Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo

CNN cites international economic trends suggesting that by 2016, the United States will no longer be the world's dominant economy.

As the comments show, this kind of story is like an ink blot. America is failing because of globalization. America is failing because of protectionism. America is failing because of immigrants. America is failing because of isolationism. America is failing because of greedy rich people or because of greedy poor people. America is failing because we don't adequately embrace the Democrats' or the Republicans' agenda. America is failing because of too many or too few taxes. Because of the gap between the rich and poor, or because of the priorities of those who obsess over the gap between rich and poor. Because of Obama or Bush or Clinton or Bush the Elder or Reagan or Roosevelt. Because of terrorists or welfare queens or racists or American Idol.

Me? I dunno. I can tell you why I think we're in decline, but what's the difference? I'm just one more guy on the internet convinced he knows what's going on. And while we argue about the cause, you can't help but wonder whether, just through the method we've chosen for discussing and dealing with these problems, we're choosing to decline. Wherever you think our problems come from, we're sure as hell not going to solve them by deciding our fellow citizens are the enemy, and voting between two parties that each promise half-fixes and escalated culture wars.

We obviously can't prevent the end of America forever; all fighting for survival is a stalling tactic. But the end of America and the end of American dominance over the international economy are hardly the same thing, and it does no good to confuse the two. The international community will be infinitely worse off having to cater to China than to the US, but as for us, I can think of far worse fates than taking a big step back from empire.


  1. We have an empire? Since when? I want to go to the far reaches and lord it over the colonials before they have a nasty rebellion and throw off our yoke. I can't beleive I missed out on this for so long. Which are the subject nations again?

    Seriously though, look at every former empire; Germany, Britain, Rome, France, Spain, Portugal. All broken, pale shells of themselves. The best of which are strugling to keep back the rising tide of their own destruction. Some like Spain and Portugal so wrecked by their fall even now, almost two hundred years later are cut rate third tier powers at best. Rome doen't even exist anymore.

    Think it can't happen here?

  2. If the US is an empire, where are the imperial possessions? The subject peoples? The imperial tributes?

    Iraq and Afghanistan don't count - as far as I know we are not levying taxes or tribute on them.

    Neither do the various territories we obtained from Spain in the dying days of that empire; we gave one of them back to the occupants, and allow the rest to self-govern, more or less.

    I'm not saying there's no chance of a decline, though I don't think we're in one; just that if we are, it is not an imperial one

  3. It's always tough to know how much a speaker means "empire" metaphorically. Let's just say that I think we're far, far to involved in extending our influence, policies, and bullets outside our borders. Trade is great. Diplomacy is great. Playing World Police while threatening trade sanctions against nations that don't ban marijuana? Call it a modern form of imperialism or don't; either way, "declining" away from it doesn't strike me as a terrible loss.