Sunday, October 28, 2007

America: A Great Country

Always nice to get the facts occasionally to counter the tales of woe voiced by many.

The Decline and Fall of Declinism
By Alan W. Dowd Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Filed under: Big Ideas, Economic Policy

Some people don’t want to admit it, but America is in great shape.

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.

It’s a familiar tune, of course. We heard it in the early 1990s, when economists, political scientists and pundits were quipping that while the U.S. and Soviet military superpowers waged the Cold War, it was economic superpowers Japan and Germany that won it; in the 1980s, when Paul Kennedy led the chorus by concluding that America was tumbling toward “imperial overstretch;” in the 1970s, when the U.S. slipped into a malaise; and in the 1960s, which began with the U.S. unable to dislodge a communist dictator 90 miles off its coast and ended with the U.S. unable to hold back the spread of communism half-a-world away.

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.