. Instead, we are currently in a transition phase characterized by what Bruce Mehlman calls The Four Addictions.

Bruce Mehlman is a partner at Mehlman Consulting (, and previously served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Technology Policy under President George W. Bush. He has over two decades of experience in assisting leaders and organizations to understand, anticipate, and navigate political risk.

In this week’s interview, Bruce and I discuss the four main challenges he sees as we navigate a period of tough domestic choices and geopolitical realignments. Highlights of our conversation include:

- Identifying the four addictions: China, digitalization, easy money, and debt.

- Key factors that have drawn us into an unsustainable state.

- Why our costliest systems were not built to cope with changing demographics.

- How debt discipline might be imposed on us from external forces.

- How the US’s need to decouple from China will entail both pain and opportunity.

- How the possibility of direct confrontation with China requires new military strategy and doctrine.

- The great AI freak out of 2023 and the need for guardrails.

- Whether we need a big-change event or personality to unify our resolve to kick our addictions.

You can download The Four Addictions slide deck here:

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Time stamps:

0:00 The US has four addictions that will be hard to break
0:57 We are not going back to business as usual
1:25 The four addictions: China, digitization, easy money, and debt
2:10 US dependencies are unsustainable
2:57 The US debt addiction
5:03 The drivers of debt
6:15 The mood in Washington about debt
8:00 The China addiction—pain and opportunity
13:50 The China addiction is a global issue—is military conflict inevitable?
18:14 The digitalization addiction
20:17 The great 2023 AI freak out
23:32 AI and the regulation question
25:07 We’re headed into our first AI election—deep fakes and dirty tricks
26:21 Links between addictions pose tough challenges
28:05 What might be needed to spur corrective actions
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John Mauldin
Each week, investors and financial professionals around the globe turn to John Mauldin to better understand Wall Street, global markets, and the drivers of the world economy. And for good reason. John is a noted financial expert, a New York Times best-selling author, a pioneering online commentator, and the publisher of one of the first publications to provide investors with free, unbiased information and guidance—Thoughts from the Frontline—one of the most widely read investment newsletters in the world.
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