American Decline

Declinists Be Damned: Bet On America?

This is an interesting debate about the degree to which the US will remain the world’s leading power in the future. The participants are all far more establishmentarian than I am (who isn’t?).

What I think the actual trends show on this question is that while the US will recede as the world’s leading military power, and a more multipolar (i.e. traditional, historic) world order will emerge, the US will continue to be the world’s leading economic power by a wide margin. No other country comes even remotely close to having the economic output of the US. Even China only has half the GDP of the US, and only then because it is largely a province of US capitalism. India is a far distant third, and only because of its large population. Russia is barely on the map as a world economic power.

While the US will continue to be the world’s leading economic power, domestically its class structures will become increasingly stratified and more closely resemble those of Latin America. Joel Kotkin, whom I consider to be one of the very best social scientists out there today, has three books that I think get it right. One of these is The Next Hundred Million, which argues that the US will continue to be a major economic and technological power and one that is increasingly diverse and integrated along cultural and ethnic lines. Another is The New Class Conflict, which argues that the real conflict in the future of US society will be between the rising ruling class consisting of the Tech Oligarchy and New Clerisy (which are comparable to the rising capitalist class of the 19th century) and what Sam Francis called the “post-bourgeois proletariat,” i.e. the reproletarianized working to middle classes that have experienced a significant decline in recent decades, along with the growing masses of the poor generally. The third book is the forthcoming The Coming of Neo-Feudalism, which discusses the impact of globalization and the tech revolution on class relations worldwide.

America owes $6 trillion to China, our sprawling military complex often appears helpless against disparate threats abroad, and the War on Terror has stripped us of the moral high ground. Washington is paralyzed by bitter partisanship, our children are falling behind their international peers, and our middle class is no longer the world’s most affluent. But we’ve been warned about America’s decline before. Remember Sputnik? Yes, times are tough, but America is recovering from the Great Recession faster than any other advanced country, an energy boom could add billions to the GDP, we’re still a leader in technological innovation, and our military strength and geopolitical advantages remain unrivaled. Are our best days behind us, or should the world still bet on America?

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