The Post-American World

 Posted by on 6 May 2008 at 11:05 pm  History, Politics
May 062008

Recently, there have been a couple of high-profile articles featuring excerpts from the forthcoming book by Fareed Zakaria, international editor for Newsweek, entitled The Post-American World.

One article can be found here at the Newsweek site: “The Rise of the Rest“.

The second article from Foreign Affairs is mirrored here: “The Future of American Power“.

The New York Times has just reviewed the book here: “A Challenge for the U.S.: Sun Rising on the East“.

These articles have already gotten a lot of attention on the blogosphere, and I anticipate the book will also be widely discussed. The basic premise is that the current era of American dominance in the world will soon come to an end, yielding to other powers such as China and India, much as the British dominance in the 19th century ended in the early 20th century (fortunately yielding to the United States.)

Zakaria does recognize important differences between the two situations, and he makes a number of correct observations with respect to specific issues and challenges facing the US. For instance, in the Newsweek article, he correctly points out that the US benefits greatly from energy of hard-working immigrants seeking to better their lives. In the Foreign Affairs article, he correctly notes that onerous government regulations threaten to harm the vitality of our capital markets, to the detriment of Americans in a global economy.

However, he also makes some serious errors. For instance, in the first article, he argues that the key in the international arena is to work on stabilizing the “global system” and ensuring that “China, India, Russia, Brazil all feel that they have a stake in the existing global order”, to lessen the dangers of “war, depression, panics, and breakdowns”. In the second article, he blames our “dysfunctional” political system, and argues that politicians of both major political parties must “compromise” in order to address major issues such as “health care, Social Security, tax reform”.

Overall, he doesn’t quite manage to tie all his points into a single unifying theme. Hence, I think this is an excellent opportunity for interested Objectivists to set forth their own arguments on the source of American greatness, what happened to erode it, and how we can recover it.

For example, here is the LTE I sent to Newsweek in response to their article:

American decline is far from inevitable. America rose to greatness because it was founded on the principle of individual rights for all men (albeit imperfectly implemented). The resultant boom in American prosperity and power was the result of a capitalist system that allowed men and women to freely use their reason to better their lives. China and India are prospering because they are starting to allow partial capitalism into their economies as well.

If America wants to remain a vibrant, prosperous country, we need to abandon our current path towards European-style welfare statism and return to laissez-faire capitalism. The government should confine itself to protecting the individual’s right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, and barring the initiation of force between men. If we reaffirm that basic principle, America can continue to remain a shining example of freedom and prosperity for the rest of the world.

Paul Hsieh, MD
Sedalia, CO

Obviously, much more could be written on this subject. And Objectivists have a number of important and unique ideas to contribute to this discussion.

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