Don’t Get Too Bearish On America

There’s a certain current of thought, which runs across parts of both the Left and Right, that enjoys proclaiming the Death Of America. Its proponents often come from contradictory and conflicting backgrounds. Anarcho-communists and anarcho-capitalists; nationalists and libertarians; opponents of Western imperialism and proponents of Chinese, Russian, and Islamic imperialism. The general thesis is usually fairly similar: the things that made America great – capitalist power, superpower status, oppression of the Third World, religious values, or what have you –  are disappearing. Massive debt, geopolitical shifts, and/or demographic transformation will cause America to shrink its global reach even as it ruptures internally. The ultimate result varies too. Followers of the American Cato hope for a return to the constitutional Republic of old. Others favour a Leftward shift. Pessimists predict secession and war. There was a time when I found these predictions convincing, especially from libertarian and other analyses.

These days, I am far more skeptical.

To be clear, the data points which these predictions are based on put America in a pretty bad place. Yes, the debt is out of control. Expansion of welfare and warfare have destroyed America’s finances and reputation alike. Its governors govern badly. Its weary military “advises” even wearier troops against ISIS members with fire in their hearts and suicide vests over them. Despite this, Iran still gets held at arms length. At the same time it is getting challenged by Russia politically and China economically. Over-regulation at home, overextension abroad, and badly managed spending in all spheres.

But here’s the other side of the story. Whatever the ultimate fate of the USD and its global status, the United States still has tremendous wealth in its borders. Its population is over three hundred million, compared to China and India with over a billion each, but its economy is still among the biggest in the world and for now second only to China. Within its borders lie both natural resource wealth and technical specialization. New York’s economy is the size of Australia’s, and even poor, ruinous Detroit stands alongside Ireland. That sort of wealth doesn’t vanish in a puff of smoke if the USD collapses entirely. Even in a global economy where business can be outsourced across countries, the USA makes up a huge fraction of both production and consumption. It’s also a hub for service industries like consulting, marketing, advertising, finance, and law.

Abroad, the idea that America is in an across-the-board decline is also untrue. The disastrous Middle Eastern conflicts have drawn a lot of the world’s attention. Doubtless, the idea that you could overthrow a couple of dictators and eventually turn the region into Massachusetts plus minarets was an insane one. The American consensus is also being challenged in Ukraine by Russia and in the Asian and African spheres by China. But there is another side to this story. The countries which make up China’s backyard are not pleased to see its shadow falling over them. Some of Asia’s other growing economies would prefer America to have their backs. The US recently renewed its military commitments to the Philippines and Japan and is increasing its presence in the former. Other affected countries include Vietnam, Malaysia, and of course Taiwan.

This situation is very different from the Middle East. We are looking at political back and forth between growing economies with fairly stable states. There could be unforeseen circumstances: perhaps a demagogue will feed the flames of war following some crisis. For the time being, a full scale war between powers in the Asian region seems unlikely. That being so, America has an interest is maintaining close relations with those countries which will increasingly become its economic partners in the Asia-Pacific region. India’s alignment is still undetermined, but everyone has a stake in its future development. That’s why Prime Minister Modi is getting superstar treatment.

The rise of China may also cause other countries to reconsider their position. As China increases its African investments, the honeymoon will begin to fade and the realities of clashing cultures and interests will set in. While it is doubtless that China will become a political force on the continent, it may well be that some countries will play a double game or even favour American and Western investors who give them a better deal. From Asia to Africa, Brand America will remain a strong one.

All in all, I expect to see three major trends:

First, many Americans will find themselves interacting less with the US Federal Government (USG) on a regular basis. This will occur as the USG is finally forced to restructure failed programs like urban renewal and likely the current social security model. The private sector will continue moving in to repair government failures in areas from transport to education. Bankrupt Detroit is a prime example. Businesses are coming to its downtown core, the population of which is economically and demographically distinct from the rest of the city. The gentrifiers follow with their demands for security, good schools, and better governance, and with the means and willpower to make it happen. Many USG programs may return to state and even local levels after a long trend of federalization. Colorado and co are taking action on marijuana laws, and the South is attracting investment capital and domestic migrants sick of blue state taxes and regulation. Cities in said blue states may find creating their own charters to be a way to attract domestic migrants with initiative, brains, and ambition. As competition intensifies, it will make less sense to apply large programs across the whole country.

Second, the frontiers of American influence abroad will indeed morph and shrink. The world will become more multipolar as China and Russia try to stake out their own spheres of influence. Iran may act as a game changer for Shia Muslims in the Middle East. America and other Western countries will need to give resource-rich countries better deals. On this, the narrative of decline does have many of its facts straight, if not all of its derived predictions.

However (and thirdly), America may find itself actually exercising greater influence in those countries which choose to remain in its sphere. With the reality of China right next door, the US may be able to act more unilaterally to secure trade deals, military contracts, and political favours in Japan or the Philippines. This relationship will be especially important in the African countries.

In summary, I expect the America of the next generation to be one characterized by both stabilizing global power and a reduced, restructured domestic USG role. This is not contradictory. In fact, this is what the America of the Founding Fathers actually looked like. The average American pioneer might barely interact with the same USG that was waging successive wars against North African pirate kingdoms. The Presidents who conducted these wars? None other than one Thomas Jefferson and a certain James Madison. To view these changes as the end of America is naive. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one notices that the purported hard-headed realism of American Demise so often seems to complement the political wet dreams of its proponents.

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19 Comments

  1. This is the best WorldNet Daily article ever to appear on Social Matter.

    1. It’s a triumph of American Optimism. I can recommend Tainter’s “The Collapse of Complex Societies” for a more sober view.

      1. Point of note: I’m not American myself. I like to think this insulates me from exceptionalist American Optimism, but take it as you will.

        1. So you’re just out-Americaning us Americans? What kind of weird place are you from?? 😉

    2. Ha. That’s hilarious. People do like to babble about American decline though. Interesting how the left revels in decline because they hate America (“historical injustices”) and the right revels in decline because they hate the neo-liberals who now dominate it. Whats to say it won’t go through a long period of ups and downs, or even, miraculously, some kind of “renaissance” – as Jared Taylor would call it. I tend to be on the more pessimistic side of things.
      http://youtu.be/CTRAibMiLZ8

      But Ash is right. We have a good piece of rock and many intelligent people. Its the general (baffling) momentum towards self-destruction that would have to be foiled.

  2. Since I lived through the 1970s and observed the whole end-of-America thing once, I think Ash’s analysis is quite reasonable. The devolution of power back to states and locales is effective, and some will happen. Not without screams of anger from the groups that profited from centralization, but experience shows that America has so far been very adaptable. This decentralization will be the Neoreaction’s opening to put some of its ideas into practice in limited geographic areas.

    Yeah, all empires crumble, but predicting the date is quite tricky.

    1. Indeed tricky, but I think predictors of america’s Demise do not do so solely based on geopolitical weakness and economic insanity. They look at the society itself, the institutions, the people, the things that matter to the public. All of these factors point to a society in deep decay. Look at the politicians elected for one. The black politicians alone are enough for a mega face palm. Hello Maxine Waters.

      1. Your point is well taken. Even during the 70s I don’t think there was anyone in national office as craptastic as Waters, or several others. As for the President, well, shucks.

        However, the point of devolution of power, if it happens, is that the people of LA who elected Waters will be able to run their own s**t into the ground and the rest of us will be at least somewhat shielded from the painful consequences.

        1. And failure to do so will motivate cities and states impacted by bad decisions to insulate themselves in future.

  3. @AntiDem

    Who funds WND? I looked over that at the thing and all I saw was a ton of Pro-Israel Anti-Jihad stuff and kind of Fox News slant on everything else?

    Still though, in Ash’s defense, this country is remarkably resilient. I used to hang out over in the Peak Oil world back in the day and one journalist called “A Geek Apocalypse” group. Much of the writing was kind of similar to the Manosphere or NeoRx where “the MSM was covering up the truth in order to maintain the BAU” (business as usual). James Kunstlet was the Moldbug of that group and as far as everyone was concerned we were going down next week (this being back in 2007-2008). They predicted a lot of what happened, housing, banks, FannieMae, market crashes, rising oil price, and the effect of that on everything, wages stagnating, shitty recovery, The Long Emergency.

    One Mormon guy commented and said “Lighten up, this stuff ain’t going no where. There is too much built resiliency via Federalism, non-governmental management of things like FASB, AMA, American Bar association, ADA, even the Federal Reserve is a private thing with congressional oversight. Most government is at the local or state level. It can absorb massive shocks.” And it did. There were some serious shocks to the system. But it barely even staggered. At worst it took a standing 8 count. Back in the worst days of the PIGS European banking issues with Greece looking like it fall anyday (and many bloggers and commenters were saying It won’t last till Christmas, then New Years, then the spring, etc) I said “No it won’t fall” and it didn’t.

    Things are no where near like they were and will never be. And as much as I hope that the US would break up into the “nations” that are tossed around in diagrams, it’s not going to even come close to happening while any of us are still alive.

    For me NeoRx is just some really good stuff to read written by some very good and well informed writers (yourself included in that bunch). And for even the youngest guys in the community, the die have been cast, and the sex ratio, the demographics,the fatties, the current and future economics, the prevailing culture of feminist dominated horseshit has laid the basis for a pretty shitty life for them.

    My recommendation to any of them is work to save up $50,000 and go to somewhere east of the Andes in Colombia. If you wish to have something to do with cattle and ranching then go to Villavicencio. If you can learn anything about Fracking and Oil then go to Huila. Or you could just open a restaurant and sell meat loaf and mashed potatoes. The Colombians would think that food was “exotic”. As the FARC pulls back and as an inevitable end of that conflict nears then that eastern part of Meta or the former “FARCLANDIA” will open up what is probably one of the last frontiers in the world. You would be surprised just how marketable your American skills are. And those are still pretty good places to be a man. Maybe one of the last places on Earth, actually.

    1. Thanks for your feedback. Chile seems to attract a lot of people too.

      I’ll probably do another article soon on alternatives to secession. I won’t discount secession if things get bad enough, but there seems to be a stronger incentive for “internal secession” via city charters, special economic zones, and so on. You still get a lot of the benefits, but continue to have access to US markets without the tariffs and red tape that come with exporting as a foreign country. There’s also the matter of having your diplomacy run through the USG’s powerful global network. As I say, Brand America is morphing but it’s still strong.

    2. I don’t see how Colombia is a reasonable prospect. Gender nonsense has already seeped into the water.

      Will our Ivy League ecclesiocracy just look the other way as it preoccupies itself with more distant lands? Maybe. I doubt it, though.

      1. Latin America is about 82% infected by Modernity, Argentina being one of the bigger cesspits of the lot. It’s not as bad as North America of course, but culturally, these countries are on a downward trajectory.

  4. The continued resilience of the evil, satanic entity known as “America” may just be the greatest proof that god doesn’t exist.

  5. Those Who Can See wrote along related lines a while back: http://thosewhocansee.blogspot.com/2014/07/breaking-up-is-hard-to-do.html

    As for the informed speculation here proffered? I dunno. Not saying it doesn’t make sense, but it would sure sound more compelling if the evidence of governmental insanity weren’t copious. Orderly or even semi-orderly devolution of power sounds too prudent and rational for USG.

    On another note, this made me think (simplistically) of how the Western Roman Empire was succeeded by the Church. Perhaps the United States of America will be succeeded by America®.

  6. Laguna Beach Fogey February 8, 2015 at 10:14 am

    You fail to address changing demographics. How can America prevail when Americans are largely disappearing, replaced by various Africans, Hispanics, Asians, and Arabs? Demographics trumps all.

  7. There’s a lot here to chew on, and I agree with much of it, though I am less sanguine about a number of things. Trillions of dollars of government debt (federal and state and municipal), trillions in private and union pension shortfalls, and trillions in student aid debt: these are getting worse every day, and aren’t going to go away quietly. The USA isn’t Greece, but we’re headed in that direction.

    Also, our waning status as a superpower, and the rise of China, is worrisome. Periods of peace in history are correlated with unrivaled superpowers: Pax Romana, Pax Britannica. It’s periods in which there are falling and rising powers that are associated with major wars.

  8. We can already observe efforts toward creating autonomous zones in Dixie, as the white portions of several black metropolitan areas seek to break away. Our rulers, however, are insane. They will crush these endeavors sooner or later. Mass devolution of power seems unlikely to be orderly or even semi-orderly given the aforementioned psychosis.

    America® may indeed reap greater enthusiasm from its most fearful clients, but who wins when the Pentagon clashes with Harvard? “Hey, Japan: We’ll continue beefing up your security if you reverse your immigration policy and open the floodgates.”

  9. The long term immigration prospects are probably good too, as eventually we’ll start getting floods of European refugees fleeing the horde. How interesting they will find it to hear us complain about Mexicans.

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