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08/03/2008

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Thomas B.

"The expansion of exports from China and other poorer nations has not benefited all nations, especially those that compete with exports of similar products."

Ricardo was wrong?

dissent

Of course America is in decline, at least when judged from the perspective of one who works for a living. Health care and retirement benefits are threatened, shrinking, or non-existent. It is horrifyingly difficult to afford college for your kids. Job security has disappeared. Wages are eroding relative to inflation or even dropping in absolute terms. The top 1 per cent grab an ever larger share of the national 'pie'. And we have the remorseless, insensitive, cheerleaders orchestrating this debacle, defending it, lauding it. Thanks, guys. You are a good example of why this country is failing at meeting reality based challenges. You don't recognize reality. In fact, you haven't got a clue.

Sebastian

Generally I do not believe the United States is in decline due to a constant DREAM of "I wanna go to America for further education and maybe a job so I can survive in this society and maybe support my parents back in China!" In fact, that's what my dream is. I can see why a group of Chinese so-called "comment people" say that the U.S. is killing Chinese housing market thus performing a "massacre" to the Chinese economy. Maybe, and with a relatively high possibility, our low profile on export goods' price did hurt people over the ocean.

My humble opinion, I'm a economy student in Beijing
Also, Beijing welcomes you!

sebastian

Generally I do not believe the United States is in decline due to a constant DREAM of "I wanna go to America for further education and maybe a job so I can survive in this society and maybe support my parents back in China!" In fact, that's what my dream is. I can see why a group of Chinese so-called "comment people" say that the U.S. is killing Chinese housing market thus performing a "massacre" to the Chinese economy. Maybe, and with a relatively high possibility, our low profile on export goods' price did hurt people over the ocean.

My humble opinion, I'm a economy student in Beijing
Also, Beijing welcomes you!

Richard

The expansion of exports from China and other poorer nations has not benefited all nations, especially those that compete with exports of similar products.

Are you sure? I would think that, as long as those poor nations have opened themselves up to the global economy, they will benefit from economic growth everywhere.

Sure, one shoe factory in Malaysia might be undercut by a shoe factory in Vietnam, for instance but, on the whole, I would think they would all benefit from growth in China, India, Vietnam, etc.

Thomas

I am a little surprised both Prof Becker and Posner omit any referrence to perhaps the most important asset to American economic growth: human capital. As David Brooks recently remarked in his weekly Op-Ed piece, America's once competitive advantage in education, and the rate of education's growth, peaked in the late 60's and our source of competitive human capital has waned as other countries (India, China, eastern Europe) continue to educate their human capital at better rates and with more efficiency. Naturally this is a long-term problem that seems an innate cultural shift from work to leisure earlier in life. Yes, more college diplomas are being awarded and higher education is more affordable than ever, but the problem arises much earlier on: during the formative years of a child's cognitive development and the cause is not so much public or private education system as much it is the parents and guardians who shape a person's life early on. This is a fundamental concern that could contribute to an American decline.

st

Japan gov provided policy to drag the country out of recession in 2002. What should be the US's response in 2008?

http://www.meti.go.jp/english/information/data/c6Strategiese.html

What is the similarity and difference of gov role between the two countries? (culture is one of course).

Thanks for your insight.
st

Pilgrim

Whether or not the economy as a whole grows, the concentration of income growth in a small segment of households is a serious issue. Using the averages doesn't really capture the adverse changes the US faces.

The long term prospects aren't good for country made up of the very wealthy on one hand; and those who teach their children, guard their property, and mow their lawns, on the other hand.

Jim

Civilizations don't rot from the top down and no matter the size or strength of an economy, if the building blocks (a critical mass of individuals) are poorly educated, selfish, feeding at the public treasury, lazy, self indulgent, unwilling to sacrifice, etc, etc, the country will decline. The understanding of history in the US is poor, only 35% vote, we are divided racially, politically and by gender. We are obsessed by superficialities and common tastes, While Becker's view is hopeful, it is not realistic in the least.

Josh SN

Here again, all the argument is about money. Not freedom, not liberty, not independence. We are far past the satisfaction of our needs in terms of economics. The rest is mostly gravy.

Someone said society doesn't rot from the top down, but I say otherwise. Professors used to line up to help the CIA in the early phase of the Cold War. 100s of Professors at Columbia University alone. Then there was the bullshit of the Vietnam War. That was from the top. Now Columbia won't allow ROTC on campus. The hearts of America might still be on its side, but the minds are distinctly more agnostic. It is a serious question if a series of American leaders will ever deserve or earn the trust of most of America's intellectuals and academics again.

Jim

Josh,

Whom do you think put those leaders there. Ignorant, uneducated (non-readers), lazy and materialistic voters, that's who. In a "democracy" you get exactly what you wish (vote) for. As far as I am concerned, the last president who was laudable was Harry Truman and he was an accident. Since then all of them have had a certain lack of character reflective of the society which elected them and now we are about to elect someone who thinks that he is Jesus Christ. "We are the ones we've been waiting for". PLEASE, spare me!!!

David Heigham

We British are a great deal richer than we were a century ago. But a century ago "London, where power is in the air" (a line of verse that was deligtfully anachronistic when quoted by Reagan)was a reality. That reality ended in 1946 or before. The power in the air in Washington has just begun to evaporate as the BRICs become richer and more assertive. It will be surprising if much of it is left by mid century. That is the major reality facing US foreign policy.

The economic reality is coloured by the fact that wheras Britain was the predominant creditor nation of the 1908 world, in 2008 the USA is already the world's dominant debtor nation. That is reducuing and will reduce further the USA's room for manoevre; both in economic policy and in other international relations.

In the percieved economic realities that influence politics, the fall in the value of the dollar means that the feeling that the USA was unequivocally the richest nation on earth is finally ebbing away. The confidence that one's children can always expect to be better off than oneself has already ebbed in America, in a way it has not in western Europe. I read those signs as being positive. The political will to tackle the burden of vested interests that the United States has accumulated in its years of empire (Ike was very right about the military-industrial complex, but he did not foresee the half of what has accumulated in a thousand fields - from cotton subsidies via water rights and under investment in infrastucture maintenance to rescues for Fannie and Freddie shareholders, etc., etc.) is already building up. Just as Britain did not really begin to revive until some of its vested interests were tackled under Thatcher, (in the Western Roman Empire the vested interests were never tackled) so the USA will not feel renewal until it begins to cut away these burdens. Clearly, that is not likely to be the focus of this Presidential election. Nevertheless, I sense sufficient felt dissatisfactions accumulating to make it a winning political formula well before mid-century.

In 2108, assuming no cataclysm, the USA is still likely to be one of the great powers, but no longer even first among equals. Most of its citizens will be among the relatively prosperous of a much richer world; but the tide of actual and potential economic immigrants will have receded. The character and capacity of its elected leaders will vary from the excellent to the mediocre; as it has done since the foundation of the Republic.

Wes

Is America in Decline?That depends on your definition of decline and on what happens in November.If the Republicans stay in power, the USA will continue to become less like western Europe and more like, say, Indonesia: weakening currency and unstable financial system; increasing gap between rich and poor and increasing gaps in the social safety net; increasing political polarization and religious extremism; increasingly authoritarian government and decreasing respect for human rights and the rule of law; increasing role of military in civilian life and decreasing role government programs such as basic science research; etc.If the Democrats take over then the USA will shift back to being more like western Europe and less like Indonesia.From what I can tell, though, most people in the USA want to be more like Indonesia and less like western Europe. As the ancient Chinese curse says: "May you get everything you want."

Josh SN

Jim,

How odd. I'll grant that most voters aren't up to my standards, but I find Truman to be about the worst President. The Senator from Pendergast, for just one example, signed the order to integrate the military... but nothing actually happened, the military, for the most part, completely disregarded his order. What was his response? Next to nothing, it was a PR move. Eisenhower actually made it happen (see Blanche Weisen Cooke's "Declassified Eisenhower").

Truman, while mouthing off about "self-determination" was the President who started America's involvement in Vietnam... to prop up French colonialism (there was no "independent" South Vietnam at that time).

What about the Korean War, the war President Eisenhower promised, and did, end in the first 9 months of his first term? Did he go through Congress, or did he call it a "Police Action" and follow orders from the United Nations?

Personally, I really like the United Nations. I used to work there, but there's no way that allows a President to dodge Congress to start a war! Not to mention that, and this is debatable, Syngman Rhee was the aggressor!

Was the CIA started, in part, as a tool of the Democratic establishment _in_addition_ to its intelligence role? Why would a puppet of party politics in Missouri ever think of that?

Jim

Josh,

Within the context of the discussion, I was referring to the character of the presidents not to the decisions they made since all the policies of all of the presidents can be argued either way and to be sure, hindsight is pretty good. At least Truman knew that he was mortal and refused the plaudits of the sycophants and corporations. He was an ordinary person who rose to the occasion. I would much prefer that to the royalty of the Kennedys, the paranoia of Nixon, the lying self important Clintons or the certainty of Bush.

nathan

People interested in this blog topic may find this recently published article to be of interest.

http://www.utne.com/2008-07-01/Politics/The-Creativity-Conceit.aspx

The Creativity Conceit
by Eamonn Fingleton

Josh SN

Jim,

We disagree.

wang tianyang

It is my first time come here.I am a student,my English is not very well,so I cannot understand your article and views clearly.But I want to see you if you could come to china.I canot express my thoughts in English.I will work hard.
Could you give me some advice about my university life?
Best wishes

wang tianyang

It is my first time come here.I am a student,my English is not very well,so I cannot understand your article and views clearly.But I want to see you if you could come to china.I canot express my thoughts in English.I will work hard.
Could you give me some advice about my university life?
Best wishes

wang tianyang

It is my first time come here.I am a student,my English is not very well,so I cannot understand your article and views clearly.But I want to see you if you could come to china.I canot express my thoughts in English.I will work hard.
Could you give me some advice about my university life?
Best wishes

wang tianyang

I am so sorry to send the message several times

John Galt

I agree with most of the comment but believe you underestimate the threat from a continually expanding federal government. It is simply this: Government has become an industry like any other and competes with private enterprise for capital and customers. There are many examples of this (Medicare D being an interesting one that combines benefits and coercion.) The problem, of course, is that it is not a fair fight. The government makes the rules and enforces them at the point of a gun, metaphorical or otherwise. This may well be the natural evolution of a society, if you think about it. Question: Does the co-evolutionary landscape of private enterprise and the desire not to be governed but to be free change the outcome? Will we (first the states, then the citizenry) at the last moment--or at any moment in between--wrest the gun away from our own Frankenstein monster and gain a reprieve? There are signs. But I wonder how it is possible for a government the size of the U. S. to coexist with a world-leading economy manned by free people.

Anonymous

Josh,

Respectfully, we need more gentlemen thinkers like you to prevent further decline.

Jim

Jess Vermont

It is a refreshing change to read a cheerleader for the U.S. instead of the dire warnings of total collapse I read on a near daily basis. Having said that, just because a fairy tale makes me feel good doesn't mean I believe it. Which brings me to the above article. Certainly you can make arguments that America has a great number of things in it's favor. Most countries, if you look hard enough, do. However to simply suggest that the issues faced by the U.S. economy will simply vanish or not affect greatly the overall health and well being of the average citizen is blind optimism of the highest order. As pointed out in posts above, there are deeply rooted problems in this country that the authors seem to ignore, gloss over or simply wave a theoretical magic wand and hope they disappear. Citing past historical strengths of a country and assuming they will continue is a notion held by only the most innocent among us, which apparently include the author of this opinion piece. There is a tremendous amount of difficulties the U.S. now faces that it has not faced in the past - I point to the collapse of the value of the dollar and it's loss of pride of place as the Oil-transaction currency of choice. The fact that foreign countries in the past had to horde the dollar in large amounts to procure oil secured the integrity of the value of the currency. As countries now shift away from the dollar to the Euro for large scale oil purchases there is no longer a hedge against the dollars collapse. We are seeing the beginnings of that process now. What it portends for the future of the American economy is not good and cannot possibly be spun as good or beneficial. It is the wingnut that holds together the U.S. economy.
Other issues exist as well. The "human capital" the author so optimistically crows about is questionable, at best. I live in the city of Chicago and let me tell you (not suggest to you but absolutely TELL YOU in no uncertain terms) that the inner cities hold voluminous population densities of young citizens that are basically unemployable in any real sense of the word. The vaunted American education system which the author seems to think will rise to the challenge of our competitors in India and China is in shambles, is completely underfunded and in many cases, schools are little more than detention centers where children are corralled but not taught a thing. Walk the streets of Chicago or New York (where my family is from) and see the real future of America: it isn't pretty. The underclass is growing at a far more rapid rate than those who would "strive to get ahead" as Keynes suggested of his theoretical future Americans. America is simply failing to invest in it's "human capital." The author must live in a Ivory Tower not to notice that a large portion of America's youth (inner city and rural poor, mostly) are in no way shape or form capable or even interested in competing with China and India. America's collapse will come from apathy within.
And the situation is exacerbated by the large disparity between the rich and the poor, which is not even mentioned in the article above. Such discrepancies have historically preceded social unrest and economic collapse, both of which are manifesting themselves in American society as we speak.
There are a few dozen more arguments as to why the decline of the U.S. is inevitable, but I have work to attend to. I cannot spend my morning correcting the delusions of an author so apparently out of touch with the real challenges faced by the American worker and the U.S. economy. I'm a simple worker, I can't do his job and mine at the same time.
Best of luck. We're all going to need it.

Michael LittleBig

Dear Professor,
I admire your thinking except on De-reulation.
Banks have changed, the lines between right and wrong have blurred.
To find the truth is like digging an ant out of quicksand with the regulators and banks. The last rumor I read is that bank earning statements are unreliable mainly due to the under reporting of loses.
I have come to believe that these financial institutions dealing in mortgage loans require to be regulated effectively because basically they are dishonest in their dealings. Consumer regulations must be passed to give the consumer the right to question, object or to contest any problems that cause the borrower concern with the institution that has his loans, deposits etc. The analogy here is that the consumer acts like a smoke detector in a house. Where there is smoke the detector sounds the alarm. Where there is a financial transaction that is wrong or dishonest, it is the consumer that finds out first. Accordingly when the consumer has redress in the regulatory system with his bank, it can be tracked, much like the FDA tracks Voluntary Consumer Complaints looking for smoke. The Regulatory system in this country is too independent and self serving. The Congressional oversight is a joke. People know when they are being lied to or “spinned”. This meltdown will get worse. It will happen again and again. Our regulatory entities of government have under performed with the present financial crisis. These government entities do not appear to have the balance and checks to ascertain the credibility or integrity of the financial system. What is scary, is the Congress. These people went on vacation.
We have almost 4 million foreclosure homeowners that are facing extremely serious situations affecting their very lives. There are another 2million projected for year end 2009. Congress displays an attitude that these foreclosure victims are nothing more than an aggravation.
The Congress is fat with money, power and all the perks. Rome is on fire. I think I hear a violin.

Michael LittleBig
POB 16588, RockyRiver OH 44116-3065

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