EDITORIAL: We can help the US weather the storm

The day the terrorists came to Manhattan is branded in the minds of

everyone who saw it. Visions of a hell that will live on long after the

pall of acrid dust has cleared and the wreckage of the most recognisable

symbols of global commercial activity have been cleared away.

While the clear-up will be a gigantic task in physical terms, it is as

nothing compared with the psychological damage inflicted on people who

experienced the mass slaughter either first hand or via television

screens across the world.

It may not seem so now, but getting the US economy up and running again

will be the easy part. It has always proved astonishingly resilient and

President Bush will want to ensure this happens quickly, if only to show

the men of evil that their strike on the country's financial heart has

failed to destroy its resolve. Co-ordinated rounds of interest rate cuts

by other countries and the determination of central bankers to sustain

the world's engine-room economy at any cost should help prevent it going

into freefall.

But after the vital and practical steps have been taken, we move into

unknown territory where many intangibles come into play. Are businesses

located in the right place?

Will people continue to want to work in the city of New York? And, if

they do, should they be asked to work in skyscrapers?

The success of any economy is always limited by the extent of the

feelgood factor among consumers - and the feelgood factor has never

taken a bigger hit. From now on, companies will be hesitant about when

and where to invest and may simply run for cover. At home, consumers

face new limits to their personal freedom. Abroad, they see a world

growing more politically unstable and the threat of an oil crisis that

would end all hopes of avoiding a recession.

Until now, the corporate confidence crisis has not spilled over into the

consumer area. Unemployment remains low and the buoyant housing market

shows no sign of sinking. And, although it seems an insensitive and

trivial thing to say at this time, a strong retail sector attests to

advertising's importance and effectiveness.

At the moment it seems almost inconceivable that anything good can

emerge from all the devastation, pain and suffering. One hope is that it

will concentrate minds on working together to preserve the economic

stability that ought to be the mark of a civilised society.