This article is a 15-20 minute read.
The United States has been the strongest and most powerful nation in the last century, a beacon of progress, democracy and the good life for the world, but that reputation is becoming tarnished. While predictions have been made before about the decline of America, there is good evidence now that show cracks in the empire.
A recent Pew Research Center survey of 37 countries that revealed the world’s view of the U.S. had dropped sincePresident Trumptook office — from 64 percent under former President Barack Obama to 49 percent now. Meanwhile, the world’s confidence in the U.S. president has sharply declined from 64 percent to 22 percent.
“Great nations and empires have risen and fallen before,” says Alfred McCoy, writing in The Nation, “Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain.” McCoy asserts that America is on a similar path.
What is the evidence for the decline? Here are some very convincing facts that come from the United Nations, the OECD, The Legatum Institute, The U.S. National Intelligence Council, Congress and other respected institutions and research studies. Let’s look at some of that evidence:
- The U.S. currently has (depending on the source of information) somewhere between 800 and 1,000 military bases in over 50 countries, and still regards itself as the world’s police force.
- Finland is top of the world for happiness, according to the World Happiness Report 2018, closely followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The US. is ranked 18th. Nordic countries take four out of the five top spots, and are well known to be stable, safe and socially progressive. There is very little corruption, and the police and politicians are trusted.
- The U.S. has the highest poverty levels of all countries in the OECD. The official poverty rate is 12.7 percent, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 estimates. That year, an estimated 43.1 million Americans lived in poverty according to the official measure.
- The U.S. has the highest levels of income inequality of all Western nations according the CIA Factbook and OECD.U.S. adult life expectancy ranks 44thin the world, and worst among all Western nations. In the Legatum study, the U.S. ranks 27thfor the health of its citizens; life expectancy is below average compared to 30 advanced countries measured by the OECD and obesity is the highest in the U.S. among all those countries.
- The U.S. ranks 34thof all countries in terms of child mortality.
- According to The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that during the Flint water crisis in 2015, nearly 21 million Americans—about 6%—were getting water from systems that violated health standards. And looking back over time, the number of violations generally increased from 1982 to 2015—spiking in the years following the addition of a new regulation, the team reports today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
- In 2013, America received a “D” in the drinking-water category of the American Society for Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. The report found that most of the nation’s drinking-water infrastructure is “nearing the end of its useful life.” Replacing the nation’s pipes would cost more than $1 trillion. The country’s wastewater infrastructure also got a “D” grade.
- The US life expectancy is slipping further and further behind other high-income countries. According to the most recent comparative data of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, US life expectancy in 2015 (at 78.7 years) ranked 27th out of 35 OECD countries, more than five years behind the leader, Japan (83.9 years), and roughly four years behind the next three countries, Spain (83.0), Switzerland (83.0) and Italy (82.6).
- Happiness, or what researchers refer to as “subjective well-being,” is down across the nation, according to a detailed study by the Gallup Organization and the health care information service Sharecare. From 2016 to 2017, America saw its largest year-over-year drop in well-being in the 10 years that Gallup has tracked these data. Furthermore, 21 states registered absolute declines in their levels of well-being, and not a single state showed a statistically significant improvement in 2017.
- Last year, about 40 percent of American families struggled to meet at least one basic need – food, health care, housing or utilities, according to an Urban Institute survey.
- The U.S. ranks #1 of all Western countries in terms of violent crime.
- Though relatively rare, hate crimes have seen an increase in cities across the USA. In California alone, the number spiked 44 percent between 2014 and 2017, up to 1,093 hate crimes last year, the state’s attorney general’s office reported last week. The total number of hate crimes in the 10 largest cities in America jumped in 2017, marking four straight years for an uptick in such incidents. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University found a 12.5 percent increase in incidents reported by police last year in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego and San Jose, California.
- According to the Strada Institute for the Future of Work and Burning Glass Technologies, a career market analytics company more than 40 percent of college graduates take positions out of school that don’t require a degree, the study found, and more than 1 in 5 college grads still aren’t working a degree-demanding job a decade after leaving school.
- The United States of America locks up more people than any other country on the planet. Over the past 50 years, an era of mass incarceration took shape as politicians raced to erect a sprawling detention system. Now, with nearly 2.2 million of its citizens behind bars—or 1 in 99 adults on any given day—America’s grim labyrinth of federal and state prisons, local jails, juvenile correctional facilities, and immigration detention centers represents an unprecedented effort to isolate criminals from society. According to a U.S. Department of Justice report published in 2006, over 7.2 million people were at that time in prison, on probation, or on parole (released from prison with restrictions). That means roughly 1 in every 32 adult Americans are under some sort of criminal justice system control. Of the 2.2 million people in the American correctional system, about a million are black—a total that is larger than the entire prison populations of England, Argentina, Canada, and six other countries combined.Over the past few decades, the United States has built more jails and prisons than colleges; there are now more than 5,000 of them across the 50 states, to be precise. Since 1970, the detained population in the United States has increased by 700 percent. And as the Washington Post reported in January, there are more Americans shipping off to prison than to two- or four-year degree programs in some parts of the country.
- The Global Retirement Index, developed by Natixis Investment Managers and CoreData research, serves to provide insight into what influences a country’s ascent or decline in overall well-being in retirement. The study is a multifaceted index that focuses four thematic subindices: Material Wellbeing; Health; Quality of Life ; and Finances. The top 16 countries are from Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The U.S. was rated as #17.
- The Environmental Performance Index is the go-to source for questions on environmental quality. Yale and Columbia University researchers teamed up with the World Economic Forum in 2018 to compile the data. Using 10 categories, they ranked the United States 27th. On air it ranks 10th and on water, 29th. Among wealthy democracies, the United States ranks toward the bottom, according to Zachary Wendling, principal investigator at the Environmental Performance Index.
- The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranks the U.S. sixth (45.67%) for adult education level (ages 24-65), whereas Canada is ranked 1st(56.27).
- The U.S. is the only advanced country that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation days.
- The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) annual survey on the most livable cities in the world lists 3 Canadian cities (Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto) and 3 Australian cities (Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide), but there are no American cities in the top 10.
- The proportion of young adults (25-34) with a tertiary education is much lower in the U.S. (47.5) compared to Canada (60.6).
- According to the New York Times,“Studies show that the United States has among the highest rates of drug use in the world. But even as restricting supply has failed to curb abuse, aggressive policing has led to thousands of young drug users filling American prisons, where they learn how to become real criminals.”In fact, nearly half of the 186,000 people serving time in federal prisons in the United States are incarcerated on drug-related charges. Since the War on Drugs began more than 40 years ago, the U.S. government has spent more than $1 trillion on interdiction policies. Spending on the War on Drugs continues to cost U.S. taxpayers more than $51 billion annually. The unintended consequences of the War on Drugs do not affect all groups equally. In the United States, it is well documented that these policies disproportionately impact minority communities, particularly blacks and Hispanics. A study by the Cato Institute concluded “For more than 100 years, prohibition has been the primary policy in the United States with regard to illicit substances. As the data show, however, these policies fail on practically every measure. As a result of prohibition and the changes it induces in the market for drugs, increased disease, death, violence, and cartels are all expectable outcomes.”
- Experts say the United States is in the throes of an opioid epidemic, as more than two million Americans have become dependent on or abused prescription pain pills and street drugs. During 2016,there were more than 63,600 overdose deaths in the United States, including 42,249 that involved an opioid (66.4%). That’s an average of 115 opioid overdose deaths each day. More than one out of three average Americans used a prescription opioid painkiller in 2015, despite growing concerns these medicines are promoting widespread addiction and overdose deaths, a new federal study shows. Americans consume prescription opioids at a greater rate than any other population in the world, according to research data. United Nations data for 2012-2014 show that standard daily doses of opioids consumed per capita are roughly comparable in Italy (6,246) and France (8,706) but reach a staggering 50,142 in the United States. In other words, despite suffering chronic pain at a similar rate as Italians and the French, Americans consume six to eight times as many opioid painkillers.
- According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. has more mass shootings than any other country. In one study by Adam Lankford, it has been estimated that 31% of public mass shootings occur in the U.S., although it has only 5% of the world’s population. With respect to homicide rates, Canada has a 1.68 per 100,000 ratio, the U.K, 1.20 per 100,000 and the US 49.26 per 100,000.
- According to a new comparison by Pew, the U.S. ranks 33rd out of 49 high-income countries when it comes to women in the national legislature (20% of the House and Senate are women). When they expanded the comparison to 137 countries, the U.S. dropped to 83rd. Out of the 45 countries examined, the United States ranks in the bottom 10 for the percentage of women in senior management positions, with women occupying just 22 percent of senior roles, a study from the Grant Thornton International Business Report
- The United States leads the globe in military spending in 2017. China ranked second in spending, as it has done since 2008. With military outlays totaling 590 billion US dollars, the US spent about 35 percent of the total global military spending that year, 1.68 trillion US dollars. The U.S. spends as much on the military as the next 6 countries do combined.
- America’s infrastructure is crumbling. the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the US a D grade for its roads and a C grade for its bridges in its latest report on the state of American infrastructure. What’s more, the US Department of Transportation estimates it could cost as much as $1 trillion just to bring the current Interstate and highways system in the US up to date. Out of 138 economies worldwide, the US ranks 11th when it comes to infrastructure competitiveness, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.The U.S. has 614,387 bridges, almost 4 in 10 of which are 50 years or older . Nine per cent of these bridges were structurally deficient in 2016, and there were 188 million trips across a structurally deficient bridge each day .One out of every 5 miles of highway pavement is in poor condition.
- A new report in JAMA (American Medical Association) published in March comparing U.S. statistics with those of the highest income countries (United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, Japan, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark) indicates that the American healthcare system fares quite poorly. The U.S. spends far more per capita on healthcare when compared to other countries, but has less in healthcare outcomes to show for it.
- The U.S. is responsible for over 80% of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined. At least 24 Americans every day (8-9,000 a year) are killed by people with guns – and that doesn’t count the ones accidentally killed by guns or who commit suicide with a gun. Count them and you can triple that number to over 25,000/yr.
- After leading the world for decades in 25-34 year old’s with university degrees, the U.S. is now in 12thplace. The World Economic Forum ranked the U.S. at 52ndamong 139 nations in the quality of its university math and science instruction in 2010.
- According to the OECD 15 year olds in the U.S. rank 17thin the world in science and 25thin math. The U.S. ranks 12thamong developed countries in college graduation, and 79thin elementary-school enrollment.
- The U.S. ranks 23rdin the world in terms of infrastructure, well behind that of every other major advanced economy. The American Society of Civil Engineers prepared a report card on the state of America’s infrastructure-roads, bridges, dams etc. In the latest version the overall “GPA’ for the U.S. was a “D,” and the cost of bringing all systems up to adequacy, not an “A,” was estimated at $2.2 trillion.
- In 2008, the U.S. had fallen from first to third in global merchandise exports. The U.S. trails Japan for worldwide patent applications, but China will soon bypass both. In 2009, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation reports that the U.S. ranks last among the 49 nations survey when it came to “change” in “global innovation-based competitiveness” in the last decade.
- The Legatum Institute, a London-based research firm, publishes an annual “prosperity index” and ranks the U.S. 9th, five notches lower than last year.
- The U.S. ranks 13thin terms of well being according to the United Nations Human Development Index, and ranks 11thin the OECD’s measure of “life satisfaction.”
- In 2002 the U.S. was ranked first in terms of average wealth per adult. In 2010, it fell to 7th
- In 2001 the U.S. ranked 4thin the world in per capita broadband Internet use. Today it ranks 15th.
- The U.S. has lost over 40,000 factories since 2001 and has lost 32% of all its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.
- The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that U.S. government public debt will hit 716% of GDP by the year 2080. The current Federal Government budgets forecast accelerating deficits and debt levels.
- 25-30 percent of the U.S. federal budget is spent on the military. The cost for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone is now creeping up to $10 trillion.
- Fortune magazine’s ranking of the world’s largest companies has only two American firms in the top 10–Wal-Mart at No. 1 and ExxonMobil at No. 9 (dropped from #3) since 2010 and Berkshire Hathaway at #10. All the other companies are Chinese or European.
- In their book, The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, Professors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, present data taken from multiple credible sources that show the gap between the poor and rich the greatest in the U.S. among all developed nations; child well being the worst in the U.S. among all developed nations; and levels of trust among people in the U.S. is among the worst of all developed nations.
- Nearly 45,000 Americans took their own lives in 2016, an increase of almost 30% since 1999, according to new figures released by the Centres for Disease Control. Another 42,000 died from opioid overdoses, victims of America’s drug epidemic.
- In a report “Income and Wealth Inequality in America, 1949-2016,”for the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis, authors Moritz Kuhn Moritz Schularick and Ulrike I. Steins of the University of Bonn concluded “The historical data also reveal that no progress has been made in reducing income and wealth inequalities between black and white households over the past 70 years, and that close to half of all American households have less wealth today in real terms than the median household had in 1970.”
- In a new book to be published in 2019, The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Well-being, authors Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson found 30% more Americans displayed narcissistic characteristics at the end of the period than at the beginning. Scrutiny of successive American cohorts found a progressive rise in those listing wealth and fame as important goals (above fulfilment and community). Over time, more people cited money as the main motivation for attending college (rather than intellectual enrichment.)
- When the Pew Research Center conducted a poll 39 % of American respondents said they believed it was “common” for people born into poverty to become rich, and 71 % said that personal attributes like hard work and drive, not the circumstances of a person’s birth, are the key determinants of success. Yet Pew’s own research has demonstrated that it is exceedingly rare for Americans to go from rags to riches, and that more modest movement from the bottom of the economic ladder isn’t common either. In fact, economic mobility is greater in Canada, Denmark, and France than it is in the United States.
- The average American believes that the richest fifth own 59% of the wealth and that the bottom 40% own 9%. The reality is strikingly different. The top 20% of US households own more than 84% of the wealth, and the bottom 40% combine for a paltry 0.3%. The Walton family, (Walmart) for example, has more wealth than 42% of American families combined.
- A University of Leicester psychologist, Adrian White, has produced the first ever “world map of happiness,” based on over 100 studies of more than 80,000 people and by analyzing data from the CIA, UNESCO, The New Economics Foundation, the World Health Organization and European databases. The well being index that was produced was based on the prediction variables of health, wealth and education. According to this study, Denmark was ranked first, Switzerland second, Canada 10th and the U.S. 23rd.
- A study published in Psychological Science by Mike Morrison, Louis Tay and Ed Diener, which is based on the Gallup World Poll of 128 countries and 130,000 people, found that the more satisfied people are with their country, the better the feel about themselves. Recent surveys in the U.S. show a significant percentage of Americans who are unhappy about their country. According to the World Values Survey of over 80 countries, the U.S. ranks only 16th, behind such countries as Denmark (#1), Finland, Canada and Australia.
- There is no question that America’s share of global wealth is shrinking. By some estimates, the United States accounted for roughly 50 percent of global output at the end of World War II. By 1985, its share stood at 22.5 percent. It has fallen to 15.1 percent today, and the International Monetary Fund projects that it will slip to 13.7 percent by 2023.
- Tthe United States ranked 16th in the 2014 Social Progress Index developed by Michael Porter at the Harvard Business School. Two years later, the United States slipped to 19th place, with particularly mediocre scores in environmental quality (#36), nutrition and basic medical care (#37), and access to basic knowledge (#40).
- According to a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, mobility is on a steep decline — and the American dream with it. Per that report, only half of the children born in the year 1980 are better off than their parents. To put things in perspective, for those born in 1940, 90% did better than their parents.
- Since the mid-1970s and early 1980s, productivity has continued to increase while wage growth has stagnated — or even reversed. Here’s a chart on the topic from the Economic Policy Institute.
- According to a GOBankingRates survey, 1 in 3 Americans haven’t saved anything for retirement.
- As of 2010, four of the top five economies in the world were still from the developed world (the United States, Japan, Germany, and France). From the developing world, only China made the grade, coming in at No. 2. By 2050, according to Goldman Sachs, four of the top five economies will come from the developing world (China, India, Brazil, and Russia). Only the United States will make the cut; it will rank second, and its economy will be about half the size of China’s. Moreover, the turnabout will be rapid: Goldman Sachs predicts that the collective economic output of the top four developing countries–Brazil, China, India, and Russia–will match that of the G-7 countries by 2032.
- The democratic nature of the U.S. is declining. Elections are rife with Gerrymandering, voter purging, data mining, broken exit polling, push polling, superdelegates, electoral votes, black-box machines, voter ID suppression, provisional ballots, super PACs, dark money, third parties banished from the debates . A large Harvard study labelled the U.S. election system the worst election system in the Western world. The Global Democracy Rankings for 2016 listed the U.S. as 16th, considerably below leading European nations and Australia and New Zealand.
- Negative views of the United States in other countries has increased significantly in recent years, particularly since Donald Trump was elected according to a Pew Center Global poll.The share of the global public that voices a favorable view of America is on the decline. Across the 37 countries that Pew Research Center has tracked over the past several years, only in Russia has the image of the United States improved by a large margin. Elsewhere, attitudes have taken a dramatic turn for the worse, especially in Western Europe and Latin America.
- The Forbes 2017 Most Reputable Countries ranking compiled by The Reputation Institute, showed Canada as No.1, Switzerland No. 2, and Sweden No. 3. The U.S. was listed as 38th.
- One of the biggest cross-national tests is the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which every three years measures reading ability, math and science literacy and other key skills among 15-year-olds in dozens of developed and developing countries. The most recent PISA results, from 2015, placed the U.S. an unimpressive 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science. Among the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sponsors the PISA initiative, the U.S. ranked 30th in math and 19th in science.
- In the Social Progress Index in 2015 ranking by country, the U.S. ranked 18thon the listing.
- The 2018 Best Countries rankings, measuring quality of life, formed in partnership with global marketing communications company Y&R’s brand strategy firm, BAV Group, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, ranked Canada No. 1 and the U.S.is No. 17.
- According to the most recent global health surveys, the United States is witnessing a decline in life expectancy for the first time in nearly a quarter century. It has the highest infant and maternal mortality rates of any of the countries in the study, and the highest obesity rate. It is the only one without universal health insurance coverage and has the “largest share of unmet health-care needs due to financial costs,” the researchers wrote.
- In 1950 the top 1 percent received only 5 percent of the total incomes produced during the economic expansion. The top 1 percent now receives 95 percent.
- The percentage of people voting in the Congressional elections in the 1990s and the year 2000 was never more than 39 percent.Less than 30 percent of the eligible voters voted in the last Congressional elections, although another study put it at less than 19 percent. The voting rate in the presidential elections is higher, but not too high. It declined from 63.1 percent in 1960 to 51.3 in 2000. Obama’s anti-war coalition of 2008 increased that to only 56.8 percent.
- In 2009, 13,500 lobbyists and interest groups spent $5.3 billion to influence Congress, and hurt its credibility. The American people’s trust in Congressfrom 42 percent in 1973 to just 7 percent in 2014.
- The New York Times estimates that the chances of a child of a state governor becoming a governor is 6000 times better than an ordinary citizen, and that the chances of a child of a U.S. Senator becoming a Senator is 8500 times better than a common citizen.
- The U.S. through the use of drone warfare, without specific Congressional approval, has been responsible for the assassination of dozens if not hundreds of “targeted enemies of the state,” –including at least one US citizen, without due legal process—and the killing of hundreds of civilians in foreign countries, all in the name of national security.
- The US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report on the CIA and its detention and interrogation program. The report is the result of an investigation into six years of detention and “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA against suspected terrorists in secret sites around the world. The Senate Select Intelligence Committee spent more than five years analyzing approximately 6.3 million pages of documents, at a cost of $40 million. Among its conclusions were: “The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others…39 detainees were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques, which included sleep deprivation, waterboarding, prolonged standing, and exposure to cold. At least 26 detainees were found to be held ‘wrongfully.’”
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. Only two countries,Somalia and the United States , have not ratified this celebrated agreement.
- The US has not ratified any international human rights treaties since December 2002. It has not ratified the following treaties or conventions: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; Mine Ban Treaty; Convention on Cluster Munitions; convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture; and voted at the U.N. against a resolution that condemns bigotry, and especially condemns Nazism and all forms of racism.
- Congress is the only part of the government that has the authority to declare war against another country. Congress has formally declared war only 11 times in U.S. history, and authorized the use of military force 11 times. The United States Congress has not formally declared war since World War II. All of the wars in the Middle East have been authorized using other means. Here’s a partial list of the countries in which the US has had military intervention in some form since WWII: Vietnam, Korea, Sudan, Liberia, Ethiopia, Chad, Afghanistan, Iraq, Uganda, Cuba, Nicaragua, Chile, Lebanon, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Angola, Poland, Grenada, Libya, Yemen, Congo, Zaire, Bolivia, Panama, Somalia, Columbia, Syria, Egypt, Thailand, Laos, Cyprus, Iran, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania. Despite its constitutional role to do so, Congress exercises little oversight over US military adventures, and much of this occurs in secret.
- The US sold weapons to at least 98 countries between 2013 and 2017.The US accounted for 34% of all exports and its exports increased by 25% compared to 2008-2012. The US continues to export weapons to Saudi Arabia, despite its controversial war in Yemen.
- The Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight of the U.S. Congress’ House Committee on Foreign Affairs stated, after examining the issue of the U.S.’s declining image abroad, “the decline in international approval of U.S.leadership is caused largely by opposition to the invasion of Iraq, U.S. support for dictators, and practices such as torture and rendition. They testified that this opposition is strengthened by the perception that our decisions are made unilaterally and without constraint byinternational law or standards and that our rhetoric about democracy and human rights is hypocritical.”
- A Pew Foundation study, reported in the New York Times, concluded, “The chance that children of the poor or middle class will climb up the income ladder, has not changed significantly over the last three decades.” The Economist’s special report, “Inequality in America,” concluded, “The fruits of productivity gains have been skewed towards the highest earners and towards companies whose profits have reached record levels as a share of GDP.”
- Some of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in North America say there is no such thing as the “self-made man.” With more millionaires making, rather than inheriting, their wealth, there is a false belief that they made it on their own without help, a new report published by the Boston-based non-profit United For a Fair Economy, The report says the myth of “self-made wealth is potentially destructive to the very infrastructure that enables wealth creation.”
- Philip Alston, the special reporter of the United Nations on ‘extreme poverty and human rights’, writing in the report referred to: “The United States is one of the world’s richest, most powerful and technologically innovative countries; but neither its wealth, nor its power, nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty.”
- Among the young only 15% of 18-29-year-olds believe that America is the “greatest country in the world”,according to Pew, down from 27% in 2011.
What conclusions do experts come to regarding this chilling information?
In an article in The Nation, Alfred McCoy argues that “the demise of the United States as a global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines,” suggesting it will be complete by 2025. The U.S. National Intelligence Council admitted in 2008 that America’s global power was declining. A Global Trends 2025 report said, “the transfer of global wealth and economic power is under way from West to East,” without precedent. Citing an opinion poll, McCoy reports that in August 2010, 65% of Americans believed the country was “in a state of decline.”
McCoy argues that a big contributor to the U.S.’s decline is militarism; specifically what he calls “micro-militarism,” which has plagued previous empires. These are foreign military adventures, which are not full blown “wars” that end up costing horrendous amounts of money or end in defeats. He says, as “allies worldwide begin to realign their politics to take cognizance of rising Asian powers, the cost of maintain 800 or more overseas military bases will simply become unsustainable, finally forcing a staged withdrawal on a still-unwilling Washington.”
In his book, America’s Engineered Decline, William Norman Grigg, editor of the New American contends that America’s decline has occurred because it is exhibiting the same characteristics of poverty, crime, and illiteracy and ill health that are found in third world countries. Grigg cites a quote by Mahatma Gandhi who said the roots of conflict and violence within a nation are “wealth without work, pleasure without conscious knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice and politics without principle.”
Gideon Rachman, writing in the prestigious journal, Foreign Policy, comments in the new economic and political order which is witnessing America’s decline: “Britain, France, Italy, even Germany–are slipping down the economic ranks. China, India, Brazil, are on the rise. They each have their own foreign-policy preferences which collectively constrain American’s ability to shape the world.” He concludes, “America will never again experience the global dominance it enjoyed in the 17 years between the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 and the financial crisis of 2008. Those days are over.”
Economists J. Bradford DeLong and Stephen Cohen of the University of California write in their new book, The End of Influence, “it [influence] is gone and it is not likely to return in the foreseeable future…The American standard of living will decline relative to the rest of the industrialized and industrializing world…The United States will lose power and influence.”
James Fallows, writing in The Atlantic magazine, says, “our government is old and broken and dysfunctional and may even be beyond repair….it will make a difference if we improvise and strive to make the best of the path through our time –and our children’s, and their grandchildren’s rather than stay on the current path.”
Whatever the causes, the decline of America as a dominant world power, with serious internal economic and social issues, has already begun, and is not likely to be reversed, without substantial political, economic and social changes The current situation presents monumental challenges to political and social leaders to create the kind of country and culture that’s desired, a path that is unlikely given the wide divide in perspectives that currently exist.
Even the Carter Center and former President Jimmy Carter believe that America has been transformed into an oligarchy: A small, corrupt elite control the country with almost no input from the people. The rulers need the myth that we’re a democracy to give us the illusion of control.
Paul Kennedy argued in his 1987 book The Rise and Fall of Great Powers that America was entering a period of long-term relative decline. He was prescient in many ways, predicting China’s rise and the Soviet Union’s decline, but premature in predicting the weakening of America, which enjoyed a quarter-century of unchallenged dominance; the relative decline has only just begun.
The American empire, which more mainstream scholars prefer to describe in softer terms as global hegemony or the liberal international order, has always rested on three pillars: economic strength, military might, and the soft power of cultural dominance.Relative American decline in economic power is almost inevitable given the rising clout of nations like China and India.
America, according to some observers, is hurtling today towards Second World status. It lacks a leader who possesses any idea of how to prepare the nation for the changing structure of the world; a world in which Americans will have to share their relative decline more equitably at home, or face ever-worsening social and political fragmentation and conflict and diminishing authority abroad.
Second, the stability and influence of the American political system, ideology, and value concepts have been greatly affected in the 21st century, with the impact of two wars, high consumption, and the financial crisis. This has not only been reflected in aspects of the economy, but more importantly it is apparent in other areas such as the status, reputation, and influence of the United States in the world. The United States no longer has the overwhelming power and absolute ideological influence in the world that it enjoyed before the Iraq War. The influence of what can be called America’s self-defined ideology―democracy, freedom, and human rights―has greatly dropped around the world because of its military adventures.
The international financial crisis, caused in part by seriously excessive consumption in the United States, also has negatively affected the attraction of the market economy model. As a result, American influence around the world has seriously dropped. In the last 10 years, when U.S. government officials and politicians were loudly shouting about “democracy,” “human rights,” and “market economy” in front of the whole world, they seemed to lack the ability to implement these words, and in fact they also seemed lack confidence in their own rhetoric. This is because serious problems and mistakes have appeared in several areas where the United States has proclaimed itself as the “flag bearer,” “leader,” “example,” and “spokesman.”
The large currents of the past generation – deindustrialization, the flattening of average wages, the financialization of the economy, income inequality, the growth of information technology, the flood of money into Washington, the rise of the political right – all had their origins in the late 70s. The US became more entrepreneurial and less bureaucratic, more individualistic and less communitarian, more free and less equal, more tolerant and less fair. Banking and technology, concentrated on the coasts, turned into engines of wealth, replacing the world of stuff with the world of bits, but without creating broad prosperity, while the heartland hollowed out. The institutions that had been the foundation of middle-class democracy, from public schools and secure jobs to flourishing newspapers and functioning legislatures, were set on the course of a long decline.
There are many indicators that show the US is in decline from an economic social and quality of life perspective, all of which pose a threat to its democratic system. The choices American leaders make at this juncture will be critical for the country’s future, and impact on the rest of the world.
Copyright: Neither this article or a portion thereof may be reproduced in any print or media format without the express permission of the author.
Read my latest book: Eye of the Storm: How Mindful Leaders Can Transform Chaotic Workplaces, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia and Asia.