A final goodbye to Superpower America?

By Bernd Debusmann
March 11, 2011

Sombre analyses of America’s decline come in waves and the latest seems to be gathering strength. “AMERICAN DECLINE. This Time It’s Real” proclaims a recent magazine cover. “Yes, America is in Decline,” echoes another. Time to prepare obituaries for the world’s remaining superpower?

How long will it take for the U.S. to follow the example of the Roman Empire and end up as Italy? That’s a question the prognosticators of America’s waning power and influence (also known as declinists) tend to sidestep, perhaps because so many past predictions of doom have been so wrong.

The “This Time It’s Real” assertion is on the cover of Foreign Policy, a magazine closely read by the foreign policy community. Inside, the British commentator Gideon Rachman lays out a well-argued case for saying the U.S. will never again enjoy the dominance it had in the 17 years between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the global financial crisis of 2008.

The “Yes, America Is in Decline” headline is on the cover of TIME, the country’s most widely-read news magazine. The author and foreign policy analyst Fareed Zakaria bemoans the fact that Americans seem unable to grasp the magnitude of the challenges facing their country and that the political and economic changes now being debated in the U.S. “amount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

America’s modern-day Cassandras (Rachman and Zakaria are not the only ones) draw on a wealth of statistics to back up their arguments, from spending on research and development (once 1st in the world, now 6th) and domestic savings (84th) to life expectancy (27th) and college graduation (once 1st, now 12th). They all add up to a bleak picture that could lead to the following observation:

“The decline argument…is driven by concern about the vast federal deficits of recent years and, consequently, the immense growth of the national debt. It reflects apprehensions regarding the deficits in the balance of trade, the necessity to borrow staggering sums abroad and the dramatic shift of the United States from a great creditor nation to the world’s largest debtor.”

That sounds as if it were culled from today’s headlines but it was written in the summer of 1988, by James Schlesinger, a former secretary of defense and then scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. At the time, there was a full-blown debate over whether the United States was past its prime and headed for second-rank status. The dispute was prompted by the historian Paul Kennedy’s book “The Rise and Decline of Great Powers.”

In Kennedy’s view, the decline of the United States could probably be slowed but not averted and “the American share of world power has been declining relatively faster than Russia’s over the past few decades.” Not long after the book came out, the Berlin Wall fell. Not long after that, the Soviet Union collapsed.

CYCLES OF DECLINISM
The Soviet threat to American dominance turned out to be more imagined than real and that may well prove to be true for China, the country that today looms large in the popular imagination and in forecasts about the future alignment of world powers. According to a Gallup poll in February, 52 percent of Americans think China is the world’s leading economic power.

Such perceptions are out of synch with reality. China’s Gross Domestic Product is less than two thirds that of the United States. GDP per capita is roughly one to six ($47,123 to $7,518), according to 2010 figures from the International Monetary Fund. As far as productivity is concerned, one American produces, by some estimates, as much as six Chinese.

Harvard University’s Joseph Nye, in a response to Zakaria’s gloom-and-doom analysis, says polls such as Gallup’s highlight “cycles of declinism” that say more about America’s collective psychology than underlying shifts in power.

“In the last half-century, polls showed Americans believed in their decline after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, after Richard Nixon’s devaluation of the dollar and the oil shocks in the 1970s, and after the closing of Rust Belt industries and the budget deficits of Ronald Reagan’s administration in the 1980s,” he writes.

Declinists tend to give short shrift to an element that tends to play a key role for the global standing of a country – a culture that encourages innovation and attracts the world’s best and brightest. On this, the U.S. has an edge over China, whose world-changing inventions belong to the ancient past – paper, gunpowder, the compass and wood printing.

The contemporary invention that changed the  world more than any other, the Internet, was made in the United States which, declinist talk notwithstanding, still employs more than two thirds of the world’s Nobel Prize winners, accounts for about a third of the world’s patents, and is home to 13 of the world’s 20 top-ranked universities.

Unlike the doomsayers, President Barack Obama sounds confident that the U.S. can retain its position: “It is my belief that we have all the pieces in place for us to make sure that the 21st century is the American Century just like the 20th was,” he said in February. “That means that we’ve got to out-educate every other country in the world. We’re going to have to out-innovate every country in the world.”

It’s a very tall order. Is it possible? We’ll know by around 2030.

(You can contact the author at Debusmann@Reuters.com)

41 comments

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I always enjoy your column. You had me hooked with the question marked headline. Same question dusted off and supported with new and improved analysis of the world itself won’t change by 2030 either. Could it be the world desire to see Uncle Sam humiliated? Maybe it’s the fact that we Americans seem oblivious to the possible answers to your question. I for one believe you hit the nail on the head with “Soviet threat to American dominance turned out to be more imagined than real and that may well prove to be true for China”. It’s a long way from 1949 China to 2030 America. We have something they only sniff. 24/7 coast to coast free diversity.

Posted by pHenry | Report as abusive

[...] that Americans seem unable to grasp the magnitude of … Read more from the original source: A final goodbye to Superpower America? | Bernd Debusmann … Share and [...]

A final goodbye to Superpower America? | Bernd Debusmann ……

Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

In the long term, US will inevitably fill the role of Britain, and China and India will regain top dog position, a position they held for thousands of years before Europe was even conceived as republican pluralist nation-states.

Posted by MarshalV8 | Report as abusive

So your response to Rachman and Zakaria’s well researched and statistics backed piece is anecdotal evidence, statements from politicians and some very broad numbers? The mathematics is very simple. US spends roughly 30% of defense + Homeland security, 30% on health care and 30% on social security. With rising retirees and changing demographics, tax inflows will lag behind social care spending. So you have rising expenses, lower revenue and an already huge deficit. Factor in rising costs of health care and no serious defense spending cuts. Further, factor in the first expenditures to face the axe in this nation is education when faced with budget shortfalls. Do the whole equation and it resolves squarely against US. Want more? DHS is spending more on so called security projects and already employs more than a million contractors. A decade is too soon to see effects of these underlying fundamentals. What Rachman and Zakaria are arguing about is long term and fundamental weakening of American power and not a dramatic Rome like collapse.

Posted by sandhuatretuers | Report as abusive

Another point I do not understand is why is the American media so stuck on China? Yes, China is growing fast, both economically and militarily. Same for India and Russia. The rise of these nations does effect America’s super power status but only tangentially. The main causes of America’s decline are internal. In other words, our decline will continue even if China, India and Russia stop being a threat of any sort.

Posted by sandhuatretuers | Report as abusive

Sandhuatretuers: As far as long-term trends, health care and social security are concerned, it’s worth pondering the predictions for China. By 2050, according to estimates by by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, China will have more than 430 million people over 60 (including 100 million over 80). There’s no sign that the government has figured out how to cope with that surge of elderly citizens. That’s a good reason to conclude that China is growing old before it is growing rich. The large proportion of the elderly will impose a huge burden on the young and act as a brake on economic growth and improved standards of living. Demographically, the U.S. is in a more comfortable position, baby boomers notwithstanding.

Posted by BDebusmann | Report as abusive

Its what comprises the GDP that matters. When you have a GDP based on things like private prisons, military spending and huge health costs, not to mention all the other strange things that are classed as a rising GDP. We are doomed

Posted by diddums | Report as abusive

Will China grow old before get rich?

Goldman Sachs in 2006 said NO.

Yes, China will become old. But by that time, GS believe China will be much
richer and will have reached developed-country status.
Goldman Sachs argue that two important factors will offset the slowdown in raw labor
growth: 1) improvement in labor quality, and 2) the release of surplus labor
from the agricultural sector.

Posted by MarshalV8 | Report as abusive

Sandhuatretuers hit the “nail on the head”. This article misses the point, and so does Bdebusmann. Your facts about China are correct. But you forgot one very important, decisive, fact: China is U.S.’s creditor. China gives the U.S. more and more loans (i.e. bonds) all the time. Our lovely president had to personally reassure China that its investments are still sound.

Frontline (PBS-you can watch it for free online) has an excellent piece, it’s called “Ten trillion and counting”. You can also find this on Netflix.

Not sure if anyone mentioned this above, but another concern is the potential for OPEC replacing the dollar with the ‘basket of currencies’.

Posted by chemlawdr | Report as abusive

The 21st is not even 1/4th done; yeah, it is still up in the air as to what the status of America will be for this century.

IMHO the most important policies the government could adopt to help maintain or increase American economic power, after cutting spending to end deficit spending, is to zero out the corporate tax and have open immigration.

Posted by mhsp | Report as abusive

All the prognosticators who are making louder noises with each passing year about the decline of the U.S. have it all wrong. True, there have been lots of fundamental problems with the way we have been doing many things over the decades, and having a superpower status made many people go to sleep.

It is also true that there is a relative decline in the power of the U.S. internationally. But this same superpower also has many very intelligent people who know how to turn things around, and Americans, having the most dynamic economy in the world, will reinvent themselves and come out far stronger in the end.

Posted by apollo1981 | Report as abusive

If some people believe the US is not facing a major decline, that’s fine, but I would hope they can explain how we can work our way out of our massive debt under a “soft landing” scenario.

In my view our next economic crisis is a chronic deterioration of the US dollar of somewhere along the lines of 10 percent per year for a period of at least one decade, if not two or three. I believe under such a scenario the US standard of living drops to a fraction of what it is now.

If someone can provide a more optimistic scenario I’m all ears. But “don’t worry be happy” is insufficient.

Posted by lsjogren | Report as abusive

Well, the current President seems committed to accelerating America’s decline. In terms of economics, military capabilities and global influence, the US is still miles ahead of any competitor, but when the occupant of the White House refuses to show leadership in global affairs, the “decline” myth will sprout wings. Fortunately, that problem is temporary and solvable.

Posted by mheld45 | Report as abusive

If normal accounting principles are considered, assets – liabilities is someone’s real worth. Then America’s 14 trillion GDP is nothing when 10 trillian debt is substracted frmo it. I actually don’t think China has any debt.

Posted by vze | Report as abusive

After 8 years of gross mis-management it’s not possible to right this train in 2 years. The world was laughing at America when GWB got a 2nd term. The lopsided and unfair tax system has been perpetuated by one party and anyone with a grain of sense could figure this out in a minute.

Unless America realizes that it’s passion for corporate, personal and political greed and consumerism is suffocating us together with the corruption by lobbying and corporate finance of the country; it’s total lack of investment in education, healthcare for it’s population; lack of research and support for innovation and entrepeneurship; the gullibility and ignorance of a fair percentage of the public who do not or cannot read the details; the totally unfair and disgusting focus on women’s rights; the ramming of religion down our throats by the do-gooders in politics (who invariably do not walk the talk); the overt racism that is rampant (eg. a black man in White House) and their total hang up on guns – yes – America is going to the dogs!

Fortunately we have a President who is the consumate diplomat for the world stage determined to make a better place for the US in the world. Without his vision for the future – America is surely lost !

Posted by rosiebond | Report as abusive

I don’t see much concern about the disappearance of the American middle class (look at the distribution of income statistics), the sickness unto death of the manufacturing sector, etc.. And while America is going downhill in so many areas, many so called “third world” nations are blooming. In other words, one should not judge the US in isolation, but in reference to a much more competitive world community of nations. We are headed for some some very rough times, and when this all blows over, I think that the US will never again be far and away the leader of the world in many areas by a large margin.

Also, in the modern world,the importance of military power is not anywhere near as important as in the past, and this trend is continuing. The vast US possession of nuclear warheads, fleets of warships, bases in over 100 nations, etc. is anarchistic and is proving to be much more of a deficit than an asset.

Posted by gAnton | Report as abusive

Previous doomsayers who thought Russia or Japan would become more influential than the US were wrong. They have much smaller economies than the US today. However China has almost five times as many people as the US so doesn’t need a high GDP/person to have serious global clout. The Chinese government’s spending capacity and its huge consumer base mean that if it remains stable and in one piece it will overwhelm the USA with ease. But it wont stop there. Already the richest parts of China such as Shanghai and Shenzen are richer than poorer areas of the USA. Imagine when the country looks like a big Taiwan or Hong Kong. How can a country with almost a quarter of the Worlds population not be more powerful than a country with 5%. America’s best option is to become allied with China just as Britain did with the USA early last century, and not try to contain it. This is the way for US to avoid a conflict that it cannot afford.

Posted by Konker | Report as abusive

I see the begining of the end can be traced back to Harry Truman who after setting up the C.I.A. in 1947, then limited presidential control by augmenting the 22nd amendment which limits presidential turns. G.W.Bush would never have been elected over Bill Clinton had the US people been allowed the true democracy they had before this amendment.

Posted by leggett | Report as abusive

[...] Chris Meyer & Julia Kirby posted about this interesting story. Here is a small section of the postThis Time It’s Real” proclaims a recent magazine cover. “Yes, America is in Decline,” echoes another. Time to prepare obituaries for the world’s remaining superpower? How long will it take for the U.S. to follow the example of the Roman Empire and end …. Its what comprises the GDP that matters. When you have a GDP based on things like private prisons, military spending and huge health costs, not to mention all the other strange things that are classed as a rising GDP. … [...]

The political climate in the USA is such, that I believe it is loosing its credibility worldwide. I have a hard time understanding that it can maintain its leadership status, when many people in the world do not believe in the USA any longer given its fresh unattractive public agenda. How can a nation which is moving in a direction opposite to others assert a leadership role. It is not as if christianity will reverse its decline worldwide, because the USA is showing the way. The lack of values and morals appears to be acceptable in business but not our in personal lives, that does not make any sense.

Posted by cjfsa | Report as abusive

The US has the largest GDP with nearly $14.4 trillion(2009) output, while China, which has emerged as global manufacturing hub has a GDP of $4.9 trillion (2009). Steel production is a very important marker of economic activity of a nation. Let us compare the figures of steel production in US vis-à-vis other nations.

The figure clearly indicates the status of “hard” economic activity in the US. China is now producing 50% of global steel while the US makes mere 5%. But, this staggering difference is not revealed in the GDP figure.

If one takes up the number or weight (currency-free parameters or money-neutral measurement criteria) to compare the manufacturing output between the US & China, the US invariably falls behind China in most of the items. And still, the US is touted as the biggest economy !………
But, once the wages in US gets curtailed due to ongoing heavy unemployment, the GDP figure will further plummet. The US will not appear as a Leviathan. Swindler has to be brought to the heels. By making visible the ground realities and dollar-neutral statistics, the emperor will appear without supremacy clothes. Current figure of US GDP figure is sham!!
Read for more:-
http://ariseasia.blogspot.com/2010/11/us -gdp-figure-is-sham.html

Posted by Pan-asianism | Report as abusive

The Golden Rule: He who’s got the gold makes the rules.

America is insolvent and deeply in debt. Our non-representative, bipartisan federal government is a Ponzi Scheme which needs huge amounts of deficit dollars and tons of fiat currency to meddle, intervene, invade and occupy.

Game over.

Posted by x32792 | Report as abusive

Wow, will the next 17 [60] years be different than the last 17 [60]? …America the new American’t; yeah sorta.

Problem is I don’t see Europe demonstrating much leadership on Libya [Egypt/Tunisia/Morocco/Jordan/Algeria] right now, and it would seem to be on their doorstep (Obama to Staff: If the head of Europe calls, get their name). By this time next week much of Japan may be uninhabitable. China’s [Russia's] future, an enigma, wrapped in a bribe, covered with substandard concrete.

Truly for some empires the future is not yet written.

Posted by ARJTurgot2 | Report as abusive

Let me be the devils advocate.

I suggest (unlike FTs Racahman & Zakaria), it’s American demographiccs – unlike mainland China amd India – which is likely to spell the decline of Great Satan.

The Wasp-ish culture of Tea Party suggests politics of polarization (and raicism!) which might actually do the necessary to ensure decline and fall of USA.

Bottom line: Non-Wasp like current POTUS is a rare commodity and may come once in a blue moon!

Posted by hariknaidu | Report as abusive

We’re all in the same basket.

Posted by Redford | Report as abusive

The United States remains a beacon of light to the world. Probably no other nation guarantees its citizens the same ironclad civil liberties set forward in the Bill of Rights because, while some claim to uphold civil liberties, not all of them actually enforce those rights when “push comes to shove”.

“Superpower” accolades are increasingly preposterous in an era of shrinking distances and rapidly advancing technology because all of us share a single planet, and we are ultimately all impacted by the global environment even if we reside thousands of miles apart. But only by embracing respect for individual rights can any modern nation achieve genuine power. Once a society respects the freedoms and dignity of its least affluent citizens, economic power is assured in the long term.

Posted by Lataroo | Report as abusive

3 billion or whatever a week to wage war on “terror” WASTE

Loafers and low back losers collecting government checks Waste

Fraud and abuse in Government programs WASTE

foreign aid to “friends” WASTE

manufacturing going to Mexico China STUPID

Run a business like this and you are out of business.

Posted by ordinaryguy | Report as abusive

Either I can add more money to my check book, stop paying bills,or go on a serious budget. Since additional revenues are not there to add to my check book, I rule it out. I still enjoy eating, sleeping under a roof, and a donut every so often. Serious budget seems to be the way out at the present.

Posted by Ontos | Report as abusive

The United States is no longer a superpower. This is nothing new. Relative to other nations, we have been in decline since 1945. Since then, everyone else has been catching up with us. The fall of the Soviet Union was a road marker, but not a turning point. The question for the twenty-first century is not “Can we restore the Glory of Rome”, but “Are we going to be realistic and influential, like Britain, or whiny has-beens like France?”

Posted by abgrund | Report as abusive

The United States is no longer a superpower. This is nothing new. Relative to other nations, we have been in decline since 1945. Since then, everyone else has been catching up with us. The fall of the Soviet Union was a road marker, but not a turning point. The question for the twenty-first century is not “Can we restore the Glory of Rome”, but “Are we going to be realistic and influential, like Britain, or whiny has-beens like France?”

Posted by abgrund | Report as abusive

30% Defence – 30% Health Care – 30% Social Security – And 10% goes to the FBI and DEA to sniff out those crazy Potheads…
The END is Near – Repent, you sinners!

Posted by nieldevi | Report as abusive

Yeah I dont think America is out of the soup just yet.. but if you ask me the real problem is New Zealand. Apparently they have the best ice cream in the whole world! And they are so friendly… like that surely has to count for something.

Oh yeah and they did make Lord of the Rings too.

Posted by Chovabub | Report as abusive

It costs a lot of money to be a superpower. Relinquishing that role doesn’t necessarily mean decline. We would become internally stronger if we quit concerning ourselves with “leading” the rest of the world.

We could help ourselves by instituting a national sales tax and reducing some income tax. Our tax policy encourages the purchase of Chinese junk. We could also eliminate income taxes on US bonds purchased by American citizens. The purchase of the bonds and the interest earned would be 100% deductable. We need to fund our own national debt so that other countries can’t use that to manipulate us (like we do with 3rd world countries).

Posted by RelaxMN | Report as abusive

Perhaps all that may really be ending is an archaic notion that one country can be superman of the planet. It’s a very complicated planet and becoming harder for a few big powers to dominate and control. Only children believe in superheroes.

BTW – Rome wasn’t built in a day and didn’t collapse overnight. It took hundreds of years for the Roman Empire to fade away and fall apart. The Senate didn’t close its doors until the 5th century AD. But Naples was still a center of classical learning until the 8th century AD. Some of Rome’s provinces didn’t actually collapse at all. For example, the North African provinces didn’t see the decline into tiny states (if one can actually call them states at all) that occurred in Europe. By the 7th century the North African, Middle Eastern and Levantine provinces were being reunited into the Islamic empires. The old trade routes may have changed and all roads no longer led to Rome, but life went on there as good as it once was. They lost several luxurious Roman era cities to the sands but built new cities elsewhere.

Edward Gibbon tended to think that the papacy was the last gasp of the Imperial system and it ended with the Reformation. The Eastern Empire continued until the sack of Constantinople by the Venetians during the last Crusade.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

I think the elephant in the room is the obvious decline of the US. The question everyone has to ask is, can the earth sustain the rise of other superpowers? How many people can we put on this earth, and how many nuclear weapons and how many cars? I think mother nature is letting us know.

Posted by rootuser | Report as abusive

Do a search for “countries that were not affected by the recession”. Now look at what is common amongst all of those countries – they are the countries who:

1. Were the most independant i.e. didn’t rely on international trade for survival, had established internal markets, and
2. Off-shored their labour force the least

Australia, Poland, China, Germany, much of Southeast Asia and South America…

Personally I think if the US invests in innovating renewable energy products (solar, wind, electric vehicles, etc) and hiring domestic employees then there is hope. The reliance on foreign oil and cheap labour is destroying America.

Posted by fuzzyanalysis | Report as abusive

I am a numbers guy and it this simple: Americans talk about balancing the budget with numbers like 100Billion. Common, get real, you are 50 billion or more negative per month on the balance of trade. The Republican balance the budget is a smoke screen from the conservatives and the Democrats appear ignorant. The real problem is you are an import nation with a terrible balance of payments. One of your main exports is weapons and that trend will be in decline as the world becomes more enlightened. You will have to make major structural changes in order to change this but it will be blocked by Republicans. You are the only nation in the world that encourages outsourcing and will not regulate to reduce energy consuption (i.e. conservation). By economics alone the US will collapse between 2020 – 2024. I have caught every major decline so far. Derivatives have gone from 268 trillion to currently 768 trillion and still no regulation.

Posted by Economist234 | Report as abusive

[...] A final goodbye to Superpower America? — Bernd Debusmann, Reuters Commentaries, Opinions, And Analysis On Libya’s Civil War [...]

Many, many reasons to understand the extraordinary strengths of the US and for optimism in the future:

1) The US is the world’s largest manufacturer, with a gross output of nearly $5 trillion ( >$2 trillion in GDP contribution) producing 20% of all the world’s manufactured goods, a market share it has held for decades – Japan and the EU have had their shares decline precipitously, something rarely noted – also America produces one-third of all the world’s high tech goods. (manufacturing jobs have been lost in less competitve industries, yet has remained strong in higher value industries)
2) The US spends 35-40% of the world’s research and development money, guarenteeing future prosperity
3) At $15 trillion, it remains by far the largest economy in the world, 3x’s larger than China
4) The US is deliberative, self-critical, and self correcting, and so unlike some of those in Europe and the Middle East who incessantly criticize the US, America is dynamic and fluid, changing as it needs to–identifying problems and rapidly fixing them, remaining forever adaptable and formidable and certainly the most extreme opposite of stagnant or ‘flat footed.’
5) Its unmatched culture of leading universities, think-tanks, public debates, entrpreneurship, coupled with its domination of technology and science provides it with an extraordinary productivity and potential.
6) Despite what some may say, the US, without imposing, has the most attractive culture the world over; this is a reflection of the overt and subtle things about America and Americans which makes it so emulated and great.
7) The net worth of Americans even after the ‘Great Recession’ is some $60 trillion, a sum equivalent to the entire world’s annual output (GDP).

And regarding China:
1) It will be the first nation in human history to become old before it became rich, an enormous and techtonic shock to its already fragile social fabric
2) As of 2010, China has peaked in its labor force – every year going forward, their will be more ‘pensioners’ (although there is no safety net) than productive laborers
3) Tibet, Xinjiang are just two most restive regions – political stability is a shame there – read the most authoritative strategic analyzers today, STRATFOR, as they have repeatedly predicted massive calamities for China ahead.

Posted by ViperMD | Report as abusive

We are definitely approaching the final goodbye for this once proud superpower and the reason is obvious, it is crushingly divisive politics.Politicians in this country spend far too much time taking potshots at each other to work effectively in working towards overcoming the enormous problems that this country faces economically.Obstructionist attitudes and fanatical ideological differences mixed with lobbyists vying for favors after donating, or promising donations, towards a hugely corrupt electoral process only serve to further deepen the failures of an out of control political system where the accumulation of individual wealth leaves national concerns for the future and their solutions in second or even third place.
It is only when politicians and all the people of this country put their differences aside and unite to strive for a common good that serious debilitating problems such as these can be put aside and a healthy and prosperous future for the country might be achieved.

Posted by Limey | Report as abusive

Although future predictions fail to take into account the exponential increase in any human endeavor, Americas dominance is secure as long as it’s 3000 odd universities continue to graduate skilled individuals. As soon as the balance of financial burden shifts noticeably away from education to sunk costs like military derived activities decline will follow.
Americas decline may be inevitable however the next 100 years should not see it’s inception.

Posted by rusman | Report as abusive

The great experiment. The United States when people were inspired. United States Inc. A different kind of Inpiration . Like all corporations the focus is on the dollar. It is said the measure of society is how we treat our young and our old. We do away with our young if we do not want them in two ways, first by way of abortion. Another method is to abandon and sabotage their future. It is amazing how efficient we are when we want to be. We honor and champion corporations as though a corporation is a human, and we kill and hobble our future because our children are human.. Just a thought.

Posted by Sernadon | Report as abusive

This is an endlessly fascinating subject for Americans. Remember, we are not a people bound by shared culture, ethnicity, or even haplotype. So there exists in every American a vacancy where in other places people have a solid foundation of self-identity.

I’m originally from a town in New England. I’m a 13th generation “swamp yankee”. I now live with my Turkish wife in a desert valley that is the longest continuously inhabited spot in North America (4,000 years), yet is filled with people who just got here. To be 3rd generation here is to have some serious roots. And there are dozens of cities like this in the American West. Neither I nor my first generation wife feel at all bound by our respective origins in how we choose to live our lives. This is very liberating. We are free thinking agnostics who are running our own business and charting a course through business and life that has no obvious precedent to guide our decisions. However, the flip side is that we are deeply insecure. The weight of our decisions and efforts on a daily basis has immediate consequences, good or bad. There is always a mountain of work left to do, information left to absorb, decisions left unmade. Even Americans who don’t run their own business are usually juggling their personal affairs as though they were–by networking, studying, trying to come up with a new idea or angle that will pay off someday, somehow. We’re all hustling, all the time, just to survive.

I suppose I’m saying that reflexively looking over your shoulder in fear of the competition is one of the few things we Americans do have in common with each other. I’m tempted to think that there is a correlation with this habit and our success. Maybe the moment when we stop wringing our hands about falling behind is when we really will start falling behind.

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Look at it this way. The global population growth rate shows no signs of decreasing, there are less and less jobs, and the global economy continues to shrink. It’s not just the US that is screwed; every nation is going to hell in a hand basket, even China.

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