As Rivals Stumble, America Steps Up


As its former rivals in Asia and Europe slip into torpor and even decline, America, almost despite itself, is recovering its perch as the world’s bastion and predominant power. This is all the more remarkable given that our government is headed by someone who largely rejects traditional ideas about American exceptionalism, preferring to “lead from behind.”

Just a quick look around the world makes clear that the United States has emerged as a relative hot spot in a chilly global economy. China is devaluating its currency and ratcheting down its growth expectations. Japan and Europe continue to lag, as they have for the past decade or two. Indeed, with the possible exception of India, no major country appears on the rise, and several once-ballyhooed rising stars – Russia, Brazil, South Africa – now seem headed for prolonged economic eclipse.

Time for new thinking

America’s mainstream media and intellectual classes now face a quandary. Generally attracted over the past century to economic models other than our own, they have shifted their admiration from Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Soviet Union in the 1930s and, in the 1960s and beyond, Japan, Germany and, most recently, China.

Now all those fashionable role models are clearly unravelling. Instead of seeking to imitate other countries, perhaps it’s time to find ways to bolster our own capabilities. President Obama may prefer to lead from behind, but that has not turned America into the world’s caboose. The country, in its fundamentals, is potentially far stronger and resilient than many believe.

This is not to say that we cannot learn from abroad. There are specific things we should try to emulate, like the Chinese commitment to infrastructure building, northern Europe’s craft training, Japanese industrial precision, Korean technological development and water management strategies from Israel. Even Stalinism produced a terrific subway system in Moscow that still puts ours to shame.

Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of and Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is also executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The New Class Conflict is now available at Amazon and Telos Press. He is also author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

Baby photo by Bigstock.