Skip to comments.America On The Rise (Complaints of China's ascent and the U.S.' collapse are overly pessimistic)
Posted on 02/09/2010 4:52:26 PM PST by SeekAndFind
For much of the past decade, "declinism"--the notion that America is heading toward a deadly denouement--has largely been a philosophy of the left. But more recently, particularly in the wake of Barack Obama's election, conservatives have begun joining the chorus, albeit singing a somewhat different variation on the same tune.
In a recent column in TheWashington Post George Will illustrates this conservative change of heart. Looking over the next few decades Will sees an aging, obsolescent America in retreat to a young and aggressive China. "America's destiny is demographic, and therefore is inexorable and predictable," he suggests, pointing to predictions by Nobel Prize economist Robert Fogel that China's economy will be three times larger than that of the U.S. by 2040.
Will may be one of America's great columnists, but he--like his equally distinguished liberal counterpart Thomas Friedman--may be falling prey to a current fashion for sinophilia. It is a sign of the times that conservatives as well as liberals often underestimate the Middle Kingdom's problems--in addition to America's relative strengths.
Rarely mentioned in such analyses is China's own aging problem. The population of the People's Republic will be considerably older than the U.S.' by 2050. It also has far more boys than girls--a rather insidious problem. Among the younger generation there are already an estimated 24 million more men of marrying age than women. This is not going to end well--except perhaps for investors in prostitution and pornography.
In the longer term demographic trends actually place the U.S. in a relatively strong position. By the end of the first half of the 21st century, the American population aged 15 to 64--essentially your economically active cohort--are projected to grow by 42%; China's will shrink by 10%. Comparisons with other competitors are even larger, with the E.U. shrinking by 25%,
(Excerpt) Read more at forbes.com ...
Kotkin appeals to Demographics to bolster his case.
Places like Japan, like the E.U., lacks the youthful population needed to recover its mojo. It likely will emerge as a kind of mega-Switzerland, Sweden or Denmark—renowned for its safety and precision. Its workforce will have to be ultra-productive to finance the robots it will need to care of its vast elderly population.
China could face greater problems. The kind of low-wage manufacturing strategy that has generated China’s success already seems certain—as occurred with Japan—is already leading to a backlash across much of the world. China’s very girth projects a more terrifying prospect than little Japan. At some point China will either have to locate much of its industrial base closer to its customers, as Japan has done, or lose its markets.
Also, China is a fundamentally unstable autocracy, led from above, and one that seeks to control information—as evidenced in its conflict with Google —in an age where the free flow of information constitutes an essential part of economic progress.
China’s social problems will be further exacerbated by a huge, largely ill-educated restive peasant class still living in poverty. Of course America too has many problems—with stunted upward mobility, the skill levels of its workforce, its fiscal situation. But the U.S., as the Japanese scholar Fuji Kamiya once noted, possesses sokojikara, a self-renewing capacity unmatched by any country.
In other words, the age of Obama will past. The longer term is more important and Demographics favor the USA.
I’m reminded of the pic with Zero carrying the book ‘The Post-American World’.
I subscribed to Forbes for at least 15 years but they employ a writer who is a money manager. He is one of Obama’s closet advisers and put up the early money for him to run. Forbes helped make the guy rich and gave him credibility even though he is a lousy money manager. His wealth helped elect Obama. Anything coming out of Forbes anymore is suspect.
Oh please. George Will does seem more and more often to just mail it in, but he can outwrite boychik Tommiela Friedman while sitting on a bar stool.
BUMP for something besides the same, tired old Doom and Gloom. Thanks for posting.
Nice happy thoughts about the distant future and bigger picture, but what do we do about the increasing difficulty of putting food on the table and a roof over our heads tomorrow, next month and next year? Tenured professors don’t seem to have any problem proclaiming that “The age of Obama will pass.” The real question is how serious will the mess be while he is here and once he is gone?
“Nice happy thoughts about the distant future”
Mmmmmm, nice happy thoughts. Making me feel warm inside. feel better already, no more worries.
The reason I believe America will decline is the 2008 election. Any people stupid enough to elect Obama are not long for a sucessful country. It’s just about that simple. Why make it more complicated than that.
I hate to think this, but there is a part of me which says the United States is coming out of its republic period and finally entering its empire period. The late Roman republic had a lot of the same chaos as we have - an entrenched, corrupt elite, the appeal to the masses through the Corn Laws, a huge territory governed on a system designed for a city state. Finally we get Augustus, a conservative who calls for the return of the Republic and Roman tradition, decades of peace, and the republic finally dies.
I could see that happening here, especially if the rest of the world decides to gang up on the United States and fight a protected war. A few rough years might be followed by, “You think we were really empire? I’ll show what an empire looks like.”
Of course, who the hell knows? We’re not really Rome, and history doesn’t really repeat itself, even though we can use the past as a metaphor and a guide for present behavior. I’d love to think the United States is going to establish what the Baha’is call “The Most Great Peace,” which the founders of that religion said would be led by the Americans. I guess we’ll just have to see.
And makers of armaments. The rational way to deal with an oversupply of young men is war. The country is apt to have rebellion at home because of the problem and diverting the excess energy and aggression of the surplus testosterone beyond the borders is a rational response. And it points up the difference between the effeminate West, which really is run by female sensibilities because the majority of voters in all western countries are women, and masculine China which has a masculine majority.
Economic shocks come with baggage attached. I’d agree that maybe we have a brighter future to hand off to our kids than it might seem right now, but these govt debt bubbles and the tyranny that comes with them don’t get cleaned up by themselves and they become far worse if left alone. I think many can agree that Obama is an unpredictable hell on wheels as far as economic policy goes, even in weakness he has the ability to cause more short term damage. Sure in theory he’ll be gone in seven years, but that is seven years too long.
I agree with your assessment. For years I have had no patience with people who compare America’s situation with “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” I have always suspected it is more like the period leading up to the end of the Republic and the onset of Empire. Rome lasted as Empire for several centuries beyond the end of the Republic, 15 centuries to the end of Byzantium
There may be two Americas... one will fail.
One of the fallacies in the demographic argument is that our own demographics may very well be altered significantly by the open borders policy and the possible legalization of 15-20 million Mexicans.
It’s not a done deal....yet. But if McCain and his liberal cohorts get their way, the migration of these illegals will really skew these demographic predictions that are currently considered to be in our favor.
The Chinese have serious problems as noted, but we are working very hard to screw up any advantage we might have.
“The reason I believe America will decline is the 2008 election. Any people stupid enough to elect Obama are not long for a sucessful country. Its just about that simple. Why make it more complicated than that.”
Well, damn. We’re doooooooomed. How about you take your French surrender-monkey ass and buy a one-way ticket to 1930’s Vichy France. Go find yourself a grave and bury yourself. We don’t need quitters like you on FR.
I think that you’ll start to see Chinese men marry North Korean, Cambodian, and Vietnamese women and perhaps Mongolian women, as well.
An interesting look at China’s problems, and it does have them.
That’s better, truthguy.
Let’s reiterate what you wrote:
“I’m not a quitter and never have been....I will fight on to the end....We have a wonderful constitution...Yes many people will come to there senses...I will do everything I can to fight this...”
That reads much better. Welcome to the fight, truthguy. See you on the frontline.
Unpegging the dollar from gold, and running huge deficits is the main thing killing our per capita production and earning capacity in terms of real wealth (ppp or gold). The reality is, we’ve been living under a socialist progressive monetary system for 39 yrs. It’s really starting to show. A journeyman carpenter had about as much real affluence in 1969 as a two income family pulling down $150k/yr now. Any perceived difference is the result of organic technological progress, longer work hours, and efficiency gains from the PC revolution.
I think of demographics, et c., as a sideshow - kind of like CO2 and warming. China has always had more people than us. Monetary policy is the main driver. Japan shot itself in the foot back in the 90’s. We did the same 1971-1980, and starting again in about 2000. Whether China will follow them and us off the cliff remains to be seen. If they’re smart, they’ll keep their thumb on the scales until the US is deindustrialized beyond repair. Another decade or two - tops. After that we’ll be just another permanently moribund and stratified socialist zombie. Russia sans the good vodka or the UK with better teeth.
The potential exists for us to recover fairly quickly if something is done in the next 5-10 yrs. Would that be allowed to happen? The ppl benefitting have got a strangle hold on the banking system and both political parties. One cannot avoid pondering the further possibility that this is also some form of ransom to the PRC for military peace.
“Liberalism is just communism sold by the drink.”
A large population of young men who don’t get laid on a regular basis is a very dangerous thing.
Complaints of China’s ascent and the U.S.’ collapse are overly pessimistic?
If you say so. America owes China lotsa money - truckloads and boatloads of money. And America, thru Social Security, Medicare, Welfare, and government pensions, promises, or will promise, its citizens truckloads and boatloads of money. Forbes guy don’t see a problem here?
This is an excellent article; all doom’n’gloomers should be assigned a review of it and have the content count for half their final grade.
It’s an interesting opinion (my eyes usually glaze-over when discussing dempographics), because it contains a historical perspective, something the “this time things are different” crowd cannot provide.