August 29, 2007

decline and undecline...

I liked this piece, The Decline and Fall of Declinism... I've been hearing all my adult life about how America is soon to be outstripped by this or that more organized and efficient (ie: more socialist) alternative. Remember MITI? Remember�this will date me�"We will bury you"? Ha ha.

..Under the heading “The end of a U.S.-centric world?” the PostGlobal section of The Washington Post website recently declared that “U.S. influence is in steep decline.” It was just the latest verse in a growing chorus of declinist doom-saying at home and abroad.

In 2004, Pat Buchanan lamented “the decline and fall of the greatest industrial republic the world had ever seen.” In 2005, The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee concluded that Hurricane Katrina exposed “a hollow superpower.” In 2007, Pierre Hassner of the Paris-based National Foundation for Political Science declared, “It will not be the New American Century.”

And the dirge goes on....

...But the declinists were wrong yesterday. And if their record—and America’s—are any indication, they are just as wrong today.

Any discussion of U.S. power has to begin with its enormous economy. At $13.13 trillion, the U.S. economy represents 20 percent of global output. It’s growing faster than Britain’s, Australia’s, Germany’s, Japan’s, Canada’s, even faster than the vaunted European Union.

In fact, even when Europe cobbles together its 25 economies under the EU banner, it still falls short of U.S. GDP—and will fall further behind as the century wears on. Gerard Baker of the Times of London notes that the U.S. economy will be twice the size of Europe’s by 2021.

On the other side of the world, some see China’s booming economy as a threat to U.S. economic primacy. However, as Baker observes, the U.S. is adding “twice as much in absolute terms to global output” as China. The immense gap in per capita income—$44,244 in the U.S. versus $2,069 in China—adds further perspective to the picture....

All you have to realize about those China-is-the-next-superpower screeds is that these things are not linear. The techniques that will get you from per capita $500 to $2,000 are not the same as those needed to get from $10,000 to $20,000, etc. To keep growing a country must learn a new game at every stage, and each one is harder....and....less amenable to centralized control or stimulation.

There's another thing that we all should be aware of, and that leftists don't want to know about...

...While the declinists routinely remind us that the U.S. spends more on defense than the next 15 countries combined, they seldom note that the current defense budget accounts for barely four percent of GDP—a smaller percentage than the U.S. spent on defense at any time during the Cold War. In fact, defense outlays consumed as much as 10 percent of GDP in the 1950s, and 6 percent in the 1980s.

The diplomats who roam the corridors of the UN and the corporate chiefs who run the EU’s sprawling public-private conglomerates dare not say it aloud, but the American military does the dirty work to keep the global economy going—and growing. “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist,” as Thomas Friedman observed in 1999...

Despite the crap you hear to the contrary, America provides by far the biggest and most important slice of the world's "foreign aid." Our 12 Carrier Strike Groups, and all the rest of our peerless military, are what make growth and prosperity possible for China and everybody else.

The world's economy runs on trade, to an extent far beyond that of any other time in history. In the past, foreign trade was, for most countries, just frosting on the cake. 5% or 10%. Not any more. If someone mined China's ports now, their whole economy would go "poof!" and vanish.

We donate the cost of world peace. And world peace is exactly what we have, by the standards of those past time when nations went to war with each other. That doesn't happen any more; the "wars" we have now are internal conflicts and genocides within failed states. And the involvement of the US and her Anglosphere allies is in the nature of cops breaking up gang wars. The "War on Terror" has claimed less than 4,000 American lives. [Insert boiler-plate statement yes-every-death-is-a-tragedy blah blah blah.] In a REAL WAR you can lose that many in a single DAY.

And when (rarely now) nations actually do threaten war, as India and Pakistan were doing a few years ago, we lean on them. In fact, we don't allow them to go to war. We are the grown-ups, they are the teen-agers, and we are teaching them how we expect them to behave.

Posted by John Weidner at August 29, 2007 6:51 AM
Weblog by John Weidner