The entire world situation is changing rapidly. Each night we go to sleep in one world, and the next morning we wake up in another. It's all happening that quickly. This situation is about to get even worse. We are standing on the verge of new computing technologies that will make modern super-computers look like that thing that controls the thermostat in your refrigerator now. (Quantum computing, anyone?) I'd like to think that the United States is at the forefront of this new technology, but we're not standing out there on our own anymore. There are six or eight countries out there with us, and as soon as the computer revolution hits, it will quickly lead to advances in dozens of other areas. Things are about to get interesting.
As usual, I am pessimistic about all of this.
America is still the most powerful country in the world. Any of our competitors will cheerfully admit this. We have by far the most powerful and capable military; we are still in the lead in terms of GDP and GNP; the dollar is still the world's reserve currency and the currency that matters in all important transactions in the world; we have a large and growing population that is relatively well educated and capable; and we are still, in many ways, a wealthy country.*
The ice under this position, however, is becoming thin and beginning to make crackling noises. Very soon we may no longer be able to say that we could stand off and destroy the rest of the world single- handedly. Of course we are still capable of pushing anyone in the world around with our vast military, but it is frightfully expensive to maintain such a force and deploying it in anger costs even more. The day is coming when that will no longer even be an option.
America's greatest danger is that the country has been run by idiots for over thirty years now. This unfunny circus of clowns took the treasure that was handed to them and left it out in the rain to melt away.
Once we exerted tacit control over most of the world through the use of soft-power, which is very effective and often very economical. Soft-power consists of humanitarian assistance; favorable trade relationships; fraternal votes in various world bodies; cultural ties and exchanges; close diplomatic relations; infrastructure construction projects; low or no interest loans; medical training; even something as simple as the United States Peace Corps! We have squandered much of that option with ill-advised military adventures that all turned out badly in terms of political results and returns on investment. Beyond that, our current bosses feel like it is better to save the money and not bother with soft-power solutions. The single-minded goal of the American government for some time now has been to channel all of the money to the super-rich, through the agency of the large corporations and the banks, and to some of our government officials. (Corruption is still discouraged among our police and low-ranking public officials, but for our higher ranking government officials, including high ranking military officers, corruption, insider trading, bribery, cronyism, self-dealing, and even outright theft, are considered perks of their high status.)
We started out on this road to democracy with flawed but essentially good intentions long ago, but we have clearly taken our eyes off of the ball. We are losing our democracy, our cooperative way of life, and our place in the world, and a disturbingly small number of Americans seem to so much as notice, much less care. Most people seem more interested in denying homosexuals the right to marry than in protecting the rights of American citizens to probable cause, Habeas Corpus, freedom from unlawful searches and seizures, privacy, and due process of law, to name a few.
Did I say “idiots?” Our current President Professor Doctor Terror From The Outer Darkness and the crew of mediocrities that trail along behind him are placing all of their faith in military power just as the world has learned to be suitably unimpressed by the knowledge that two giant American aircraft carriers are parked several hundred miles off their coasts. So what, pray tell? Ditto by reminders that we have several tens of thousands of immediately deliverable nuclear warheads. Unimpressed. So what?
For decades our influence around the world was second to none, but now everything has changed.
China's response to all of this lazy-minded complacency and negligent self-degradation has been to work together, generate hundreds of great ideas, and implement all of them. Their accomplishments go well beyond what could be expected of any authoritarian government. They have managed to regain their peoples' affections after decades of horrible abuse. The 1950s, 1960s, and up into the 1970s were a nightmarish time for the long-suffering Chinese people. But they are a durable race, and they seem to have come through it okay. Beginning with Deng Xiaoping in the mid-1970s, the Chinese communists have managed to rehabilitate their image domestically while retaining total control of everything. In an amazing feat of legerdemain, they have convinced everyone that they are a positive force in the life of the Chinese nation. It has been the most amazing political success since the unification of Germany by Otto von Bismark in the late Nineteenth Century.
Domestically, they have raised huge numbers of people out of poverty, literally hundreds of millions of people; they have enabled a growing, broad-based prosperity, including a large new middle-class; they have raised the standard of living for just about every one of their one billion plus people; and they have successfully integrated their diverse regions and populations. They have done all of this while enhancing state control over all aspects of peoples' lives by the generous application of technological advances that had been invented elsewhere. It is a stunning achievement.
Internationally, their successes are hardly less remarkable. Their methods include bullying; vast infrastructure expansion; intimidation; targeted money lending; actual assistance; traditional forms of soft-power; and good old-fashioned out-performance. They have built up a modern military on the sly and on the cheap, and they have vastly extended the range of their influence in the world both militarily and economically. My congratulations, sirs!
You could say that it's easier for a government to get things done if the country is under tight authoritarian control, but the United States government certainly has almost equivalent power to act as it sees fit. It should be obvious that they do pretty much what they want, no matter what we, the people, might prefer. If they listened to us, far fewer things would be specifically criminalized, and far fewer people would be incarcerated. Not to mention that our Constitutional rights would still receive the respect that was once considered critical to the American way of life if our wishes were to be considered. Instead, our rights have been whittled down to nothing. Those things resulted from a political agenda that was generated at the top of the American power structure, very much in the manner of authoritarians.
The problem is that our new idiot bosses don't seem to have any plan, or even any ideas in particular. They are perfectly content to let everything rot while they line the pockets of themselves and their rich friends. (That's a joke! The rich consider our bosses a bunch of useful monkeys who will do anything for a few peanuts.) They control the American population by fear while we helplessly watch our security and prosperity evaporate. Control by the fear of police violence, fines and civil forfeitures, loss of our precious credit rating, and the nebulous terrors of immigrants, atheists, homosexuals, and, God help me, THE BLACKS!
America is in a state of impending societal collapse, but our elected officials and our super-rich ringmasters reassure us that everything is fine! And they can prove it: just look at that Dow Jones Index! All of that funny money is in the right bank accounts in the Bahamas, so don't you worry, boys and girls. All is right with the world. Just figure out how much medicine you can afford and spread it out over the entire month. That's if you're lucky enough to afford your medicine at all.
Americans are successfully distracted by President Admiral-General Rich Kid Asshole's comedy routine, the cast of idiots that support him, and arguing over the status of English as “America's official language.” (Here's a hint, you bunch of Rubes: everybody who comes to America learns English. This new crowd is learning it just as fast as your Grandparents did. And by the way, most of you could use a little work on your grammar and vocabulary, so stop throwing stones in your glass houses.)
This collapse will be a terrible thing when it happens. If they manage to ruin the dollar itself, you'll be able to hear my screaming wherever on the earth you may happen to be. Just give me another ten years or so and I'll be spared having to witness the end. By then I will have been overtaken by the poor design of the human body. Do what you want to in the meantime. I'll try to keep busy over here in my brier patch. Careful! Watch out for those thorns!
*It is important to note that the wealth of the United States is now acutely focused in a very narrow range of the population. The same wealth, spread over a much wider base of the population, would enhance the security of more Americans and therefore make America a much stronger country. That was the situation in the great years of the Middle Class America, the 1950s, 1960s, and most of the 1970s. That broad-based prosperity, and the resulting strength, is now lost.