Is America’s decline inevitable?

All civilisations rise and fall; all great powers ascend and descend. This is the lesson of world history. After all, Britain was once the greatest power on earth ruling one-fifth of the global population and covering a quarter of the planet’s area.

Yet many American politicians and policymakers assume that the current American hegemony is permanent and are in denial about the growing signs of political quagmire, economic weakness and military limitations.

I am more than usually interested in the prospects for the United States because I am about to make my seventh visit to the country. I think that I will take with me to read a new book by Edward Luce entitled “Time To Start Thinking: America And The Spectre Of Decline”. In a review of the work, John Gray concludes:

“America’s difficulties are not fundamentally different from those all developed countries face in responding to the global shift of economic power. But by the same token, what may prove to be America’s greatest weakness is the adamant insistence that it can defy the normal course of history. Pundits who insist that American decline is not a fact but a choice are closing their minds to the only real issue, which is how the US will adjust to a descent from primacy that cannot be stopped. At present the auguries are not good.”

One Comment

  • Toby Evans

    I read an article in the Atlantic Monthly at some point about the myth of American Decline. Basically, it said the historical assets of the USA are not decreasing and the liabilities of other countries are increasing. Also, prophecies of America’s Decline in the past turned out to be false.

    Basically, the assets the article mentioned were:
    1) Access to the oceans of the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and, in the 21st Century, the Arctic.
    2) Protection from land invasian by the oceans and by subservient neighboring countries. This creates military security which allows the country to be more open to immigrants and new ideas.
    3) A long history of immigrant assimilation and a nationhood based on an adoptable idea instead of an inherited culture.
    4) Good governance, not the best but still good.
    5) A large population
    6) Significant Capital
    7) A large land area, a net food exporter, a lot of natural resources
    8) Innovator in politics and government, science, engineering, culture and the arts.

    The growing liabilities facing other contenders for world dominance are:
    A) The accumulated bad decisions of corruption and poor governance, such as empty shopping malls in China or desertified salted up land in Southwest Asia and North Africa. Environmental pollution in Eastern and Central Europe including the Chernobyl site.
    B) Vulnerability to global warming. The developing countries with the exception of Russia are uniquely vulnerable to sea level rise, global temperature rise, climate zone shifting and extreme weather events, all precipitated by greenhouse gas accumulation and a warmer world.


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