The American Century

The pessimism that prevails in this country is amazing. It is not the economical war that America is losing, it is the psychological one. Given the current movement towards globalization, the world as a whole must expect to undergo some changes. Every country will experience some economic fluctuation as it adapts. Much like plants, which grow stronger after pruning, our economy will emerge from this downturn more powerful than ever. The economy may seem bare at present, and without bloom it looks ugly, but soon we will bear witness to yet another American heyday – a golden age to rival all others. As George Friedman asserts in his recent book, The Next 100 Years: “The U.S. is a young and barbaric country,” and she is still in the process of maturation; balance and stability will come only with time.

Though it may not seem like it, the U.S is on the brink of yet another boom of productivity and growth. The former economic boom, which took place in the final  decade of the last century, occurred largely due to the public release of military technology, such as the internet, which revolutionized business management and boosted both productivity and revenues to unprecedented levels. Moreover, the end of the Cold War saved hundreds of billions of dollars, allowing the country to spend less as it made more. The resulting economic surge produced an ideal situation in the U.S. for some time. Unfortunately, no measures were taken to ensure that this growth was maintained, and in the last year of the Clinton administration the country went into a rapid decline, with economic growth falling from almost 7% to around 1%. This situation was aggravated by the terrorist attacks of September 11, which exposed the deep hole in homeland security that had been caused by budget cuts in intelligence. To make matters worse, government agencies were downsized to compensate for the cost of wars, while other wars became necessary due to a lack of government intelligence! These are the costs of immaturity.

While these issues must be taken seriously, they do not have to alter the bigger picture: the U.S. is still the largest exporter in the world, and may even hope to double its exports within five years. Moreover, the U.S. has the largest expanse of arable land in the world (China’s, for example, constitutes only 9% of it), and it possesses the technological and defensive means to dominate the oceans entirely. Its defense budget is greater than that of all of the other countries in the world put together, and its GDI is larger than Britain and Germany combined; all of world’s trade routes could be under U.S. control. We should be aware, however, that this potential hegemony will be very difficult to maintain throughout the upcoming century. One of the challenges we will face, of course, is the declining population. We all know that the upkeep of a stable society is passed down through generations; the social security of one generation depends upon the contributions of another. As population decreases, this contribution decreases, causing major economical instability; therefore within another decade or so we will begin to encourage immigration – a process for which we will need to develop an aggressive and selective immigration policy. Germany, for example, is now offering awards to companies that attract qualified immigrants.

Technological and educational leadership are other challenges that lie ahead. If our schools are increasingly subjected to the tight-fisted tyranny of teachers’ unions, tomorrow’s Americans will not be able to respond to the technological challenges of a changing world. Without these tools, the U.S. will be condemned to failure.

In the same vein, it would be extremely beneficial for the U.S. to welcome the wisdom of older nations: by encouraging qualified scholars and professionals from other cultures to join our ranks, the U.S. gains their perspective and experience without having to invest in their educations. This cuts costs, while increasing our chances of success as a young, leading nation.

The U.S. has natural advantages: population, geography, military power and a strategic position to lead the world. No other nation or group of nations can compete with the U.S. in the coming decades, as long as it is governed with care. In short, the only real threat to the U.S.’s leadership this century is posed by the U.S. itself.

By Carlo Barbieri