A Philosopher's Blog

Is America’s Decline Inevitable?

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on November 27, 2009

The recent economic disaster has raised the old questions about the fall of empires. Now, the questions are being asked about the United States. While the rise of China, India and other countries has left the US in a relatively less elevated position, we have actually be losing ground by declining. Signs of this include the obvious: a weaker economy, talk of moving away from the dollar as the world’s currency, less political clout and so on. Signs also include the less obvious: less brain drain from other countries to the US, less innovation in science and technology, and so on.

One reason for the decline of the US is that the US reached its height in the ruins of WWII. The other great industrial nations were in ruins or were at least badly damaged by the war. While the Soviets did present a challenge, they were (as history showed) burning bright by burning far too hot. The US, whose lands were not directly touched by war, was in a position to become a true superpower.

Now the world has recovered from WWII and the US is thus losing relative ground. Also, former empires such as China and India are reclaiming their former glory and power, thus returning to the world stage in force. These other countries are spending considerable resources on the future: education, research, energy and so forth.

Naturally, some folks might think that the signs are in place: the United States reached its peak and is now in a slow (or not so slow) fall.  It is quite reasonable to suspect that the US must fall. After all, all other empires have fallen and thus empires seem to be analogous to living things: they are born, reach their maturity and then perish.

Of course, while the history is accurate, the analogy is flawed. Living creatures do perish because they cannot replace their mortal flesh. But, an empire need never fall in this manner. Provided it can keep restoring its vigor and the basis for its success, it could be effectively immortal. The challenge is, of course, to pull of this seemingly imposisble task. Of course, it is not actually impossible-just rather difficult.

Even if the United States does decline, it need not become irrelevant nor need it stay down forever. After all, China was once a great empire that fell into a great decline. But China is on the rise and is a great nation once again. Interestlingly, China was rather easily defeated by the Japanese just a few decades ago. But now China is a giant looming over Japan. This, of course, may not last-as an empire rises again it can easily slide down the wheel of history and end up back on the ground.

Whether the United States declines or not is largely up to us. One factor that seems to be driving our decline now is the rot and corruption within our economic and political systems. Perhaps this will be the cancer that brings about our end, or perhaps it is but one disease among many infecting the political body.

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