Is This The End of the American Century?

This site features updates, analysis, discussion and comments related to the theme of my book published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2008 (hardbound) and 2009 (paperbound).

The Book

The End of the American Century documents the interrelated dimensions of American social, economic, political and international decline, marking the end of a period of economic affluence and world dominance that began with World War II. The war on terror and the Iraq War exacerbated American domestic weakness and malaise, and its image and stature in the world community. Dynamic economic and political powers like China and the European Union are steadily challenging and eroding US global influence. This global shift will require substantial adjustments for U.S. citizens and leaders alike.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Global Debt Comparison

Britain's Economist magazine online has a very interesting and useful interactive map on global debt, showing the public debt levels of most countries in the world. One can slide the tabs to look at past years, or projections for future years. Pop up graphics also show public debt per capita and as a percentage of GDP.

A striking feature of the global map is that it is mostly the wealthy countries (North America, Europe and Japan) that have the highest debt levels worldwide. Some of the online commentary on this phenomenon point out that many of these countries are actually in worse shape than the U.S., in terms of government debt levels.

My friend and colleague Jeff Payne (who this semester is teaching a course using The End of the American Century as one of the texts), called my attention to this Economist site, and made the following observation:

It seems the US is indeed taking out extreme debt over the recession, but not in the same level of GDP as many other developed countries. So, among the most developed nations, we are not the worst - do not know if that is anything to celebrate. Yet, in relation to your research program I wonder what this the American experiment exhausted, or is the entire Western world in that same situation?

My response would be that yes, most of the Western world has government debt problems. I see the U.S. situation as far more dire, though, for the following reason. Most of those other countries accumulated their debts while financing government programs that supported health care, social welfare, education, infrastructure and the environment. Most other wealthy countries are far ahead of the U.S. in all those dimensions, as I point out in my book. The U.S., in contrast, accumulated our huge debts largely by financing consumption and military spending. All the while, U.S. health care and education languished, poverty and inequality increased, the environment and infrastructure deteriorated. So at the starting gate of the new global order, the U.S. is way behind the rest of the developed world, and too broke to catch up.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: