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Say Nay to Naysayers
America's Decline is a Farce

Cynicism about the future is widespread in America these days, a new survey finds. January polling conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 54 percent of respondents expected the American way of life to suffer over the coming decades. In a separate December study, only 23 percent of respondents expected American life to improve in the coming years. Here is the full survey. But a recent piece by Joel Kotkin over at New Geography sheds some positive light on such doom and gloom, and reminds us that things don’t look so bad for America after all:

For all the concern expressed about the “end of the car era,” the U.S. auto industry is doing pretty well, in fact, selling vehicles at about the levels experienced before the Great Recession. General Motors, nearly dead five years ago, is now investing $1.3 billion to upgrade five Midwest factories. New auto plants, particularly those of European and Asian carmakers, are being erected across the South. But the resurgence of U.S. manufacturing is about more than cars; there also is huge investment in other industries, notably in pharmaceuticals and refining, notably tied to the energy revolution.

Critically, the vast supplies of oil and, most importantly, natural gas, are pushing down manufacturing costs well below those imposed on Asian and European firms. This is where industrial jobs have been growing the fastest, and are likely to expand in years ahead. In fact, U.S. industrial and energy production has driven U.S. exports to a record level, one clear sign that the nation’s competitiveness is beginning to move beyond our traditional strengths in entertainment, services and agriculture.

Read the whole thing. The history of the Western economic progress cyclically includes transitional periods of chaos, disruption, and displacement, after which society emerges much richer than it went in. We are in that kind of period now. Though things may seem dark, there are already signs for those who have eyes to see that our most prosperous days are ahead of us.

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  • Atanu Maulik

    History of the world over the past 200 yrs has shown that it is incredibly foolish to bet against the United States of America.

  • Anthony

    “Of the big five questions facing America today, the most pressing and urgent is the question of jobs” (Walter Russell Mead). Capitalist America is definitely not in decline but economic transition and effects of creative destruction give pause and anxiety that educes false alarms.

  • crocodilechuck
  • Anthony

    Tangentially related: classified ad in prestigious university student paper (February 2014) reads “egg donor needed…Ivy League couple seeking the help of special woman who is healthy with highest percentile ACT/SAT scores…$20,000 plus compensation and expenses.” Sign of our decline or prosperity…

  • Bruce

    Can someone explain how a country can be $17 trillion in debt, with $100 trillion in unfunded entitlement commitments, with 50 million people on food stamps etc. etc. etc. and the future look bright? I know that the “smartest people in the room” always like to say that betting against America has not worked out well for 200 years. But common sense usually beats out the smartest people in the room and common sense says we are on the wrong path. Sometimes it’s not complicated.

    • Atanu Maulik

      To put it in brief. US has the most productive, dynamic, innovative economy on the planet (17 trillion plus and counting) which is now being powered on by the shale revolution and an attendant resurgence in manufacturing. US has the best demographics in the developed world and the best universities. US remains a magnet for the best and brightest from around the world. Plus it continues to retain all the usual advantages that has helped made the nation preeminent. Great location, great strategic depth, vast resources, abundant arable land and freshwater supplies. Future of US looks brighter than ever.

      • qet

        Everything but your penultimate sentence may be true. The penultimate sentence is definitely not true. If as you say below it is foolish to bet against America based on its history, the strength of those historical bets were tied directly to a political and cultural entity that is slowly being strangled. The political and cultural elites in this country today are doing everything they can to make America look, feel and operate more like all those other societies whose differences from America were precisely the reason that it was sound to bet against them and not against us over those 200 years of world history.

        • Atanu Maulik

          It is true that American political and economic institutions are under sustained attack from the left. But was there ever a time in the past few decades when there were no such attacks ? The fact remains that the left always make the most noise but they lose all the battles. Their darling USSR is not more. Capitalism is on an unstoppable march around the globe. Even inside the US, it is the red states which has the fastest growing economies and populations. The fact is a few centuries ago the English speaking people stumbled upon such an effective way of organizing human society that it has overwhelmed every other alternative model. Actually it is not that America is becoming like others, it is the others which are becoming more like US. There are no alternatives.

          • qet

            Yes, but America is more than its capitalist economic underpinnings. Capitalism is spreading and America is declining are not mutually exclusive statements. And as for the USSR–today’s left, all but the remaining greybeards among them, could not even tell you what those letters stand for or what that entity was, for the most part. And finally I would acknowledge that the traditional idea of America has been under attack for a long time, and add that the continual attacking is now bearing very visible fruit today.

          • Atanu Maulik

            Capitalism is spreading and America is declining are not mutually exclusive statements._________America is the heart and soul of the liberal democratic capitalist world order. It the US navy which makes free trade possible. So the whole notion of capitalism thriving as US falls apart is patently absurd.

  • ljgude

    Well, it certainly arouses my sense of irony that Obama has killed the coal industry and stopped Keystone while presiding over the shale boom which he has been unable or unwilling to stop. If I could tell which I’d be all knowing and all seeing. But I suspect strongly that our president and our government in general is far less in control of the collective fate of the USA than even the most prescient among us are entirely comfortable with. In short perhaps he is just he is an incompetent leading incompetents and things are working out on their own. Pity about the debt.

  • qet

    This is not convincing, especially the part about federalism, where Kotkin explicitly recognizes that the political culture in the US increasingly devalues federalism while Kotkin pleads for it to be respected. Such a trend that Kotkin has to plead against is hardly farcical. It is also not convincing because it misunderstands the determinism of modern economic life, as does Via Meadia, I think, at least sometimes (like now). But regardless of the quantity of traditional blue-collar jobs at any given moment, the evident fact is that nearly everything that has made America unique in world history is being devalued, denigrated and cast aside with barely disguised glee, led by the elite vanguard who are obligingly followed by the mass. Whether the America they think they want will prove better than the old one, only time will tell. But the unique political and cultural entity that continues to go by the name “America” is absolutely passing away. Here is one way, just one way among many, that you can tell: when the most that a substantial portion of our political and cultural elite can bring themselves to say about federalism is that states are “wonderful laboratories for democracy,” then you know they have totally lost the thread of Western political history and culture altogether.

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