Monday, November 14, 2011
The First American Century
Historians and social theorists like to talk about the 20th Century as "The American Century". The United States was the most important country in the world economically, politically, and certainly militarily. Our armies waged wars across the globe, our pop culture defined modernity, and the buying habits of our people made or broke the fortunes of billions. We were, and for now remain, the first dominant country with truly global reach.
The benefits of this power have been immense. Our position as the world's reserve currency alone has given us all kinds of leverage on the world stage. The benefits and necessity of this position are debatable, but our nattering classes seem agreed that it is something worth preserving. Some degree of fretting about our loss of position is a punditry stand-by. A think tank called Project for a New American Century had a lot to do with the policies of the Bush Administration. The financial crisis has led to resignation. The conventional wisdom is that our dominant position is about to be surrendered to China. Our golden historical moment is about to pass.
Well I am here to tell you that a new American Century is already here. American Dominance will continue, but in a new form. America is not just North America, and certainly not just the United States. Stacked up against China's 1.2 billion people, our 300 million doesn't look like much. The American Hemisphere's nearly 1 billion people stack up very well however. The individual wealth of these near billion people far surpasses that of China. US GDP may be eclipsed by China by the 2030s. China may never surpass the GDP of the American continents. With the resources of Canada and Venezuela, among others, the American continents have the potential to be self-sufficient in oil. The Old World has to deal with the debilitating poverty of billions in the African, Indian and Chinese hinterlands. The New World has to deal with the debilitating poverty of scant millions in Haiti and other countries. They have North Korea with its Nukes to appease, we have Cuba with its... cigars? As South and Central America become richer, the foreign policy interests of its constituent countries will come to align more and more closely with ours. These countries have the potential to be tremendously more valuable allies than stagnant Europe.
We in the US now have a choice. We can choose to lead this new century of American dominance by looking for ways to work with the other countries in the hemisphere. Trade agreements, environmental stuff, and law enforcement cooperation are all lovely, but we have two large stumbling blocks to over-come before this new century of American dominance can begin. The first is Immigration. This has largely solved itself demographically( see below), but a legal system that actually reflects reality might not be a bad idea. The other major stumbling block is the Drug War. We simply cannot move forward as a hemisphere until we abandon this ridiculous charade. As much as it hurts us, it has been disastrous for our southern neighbors. We will never be able to move forward as a hemisphere, until we deal with it.