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: