Reports of America's decline are greatly exaggerated
Here are six reasons why US economic clout will endure.
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4. America's competitors lack good allies. Russia and China are suspicious of each other. Iran is at odds with key Arab countries. North Korea is a pariah. Libya is still in political rehab. Syria is trying to find itself in a globalized world. Meanwhile, the US has cautious but real allies in NATO, the European Union, the G-7 industrialized countries, and elsewhere that help it meet its national and international goals.Skip to next paragraph
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5. American ideals are becoming universal. Slowly but surely, self-government, free enterprise, and individual liberty are gaining ground around the world.
Take democracy. A century ago, just 2 of every 10 countries scored a 6 or higher in Freedom House's democracy scale – which ranges from 10 (completely democratic) to minus 10 (completely autocratic). In 2007, nearly 6 in 10 did.
6. The US attracts the world's best workforce. With global birthrates down, competition for the most educated workers has become more important. Many of the globe's best and brightest still seek to learn, work, and live here, creating a wellspring of American renewal.
Of course, America's economic growth has been overtaken by India and China in recent years. If China's economy maintains its torrid pace, it will eclipse America's in size by 2035, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Yet, China has enormous domestic problems, and no country in history has been able to grow at double-digit rates for so long.
Economic output, in any case, is just one sign of power – America has multiple sources. And if America and its big market really decline, China and the rest of the world will suffer, too. Witness the current global crisis. China needs to cooperate with, rather than supplant, America to secure a better future for the world.
We've heard predictions of US decline before. Recall that Japan was widely heralded as the new power in the 1980s, with some wanting to write America's epitaph. Then Japan faced massive economic crisis in the 1990s, and America reasserted itself, as the Soviet Union fell.
At bottom, America's remarkable – and remarkably diverse – capabilities will ensure that today's crises are merely temporary setbacks. To paraphrase Mark Twain's joke about his own reported death, news of America's inevitable decline is greatly exaggerated.