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.

An overview of the book, and an interview with the author, appear on the Butler University website

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Zakaria on American Decline

The cover of Time magazine's March 14 issue features a piece by Fareed Zakaria, entitled "Yes, America Is In Decline." The inside story carries a less emphatic title: "Are America's Best Days Behind Us?" The article demonstrates how far Zakaria has come since his book (The Post American World) and mine (The End of the American Century) were first published in 2008. At that time, Zakaria viewed global changes as mostly coming from "The Rise of the Rest" rather than American decline. My book focussed on domestic American decline as the root of the problem, in combination with the rise of other global powers. I pointed out our differences at the time in a posting here on "Zakaria's Optimism."

Zakaria's story is accompanied by a graphic design (by Joe Magee) depicting the US flag falling apart--remarkably similar, I must say, to the cover design of my own book, with the U.S. flag in a vortex.

One can hardly call Zakaria's latest essay optimistic. That issue of Time presents a host of statistics and rankings, showing how poorly the US fares compared to both our past, and to other countries. The US ranks #10 in the world on the "Prosperity Index." We rank 6th in higher education enrollment; 11th in R&D spending; 27th in life expectancy; 31st in "Adequate food and shelter;" and 84th in the world on the domestic savings rate. (My book showed that, even in 2008, the US was falling behind on all of these measures).

Zakaria finds it especially unsettling that "Americans seem unable to grasp the magnitude of the challenges that face us. Despite the hyped talk of China's rise, most Americans operate on the assumption that the U.S. is still No. 1."

He concludes with the observation that we have to recognize our problems before we can adequately address them.

"For most of our history, we have become rich while remaining restless. Rather than resting on our laurels, we have feared getting fat and lazy. And that has been our greatest strength. In the past, worrying about decline has helped us avert that very condition. Let's hope it does so today."
This was the same overall message of my book.

The same issue of Time also includes a counterpoint article called "Don't Bet Against the United States."

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Mark A. Cohen said...

I find your blog interesting, well-written, left-wing, and non-threatening (thanks, that's refreshing). When researching publishers for my own book, I think I saw yours in the bookstore... I think it's disturbing that Time featured Zacharia's article with a finger pointing downward, yet, to see the finger pointing up one had to turn the magazine upside-down. It's too bad that some believe America is going downhill, but that's why we're all involved - because we want to make it better, right? Please take a look at my blog, You may find it refreshing as well - at least I hope so.

Aritul said...

The US ranks #10 in the world on the "Prosperity Index." We rank 6th in higher education enrollment; 11th in R&D spending; 27th in life expectancy; 31st in "Adequate food and shelter;" and 84th in the world on the domestic savings rate."

Jiminy Cricket those are some sobering figures. Unfortunately, I don't see us ever emerging from this situation only digging ourselves deeper and deeper.