Tuesday, October 18, 2011

After Power

Drudge plucked another doom and gloom article from the Financial Times to highlight the depths of despair that is our due for having the audacity to hope that President Obama was the real deal. Generally I ignore these red flags, especially since the American Right appears to be dead set on taking Obama down. Even so, Gideon Rachman's essay makes the depressingly credible argument that our nation will inevitably be required to seed dominance to China, adding, "Those who refuse to entertain any discussion of decline actually risk accelerating the process." No matter who wins the 2012 elections, we all should prepare to lose our "We're Number One" attitude.

The article offers a reasonable enough parallel between our decline and that of Great Britain after the Second World War, adding, however, that our approaches toward also-ran status couldn't be more distinct. While Britain faced the loss of empire with a certain magnanimity, the U.S. is far too invested in its "American Exceptionalism" identity to recognize the passing of power. Some among us, for instance, respond to the Rising China thesis with a smug reminder of our 1980s near-capitulation to Rising Japan. It's a fair point. Remember when Japan Inc was buying America from under our feet? Doesn't it seem strange to recall? I mean, really, when's the last time you heard someone say that we all must learn Japanese to stay competitive?

Still, as Rachman rightly points out, China's got tough numbers to beat. They're awash in money, they've got an increasingly potent military force, and they've got workers, workers, workers. They face their share of structural and fiscal problems too. We mustn't forget that. And all of us, the U.S., the Europeans, the Chinese - the whole world - we all confront an economic contagion that threatens to make the 2008 crisis seem positively healthy in comparison. The Occupy Wall Street protestors, for all their goofy eclecticism, seem to know this better than most. Something has deflated in the American psyche. A privileged few will ensure the continuation of their personal pleasures. The rest of us will pay the price. China is part of that new future. But they are hardly its author.

Read the piece: America must manage its decline

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