DISCLOSURE: This author is a US Citizen.
Another popular theme in the news over the past few years is the talk about the “decline of the USA”. Is it true, is the United States on it’s way out? Not anytime soon. While obviously the relative standing of the USA compared to the world has certainly declined, particularly as other parts of the world, emerging markets, experience rapid growth compared to the US, it’s rankings certainly have fallen. Take the US GDP for instance, immediately after World War 2, the US GDP was over 50% of the total world’s GDP, nowadays according to most estimates is 22% of the world’s GDP. While this sounds like a big drop percentage-wise, several things to consider; at the end of the war most of the world was either undeveloped or shattered from the war – it is not surprising they would experience very rapid growth from rebuilding efforts and development compared to the well-developed US whose infrastructure and industry was mostly undamaged from the war. Also, while the US share of the world GDP dropped significantly since the end of the war, its GDP went from around $228 billion to $17 trillion today – still by far the largest single-country GDP and is more than a 74-fold increase, even adjusting for inflation is still massive amount of economic growth. In short, the United States remains a very robust market and will likely remain one for decades to come. Any non-US business not exporting to the USA already should seriously consider the US as a first choice if they are considering exporting their products. The consumer market in the US is by far the largest and most liberally spending market in the world. The science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs (STEM) in the US are among the first rate in the world, attracting students worldwide. The US military is by far the strongest the world has seen and will be for the foreseeable future. In spite the lackluster growth over the past few years (propaganda not withstanding), the United States has sound economic fundamentals and mostly good business policies. The US remains one of the easiest countries to start a business in the world (again, in spite partisan complaining otherwise). Although the recent NSA spying news might seem alarming (I don’t like it either), in actuality there has been almost no one arrested for writing or saying any remarks critical of government policy. The United States is still a very free country.
So this does not become merely another “USA! USA! USA!” post, let us look at the other side. Clearly compared to past decades, the recent decades show an alarming trend and indicators that have been seen in past nations and empires that experienced decline. It seems that whenever a country or empire reaches a certain level of prosperity for its citizens, the citizens lose the drive and other traits that allowed that nation to get there. The worst of these is the political bickering that is now so prevalent in US politics. Politics has always been heated, but mostly it was civil and both parties interested in reaching compromise to address the issues facing the nation and have effective government. As with other historical empires and nations, politics in the US today appear irrevocably divided and bidden to special interests who use politicians to enrich themselves at the expense of the public treasury. There’s been an appalling lack of interest by American students to pursue STEM in universities, to the point that businesses needing such persons now has to sponsor them from abroad, and the institutions teaching them only survive because of foreign student enrollment. American corporations in pursuit of maximum short-term profits at any cost engage in business practices that help their quarterly bottom line but in the long-term are harmful to the nation. Government spending results in huge deficits that are unsustainable but because special interests benefit from the spending, few politicians will make the painful spending cuts needed. Regulatory burden is been creeping up, because rather than look to enforcing existing regulations, US politicians choose to enact new ones because enforcement is more costly than creation. The country is so divided on several political issues that there is a risk the US will fracture into two or more new political entities (don’t forget that has happened once). Furthermore, the creeping trend to oppression, such as the National Defense Appropriations Act of 2012 that permits unlimited detention of US citizens without any trial or due process, and the seemingly unchecked government spying on US citizens (something expressly forbidden by the US Constitution) are very alarming.
None of this is intended to slam the United States, but hopes to serve as a wake up call for fellow Americans to work together. The US standing risks continued slide, to the point even losing the top spot in GDP. Continued runaway deficit spending risks currency collapse, yes that is possible in spite the global demands for US dollars. The US is not a perfect nation, certainly like every country, it has its faults and and needs reforms. But compared to most countries in the past, the United States was a beacon of hope and opportunity. If we overcome our differences and work to energize ourselves, we can remain so for many decades to come.