End of Empire?

Around the time of the US election, Don and I had quite a few posts about the cultural divide in the Land of the Free and its implications for politics. For new readers wanting some background, go here, here, here and here for a sense of the debate… Continuing this conversation, I’ve been reading a few books lately about the decline of the American Empire. Yep – decline.

It’s only been in the past few years that US policy makers and journalists have started talking in terms of ‘Empire’. Before that, the US was proud (justifiably so in many respects) of its anti-colonial and anti-imperialist record, particularly in FDR’s presidency. Bizarrely, this appellation and the consequent debates were probably kicked off by the extremely turgid and contradictory but very influential lefty book Empire by American literary scholar Michael Hardt and veteran Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Negri. Fast forward from 2000 to 2003, and the British historian Niall Ferguson sparked a lively debate in US foreign policy circles with the publication of his book Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power. Ferguson celebrated the British Empire as a civilising influence, bemoaned its end, and suggested America should self-consciously follow its example. The Neo-Cons are probably now most closely associated with the American project of Empire.

In social science, an Empire is usually distinguished from a State by the fact that it is a metropolitan core exercising direct rule or indirect hegemony over a range of subject territories or peoples. An Empire is often also thought to have a universal mission – the Pax Romana, the Orthodox religious mission of the Byzantines. The tag of the Hapsburgs – Austria Est Imperator Orbi Universo sums up the typical mentality. A Westphalian world of states, by contrast, is a world of particularities – sovereign states aspiring only to supreme rule over their territories and regarding each other as equals. Hardt & Negri probably contributed most by revealing that an Empire did not have to be restricted to territorial rule and Chalmers Johnson, in The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic makes a powerful case for regarding the economic, military, cultural and ideological reach of the contemporary US as Imperial.

Much of world opinion, and not only on the Left, regards the US Empire as a source of world disorder and danger. But what if the US Empire were actually in decline?

ELSEWHERE: Evan Jones has an interesting take on the End of Bush.

UPDATE: Economists see the Bush administration’s implicit strategy of devaluing the greenback as opening a potentially dangerous can of worms.

Three authors make this case – the American sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein, the British sociologist Michael Mann, and the French historian and demographer Emmanuel Todd. The order is a rough ideological continuum – Wallerstein is an unconventional Marxist, Mann a social democrat, and Todd a French centrist – and by no means anti-American. Nor are the two sociologists – Wallerstein celebrates what’s good about the American dream, and Mann lives and works in California. All three have international scholarly reputations – Wallerstein for his incisive analyses of international relations and international political economy, Mann for his pathbreaking work on the nature of power, and Todd for his 1976 prediction of the end of the Soviet Union (based on a study of its demographic and economic trends). So all three are well worth listening to.

Incidentally, for an excellent overview of Wallerstein’s work and its implications for contemporary politics, I recommend Brian Bahnisch’s ‘Another World is Inevitable’ at Margo Kingston’s WebDiary.

Essential background to the thesis that America is in decline is the economic picture. For an overview of the US’ current travails from the blogosphere, you can’t go past recent posts by Ken Parish, John Quiggin and Gary Sauer-Thompson.

So, what of the argument? It seems counter-intuitive – surely American power has never been so ubiquitous and unconstrained? It’s necessary first to heed the advice of the great French Annales historian, Fernand Braudel. Braudel cautioned us to be cautious about making inferences from what he called l’histoire eventuelle – the surface movement in politics and affairs that is the stuff of reporting, public debate and our everyday experience of the world. Rather, Braudel suggested, we should look at the much deeper movements at the structural level – the history of the longue duree. All three of our authors are seeking to get to grips with the current historical position of American Empire, and what its future might portend for the world.

Mann’s polemic Incoherent Empire is probably the slightest of the three contributions, betraying a very quick write. However, Mann makes the salient point that on his four dimensions of power – military, economic, ideological and political – the US has serious weaknesses in each. A recurring theme in our authors is the failure of the US to confront meaningful adversaries in the series of Imperial Wars of the New World Disorder – Iraq being the latest instance. The ability of Tony Blair to convince George W. Bush to seek Security Council approval of the Iraqi adventure, documented in James Naughtie’s The Accidental American is a sign of weakness – without Britain as a partner, the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ would have looked thin indeed, even with Australia’s much vaunted participation. And the current morass in Iraq, the problems of the US military in overstretch and even in maintaining the current level of forces, are clear examples of American weakness.

Aside from power politics, a theme of all three authors is the extreme fragility of American economic power. With a massive trade deficit, as well as a huge government deficit, America is an increasingly consumption-driven economy, with little productive capacity. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw a massive concern with Japanese economic success. What is often overlooked now – and what is neatly documented by Gary Sauer-Thompson is the threat posed to the US economy by the decreased willingness of Russian and pre-eminently Japanese investors to hold US$ reserves and to continue to hold and buy T-Bonds. Wallerstein points to another nightmare scenario – the installation of a radical Islamist regime in Saudi Arabia – a distinct possibility, and one made more likely by the Iraq War and the continued destabilisation of the Middle East by the failure to solve the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire.

Emmanuel Todd has a convincing argument to account for American Imperial overstretch and weakness in After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order. In the post-war Golden years of 1946-1973, the US according to Todd was a good global citizen and US leadership played a stabilising role economically, militarily and politically. But the US’ encouragement of the Japanese and European economies returned to bite it in the 1970s (a point also made by Wallerstein). For Todd, the US has amazing parallels to the Roman Empire – sucking resources in from its periphery to pacify a class of plebs who no longer work productively with panem et circenses. The difference is that the US has never followed the Emporer Caracalla’s example of instituting a universal citizenship to all within its sphere of influence. Rather, the US increasingly acts as a destabilising influence, using military and political power unilaterally to mask its declining economic power. Todd is more sanguine than Wallerstein or Mann about the eventual outcome, feeling that the US will have no choice other than to accept (as Britain and France have) its diminished status in the world and will eventually realise a multilateral and rule-governed world is its best security. But he is not sanguine about the current state of affairs – the US, for him, is like a wounded beast thrashing around – and all the more dangerous for that.

In The Decline of American Power: The U.S. in a Chaotic World, Wallerstein views the current US administration through the lens of his world-systems theory. Wallerstein contends that hegemonic power in the capitalist word-system has shifted since its inception in the 16th century. From Venice to Amsterdam to London to New York and Washington. What is key to the current world, Wallerstein argues, is that we are now witnessing the death throes of the world system itself. Capitalism, he argues, is unsustainable in its current form (and he has a much more sophisticated argument than the standard Marxist tale – buttressed by the insights of his fellow world-systems sociologist Giovanni Arrighi). The world is at a juncture – and history is open. Comparing the “spirit of Davos” with the “spirit of Porto Alegre”, Wallerstein suggests that there are conscious and powerful political actors seeking to re-shape the world, and that over the next 20 years or so the battle will be fought out. The morphing of American power in an increasingly illiberal direction is but a symptom of this world-historical struggle. In the meantime, the attempt by the Bush administration to impose its hegemony on a disordered world where international institutions and customary international law are rapidly losing their purchase is a symptom of its structural weakness.

Wallerstein writes:

Fifty years ago, U.S. hegemony in the world-system was based on a combination of productive efficiency (outstripping by far any rivals), a world political agenda that was warmly endorsed by its allies in Europe and Asia, and military superiority. Today, the productive efficiency of U.S. enterprises faces very extensive competition, competition first of all coming from the enterprises of its closest allies. As a result, the world political agenda of the United States is no longer so warmly endorsed and is often clearly contested even by its allies, especially given the disappearance of the Soviet Union. What remains for the moment is military superiority.

He goes on to say:

After the Civil War, the United States spent some 80 years pursuing its manifest destiny. It was not sure, all that time, whether it wished to be an isolationist or an imperial power. And when, in 1945, it had finally achieved hegemony in the world-system, when it had (in Shakespeare’s choice) not only achieved greatness but had greatness thrust upon it, the American people were not fully prepared for the role they now had to play. We spent thirty years learning how to “assume our responsibilities” in the world. And just when we had learned this reasonably well, our hegemony passed its peak.

We have spent the last thirty years insisting very loudly that we are still hegemonic and that everyone needs to continue to acknowledge it. If one is truly hegemonic, one does not need to make such a request. We have wasted the past thirty years. What the United States needs now to do is to learn how to live with the new reality – that it no longer has the power to decide unilaterally what is good for everyone. It may not even be in a position to decide unilaterally what is good for itself. It has to come to terms with the world. It is not Osama bin Laden with whom we must conduct a dialogue. We must start with our near friends and allies – with Canada and Mexico, with Europe, with Japan. And once we have trained ourselves to hear them and to believe that they too have ideals and interests, that they too have ideas and hopes and aspirations, then and only then perhaps shall we be ready to dialogue with the rest of the world, that is, with the majority of the world.

This dialogue, once we begin to enter into it, will not be easy, and may not even be pleasant. For they shall ask us to renounce some privileges. They will ask us to fulfill our ideals. They will ask us to learn. Fifty years ago, the great African poet/politician, L©opold-S©dar Senghor, called on the world to come to the “rendez-vous du donner et du recevoir.” Americans know what they have to give in such a rendez-vous. But are they aware of something they wish to receive?

We are being called upon these days to return to spiritual values, as though we had ever observed these values. But what are these values? Let me remind you. In the Christian tradition (Matthew 19:24), it is said: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And in the Jewish tradition, Hillel tells us: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And in the Muslim tradition, the Koran (52.36) tells us: “Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Nay! They have no certainty.” Are these our values?

Are they indeed? What next for the world as the dying beast thrashes around?

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

Oh, is this the latest “America is ruined” theory is it?

In the 1960’s and 1970’s we were told America will be subsided by a rampant Soviet Union.

In the 1980s it was the Japanese.

In the 1990’s it was the Europeans.

Sorry to be sceptical, but what makes you think that these new works are any more likely to be right then the previous theories?

I suspect its more a case of wishful thinking, myself.

Paul Watson
2022 years ago

“Much of world opinion, and not only on the Left, regards the US Empire as a source of world disorder and danger. But what if the US Empire were actually in decline?”

What’s with the “but”? The US Empire *is* in measurable decline, both economically and intellectually (e.g. creationism and other peasant superstitions). And just like a harpooned whale, it is thrashing around manically, but ultimately futilely (e.g. Iraq in 2004).

The fact of American decline does need to be confronted in Australia. Like it or not, we as a client state are inexorably caught up in the once-great beast’s death throes.

Brendan Scott
Brendan Scott
2022 years ago

Mark,
I too look askance at the idea that the American Empire is in decline. If anything, it is in its early days. Its position as the world’s largest economy looks unassailable for decades to come (though obviously nothing lasts forever). Its ideas and culture are the most pervasive and powerful in the world today – our own PM, BEFORE the Federal Election, noted approvingly of Australians’ abandonment of their own concepts for an American concept of materialism without a whimper of protest or disagreement from anyone. Its projection of military power over the last decade (with the exception of Somalia) has been successful as far as its own goals are concerned more than at any other time since the War of Independence.

Its true that some other powers are catching up economically – but to call the success of the US’s contribution to building those economies “decline” seems unreasonable, even if only relative. The FTA’s it has concluded with Canada and Mexico, and now Australia and Chile, are real expansions of the US’s sovreign power. And only this week, we have witnessed the US destabilising and eating into another Russian satellite state – right on Russia’s doorstep.

The US has made some poor strategic decisions of late, but relatively speaking, it is so strong and so remote that it can afford to make some mistakes without serious consequences for itself. Which leads me to my final point: I’m not anywhere near as well read on these matters as you, Mark, but I find Paul Kennedy’s view of the US compelling. The US’s remoteness from the rest of the world has helped its growth tremendously, having been left all but untouched at home by any war since the Civil War. Its economy and population have not been devastated the way Europe’s, China’s and Japan’s has been, and is never likely to be.

The US’s recent projection of military power is not a desperate thrashing around. Its doing it because it can. It didn’t before, because it couldn’t.

James Dudek
James Dudek
2022 years ago

Power is relative.

The smartest and most ambitious people from all around the world continue to flock to the US.

The US skims the cream of humanity from the rest of the world (even attracting the best anti-American professors like Peter Singer!!), while all other countries are left to bitch and moan about the “brain drain”, and prognosticate about how America is in terminal decline.

Until other countries can keep hold of their human capital, there will never be a decline in relative power of the US.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Scott, yeah, what you say is true but my argument would be that the US has forfeited world leadership simply by its disdain for multilateral fora and its propensity for stoking the “Hate America” mob. The stats on public favourable opinion across almost the entire globe, aside from Israel, having declined at such a massive rate over the last four years are telling.

But, contra Brendan, I think the most serious threat the US faces is the decline in its economic position. With respect, it’s not just a relative decline. Todd’s book is excellent on the ephemeral nature of much of US GDP – the US as industrial engine of the world is simply no more, and the FTAs are evidence of political power being harnessed to bolster a structurally very weak economic position.

Also, Brendan, Paul Kennedy’s work, which I like and find insightful, came to the basic conclusion that all Empires are vulnerable to overreach and his warning was that the US was rapidly approaching that point.

I agree with Paul that the US’ problems are our problems.

James, I can’t recall where I read it recently but there was some well-argued stuff in the press about how the ‘brain drain’ is over-stated. A lot of bright Ozzie expats tend to return given time.

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I’ll probably say a bit more on the weekend, but for now people might like to consider this perspective from Peter Brain.

David James in an article ‘Japan: A giant wakes’ (BRW 9 June 2004 – subscription required) reports the following perspective from Peter Brain:

“Economist Peter Brain, the executive director of the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research, sees a more-threatening dimension. He says Japan and China are positioning to reduce America’s dominance of the world economy: a transfer of economic and political sovereignty to North Asia. He says: “The Japanese and Chinese are buying US debt to keep the exchange rate high in order to hollow out US intellectual property and technology until they get to the point they can pull the rug out [by withdrawing support and triggering a sharp fall in the $US]. They will do it at the most inappropriate time. It is all part of a decade-long cutback of American hegemony. The Americans are setting themselves up stupidly for that kind of Waterloo. That will be the real legacy of George W. Bush.”

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Scott, also, Wallerstein makes the point that the Japanese, European and American economies have all been competing for the biggest share of a shrinking pie (in terms of profit and GDP growth compared to the 1946-1973 period) over the last three decades. The Europeans (particularly Germany) did better in the 70s, the Japanese in the 80s and the Americans in the 90s. Hence the previous tales of doom you recount. His broader point is that we are in a Krondatieff B cycle that began in the late 60s and early 70s when the rate of profit began to fall. He’s also good on the illusion of productivity growth, as Todd is good on the illusory nature of US corporate profits in the late 90s (think Enron scandal and the dot.com boom) and the distinction between the GDP expressed in terms of tradeable goods (largely excluding real estate and services) – where the US has a big disadvantage compared to Europe and SE Asia – and nominal GDP. Whether or not you buy this really depends whether you think an economy can run indefinitely on financial speculation and various types of bubbles, or whether a productive core is necessary for sustained and sustainable economic growth.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

And on wishful thinking, Scott, Todd for one really regrets the US disengagement with Europe, and Wallerstein regrets the loss of all that’s precious in the US tradition. I personally have a big interest in the US and am the first to emphasise that it’s an incredibly complex country full of seeming opposites (high culture vs. MacCulture, brilliant scholarship vs. terribly poor school education) and that one shouldn’t tar the US and the American people with the brush of one’s disagreement with the current administration. Having said that, as Paul said, it’s necessary that we confront the real forces of history operating in the world today as it’s our world too.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

Mark,
I tend to think you are correct however bear in mind one only knows when an empire has declined after it has happened.
It clearly isn’t apparent at the time.

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

“bear in mind one only knows when an empire has declined after it has happened.
“It clearly isn’t apparent at the time.”

Homer, I think the argument is that the decline IS apparent. If Wallerstein’s analysis is really useful and corresponds with reality then we should be at least able to recognise what is happening at the time it is happening, and maybe even see a bit into the future, although this is always a big call. For example Wallerstein suggested some years ago that the Krondatieff B would end with a currency crisis in the US of A. This morning the $US hit 1.32 against the Euro, a new record. John Hewson in the AFR today (‘Aspiring to a recession’ http://afr.com/premium/articles/2004/11/25/1101219680176.html) is merely the latest commentator suggesting that a crisis is near. One can argue that what Wallerstein foresaw is unfolding before our eyes, which suggests that we should attend to where he sees things going from here.

Wallerstein has suggested that after this crisis at some point (no-one can be precise about the timing) there will be a new Krodatieff A, a period of global expansion, albeit with secular deflation. Not sure how he works that out but it doesn’t look like a ton of fun.

Furthermore, if he’s right, we will transition to something other than free market capitalism. I tend to think it will be capitalism, but what might be described as corporatism. (There is nothing ‘free’ about the FTAs being negotiated in the current round. The interests of transnational corporations are being heavily privileged.) Representative democracy, even if the form survives, is becoming less and less representative of the interests of the people at large, but more inclined to serve the interests of a new uberclass of the globally powerful.

But that’s just my humble opinion as I see it this morning. I’ll be out until late this pm so I’ll have to leave you to it.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

It seems to me that one only knows when an empire has declined after it has declined.

Few see it at the time and most miss it.

I tend to agree with your argument Mark however I do so without any great confidence.

murph
2022 years ago

Keep on dreaming Princess

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Murph, I did read that Princess Mary is a great person to have on the cover of Vogue.

Homer, I’m a touch agnostic about the whole thing – as Brian says, we have to wait and see. But Wallerstein, in particular, as Brian also notes, has been a fairly astute predictor.

I think there’s a fair amount of evidence for the position I’m arguing. My real aim in the post is to put the argument out there for people’s consideration – as I don’t think it’s been made in most of what we read in the press.

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

There’s plenty of evidence for a counter-proposition as well, Mark.

You may be confusing a short term financial crisis, caused by Bush’s profligacy, with the long term health of the US economy.

And I think I might be measuring power by a different metric then the House of Bahnisch.

As for disengagement, I would argue that it is Europe that has disengaged, being more interested in its own project, rather then the other way around. I tend to see Europe as a force for evil, or amorality at best, so a disengaged Europe is quite fine with me.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Scott, I think you’re right that we’re interpreting the evidence differently.

I’d argue, though I agree Bush has been a disaster when it comes to economic policy (Cheney seems to be a real “voodoo economics” man in the words of George H. W. Bush), things weren’t as rosy as they appeared under Clinton either. It comes down to productive investment vs. financial speculation – and there was a lot of that in the Clinton boom.

More generally, what Wallerstein is trying to say (and I agree with him here) is that over the period since Nixon took the US off the gold standard in 1973 and the Bretton Woods system of currency regulation collapsed (with controls over capital inflow and outflow to follow in the 80s), there has been a significant problem in the world economy. The rate of profit has tended to fall, which has in turn driven the phenomenon called ‘financialisation’ (ie capital movements in a single day outpacing real world annual GDP by a factor of 100s, increasing development of derivatives and other instruments of speculation, a concentration on takeovers and mergers rather than capital investment, speeding up of the short-termism of the stockmarket) and also the shift of production offshore. In other words, what we think of as ‘globalisation’ is – looked at another way – an attempt to restructure the world’s economy and the architecture of global financial and trade regulation in a search for a remedy to declining profits. The deflationary tendencies everywhere in the world economy are also not a good sign.

So, my argument is that the current economic position of the US has to be looked at from a longer term perspective.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Homer, on your point about the decline of empires only becoming obvious afterwards, it’s interesting to note that in 476 when Romulus Augustus was deposed by Oadecer, contemporaries for a long period didn’t regard the Roman Empire as having fallen. Oadecer continued to rule in the name of the Byzantine Emperor, and Roman Law continued to reign.

In 800, when Charlemagne was crowned Roman Emperor, this was not regarded as an innovation but rather as a restoration, and the title of Holy Roman Emperor persisted til 1806. The institution and symbolism of the Empire continued to be massively important in medieval Europe.

There’s a good summary of what we now see as the ‘Fall’ here –

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Empire#Late_Antiquity_in_the_West

Brendan Scott
Brendan Scott
2022 years ago

Mark,
Its true the US has made itself less popular in recent times. But the whole point of the US abandoning multilateral approaches for unilateral ones, is that it CAN. Unlike previous decades, the US now has the relative and actual clout to act anywhere in the world unilaterally, relying only on the collaboration of other (mostly Angloid) countries as a PR figleaf. Its lack of popularity hasn’t stopped it from acting and achieving its objectives.

The US industrial base has declined, but only as a natural progression to a post-industrial economy – and that part of the economy is largely booming. Its ability to finance its imperial activities is unshaken and strengthening. Moreover, its industrial base has not declined to the point where it is no longer THE cutting edge producer of new military technology, nor is it likely to be any time soon.

On a related point, Frank Devine has an unusually good columin in the Oz today – he’s been reading George Friedman’s “America’s Secret War”. It appears to argue that the US has invaded Iraq as part of a strategy to encircle a potential Wahhabist expansionist regime in Saudi Arabia.

Alex
Alex
2022 years ago

There’s an argument somewhere (I can’t place for the moment who put it forward) that the main problem with capitalism is that it is prone to overproduction and underconsumption, which is the driver of the recessions to which capitalist economies have frequently been prone. If this has any legs, it’s no wonder that the US has been regarded as the engine of the world economy, nor is it any wonder that the Japanese and Chinese have been willing to fund US debt. After all, if the Americans didn’t buy all the consumer goods these nations produce, who would? Unemployed Europeans?

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Brendan, I disagree. The pressures to “internationalise” the Iraqi quagmire wouldn’t exist if the cost was sustainable. In addition, the problem with the US ‘new economy’ is that too much of it is consumption-driven and speculative rather than value-adding. I don’t have the figures to hand, but there has been a big shift in the investment patterns of large US corporations from productive investment towards financial speculation and takeovers.

Far from easily being able to sustain its Imperial policy, the US currently has a budget deficit of $412.55 billion for 2003-4 and a total public debt of a staggering $7.43 trillion.
Thus, the US needs to constantly suck in money to fund this debt, as well as the trade deficit ($58 billion in August). There are very few countries with which the US now has a trade surplus – it has a trade deficit with the Ukraine for instance. The US budget is creaking with the burden of debt repayments and growing commitments to entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security which will increase in cost as the population ages. There is very little discretionary spending – aside from the Pentagon Budget – which can easily be cut.

Thus, the US’ position is largely dependent on the confidence of foreign investors.

The argument Alex puts forward is associated with Schumpeter, for one, and it’s an argument with which I agree.

James Dudek
James Dudek
2022 years ago

Mark wrote – “James, I can’t recall where I read it recently but there was some well-argued stuff in the press about how the ‘brain drain’ is over-stated. A lot of bright Ozzie expats tend to return given time.”

I am not arguing about Australia’s best and brightest departing our hallowed shores. I am refering to the cream of India and China’s crop making the US their permanent home. Indeed even the most ambitious Europeans move to the US to pursue their dreams.

The US will remain the R&D engine of the world. Culturally and legislatively (except for the recent stem-cell decisions, which are being overturned by state-level governments anyway) there is no country that even comes close to the US, in terms of the number of new patents and inventions.

A second point is that the US is the only Western country which has a postive child:adult ratio. If you are looking at long term trends (which you must be when you are proclaiming an end to an empire) Japan, China, and Europe will be crippled by not having enough new generations. They will have to accept less skilled and culturally different migrants. These countries don’t have the ability to integrate migrants the way the US does. Their futures are uncertain.

The only real competition that the US will have in 50 years time will be India. But India is so far behind the US at the moment that they will not be even close in any measurable way to the US. Additionally India will be so dependent on the US that it will not be a significant idealogical enemy of the US. I predict that within the near future we will be able to count on India as one of the Anglosphere.

The future of the US is rosy – stop being such an economic girlie man!!

Alex
Alex
2022 years ago

There’s an an interesting article on US current account and trade imbalances here
http://www.stern.nyu.edu/globalmacro/Roubini-Setser-US-External-Imbalances.pdf
The full paper is 65 pages, but the Executive Summary is only 7. Worth reading the summary. Their conclusion seems to be that the Chinese and other East Asian nations need to start running mild deficits, rather than squirelling away squillions of $US.

Alex
Alex
2022 years ago

BTW, one thing that I was surprised by in the NYU paper was how closed the US economy is. External trade is only 10% of GDP. This makes the claims of those who say the industrial sector in the US is over the hill seem far-fetched.

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Scott, first up there is no House of Bahnisch view on anything as far as I know. We each came to Wallerstein separately and haven’t spent a lot of time discussing him. It’s possible that we may have similar views on many issues, but that’s as maybe.

Scott, you may be right. We acould be looking at a short-term financial crisis in the US. I certainly hope so. Wallerstein is not saying that the US is down the tube, merely that it’s relative power has been declining since the late 1960s and that its foreign policy would be better couched in terms of collaboration with other major powers, rather than as a unipolar hegemon able to call the shots.

James, China for one is concentrating on building up its intellectual capital and is said to be producing right now more engineers than any other country. If China continues to grow at 7% pa its economy will quadruple in a bit over 20 years to be worth about US$26 trillion. If the US economy grows at half that pace, which is ambitious, it will double to about $23 trillion in the same time-frame to fall behind China.

Of course such straight-line extrapolations are unlikely to occur, but then it is likely that demographic trends will change too.

There is one impressive analysis of the US economy in terminal crisis that hasn’t been mentioned so far. I refer to Robert Brenner’s ‘Towards the precipice’ found at the Evatt Foundation at http://evatt.org.au/publications/papers/85.html where it was undoubtedly fondly placed by one Christopher Sheil, who informed us about it when we had a similar discussion at Back Pages a while ago. (If you think you may be contaminated by the Evatt Foundation site you can find the same paper in the London Review of Books at http://www.lrb.co.uk/v25/n03/bren01_.html). It’s longish, but Brenner has an impressive mastery of detail and insight into the guts of American capitalism.

Meanwhile it’s time for me to call a halt for the night. I’ll try to read that paper on trade imbalances, thankyou Alex.