Is America declining? This is a question that we are compelled to consider.
According to the Brookings Institution, here are the arguments in favor of America as a place of positive growth, not decline:
- First of all, it is difficult to determine at present whether the difficulties faced by the United States during and after the international financial crisis will be long-term or not.
- Second, the stability and influence of the American political system, ideology, and value concepts have indeed been greatly affected in the 21st century, with the impact of two wars, high consumption, and a major financial crisis.
- Third, the United States remains the world leader in scientific and technical strength but there has been no change in the strength, status, and influence of the American capability for innovation and its global competitive power. In science and technology, higher education, culture of innovation, military strength, world politics, and security, the United States is still ahead of the rest of the world. According to recent statistics,
- Fourth, it is evident that American companies remain very competitive on a micro level, just as the economy as a whole is on a macro level. In recent years, even though the U.S. economy was not performing very well, far more companies in the global top 500 came from the United States than from any other.
- Fifth, the advantages of the United States are even more obvious in terms of soft power. No other countries in the world, including Europe and Japan, can compete with the United States or be on the same level as the United States in terms of soft power. Both the financial crisis and the lack of strength in the economic recovery after the crisis so far have not made the United States lose its fundamental advantages in hard power and soft power. The United States is still the most powerful and the most influential country in the world, and it is also the only superpower in the world.
- The current difficulties facing the United States may last a while, or they may be resolved in the next few months or years. Either way, no signs of overall and fundamental decline in the United States have yet emerged, to say nothing of an “irreversible decline.
There are several arguments that America is in decline.
One major problem facing the United States is the problem concerning the capability and competitive power of its manufacturing industry. The percentage of the United States’s share of global manufacturing has dropped over the last several decades, and has lost its leading position in some fields.
A second problem is the problem concerning the health, stability, and quality of relevant service industries, such as finance. The United States has already become a post-industrial economy and society. The main part of its economy is the service sector.
A third problem is the problem of wealth and income distribution and sustainable development. \
Since 1980, the actual income of ordinary workers in the United States, including the middle class, did not increase even though the economy was growing and profits were increasing during the same time period. It seems that the fruits of economic development were carved up by a few capitalists and entrepreneurs. Consequently, society in the United States has become more unbalanced, and the gap between rich and poor has been seriously enlarged, a trend which for many was illustrated during the recent financial crisis, when a few senior executives from some companies with huge losses were awarded “bonuses” that were as high as several millions or tens of millions of dollars.
A fourth problem is the problem of fiscal and trade deficits. The government, Congress, Federal Reserve System, and all walks of life in the United States have realized that the huge fiscal and trade deficits are a serious problem that affects the country’s economic development. In 2010, the fiscal deficit in the United States was US$1.3 trillion, or roughly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and equivalent to 35 percent of government outlays that year. Based on international standards and compared to the figures of relevant developed countries, such as Japan, this number is not the highest, and may not even be too high.
A fifth problem concerns military spending and international strategy. Just as debt service takes a large share of U.S. government spending, so does spending on military affairs, foreign wars, and foreign interference.
A sixth problem is the problem of population size and structure.
The rise and development of China and India in the last several decades has once again proven to the world that a certain size of population is still one of the basic factors for productivity and economic development. At the same time, the experiences across the whole world also have proven that population growth alone cannot generate positive effects for economic development either. Instead, it should also be accompanied by improvement of population quality at the same time, including education, skills, income, and consumption. In that case, population growth can generate active effects for economic development.
A seventh problem is the problem of social culture and value concepts.
Relevant social movements that started to appear in the 1960s in the United States, such as the anti-war movement, human rights movement, hippies, and sexual liberation, not only brought active progress in relevant areas, such as democracy, freedom, and human rights, but also caused many social problems, including the expansion of personal desires and power consciousness, and a decline in a sense of duty among parts of society; many feel that discipline has become lax, and the will of the people to learn new things and work hard has become weaker (it should be noted that this trend is lamented in a number of countries, not just the United States). Work, learning, efficiency, capabilities, and skills have dropped, and American students are falling behind their counterparts in many countries on certain standardized tests. Also, the service level of the service sector has dropped, efficiency is not high in certain fields and services, and the competitive power of some areas in society is not strong enough. All of these are directly related to people’s cultural concepts and values.
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