RE: America No. 1?
here you go...
Quote:There is a deep- seated belief in America that the United States is approaching
the eve of its destruction. Read letters to the editor, peruse
the Web, and listen to public discourse. Disastrous wars, uncontrolled
deﬁcits, high gasoline prices, shootings at universities, corruption in
business and government, and an endless litany of other shortcomings—all
of them quite real—create a sense that the American dream has been shattered
and that America is past its prime. If that doesn’t convince you, listen
to Europeans. They will assure you that America’s best day is behind it.
The odd thing is that all of this foreboding was present during the presidency
of Richard Nixon, together with many of the same issues. There is
a continual fear that American power and prosperity are illusory, and that
disaster is just around the corner. The sense transcends ideology. Environmentalists
and Christian conservatives are both delivering the same message.
Unless we repent of our ways, we will pay the price—and it may be too
It’s interesting to note that the nation that believes in its manifest destiny
has not only a sense of impending disaster but a nagging feeling that the
country simply isn’t what it used to be. We have a deep sense of nostalgia for
16 t h e n e x t 1 0 0 yea r s
the 1950s as a “simpler” time. This is quite a strange belief. With the Korean
War and McCarthy at one end, Little Rock in the middle, and Sputnik and
Berlin at the other end, and the very real threat of nuclear war throughout,
the 1950s was actually a time of intense anxiety and foreboding. A widely
read book published in the 1950s was entitled The Age of Anxiety. In the
1950s, they looked back nostalgically at an earlier America, just as we look
back nostalgically at the 1950s.
American culture is the manic combination of exultant hubris and profound
gloom. The net result is a sense of conﬁdence constantly undermined
by the fear that we may be drowned by melting ice caps caused by global
warming or smitten dead by a wrathful God for gay marriage, both outcomes
being our personal responsibility. American mood swings make it hard to
develop a real sense of the United States at the beginning of the twenty- ﬁrst
century. But the fact is that the United States is stunningly powerful. It may
be that it is heading for a catastrophe, but it is hard to see one when you
look at the basic facts.
Let’s consider some illuminating ﬁgures. Americans constitute about 4
percent of the world’s population but produce about 26 percent of all goods
and services. In 2007 U.S. gross domestic product was about $14 trillion,
compared to the world’s GDP of $54 trillion—about 26 percent of the
world’s economic activity takes place in the United States. The next largest
economy in the world is Japan’s, with a GDP of about $4.4 trillion—about
a third the size of ours. The American economy is so huge that it is larger
than the economies of the next four countries combined: Japan, Germany,
China, and the United Kingdom.
Many people point at the declining auto and steel industries, which a
generation ago were the mainstays of the American economy, as examples of
a current deindustrialization of the United States. Certainly, a lot of industry
has moved overseas. That has left the United States with industrial production
of only $2.8 trillion (in 2006): the largest in the world, more than
twice the size of the next largest industrial power, Japan, and larger than
Japan’s and China’s industries combined.
There is talk of oil shortages, which certainly seem to exist and will undoubtedly
increase. However, it is important to realize that the United States
produced 8.3 million barrels of oil every day in 2006. Compare that with
17 the dawn of the american age
9.7 million for Russia and 10.7 million for Saudi Arabia. U.S. oil production
is 85 percent that of Saudi Arabia. The United States produces more oil
than Iran, Kuwait, or the United Arab Emirates. Imports of oil into the
country are vast, but given its industrial production, that’s understandable.
Comparing natural gas production in 2006, Russia was in ﬁrst place with
22.4 trillion cubic feet and the United States was second with 18.7 trillion
cubic feet. U.S. natural gas production is greater than that of the next ﬁve
producers combined. In other words, although there is great concern that
the United States is wholly dependent on foreign energy, it is actually one of
the world’s largest energy producers.
Given the vast size of the American economy, it is interesting to note
that the United States is still underpopulated by global standards. Measured
in inhabitants per square kilometer, the world’s average population density
is 49. Japan’s is 338, Germany’s is 230, and America’s is only 31. If we exclude
Alaska, which is largely uninhabitable, U.S. population density rises
to 34. Compared to Japan or Germany, or the rest of Europe, the United
States is hugely underpopulated. Even when we simply compare population
in proportion to arable land—land that is suitable for agriculture—America
has ﬁve times as much land per person as Asia, almost twice as much as Europe,
and three times as much as the global average. An economy consists of
land, labor, and capital. In the case of the United States, these numbers
show that the nation can still grow—it has plenty of room to increase all
There are many answers to the question of why the U.S. economy is so
powerful, but the simplest answer is military power. The United States completely
dominates a continent that is invulnerable to invasion and occupation
and in which its military overwhelms those of its neighbors. Virtually
every other industrial power in the world has experienced devastating warfare
in the twentieth century. The United States waged war, but America itself
never experienced it. Military power and geographical reality created an
economic reality. Other countries have lost time recovering from wars. The
United States has not. It has actually grown because of them.
Consider this simple fact that I’ll be returning to many times. The
United States Navy controls all of the oceans of the world. Whether it’s a
junk in the South China Sea, a dhow off the African coast, a tanker in the
18 t h e n e x t 1 0 0 yea r s
Persian Gulf, or a cabin cruiser in the Caribbean, every ship in the world
moves under the eyes of American satellites in space and its movement is
guaranteed—or denied—at will by the U.S. Navy. The combined naval
force of the rest of the world doesn’t come close to equaling that of the U.S.
This has never happened before in human history, even with Britain.
There have been regionally dominant navies, but never one that was globally
and overwhelmingly dominant. This has meant that the United States
could invade other countries—but never be invaded. It has meant that in
the ﬁnal analysis the United States controls international trade. It has become
the foundation of American security and American wealth. Control of
the seas emerged after World War II, solidiﬁed during the ﬁnal phase of the
European Age, and is now the ﬂip side of American economic power, the
basis of its military power.
Whatever passing problems exist for the United States, the most important
factor in world affairs is the tremendous imbalance of economic, military,
and political power. Any attempt to forecast the twenty- ﬁrst century
that does not begin with the recognition of the extraordinary nature of
American power is out of touch with reality. But I am making a broader,
more unexpected claim, too: the United States is only at the beginning of its
power. The twenty- ﬁrst century will be the American century.
That assertion rests on a deeper point. For the past ﬁve hundred years,
the global system has rested on the power of Atlantic Europe, the European
countries that bordered on the Atlantic Ocean: Portugal, Spain, France, England,
and to a lesser extent the Netherlands. These countries transformed
the world, creating the ﬁrst global political and economic system in human
history. As we know, European power collapsed during the twentieth century,
along with the European empires. This created a vacuum that was
ﬁlled by the United States, the dominant power in North America, and the
only great power bordering both the Atlantic and Paciﬁc oceans. North
America has assumed the place that Europe occupied for ﬁve hundred years,
between Columbus’s voyage in 1492 and the fall of the Soviet Union in
1991. It has become the center of gravity of the international system.
Why? In order to understand the twenty- ﬁrst century, it is important to
understand the fundamental structural shifts that took place late in the
19 the dawn of the american age
twentieth century, setting the stage for a new century that will be radically
different in form and substance, just as the United States is so different from
Europe. My argument is not only that something extraordinary has happened
but that the United States has had very little choice in it. This isn’t
about policy. It is about the way in which impersonal geopolitical forces
read the stats for yourself
for your perusal: